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Thundarr the Barbarian is a Saturday morning animated television series, created by Joe Ruby and produced by Ruby-Spears Productions. It lasted 2 seasons, 1980-81 and 1981-1982. Action figures of the three main characters were released by Toynami in 2004.

Concept and characters

Twenty-one half-hour episodes were produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, an independent animation house formed by the co-creators of Scooby-Doo, from October 1980 to September 1982, when the show went off the air. The show ran on the ABC network. Reruns of the program appeared on NBC's Saturday morning lineup in 1983.

Directly inspired by comic books, with the likes of R.E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and Flash Gordon, Thundarr the Barbarian is set in a future (A.D. 3994) post-apocalyptic wasteland divided into kingdoms or territories—the majority of which are ruled by wizards—and whose ruins typically feature recognizable geographical features from the United Statesmarker, such as Atlantamarker, Cape Canaveralmarker, Las Vegasmarker, Los Angelesmarker, Mount Rushmoremarker, New York Citymarker, San Franciscomarker or Washington, D.C.marker Other episodes with recognizable settings are located in Central America, while one is in Londonmarker. Another notable feature of this future Earth is that the Moon was broken in two pieces, but the gravity of the pieces drew them back together, orbiting at roughly the same height as the intact Moon once did. The shattered moon and the ruins of the former human civilization were supposedly caused by the passage of a runaway comet between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, which, from scenes shown in the opening sequence, caused radical changes in the Earth's climate, geography and tidal effects. However, by the time period in which the series is set (2,000 years later), the Earth and Moon seem to have settled into a new balance.

The hero Thundarr, a muscular warrior, was meant to be strongly akin to the comic book characters Thor the God of Thunder, Conan The Barbarian, and most especially Namor The Submariner. In this setting, Thundarr and his companions Princess Ariel (a formidable young sorceress) and the Wookiee-like Ookla the Mok traveled the world on horseback, battling evil wizards who combine magical spells with technologies from the pre-catastrophe world. Other enemies include The Brotherhood of Night, a group of werewolves who could transforms others into their number by simple touch, the cosmic Stalker from The Stars, a predatory, malevolent cosmic vampire, humanoid lizards and mutants. Intelligent humanoid-animal races include the rat-like Groundlings and the cat-like Moks.

Further Star Wars influences can be seen in Thundarr's weapon of choice, the Sunsword, which projects a blade-like beam of energy when activated, and can be deactivated so that it is only a hilt. The Sunsword's energy blade can deflect other energy attacks as well as magical ones, can cut through nearly anything, and can disrupt magical spells and effects. The Sunsword is magically linked to Thundarr and as such, only he can use it; however, this link can be disrupted.

Comic book writer-artist Jack Kirby worked on the production design for the show. While many people believe that Kirby was the primary designer of the show (mainly due to his similarly themed Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth), the main characters were in fact designed by fellow comic book writer-artist Alex Toth, who also designed the popular character Space Ghost for Saturday morning television. Toth, however, was unavailable to continue working on the show, so most of the wizards and other villains and secondary characters that appear on the show were designed by Kirby. He was brought onto the show at the recommendation of comic writer Steve Gerber and comics and animation veteran Mark Evanier, who realized that the same imagination that produced Kamandi could contribute significantly to the series. Indeed, the evil wizard Gemini, the only repeating villain on the show, resembles Darkseid, an infamous Kirby villain.

The series was the creation of Steve Gerber, creator of Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck. The name Ookla actually comes from University of California, Los Angelesmarker (commonly known as UCLA). Gerber and friend Martin Pasko were having dinner in the Westwood area one night during the time Gerber was writing the bible for the series. Gerber commented to Pasko that he had not yet decided upon a name for the Wookiee-like character the network insisted be added to the series, over Gerber's objections. As the two walked past the gate to the UCLA campus, Pasko quipped, "Why don't you name him 'UCLA'?" Pasko later became one of several screenwriters also known for their work in comics, such as Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, to contribute to the show. After writing several scripts, singly and in collaboration with Gerber, Pasko became a story editor on the second season. Other writers included Buzz Dixon and Mark Jones.

