Thundercats toys coming from…Bandai?

Sorry for that teaser image. That’s a custom, MOTUC-style Lion-O by Ben Bishop.

But Mattel didn’t get the license. Bandai did.

Read on for the press release.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) announced today a powerhouse partnership with Bandai America Incorporated, as the global master toy licensee for the animated series, ThunderCats. Under the new agreement, Bandai and their international affiliates will create and distribute products worldwide that will complement both the classic brand property, as well as Cartoon Network’s fresh take on the animated series, with new television episodes set to air in 2011.

“With their legacy of cultivating fun and fresh play experiences for beloved character properties, Bandai is the ideal master toy license for ThunderCats”

“With their legacy of cultivating fun and fresh play experiences for beloved character properties, Bandai is the ideal master toy license for ThunderCats,” said Brad Globe, president, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “We are thrilled to team up and introduce the ThunderCats property to a new generation of fans.”

“ThunderCats have been a cult pop culture phenomenon for the past 25 years, and Bandai America looks forward to developing modern and engaging toys for these beloved characters,” said Masayuki Matsuo, chairman and chief executive officer, Bandai America Incorporated. “Through the Bandai America and Warner Bros. Consumer Products partnership, die-hard devotees as well as a new generation of fans will be introduced to quality, innovative toys that will create magical playtime experiences capturing the adventurous spirit of the brand.”

An all-new animated series, based on the iconic 1980s action classic, ThunderCats, is currently in production at Warner Bros. Animation. The new ThunderCats, a 21st century reimagining of the series that will air on Cartoon Network, will appeal to viewers who have loved the characters all their lives as well as young newcomers to the franchise. A sweeping tale combining swords and science and boasting ferocious battles with the highest of stakes, the grand origin story of Prince Lion-O’s ascension to the throne – and of those who would thwart his destiny at any cost – takes on epic dimensions in this sharp new telling. As the forces of good and evil battle each other in the quest for the fabled Stones of Power, Lion-O and his champions learn valuable lessons of loyalty, honor and mortality in every episode.

ThunderCats is executive produced by Sam Register (“Teen Titans,” “Ben 10,” “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”). Michael Jelenic (“Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” “Wonder Woman”) and Ethan Spaulding (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”) are the producers. The series marks a creative collaboration between Warner Bros. Animation and Studio4°C, one of the most vibrant animation studios in Japan.

Debuting in 1985, the ThunderCats roared onto the broadcast air waves and created feline frenzy with their band of cat-like heroes from the planet Thundera. Behind their fearless leader Lion-O, the ThunderCats strove to protect their new home on Third Earth and their headquarters, Cat’s Lair, from the Mutants of Plunn-Darr. The ThunderCats pop culture phenomenon had its paws sunk deeply not only in television, but also toylines, apparel and comic books. Twenty-five years later, through the Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Bandai America collaboration, the beloved brand is poised to make a new audience of kids feel the magic and hear the roar once again.

I was never into Thundercats. When that show was big, I was either still deep in my Transformers love or going through one of my many cyclical Star Wars fads. But I will say this: had Mattel gotten the license and created a Thundercats Classics line compatible with MOTUC, I almost certainly would have bought them all and gone Thundercats crazy–bought the DVDs, comics, and so forth.

Now there are stactions Icon Heroes and action figures from Bandai, of all companies. Bandai’s track record, especially for American properties, isn’t that great. Sure, they make awesome vinyl Godzilla toys, but their action figures have usually been mediocre at best. Even their recent collector’s versions of the Power Rangers, while a step in the right direction, left a lot to be desired.

But maybe I’m selling them short. Maybe they’ll put their A-squad on this line. Thoughts?

34 Comments »

Comments now closed (34)

  • I have a feeling your initial concerns will be correct. i also find it hard to believe that a D-List company no one ever heard of (Icon Heroes) really did secure the rights to the stactions.

