ThunderCats in Taiwan
By Chris (He-Fan)
ThunderCats is so strongly assosciated with western parts of the world such as the US that it’s easy to forget that its roots are planted firmly in the east, and in particular in Taiwan. In 2006, we were contacted by a Taiwanese gentleman named Azuma Windwalker, who very generously provided us with a great deal of information about ThunderCats and its connections to Taiwan.
Foremost amongst these connections is the creation of ThunderCats itself. The concept and design of the series was actually devised and created in a collaborative effort between Japan and the US, and the majority of the series was animated in Japan by a studio known as Pacific Animation – however, it would appear that Pacific were aided in some form by a Taiwanese company called Wang Film, a studio that assisted many overseas animation companies back in the 1980s. (Apparently in Taiwan there once existed a rumour that the ThunderCats concept was initially created by a pair of Taiwanese individuals, although this would go against what is already known of the series’ origins.)
As well as owing some of its production to Taiwan, ThunderCats also enjoyed popularity when broadcast in the country. The first network to air ThunderCats in Taiwan was China TV, with the series apparently making its debut on 12th December 1986, running through to 25th December 1987. The show then returned to China TV on 6th January 1989, running until 5th May of the same year, although it is unclear whether this was new episodes or re-runs. Interestly, the series was granted what in western countries would almost qualify as a “prime time” slot, airing at 6:00pm every Friday evening.
For its original broadcast in Taiwan, the entire ThunderCats series was dubbed into Chinese (Mandarin), where the title of the series translated into Pi-li-Mao – I’m told that “Pi-li” means “awesome, thunderbolt, unexpected”, and “Mao” means simply “cat”. The Chinese theme music for the series was radically different to the English-speaking version, and was actually released commercially in Taiwan – click on the link below to hear the commercially-released version of the Chinese ThunderCats theme!
ThunderCats subsequently returned to Taiwanese TV screens a few years after its initial run, when it was broadcast on the station TNT – however, this time the series was shown with its original English soundtrack and the addition of Chinese subtitles.
With the popularity of the cartoon, plus a limited release of the ThunderCats toyline in the early 1990s, it seems that the show is very well remembered in Taiwan, and the recollections that Azuma was kind enough to share with us provide a fascinating insight into the far-reaching impact that ThunderCats has had all over the world!