ThunderCats - Interviews

Larry Kenney interview

By Chris (He-Fan)


ThunderCats voice actor Larry KenneyWhen most people think of ThunderCats, it’s hard not to automatically think of the feline heroes’ young leader, Lion-O. As the series’ central character, Lion-O would become an iconic figure for millions of ThunderCats fans, many of whom grew up learning the same life lessons that Lion-O would learn with each new episode. There are many reasons why Lion-O was such a great character, but one of those reasons was the superb voice that he was given by veteran voice-over artist Larry Kenney.

Larry has always been a credit to ThunderCats – immensely proud of his work on the show, Larry interacts almost daily with ThunderCats fans all over the world, responding quickly and enthusiastically to all of the many thousands of e-mails he receives. The ThunderCats fan community is very lucky indeed to have Larry Kenney.

Several years prior to my involvement with ThunderCats Lair, I had been working on a planned ThunderCats website that, sadly, never came to fruition. I discovered Larry’s e-mail address online and so took the liberty of contacting him to ask if he would take part in an interview for that website. Larry kindly agreed, and so the following e-mail interview was completed on 1st August 2000.

This interview has remained unpublished since that time, but now, in the year of Larry’s 60th birthday, it can finally be made public! A special tribute to Larry was the idea of ThunderCats Lair Forum member Songya, and we can think of no better tribute than to publish this interview which showcases the warmth, enthusiasm and pride in his work of one of the defining voices of 1980s animation. Enjoy!

First of all, Larry, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak to me about your work on ThunderCats.

I know that before ThunderCats, you did some voice-acting for TV commercials, as the voice of Count Chocula, and Sonny, the Coco-Puffs Bird. How did you go from that to working for Rankin-Bass?

I worked as a voice-over actor before THUNDERCATS (COUNT CHOCULA and COCO PUFFS, for example, preceded T-Cats) and continue to do it today. One day in 1983, my agent sent me to an audition for the show, along with about 200 other actors.

When you first became involved with ThunderCats, did you choose Lion-O as the character you wanted to provide the voice for, or was the character “assigned” to you? How did you go about creating the voices for each character? E.g.: did you work them out from the script you were given?

Like all the other actors on the series, I auditioned for several roles, and was assigned the voices of LION-O, JACKALMAN, and the other ensuing characters I portrayed. We were shown drawings of the characters and given a description of their “personalities;” it was up to each actor to “bring it to life.”

ThunderCats voice actor Larry KenneyWas ThunderCats the first Rankin-Bass show you worked on?

THUNDERCATS was the first Rankin-Bass production I worked on, followed by SILVERHAWKS, TIGER SHARKS, KARATE KAT, and several Christmas programs, like “A Star for Jeremy,” “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which are still shown on TV at Holiday time.

How much time did you have to become familiar with a script to an episode, or did it vary from episode to episode? And, how long was a typical recording session?

Once production began, we’d record two episodes a day, two days per week, for a few months, then take a break… mainly to allow the writers time to come up with new ideas. We’d receive our scripts in the mail a few days prior to recording, to allow us to rehearse our lines. Each half-hour episode took 3-4 hours to record. We produced 130 episodes of THUNDERCATS over a period of two to two and a half years.

What’s your favourite memory of working on the show? Is there one event that particularly stands out in your mind?

I really don’t have a singular favorite moment of production; we ALWAYS had a lot of fun….. as evidenced by the “out-takes” you may have heard on the Internet!

Do you have a favourite episode?

My favorite episode, I guess, is the “pilot;” the first hour-long episode, because it explained to the audience the overall theme of the show, and introduced each character.

Are you still in touch with any of the other members of the cast and crew of ThunderCats?

I occasionally see other cast members who are still active in the industry {Lynn Lipton, Peter Newman, Earl Hammond} Sadly, Bob McFadden and Earl Hyman have passed away.

Why do you think ThunderCats has withstood the test of time, and been successfully ed on the Cartoon Network, whilst many of its contemporaries have fallen by the wayside?

Why has T-CATS survived? Hard to say, but I like to think that part of the reason is the show’s dedication to moral values and positive messages. THUNDERCATS was conceived at a time when the TV industry was being criticized for bombarding children with violence and negativity. We attempted to entertain kids, and at the same time show that problems can be solved without violence….. by people working together…… corney, huh?

Lion-OWhat are your perceptions of Lion-O as a character?

I like that LION-O, while “Lord of the T-CATS,” was vulnerable, made LOTS of mistakes, but matured throughout the series by learning from his “team-mates.”

I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard the infamous “ThunderCats Outtakes” that are around on the Internet. I don’t suppose you can confirm whether they’re real or not, can you?

Yes, the “out-takes” on the web are real, and all of us cast members feel badly that they are available for YOUNG PEOPLE to hear. It breaks my heart to get eMail from a 9 year-old asking “Mr. Kenney, is that really LION-O saying those bad words?” Of course, we had NO IDEA those things would ever be heard outside the recording studio; apparently, one of the engineers felt it necessry to “upload” them onto the web. How sad.

Finally, if you could change one thing about the work you did on ThunderCats, what, if anything, would you change? And, is there any one thing from your work on the show of which you’re particularly proud?

What would I change? Hmmmm…… well, maybe I’d have LION-O and CHEETARA get it on! (just kidding)
I’m very proud that, even today, I get eMail from nice people like you continue to enjoy the show!!!

Thank you, Larry, for taking the time to speak to me. It means a lot to me, and I’m sure to many other ThunderFans out there!

It’s been my pleasure to answer your questions.
Sincerely, Larry Kenney………