Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of ThunderCats' Cheetara

Every '80s kid remembers Lion-O's iconic call to action from the classic "ThunderCats" animated series — "Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! ThunderCats! Ho!" How can they not? The 1985 "ThunderCats" animated series was great campy fun to wake up to every Saturday morning. And just like other Saturday morning ensemble cartoons like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," there's a character for everybody in "ThunderCats."

One character that truly shines in "ThunderCats" is Cheetara, the feminine feline who can outrun any man or Mutant without breaking a sweat. While agility is her strongest attribute, Cheetara can also get her hands dirty and fight off Mumm-Ra and his lackeys with her trusty baton and staff. Even in the 2011 reboot of "ThunderCats," Cheetara is still a force to be reckoned with when she isn't dealing with her emotional baggage or the awkward love triangle between her, Lion-O, and Tygra. Think you know everything there is to know about "ThunderCats?" Just wait until you hear more about Cheetara.

Lion-O is faster than she is

If there's one thing that Cheetara has going for her, it's her speed. After all, she is based on the cheetah, the fastest land animal on Earth. It comes as no surprise that Lion-O sweats bullets when he learns that one of his trials to become the official leader of the ThunderCats is a race against Cheetara. However, as Episode 42 of the original "ThunderCats" demonstrates, Cheetara's amazing agility is not without its disadvantages. For starters, her speed only lasts for a short period of time. After that, Cheetara runs as fast as any ThunderCat. Most importantly, her incredible speed cannot outmatch a strong will for victory. When they run alongside each other at the end of the episode, Lion-O is able to outpace Cheetara thanks to his determination to win the race. At first, Lion-O doesn't believe he triumphed honestly and accuses Cheetara of letting him win, which upsets her as it goes against the code of Thundera. Only after Cheetara explains to Lion-O that the race drained her superspeed and his determination gave him an edge does he finally accept the outcome.

The WildStorm comics objectified her

After the original "ThunderCats" series came to an end in 1989, there wasn't much "ThunderCats" content for fans to entertain themselves with. It wasn't until 2002 that "ThunderCats" fans could finally put down their decaying action figures and pick up a copy of "ThunderCats: Reclaiming Thundera" #1 from WildStorm Comics, an imprint of DC. The five-part limited series, written by Ford Lytle Gilmore and illustrated by Ed McGuinness, was a faithful, albeit formulaic take on the series that picks up where the last episode of the animated series leaves off. The fifth issue, however, hints at a grimdark future for the nostalgia reboot, as Lion-O is forced to kill his old foe Grune the Destroyer and is unknowingly trapped within the Book of Omen by Mumm-Ra when he sets off to train inside it. Believing he would only be gone for a moment, Lion-O emerges from the Book of Omens after five years and realizes all is not right in Thundera. 

That's the premise for "ThunderCats: The Return," the sequel series from Gilmore that takes things in a much more problematic direction. The fate of Lion-O's comrades has all gone sour following Mumm-Ra's conquest of Thundera. Tygra and Cheetara are captured by the Mutants and forced to work as slaves. While Tygra is tortured by his captors, Cheetara is humiliated by them. A provocative scene from the miniseries has Cheetara locked up in chains while wearing what's left of her torn clothes. Some might argue that Ed Benes, an artist known for drawing women suggestively, was ill-suited for "ThunderCats: The Return." The second "ThunderCats" miniseries from WildStorm was a big step back from the entertaining romp of the first series. 

She was voiced by Lynne Lipton

Everyone knows the look of Cheetara, but not enough has been said about the voice of Cheetara. Lynne Lipton, an American film, stage, television, and voice actress was the woman behind the roars. Lipton didn't just voice Cheetara, she voiced every female character who appears in the first season of "ThunderCats," including WilyKit, Mandora, Willa, Ro-Bear-Belle, the Vampire Mermaid, and many others. Season 1 consists of 65 episodes, so the fact that Lipton voiced literally every non-male-presenting character on the show is an incredible accomplishment. Thankfully, Gerrianne Raphael took on some of the workload when she joined the cast as Pumyra. While other talented women have voiced Cheetara, such as Emmanuelle Chriqui in the 2011 reboot and Erica Lindbeck in "ThunderCats Roar," Lipton will always be seen as the definitive voice of the character. So much so that Lipton reprised the role of Cheetara for the "Family Guy" direct-to-video movie "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story," which also included Larry Kenney reprising his role as Lion-O.

