Thundercats, WWF Wrestling Superstars, Bionic Six, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, E.T., Gremlins, Back to the Future series, Spider-Man, The Terminator, Dune, Magnum P.I, Tigersharks, Voltron
LJN was an American company that manufactured toys and video games. Originally founded in 1970 by enterpreneur and philanthropist Jack Friedman, the company was active until 1995. Upon its closure, LJN was merged into Acclaim Entertainment, a company well known for developing and publishing video games for various consoles and systems.
The name "LJN" was formed from the initials of Lewis J. Norman, the reverse of Norman J. Lewis, whose toy company had employed Friedman as a sales representative in the 1960s. The company specialized in manufacturing toys and video games based on licensed properties from movies, television shows, and celebrities. The video games were mostly for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The headquarters of LJN were located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, and later in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Some of the popular titles that licensed LJN for toys and games included "Back to the Future", "Gremlins", "Indiana Jones", "The Terminator", "Dune","TigerSharks", among others
In the early 1980's, LJN was hired to produce toys based on the ThunderCats cartoon series. One of the most remarkable and novel aspects of the ThunderCats toys created by LJN was the presence of "Battle-Matic" action in them. This feature made each toy perform a certain action when a lever on it was pressed, greatly increasing their playability and popularity among the children. LJN had introduced the Battle-Matic Action feature in their previous toy line, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
LJN manufactured and released the ThunderCats toys in three separate waves. Each new wave introduced newer toys as well as those released in the previous wave. Almost all of the toy packages included a fold-out "Mini Catalog", featuring all the ThunderCats LJN toys that were produced in that wave. As new toys were introduced in new releases, the catalogs were updated accordingly. The catalogs also featured a number of toys that never made it to production. The backing cards and boxes also contained the catalog images. Apart from action figures, LJN also made vehicles, and playsets.
In France where the ThunderCats are known as "Cosmocats", the LJN toy packaging had that name printed on them.
While most of the toys released internationally were almost identical to the ones released in the U.S.A, "Playful", "Glasslite", and "Macplay" did sometimes use completely different molds for some of the toys, resulting in a noticeable difference between these toys and their U.S.A counterparts.
Even though production of LJN ThunderCats ceased in 1987 in the U.S.A, in many foreign countries the toys were available even as late as 1992. The entire line of toys were available in the U.S.A. and the U.K., but in most foreign countries only the Series 1 and 2 toys were released.
The first series of ThunderCats toys were released in 1985. The release consisted of 8 figures, 1 creature and 3 vehicles. Because the backs of the figures' packaging cards featured the 8 figures, they are often referred to as "8-Backs" by collectors to differentiate them from the other series. Each figure and vehicle came packaged with the fold-out LJN Mini Catalog which featured all the toys released in the first series. The backing card for the Series 1 figures did not have the "white splash" behind the figures which makes them easy to distinguish form the Series 2 and Series 3 cards.
The second series of ThunderCats toys were released in 1986. In addition to the 8 figures from Series 1, Series 2 featured 6 new figures, bringing the total number of figures to 14. Hence the term "14-Back" is sometimes used to refer to the Series 2 figure cards. The second wave saw the introduction of the "Companions" and "Berserkers" as well as new vehicles and playsets. Each figure and vehicle came packaged with the fold-out LJN Mini Catalog which featured all the toys released in the second series. The backing card for the Series 2 figures had the "white splash" behind the figures which makes them easy to distinguish form the Series 1 cards.
The last wave of LJN Thundercats toys saw the introduction of a number of new figures and vehicles in addition to the ones released in the previous series'. The 8 new main figures brought the final total number of figures to 22 and hence the third series' cards are known among collector's as "22-Backs". However, many of the Series 3 toys used the Series 2 "14 Back" cards for packaging and this made it difficult to distinguish between some of the Series 2 figures and their re-released versions in Series 3. Being the final series in the toyline, fewer toys were produced in Series 3 than the previous two series and hence they are considered to be rare and highly sought after by collectors.
Quite a few ThunderCats toys were planned by LJN but never went into production. However, they did appear prominently in some of the later LJN Catalogs. A mere handful prototypes of these toys were produced before LJN ended the ThunderCats toyline, making them highly sought after by avid collectors.