Series: He-man and the Masters of the Universe
He-man and the Masters of the Universe is probably one of those shows which would still manage to hold the attention of young kids today. As an adult however, watching the complete series was possibly one the most arduous experiences I’ve ever put my eyes through… and coming from me, that’s saying something!
I don’t mean to bash the show, after all, at one time it was the most successful animated series ever to appear on television. In fact, in the year that it first aired (1983) the series and accompanying toy line earned 1.5 billion dollars. The series creators, Filmation, broke new ground in the field of animation and developed new techniques which allowed them to meet the show’s tight production budget and the demanding schedule. Many of the people who worked on He-Man and other Filmation shows, have gone on to make names for themselves in both animation, comics and live action movies and television: J.Michael Straczynski created Babylon 5 after writing for He-Man, and Vicky Jenson (former He-Man storyboard artist) directed the movie SHREK.
He-man — in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 or so years — is the most powerful man in the universe. His true identity is Prince Adam, heir to the throne of Eternia. Only his closest friends, Man-at-arms and Orko, know that Adam, along with his pet green lion, transforms into He-Man (the most powerful man in the universe) and Battle-Cat. He-man (the most powerful man in the universe) and his friends (including Man-at-arms totally hot daughter, Teela and the totally hot Sorceress of Castle Grayskull) fight off all manner of evil shenanigans. Mostly those perpetrated by an evil, but mostly incompetent, skull faced villain, named Skeletor.
Like G.I Joe and the Transformers, He-man was a cartoon series which began as a vehicle to sell (Mattel’s) toys. However, the team behind He-man — most notably Funtastic co-founder Lou Scheimer — took the responsibility of creating valuable programming for children very seriously. As a result each of the 130 episodes in this 24 dvd set contains a moral and ends with a PSA style tag, explaining the lesson for kids.
There is comedy gold in this show! Sadly, it’s mostly unintentional. Nearly all of the moral lessons are either so thinly woven into the episode plots that the PSA at the end appears to make no sense at all, or else you’re beaten about the head with the moral so completely that you’re almost compelled to run outside and defy the lesson, out of spite.
For mine though, there’s good reason to grab this box set if you have the means. Accompanying the usual kinds of DVD extras — storyboard episodes, scripts and character bios — are a series of documentaries (about eight of them!) which not only detail aspect of working on He-man, but delve into Filmation’s place in the history of animation. The documentaries take the usual ‘talking head’ format and appear to be made up of the same interview sessions, along with footage from fan conventions. But over the course of the series you are treated to an in depth look at the process used to create He-man (one in particular outlines every step in the process, from writing to editing the final footage), and a history of the company and many of the other titles it produced (including Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and the animated Star Trek series).
If you were a fan of He-man and the Masters of the Universe as a kid, then chances are you’ll enjoy revisiting this show or introducing your own kids to it. However, in an age where any dickhead with a computer can create an animated series — New Powers Cosmic, coming soon! — there’s a new level of appreciation to be found by watching the special features that this set includes. [source]