The opening narration to the show is as follows:
The year: 1994.
From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction!
Man's civilization is cast in ruin!

Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...

A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery.
But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.

He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!

Bob Ridgely provided Thundarr's voice, frequently uttering such pronouncements as "Demon dogs!", "Lords of Light!", and the Thundarr war-cry (which resembled a cowboy's shout stretched out to "Ahhhhhhhhh-Hee!").

Other primary characters

Ookla the Mok

Ookla is a member of the mok species, a leonine humanoid with fangs and yellow eyes. In Thundarr the Barbarian's back-story, Ookla and Thundarr were enslaved in the court of the wizard Sabian until Sabian's stepdaughter Princess Ariel helped them escape.

As a mok, Ookla has great strength, usually fighting by ripping up a nearby sapling or piece of wreckage to club his enemies. Although on a few occasions he has been shown to use a longbow that fires a type of paralyzing arrow. However, he is also the most likely of the heroes to charge right into an enemy attack or to be enraged by unusual nuisances or threats. Moks also have a fear of water.

Thundarr knows more about mok culture than most humans of his era; both Thundarr and Ariel generally understand the howls that make up Ookla's speech. Whereas Thundarr and Ariel ride horses for transport, Ookla's steed is another quadrapedal species called an equort.

The name Ookla is a phonetic spelling of the initialism UCLAmarker. Henry Corden voiced Ookla.

Princess Ariel


Not much was revealed about Ariel's history before she met Thundarr except that she was the stepdaughter of an evil wizard named Sabian and that she learned knowledge of magic and the Earth's history from his library. In the episode "Battle of The Barbarians" Ariel recognizes their location as Chinatownmarker in San Franciscomarker and states that her own ancestors may have lived in a place much like this, thus putting forth the notion that her ancestors were of Chinese heritage. The titular barbarian was once a slave of the evil wizard Sabian, but he was set free by Princess Ariel. It is also thought that she gave Thundarr his principal weapon, the Sunsword. It was never revealed exactly where she was a princess. At times she shows romantic feelings toward Thundarr, though he never outwardly returns them. Princess Ariel was voiced by Nellie Bellflower.

Special abilities

Princess Ariel is a powerful and intelligent sorceress who possesses style and versatility in her use of magic. Additionally, she possesses knowledge of Earth’s past, which she read about in her stepfather's library. She possesses a quick wit and seems to always have an answer for everything.

Her most common feats of sorcery involved creating shapes of light that contained force and/or solidity, ranging from throwing exploding spheres at opponents to levitating weights to summoning nets, shields, or bridges over chasms. She was also able to magically produce light, heat, and whirlwinds, reassemble and/or reanimate inanimate objects or ancient machinery, manipulate the basic elements, and produce formidably powerful energy blasts. When needed, she could also paralyze or hypnotize an enemy.

In the Thundarr stories, an evil wizard or sorceress' reign of terror and power is based upon how well he/she was able to combine science (mostly leftovers from the past) with the magical arts. Some relied more heavily on science and others more on magic (or mystic items). Ariel was definitely a more magically adept type magician, though she had proven on many occasions to be able to use her magic to reassemble or reanimate ancient technology and machinery. She was not as powerful a mystic as Gemini, Mindok the Mind Menace, or Skullos, but the levels of her spells were very diversified and unique. As such, she was not helpless in battle against wizards of their level.

Ariel's magic had one weakness: it required the use of gestures (typically raising both hands together above her head) and could usually be blocked by anything that grabbed or bound her hands. Some enemy wizards apparently had the same limitation, which Ariel exploited by bringing to life pieces of their clothing or furniture to seize them before they could react.