She's romantically linked to Tygra

Although Lion-O and Cheetara have their moments together in the original series, Tygra is typically portrayed as Cheetara's one and only beau. In the WildStorm comics "ThunderCats: The Return," Tygra heals the emotional wounds of Cheetara after they are freed from their five-year captivity. Through the course of healing their trauma, Tygra and Cheetara start an intimate relationship with each other. Fifteen years later, the two are officially married and become the parents of the New Thunderkittens. In the 2011 "ThunderCats" TV series, Tygra and Lion-O — who are depicted as adoptive brothers — have a sibling rivalry with each other, which extends to winning the affection of Cheetara. In the end, Tygra is the one who wins Cheetara's heart. Unbeknownst to Tygra and Cheetara, their confession of love is witnessed by Lion-O, which stirs up complicated feelings of resentment and jealousy in the future ruler of Thundera. Unfortunately, the 2011 series was cut short before this spicy drama could be fully explored.

She has psychic powers

There's more to Cheetara than her superspeed. Her less talked about power, but arguably her most important one, is her ability to see into the future. This power, known as "sixth sense," allows her to see events that take place in the past and future. With a game-changing ability like this, why doesn't Cheetara use it more in the animated series? Well, that's because her sixth sense is presented more as a curse than a blessing. When the visions occur, the timing is out of Cheetara's hands and they often cause her emotional and physical pain and require a period of rest that can take days or weeks for her to recover from. In Episode 26 of the series, Cheetara's sixth sense becomes mentally linked with an alien ship that crash-lands on Third Earth, controlling her mind and draining her strength. Eventually, Cheetara manages to tap into her sixth sense without it essentially taking her out of commission. 

Milla Jovovich might want to play her

Given the number of dormant franchises from the '80s and '90s being revived for today's market, it's crazy that "ThunderCats" has been left untapped for so many years. While it seems unlikely that a theatrical live action "ThunderCats" movie will be released any time soon, one actress might have expressed interest in playing the series' leading female feline. A quote attributed to "Resident Evil" movie star Milla Jovovich, in which she expresses interest in playing Cheetara, has been republished in numerous websites. "I've always loved 'ThunderCats,'" she allegedly said. "I heard they were making a movie, and then they weren't making a movie. And I'm probably getting way too old to play Katra... no, Cheetara, that's the one!" Jovovich supposedly said this back in 2017 and, sadly, not much has changed about the on-again, off-again "ThunderCats" movie. Jovovich, however, has appeared in several movies since, such as 2019's "Hellboy" and 2020's "Monster Hunter."

Parents have named their children after her

Parents naming their children in honor of their favorite fantasy franchises isn't exactly a new phenomenon. After all, there are plenty of kids in today's world named after famous "Disney," "Harry Potter," and "Game of Thrones" characters. When it comes to naming kids after "ThunderCats" characters ... well, "Lion-O" is only an appropriate name for someone who looks exactly like an anthropomorphic lion. Nonetheless, that didn't stop the moms and dads of the '80s from naming their kids after their favorite furry "ThunderCats" characters. According to the baby-name blog Nancy's Baby Names, seven baby girls were named Cheetara after the character debuted in 1985. In 1986, 36 baby girls were named after Cheetara, then there were 29 more girls named "Cheetara" in 1987, and an additional nine baby Cheetaras in 1988. There's no available info for 1989, suggesting that's where the trend ended. However, that leaves 81 girls named after Cheetara listed in the official U.S. baby name data. Wild.

Her old toys are worth a fortune

As to be expected with a classic TV series like "ThunderCats," the toys that once graced the store aisles of the 1980s are worth an arm and a leg today. As of this writing, a quick search on eBay had a few vintage Cheetara action figures on sale for relatively major bucks. While it's hard to say how long these links will stay up for, a sealed Cheetara and Wilykit LJN set went for more than $600 at one point, while a sealed Cheetara LJN action figure has also been seen on sale for $650. Even a clearly secondhand and unboxed Cheetara figure from the '80s has fetched more than $25. If you would prefer to spend cash on new editions of toys resembling vintage Saturday morning cartoon characters, toy makers are producing a line of "ThunderCats" action figures for the older crowd. Toy manufacturer Super7 has produced waves of action figures based on "ThunderCats, as well as other popular series like the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "The Simpsons." A "ThunderCats Ultimates!" Cheetara is available, and there's also a variant figure slated for release in 2023.

