Why TigerSharks Was Never as Successful as Thundercats or Silverhawks


  • ThunderCats and SilverHawks rocked, but TigerSharks struggled due to underwater hero theme and lack of originality.
  • Each show featured a unique ecosystem and species-specific heroes, with ThunderCats and SilverHawks stealing the spotlight.
  • Despite a unique premise and cool transformations, TigerSharks fell short due to lack of viewer interest and market saturation.

In the 1980s, Rankin/Bass Entertainment had a lot going on. They’d been creating hit animated movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and The Hobbit (1997) but now they were trying to create a series of three animal-hero-based syndicated cartoons. The first, and most well-known, was ThunderCats, then came SilverHawks. These two shows were much loved by children in the mid-1980s.

However, the final show that rounded out the three was TigerSharks. It followed a similar formula, tried it just a bit differently, and missed the boat. It’s a shame because the show had great potential and never really made it to the same level as its sibling shows. But what was TigerSharks, and why have you (probably) never heard of it?

The Big Three

Let’s break down the fact that these Rankin/Bass shows were not complete cookie-cutter ideas but were 100% from the same place. They each followed a specific ecosystem, namely land, space, and oceans, and a species-specific group of heroes: cats, birds, and marine mammals.

ThunderCats came first and was wildly successful. The basic premise was that a group of human-cat hybrids must leave their home planet of Thundera only to arrive at a new planet where they fight against an ancient evil being named Mumm-ra (a scary mummy villain who turns into a powerful monster under specific circumstances). Their tagline was “Thundercats are loose!”

The following year saw the release of SilverHawks. This show followed a group of space adventurers who had been physically altered with robotic parts so that they could survive in space. They protect the galaxy from MonStar (a scary crime boss who turns into a powerful monster under specific circumstances). Their tagline was “Partly metal, partly real!”

The third series to come out was TigerSharks. It deviated from the typical plan of the first two series in its plot, which seems like it could have helped, but instead, it made it the outlier. Its tagline was “Look for a spaceship with a sail!” Not quite the punch of the first two.


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The Thundercats’ Formula

Rankin Bass Shows
Rankin Bass

Often referred to as “the wet thundercats” or “thunderfish” by those who remember the show, TigerSharks took the idea of a group of human-like aliens who are on a research mission to a planet called Water-O that is almost entirely covered in oceans. Their spaceship, the SARK, is able to function as a boat and submarine and features a special transformation tank into which the characters would leap in order to morph into sea-going versions of themselves. Each one had its own new, cool form based on a specific sea creature.

Let’s run down some of these characters. It’s important to remember one thing about “the formula” that was consistent throughout the three shows. There was always a strong male leader, one female character, and at least one or two child heroes.

  • The leader of the TigerSharks was Mako (they all have sea names) who was the strong male lead of the show. He was the one with the most powers. Stronger than the others and smarter. When he jumped in the tank he became partly shark.
  • Lorca was the mechanic who turned into part-orca.
  • Dolph was Mako’s right-hand man, and he turned into a (can you guess?) part dolphin.
  • Octavia was the (token) female character whose head turned into an octopus.
  • Walro was the wise, older man who turned into part walrus.
  • Then there were the younger members of the team, Angel and Bronc who turned into hybrid angelfish and seahorse respectively.


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The other thing to remember about “the formula” is that the team needed a somehow MORE animal sidekick. In ThunderCats it was Snarf, SilverHawks had TallyHawk, and in TigerSharks it was Gupp, a dog who turned into a seal.

The bad guys were a little different. They were not simply one group with one scary leader. Instead, there were two bad guys with their own groups that often worked together while undermining the other. One of these was T-Ray, who led the Mantannas. They are a sea-going race that must remain underwater or wear special suits to survive on land. They want to conquer Water-O for themselves. The other character is Captain Bizzarly who runs a ship of pirates who hate the water. Bizarrely was once the main villain of the planet but was frozen in ice by the inhabitants before being released by T-Ray in the hopes that they could team up.

The TigerSharks were constantly at odds with these groups and fought for the Waterians in an effort to keep the planet safe while learning about the undersea life that surrounded them.

So Why Didn’t It Work?

One of the main things that ’80s children’s television was known for was tie-ins. Many shows, such as He-Man and Transformers were created after the toys themselves had been made. The shows were glorified commercials. In the case of these shows, the show came first, and the toys came second. However, ThunderCats saturated the market with their characters and formula. The SilverHawks were able to cash in on children’s love of space and all things laser-gun-related. However, the idea of underwater heroes didn’t seem all that fantastic to viewers. This meant that although they were able to survive two seasons, they couldn’t hold enough attention on their own.

It should also be noted that TigerSharks was not a standalone show, but it was the only one to feature as a cornerstone of the Rankin/Bass The Comic Strip. This also featured Street Frogs, The Mini-Monsters, and Karate Kat. These shows aired together, and it was therefore quite easy to miss one or the other.

TigerSharks would probably not have been successful even if it was the first show of the three. It relied on an underwater gimmick and lacked much of the original flavor of the first two shows. Had ThunderCats come last, at least it would have had more interesting plots and more compelling characters for kids to relate to. TigerSharks gave it a try, but it didn’t have the power to leave the same mark on the public consciousness. Currently unavailable to stream.

#TigerSharks #Successful #Thundercats #Silverhawks

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