  • Worst toy news of the year. I can see WB not going with Mattel, given how crappily they manage their lines. And I can see how WB, motivated only by profit, might select Bandai. They're probably thinking that Bandai sells tons of cheap, pathetic PR toys, so why not go with the company that proves it can keep sell lots of toys for low cost.

    Still, this is a huge blow for collectors.

  • I guess they're looking at this as a new property for kids, not a nostalgia property for adults. With that perspective, and Bandai churning out the Ben 10 stuff, I can see it making sense.

    I'm not too familiar with Bandai's track record. They made Teen Titans toys, right? While aimed at kids (imagine that – toys aimed at kids), some of those seemed alright. I know I picked up a few. And I rather liked their Gundam line.

    I'm not a fan of the property by any stretch, but I am a bit curious to see the new show.

  • Great, another failure on our hands. Way to kill ThunderCats WB!

  • i have to say when i first heard about bandai i said WTF!?!?!?

    they have not produced a single figure i can think of that i have ever wanted to buy.

    there goes my hopes for a dcuc/motuc like line of figures.

    sigh……..

  • @ScienceFriction:

    Wow, a "death of teh line" post the very day the line is announced. That's gotta be some kind of record.

    I never cared one way or another about Thundercats, so I've really got no dog in this fight. Mattel probably would've made better looking figures than Bandai will, but eh.

  • I think its way too soon to make any judgments about the line, especially about it being dead before its even off the ground. Still, I have to admit that I am disappointed with the news that they went with Bandai. The only thing I can say is that it may have been a bit too presumptuous to assume that we'd be getting MOTUC style figures.

  • Well, if you read my poe-st from yesterday, you'll quickly understand that I'm devastated. Wether you're a Thundercats fan or not ( I was, but nothing crazy, for even as a kid I thought the toys were sub-par), one can't deny that their great designs, coupled with Four Horsemen savvy, would make "Thundercats Classics" must-haves for a lot of folk.

    Now Bandai, in Japan, are a great & innovative company. But when it comes to North American shores, as Poe stated, they're track record is lackluster at best. Who knows, maybe they'll blow everyone away & release a line with a quality & esthetic that no one could dare envision, but I for one, ain't holding my breath…

    With all that in mind, my only hope is, as the article somewhat entails, that this license is ONLY for the new animated series, & that the "classic" stuff is still up for grabs. God, PLEASE MAKE IT SO!!!

  • One thing Rob from Topless Robot pointed out to me is that one of the reasons Bandai may have gotten this license is because of their relationship with WB Animation–Ben 10, Teen Titans, etc.

  • I guess I can't read properly or something… must be from being completely deflated by this news.

    FUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!!!!!

  • With this news, the (realistically) best we can probably hope for would be that Bandai releases a collector line in conjunction with the mass-market kid stuff. It most likely won't be like MOTUC, but it COULD be in the vein of DCUC or Marvel Legends…

  • yeah, the anniversary power rangers fit in well w/ dcuc scale, and were made sturdier than marvel legends… i'm not totally giving up yet that these could be cool… but if i were an 8-ball, i'd likely say "outcome uncertain"

  • Oh well, at least there's gonna be a new ThunderCats line at all. Personally, I'd be more eager for new M.A.S.K. and BraveStarr toys.

  • @dayraven: If we asked your Magic 8-Ball if Thundercats would have ended up as difficult to find as DCUC or an online exclusive like MOTUC and we got an "almost certain" response, I would be thankful for Bandai's involvement.

  • I think every one is reading more into these press releases than is actually there.

    First, the show: 4C is the company behind Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Nights, 2 films that have a strong stylistic impression but leave a lot to be desired in story. The artwork shown suggests that the studio is re-imaging the series in a far better way than WB had but there will be a lot of pressure on the producers and show runner to gives us writing in line with B:B&B, Ben 10 Avatar and Wonder Woman (the other shows they have worked on).

