Thundarr the Barbarian

Thundarr the Barbarian
Thundarr the Barbarian
Cover to Thundarr the Barbarian home video
From left to right Ookla, Ariel and Thundarr
Genre Post-apocalyptic, science fantasy, action-adventure
Created by Steve Gerber
Joe Ruby
Ken Spears
Written by Buzz Dixon
Martin Pasko
Mark Evanier
Ted Petersen
Steve Gerber
Christopher Vane
Directed by Charles A. Nichols
John Kimball
Rudy Larriva
Voices of Robert Ridgely
Nellie Bellflower
Henry Corden
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 21
Executive producer(s) Joe Ruby
Ken Spears
Producer(s) Jerry Eisenberg
Production company(s) Ruby-Spears Productions
Distributor Filmways (Season 1)
Original channel ABC (1980–1982)
NBC (1983)
Original run October 4, 1980 (1980-10-04) – September 18, 1982 (1982-09-18)

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



Twenty-one half-hour episodes were produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, an animation house formed by former Hanna-Barbera head writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears,[1] 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 States, starting in New York City and working itself to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mount Rushmore, San Francisco or Washington, D.C.

Other episodes with recognizable settings are located in Central America, while one is in London. 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 caused by the passage of a runaway planet (more resembling a 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 (voiced by Robert Ridgely), a muscular warrior, was meant to be strongly akin to the comic book characters Thor the God of Thunder and Conan The Barbarian. 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 transform others into their werewolves 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.[2]

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. Gerber also created the similarly named 'Wudarr the Aquarian' for Marvel Comics. The name Ookla actually comes from University of California, Los Angeles (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.[3]

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!",[4] "Lords of Light!",[5] and the Thundarr war-cry "Aaaaahh-ee!".[6]

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. On a few occasions he is 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 dwell in their own territory, ruled by a king; they fear and hate water, preferring to face overwhelming odds in battle rather than wade through a stream to escape.

Both Thundarr and Ariel generally understand the howls that make up Ookla's speech, but Thundarr seems to know more about Mok culture than Ariel, perhaps because he and Ookla met and worked together as slaves before either met Ariel. Whereas Thundarr and Ariel ride horses for transport, Ookla's steed is another quadrupedal species called an equort.

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

Princess Ariel

Princess Ariel
First appearance Secret of the Black Pearl
Last appearance Prophecy of Peril
Created by Steve Gerber
Portrayed by Nellie Bellflower
Occupation Sorceress, adventurer, Tornado


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" 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 beautiful, powerful and intelligent sorceress who possesses style and versatility in her use of magic. Additionally, she has knowledge of Earth's past, which she read about in her stepfather's library.[7] She sports 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.[7] 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.


Season 1 (1980–1981)

Episode Title Air date Location Synopsis
1 Secret of the Black Pearl October 11, 1980 New York City (Manhattan Island) Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla escort a man who is carrying a magical black pearl that can protect anyone from Gemini to Manhat's ruins while evading the two-faced wizard Gemini and his Groundlings (a race of rat people)
2 Harvest of Doom Chichen Itza, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla encounter a train carrying Death Flowers (whose pollen can hypnotise both humans and moks) being transported by the Carocs (a race of crocodile people) to a wizard that they work for. The episode introduces Tai the swamp-urchin who reappears in "The Last Train to Doomsday." [8]
3 Mindok the Mind Menace Cape Canaveral, Florida The evil wizard Mindok lost his body in the Great Catalysm 2000 years ago though his brain remained immortal. He, General Zoa, and their minions seek out cryogeneticly frozen scientists named "Ice People" in a plot to build Mindok a new body to house his brain.
4 Raiders of the Abyss Seattle, Washington The evil wizard Morag and his raiders attack a cruise ship village to kidnap its inhabitants and steal their life-essence.
5 Treasure of the Moks Norfolk, Virginia Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla come to the aid of the Mok Chieftain Oblach. The trouble is that Captain Kordon the Queen of the River Pirates is after the Mok's hidden treasure and she intends to use the "fire lances" of the ancients to get it.
6 Attack of the Amazon Women Mount Rushmore, South Dakota Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla come to the aid of a race of amphibious Amazons whose queen has been usurped by Stryia, a witch who plans to conquer the land and seas with her shark legion army.
7 The Brotherhood of Night Washington, D.C. Zevon is the leader of the Brotherhood of Night, a tribe of werewolves that can add anyone to their ranks by touching them. Outside of a plot to assimilate Thundarr into his pack, he is also targeting the evil wizard Infernus hoping to make the pack invincible.
8 Challenge of the Wizards Las Vegas, Nevada Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla are caught up in a battle between wizards who seek to claim the Helmet of Power. Thundarr ends up having to side with the wizard Sholow when he threatens a bunch of villagers.
9 Valley of the Man Apes San Fernando Valley, California Simius and his fellow Man Apes assemble salvaged parts of a giant robotic gorilla in a plot to terrorize the local villagers.
10 Stalker from the Stars Alaska A spaceship containing an alien lands on Earth. The alien ends up capturing Princess Ariel and some villagers as a source of food.
11 Portal Into Time San Antonio, Texas The evil wizard Crom threatens a tribe of humans at the Alamo. They can protect themselves by using a sophisticated Guardian machine that utilizes flying robot drones that can disable the wizard's laser tanks. But when it blows a circuit, Thundarr and the group must use Crom's moon dial to journey into the past to get the necessary replacement part for the Guardian. This enables the gang to see old Earth and then return to their time to save the village from Crom.
12 Battle of the Barbarians San Francisco, California (Chinatown) The evil wizard Kublai seeks the Golden Scepter of the Yantzee, the only item which can strip him of his magic, and terrorizes the villagers of San Francisco's Chinatown in the process. When Thundarr thwarts his initial attempts, the wizard recruits Zogar, another barbarian to engage him in battle while Kublai tries again to find the scepter.
13 Den of the Sleeping Demon Grand Canyon, Arizona Judag is a bitter, escaped former slave of an evil wizard who plans to awaken a sleeping demon that allegedly can grant whoever wakes it the powers of 1,000 wizards. It is up to Thundarr to prevent Judag from accomplishing this mission.