She was going to get a special episode in the 2011 ThunderCats

Despite a promising start, the 2011 reboot of "ThunderCats" had its life cut short on Cartoon Network. A variety of factors worked against the new series, with the most significant disadvantage being that its toy line wasn't selling for its parent company Bandai as acknowledged by series art director Dan Norton. It's a shame, as the new "ThunderCats" had ambitious plans for its second season, one of which would have been an episode dedicated to Cheetara. According to a 2017 podcast, "Thundercats 2011 Rest of the Series Revised," Norton talked about where the series could have gone for Season 2 for nearly three hours. Apparently, the fourth episode of Season 2 would have focused on Cheetara and her status as the last cleric of Thundera. The audience would've also been introduced to an old cleric rival of Cheetara, described as a snow leopard. The episode would've also revealed that Cheetara blames herself for her grandma's death, as she wasn't fast enough to deliver medicine for her. When she forgave herself, the weights that Cheetara had been wearing the whole time would break. Cheetara would also gain the ability to see into the future in this episode, just like in her original incarnation.

Bengali would have been her son in the 2011 cartoon

Even the most casual of fans will remember the original characters from the 1985 "ThunderCats" cartoons: Lion-O, Panthro, Tygra, Cheetara, WilyKit, and WilyKat. The second season, however, introduced three new feline characters to the ThunderCats crew: Pumyra, Lynx-O, and Bengali. Resembling an alternate-color Tygra, Bengali is the blacksmith of the crew, specializing in forging and repairing weapons for the ThunderCats. Most notably, he fixes Lion-O's Sword of Omens after Tug Mug snaps it in two. In the 2011 reboot, Pumyra is introduced in Season 1 and, if the show had lived on for Season 2 and onwards, Bengali would have appeared as well. According to a podcast interview with art director Dan Norton, Bengali would have appeared as the son of Cheetara and Tygra. Given how similar Tygra and Bengali look in the original series, one would assume that making Bengali Tygra's son was a way for the 2011 crew to explain their extreme similarities.

She could have looked pretty different in the 2011 cartoon

The 2011 "ThunderCats" cartoon for Cartoon Network is a radical departure from the original 1985 series, both in its writing and design. Visually speaking, it's undeniable that the reboot was heavily influenced by the rise of anime, as well as the popularity of Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender." Japan's Studio 4°C handled the animation for Warner Bros. and made it clear that the anime influence all over the new "ThunderCats" was deliberate. Ki Hyun Ryu, supervising producer for "The Legend of Korra," was involved in the preproduction of the "ThunderCats" reboot back in 2009. On his DeviantArt account, Ki Hyun uploaded some concept art for the 2011 cartoon that shows off the reimagined characters in a completely new way. The concept art for Cheetara shows the feline speedster in an alternate costume that's slightly less risqué than the finalized version. It also looks like Cheetara almost had a comically long scarf as part of her attire, which could have been used as a sort of cape.

A fan artist imagined a live-action version of Margot Robbie as Cheetara

"ThunderCats" fans are the most patient fans out there. After the original "ThunderCats" ended in 1989, there wasn't a new series to take its place until the Cartoon Network reboot 22 years later. When the 2011 reboot was cancelled after one season, there wasn't a new series until a comedic take on the characters, "ThunderCats Roar," launched in February of 2020 and was cancelled in December of the same year. And despite news of Adam Wingard ("Godzilla vs. Kong") being tapped to direct a "ThunderCats" movie in 2021, there's been no news about the project since. With all these "ThunderCats" projects starting up only to get shut down or not even launching at all, it's no wonder why fans are left to their own devices. Instagram artist SamukArts drew a series of digital paintings that imagined celebrities as the cast of "ThunderCats" for a hypothetical live-action movie. In this vision of "ThunderCats," Henry Cavill is Lion-O, Andy Serkis is Mumm-Ra, Omar Sy as Panthro, and for Cheetara, SamukArts chose live-action Harley Quinn herself, Margot Robbie for the pivotal role.