I was thrilled to learn today that Broadway Video – the production company founded by SNL creator (and fellow Canuck!) Lorne Michaels – has announced plans to bring the Taiwanese hit Thunder Force (better known on these shores as Pili Puppet Theatre) to the U.S. market on Cartoon Network this fall.
For those not familiar with Thunder Force (and not many are) the best way to describe the series is as a saga about several martial arts warriors’ quest for seven legendary stars that can be used to restore order in the universe, told using a terrific blend of martial arts, computer animation and traditional Taiwanese glove puppetry. It’s awesome and there’s nothing else quite like it.
If you’ve read the blog for a long time you may already know that I’ve been a huge fan of Thunder Force and it’s creator Chris Huang (a member of Taiwan’s Huang puppet dynasty) ever since I was first introduced to the show while I was performing in Taiwan in late `90s. The Taiwanese are mad about puppetry and Thunder Force is a HUGE phenomenon there. I think something like 900+ episodes have been produced in the past 15 years. There’s a Thunderforce-dedicated TV channel over there and the Thunder Force movie Legend of the Sacred Stone was one of the biggest hits in the history of Taiwanese cinema.
Cartoon Network has placed an initial order of thirteen episodes and retained Animation Collective to produce the North American version of the series, which will be retitled Wulin Warriors: Legend of the Seven Stars(apparently the name “Thunder Force” is already trademarked in North America).
Want to get a little taste of Thunderforce? Check out the trailer for the Thunder Force movie here (most of it is even in English!). The full movie is available on DVD as an import, but it’s notoriously difficult to find. You can also check out this site which appears to have been prepared for Broadway Video as part of the pitching process.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on this as it develops. Watch for more news here as we get closer to the debut of Wulin Warriors this fall.
15/9/13 Update: The American version of Thunder Force debuted on Cartoon Network under the name Wulin Warriors about eight years ago and was atrocious. CN mercifully put it out of its misery quickly, cancelled the series after just a few episodes. Most of the original links in this post are now broken, but thankfully you can now find lots of the original Pili series – including new episodes – in Pili’s YouTube channel.