Season 2 (1981–1982)

Episode Title Air date Location Synopsis
1 Wizard Wars St. Louis, Missouri The wizard Skullus and his soldiers are enslaving villagers living in an old refinery and using them to attack the fortress of his enemy, the wizard Octagon.
2 City of Evil Boston, Massachusetts After being defeated by Thundarr, the evil wizard Sarott stumbles into a research lab that holds the miniaturized City of Thieves. Its ruler Vortak, promises Sarott a free rein to use the city's advanced army to enslave humans and other wizards if he can restore it to normal size. To do so, he'll need the Gauntlet of Power which can boost his magic to enlarge the city.
3 Island of the Body Snatchers London, England, UK The gang investigate an area called the Mystery Zone where several ships get wrecked on an island. They learn the evil witch Circe is responsible as she needs a young sorceress to overcome a curse in which she will turn to stone if she leaves the island. When Ariel arrives with Thundarr and Ookla, Circe gets her opportunity as she switches bodies with her and becomes a threat to the others as she tries to leave the island.
4 Last Train to Doomsday Central America Thundarr and his men are in pursuit of Janus after he and a race of Hawkmen attack some villagers and the train route of Tye, the former swamp urchin. The group is in for a surprise when it turns out Janus is actually Gemini in disguise seeking revenge on Thundarr.
5 Prophecy of Peril Unknown Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla battle the evil wizard Vashtarr when he steals the Crystal of Prophecy that can give the details of his downfall. When it shatters in his efforts to retrieve it, the prophecy is foretold as they learn three women will unite to defeat him. One is Maya, an element-shifter buried in the ruins of the old city of Endorr. Another is Cinda, a barbarian residing in the Canyon of Death whose staff grants her great strength. The last is Valerie Storm, a fashion model from Old Earth, who is abducted and taken prisoner by Vashtarr himself.
6 Fortress of Fear La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles When coming to the aid of an escaped slave, Thundarr, Princess Ariel, and Ookla are captured by robots working for the multi-eyed wizard Lord Argoth who wants Ariel as his bride.
7 Master of the Stolen Sunsword Beverly Hills and adjoining Hollywood During a battle with Yando (a supposed wizard with unusual magic), Thundarr is struck by red negative lightning, which significantly diminishes the power of his Sunsword. The weapon can be restored at the nearby Pool of Power, but it is stolen by Yando who seeks to have the Sunsword's power for himself.
8 Trial by Terror Atlanta, Georgia Thundarr's friend Thorac is accused of stealing a village's fuel and is about to receive a death sentence (by being boiled alive over a geyser) when the barbarian rescues him. Thorac is granted a reprieve when Thundarr and the group investigate the crime, eventually learning the town's sheriff Korb is in league with the evil wizard Artemus. Artemus had stolen the fuel to power his Death Ship and gain the approval of the Council of Wizards.


Additional voices

References in other media

  • 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.
  • An episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends called "Challenge of the Superfriends" 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.
  • A filk band is named Ookla the Mok.
  • Episode XXII of Samurai Jack is called "Jack and the Hunters" and pits Jack against a hired group of elite hunters that appear to be very similar to Ookla the Mok.
  • The role-playing video game Wizardry has a brief once-only appearance of the trio on the final level.[9]

DVD releases

The debut episode of Thundarr the Barbarian was released on DVD as part of Warner Home Video's Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s compilation series. The DVD set, containing episodes of ten other shows, was released on May 4, 2010.[10]

On September 28, 2010, Warner Bros. released Thundarr the Barbarian: The Complete Series on DVD in region 1 via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively through Warner's online store and only in the US.[11] The DVD packaging mistakenly implies the series was made by Hanna-Barbera, even though that was not the case.


External links

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