Episodes and locations

Season 1 (1980–1981)

  1. "Secret of the Black Pearl"—New York, New Yorkmarker (Manhattanmarker, referred to as "Man-hatt")
  2. "Harvest of Doom"—Chichen Itzamarker, Yucatán Peninsulamarker, Mexicomarker
  3. "Mindok the Mind Menace"—Cape Canaveral, Floridamarker
  4. "Raiders of the Abyss"—Seattle, Washingtonmarker
  5. "Treasure of the Moks"—Norfolk, Virginiamarker
  6. "Attack of the Amazon Women"—Mount Rushmoremarker, South Dakotamarker
  7. "The Brotherhood of Night"—Washington, D.C.marker
  8. "Challenge of the Wizards"—Las Vegas, Nevadamarker
  9. "Valley of the Man Apes"—San Fernando Valleymarker, Californiamarker
  10. "Stalker from the Stars"—Denver, Coloradomarker
  11. "Portal Into Time"—San Antonio, Texasmarker
  12. "Battle of the Barbarians"—San Francisco, Californiamarker (Chinatown)
  13. "Den of the Sleeping Demon"—San Jose, Californiamarker

Season 2 (1981–1982)

  1. "Wizard Wars"—St. Louis, Missourimarker
  2. "Fortress of Fear"—La Brea Tar Pitsmarker, Los Angelesmarker
  3. "Island of the Body Snatchers"—London, U.K.marker
  4. "City of Evil"—Boston, Massachusettsmarker
  5. "Last Train to Doomsday"—Central America
  6. "Master of the Stolen Sunsword"—Beverly Hillsmarker and Los Angeles, Californiamarker
  7. "Trial by Terror"—Atlanta, Georgiamarker
  8. "Prophecy of Peril"—unknown

Allusions in other fiction

  • A Cartoon Network promotional bumper features Thundarr, Fred Flintstone, and Chicken (of Cow and Chicken fame) supposedly commuting to "work" at Cartoon Network, and trying to find a parking spot in Fred's foot-powered car. Another features Thundarr and company with their voices dubbed over by toddlers speaking gibberish. Still another, from the Screwey, Ain't It? series, features Ookla the Mok repeatedly bashing a giant squid.
  • Thundarr appears in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "The Dabba Don" voiced by Doug Preis. He was shown with brown hair and as a goon even though he wasn't a Hanna-Barbera character like the others.
  • The NEN parody show Meltdown devoted an entire half-hour episode to an animated parody of Thundarr, which itself contained countless parodies and ribs at '80s cartoons. The episode is most likely from 1995 since the outdated 1994 year cited in the opening narration is used as a constant running gag ("Last year, from out of space..."). The parody's premise had Thundarr wandering a post-apocalyptic Earth searching for root beer; during the course of the show, Thundarr battles and beheads an obvious He-Man knock-off character who insults his haircut, explores the ruins of a train similar to the USA Cartoon Express, and fights a wizard who wants to turn Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla's horses into food in a Soylent Green type plot. Any mentions of a "lost episode" of Thundarr are probably actually references to this Meltdown version. The parody episode's intro was later re-used as one of the rotating segments before Meltdown commercial bumpers, but the episode seemed to be absent from post-'90s airings of the show (since it was a parody is free of any copyright issues with the original Thundarr).
  • An episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends shows "Ookla, Ariel, we ride!" on a list of catchphrases.
  • In the episode "Good Duck Hunting" of Duck Dodgers, Duck Dodgers proudly displays a Thundarr the Barbarian poster featuring Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel in his ship.
  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Michael Brennan" mentions Ookla the Mok.
  • Rapper Sir-Mix-A-Lot, in the song "Attack On The Stars", likens himself to "Thundarr, a barbaric-like warrior".
  • A nerdrock/nerdcore band is named Ookla the Mok.
  • The computer role-playing game Wizardry has a brief once-only appearance of the trio on the final level.

DVD releases

Thundarr the Barbarian has not been released on DVD. No plans have been made to release it on DVD.


External links

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