    Second, the network: CN has given us B:B&B and MoTU 200x but they will gear the show to kids first and adults second. If the kids don't buy in then its gone, regardless of what adults want. Reading some of what has been released ("The Cats have grown up", "The origin of Lion-O", "More Feline than Ever") tells me that, for the most part, the original series is being left behind. This will be a new myth, anew story. There has not been word one of Third Earth, in fact they suggest that Lion-O's kingdom is intact and he must assume his thrown and hold it against "those who would thwart his destiny". No where does it give us Mum-Ra or Mutants.

    Third, Bandai US. BanDai US, Not the Japanese company that makes cool collector figures, the US company with their eyes firmly on kids. This is not a surprise to me at all. Disney had dropped their support of Power Rangers and it was thought that the series, and its toys, were over. Bandai needed a new tent pole to hold its place in toy isles and WB was pushing this new line forward. Mattel, Hasbro, and even Playmates had been burned by WBs over expectations for this line and would not go near it. Jakks is not in a position to pick up something like this at this time and there really isn't anyone else that could give WB a kid-centric figure line with a near garnered presence on mass market toy shelves.

    Forth, The Classic line. Completely made up by collectors and press coverage. No where does WB, 4C, or Bandai ever suggest there will be any thing to reference the classic series or collectors. These will be toys for kids and collectors can take them or leave them. The companies don't care, as far as they're concerned we have statues and Stactions to fill our needs. Even when Bandai did offer 'collector' merchandise for Power Rangers it was over 10 years into the line.

    All of that said I think the idea of Thundercats can be revised for the modern era. I think a company like 4C is the best choice for a more Feline / Science Fantasy take on these characters. I think Sam Register, Michael Jelenic, and Ethan Spaulding will offer great guidance to the series provided they can get the right writers. I know Bandai is willing to step out with a full cast of characters, vehicles, playlets and more with no hesitation, something you would not see form most toy companies.

    I am surprised by some of the principles in these announcements and I am looking forward to what they put together. I do have reservations but I am certainly not looking for as much as some people seam to be expecting.

  • The Teen Titans figures weren't great, but they showed potential. I think this is more of a sign that the animation is going to be closer to Ben 10 than anything.

    As for the toys, Bandai has some of the best sculptors in the world working on some of their Japanese stuff. If they actually used some of those same sculptors on the Thundercats line, they could easily make the Four Horsemen look like me making 4th grade Play-Doh sculptures. Of course, that's a pretty big if.

    Let's not discredit Bandai so quickly though. The original awesome Thundercats figures were made by LJN! LJN of all companies. Sometimes a toy company can surprise you.

    I for one, never wanted Mattel to get this line. This way I can actually buy the toys in stores. Bandai always keeps their stuff readily available and usually at a decent price point too. Things that Mattel just can't do.

  • At least it's not Playmates. Just picture zillions of useless Lion-O variants. (Mexican Stereotype Lion-O, Emo Lion-O come to mind)

    The rest of the Thundercats would be sculpted but cancelled.

  • @nerdbot: I agree, these are figures for a new series targeting kids, not adults who watched the original show. I don't remember much back story or power stones from watching it in my youth–that sounds like something that would appeal to kids today.

    Though lots of collectors would buy a Thundercats Classics line, they'll make more profit targeting them to new fans, assuming the series is successful.

  • @Newton Gimmick:

    I for one, never wanted Mattel to get this line. This way I can actually buy the toys in stores. Bandai always keeps their stuff readily available and usually at a decent price point too.

    And with those words, the Bandai Thundercats line was doomed to shortages, scalpers and premature cancellation.

  • Considering its not Mattel, we'll be able to find these toys easily! But bottomline is will these action figures be any good? as in 4H MOTU good?

  • For those who are saying that the license is only for the new series, re-read the first paragraph.

    "Under the new agreement, Bandai and their international affiliates will create and distribute products worldwide that will complement both the classic brand property, as well as Cartoon Network’s fresh take on the animated series"

  • Didn't Bandai have some deal a while back where Mattel would distribute their U.S. stuff? Maybe Bandai U.S. started up and negated that, and I guess it wouldn't mean they had any sort of partnership other than distribution.

