Written by Neil (Blackiecats)
LJN pretty much manufactured the ThunderCats toyline by themselves during it’s run, except for a few additions that were produced by Playful Toys for the Argentinian market only. The LJN ThunderCats toys were distributed for sale in other countries by a number of different toy distributers native to that certain country. However towards the end of the toyline it would be common to find toys on LJN only branded cards (perhaps being left over production runs from the American market).
Except for the Playful South American toys, all the other toys were pretty much identical for the most part, however there were some production variations, such as different paint jobs and slightly different weapons (See Foreign Figures for more details).
This page will guide you through the different companies that sold LJN/Telepictures product and where those products were licensed for sale.
LJN Toys began business as a subsidiary of the Japanese company, Matsushita. In 1986 they were bought out by Universal, then 2 years later Acclaim Entertainment bought the company off Universal. Acclaim Entertainment suffered heavy financial problems declaring themselves bankrupt and went out of business. Therefore all of their subsidiary companies were shut down including LJN. LJN produced all the toys for Telepictures (the owner of the ThunderCats cartoon series) and the same toys were distributed around the world via many different companies that licenced the toys from Telepictures and LJN. LJN distributed the ThunderCats toys in the United States between 1985 and 1988. American LJN headed cards were also distributed in other countries such as the UK, Europe and Australia. In France the ThunderCats name was re-branded to Cosmocats and Cosmocats headed cards were produced for the French market under the LJN logo.
Rainbow Toys were LJN toys United Kingdom production arm, which produced the ThunderCats toys for the UK and Ireland. Rainbow toys were located in Oldham, Manchester/England. They were set up in the same place as Toy options (now Character Options) and this is why you will find the Toy Options address on some packaged companions figures. Toy Options was a separate company from Rainbow toys, as Rainbow toys rented floor space of a mill from Toy options. Because Rainbow Toys were a much smaller production arm than LJN itself, less stock was produced. Although the target market for Rainbow toys ThunderCats line was the UK and Ireland, some Rainbow Toys headed figures did pop up in Eastern Europe. Rainbow Toys distributed the ThunderCats toys between 1986 to around 1992 when I last saw them in stores. I think this was mainly due to the episodes of the cartoon being spread out between it’s debut in 1987 and when the last half of season 1 aired between 1990-1991.
Grand Toys is a Canadian toy distributer that has been in business for over 40 years and it is still in business today. It specialises in distributing toys, stationary and other accessories featuring many popular characters and brands that it has licensed, for sale within Canada. Grand Toys licensed the ThunderCats toys in the 1980’s and distributed them all over Canada. You can visit their website at www.grand.com
ChildBro were based in Hong Kong, distributing the toys in Asia.
Otto Simon were based in Holland and Belgium and distributed the toy line in Eastern Europe on behalf of Childbro. They distributed the toys throughout the late 80’s and into the early 90’s.
Glasslite is a Brazilian company who distributed LJN ThunderCats toys for the Brazilian market. Glasslite produced the 4 main ThunderCats (Lion-O, Panthro, Tygra and Cheetara), Mumm-Ra and Monkian. It is currently unknown what other characters they distributed. Card backs did also feature a picture of the Lion-O with pvc Snarf, but it is currently unknown whether this version of Lion-O was ever released by Glasslite in Brazil. The packages were totally different to the blister cards all the other companies had packaged the ThunderCats figures as the Glasslite figures were boxed instead of being on cards. However, Glasslite did release the figures on blister cards as well.
Playful was based in Argentina and distributed ThunderCats toys in South America. However the toys that Playful produced were not the LJN toys. The series of figures released in South America by Playful do look like the LJN figures for the most part, but they are not re-packed LJN toys like what was done with the companies I have already spoke about above. The Playful figures were fully licensed by Telepictures and are not bootlegs. These figures seem to be made from the LJN moulds but are are made up from parts of different characters. For example the LJN Jaga’s body was used for the Playful Lynx-o. The plastic used to manufacture the Playful figures seems very cheap and you will often find little bits of plastic sticking out of the seams of these figures. The Battle-Matic actions on these toys can be quite clunky and stiff and many figures were found to have quite bad paint jobs. Playful also made up some of their own toys that LJN never released called the Shuttleguns. (See Foreign Figures for more information on the Playful toys).