    I don't think I've owned a single Bandai U.S. product. Their U.S. market Dragonball stuff can barely be called action figures after the later Irwin/early Jakks stuff. The Ben 10 stuff looks pretty nifty for kids I guess. I hated the Teen Titans with all their huge metal rivets. They were really tough to find and popular for a very short time!

    So ends my dream of a MOTUC spinoff line of Thundercats, Power Lords, Black Star, Sectaurs, and other large 80s sci-fi fantasy lines mixed together.

    I did see a somewhat anime styled Lion-O drawing a few weeks ago that looked pretty authentic. I kinda liked it, but all I can thing of now are those deluxe Dragonball Evolution figures with the splitting arm action features. Yuck.

  • awesome! I'll actually be able to collect them!

    Given the choice between great figures I'll never see in person or decent figures I can easily buy,I'll pick the latter.

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  • Very sad that the Horsemen are not involved, but under no circumstance did I want Mattel to get this license (WilyKit and Kat could have been con exclusives with Snarf coming polybagged con only. Guess I could have joined the Fwoosh to maybe get one). Though Bandai USA is a bummer. Hoping for the best. Thundercats Ho!

  • I'm really excited for this as I've been a fan of the Teen Titans toyline, and the aforementioned Brave and the Bold/Avatar the Last Airbender/Wonder Woman animated movie.

    From what I get from the press release seems like they'll do a Kid Friendly line probably in the 3 and 3/4 scale to target the kiddies and then probably a slightly larger line with both the animated and classic version of the T-cats for collectors.

    But all I know is I better get a damn Cheetara out of this or I'm not buying anything at all.

  • Well, without seeing any figures, I believe it's a little to early to say anything about the death of this line…

    But here's my two cents…

    I have some action figures ( Mostly monsters from the Ultraman series and a Godzilla ) from Bandai and I really like them, despite their lack of articulation.

    I am not concerned about the sculpt of this new line. I never saw a Baindai figure with poor sculpt. IMO, my monsters have a perfect sculpt.

    Speaking of sculpt, one of my all time favorite action figures is my beloved burning Godzilla from Bandai. His sculpt so perfect to me.

    I am actually happy with Bandai picking this line. It means I'll be able to collect all the line. :)

    I'm happy with that.I give them more credit than I would give to Mattel.

    Why? One simple reason: I don't believe they're fools.I don't think bandai would pick this line to lose money. Bandai will use the Thundercats franchise to surprise all of us ( In a good way ) with great figures with great sculpt and great articulation, figures we all can find.

    I may be wrong, of course… Let's wait and see.

    Cheers!

  • This was to be expected. Thundercats, Green Lantern, and Young Justice all leaked months ago with toyline rumors. The person who leaked the news said it was offered to Mattel and Hasbro but both passed on it and only Bandai expressed interest in it. So it's not that WB didn't go with Mattel or Hasbro, it's that Mattel and Hasbro didn't want it. I believe they said it was due to lack of cool tech, while Bandai seems to like it for that very reason.

    Also the second wave of RPM stuff was the only time I've ever seen poor distribution of Bandai products honestly, so chances are these won't be to hard to find.

  • @Gambit320: If Bandai takes what it learned from the Super Legends RP line and applies it to a collector oriented "classic" Thundercat line, then I'll happily eat my skepticism. I might even get excited.

    I suppose we'll find out at SDCC.

  • @LBAM:

    I don't play around with licenses I take seriously, but maybe I get a bit up in arms at times. :)

  • The Young Justice show is being adapted. But Artemis is apparently the name of the female character on the team.

  • Well the only thing I can think of that'd sell this line is if they incorporate something akin to what Bandai is known for in Japan with Gundam where you buy action figure kits and put them together yourself. That way kids and especially collectors who love the show will go nuts and buy they kits. However, *if* the show fails, then WB will have saved on the labor costs (see: higher quality product = increased profit margin) it takes to glue all the toys together themselves. Its really a win/win situation in that respect.