He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of the most popular animated children's TV series of the 1980s. Based on Mattel's successful toy line Masters of the Universe and produced by American animation studio Filmation, the show has retained a cult following to this day.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of the most popular animated children's TV series of the 1980s. Based on Mattel's successful toy line Masters of the Universe and produced by American animation studio Filmation, the show has retained a cult following to this day.

The Mattel toy company developed its original Masters of the Universe action figure line in 1981. Looking for a way to increase the success of the line, Mattel asked Filmation to go create sixty-five episodes of what was to become known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The resulting series was a cult phenomenon of the 1980s. A child at the time (born in 1981), I had nearly all the toys and watched the show religiously.  Along with Star Wars and Indiana Jones, it made up part of my imaginative world.

The series debuted in 1983 and ran until 1985, consisting of two seasons of 65 episodes each, as well as a one-off Christmas special. The show is set on the planet of Eternia, a world of magic and myth as well as advanced technology. The lead character is Prince Adam, a youth who uses the Power Sword to transform into He-Man, ‘the most powerful man in the universe’. Together with his allies, Battle Cat, The Sorceress, Teela, Man-At-Arms and Orko, He-Man uses his powers to defend Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor.

Filmation productions were notorious for their limited animation techniques, including a highly repetitive use of stock footage. Nevertheless, the show was remarkable for fusing the genres of science fiction and fantasy, producing a distinctive visual aesthetic. A key design aspect was the vivid background paintings that gave the series an imaginative depth not always achieved in the characterisation and storylines.  The show is also notable for featuring early script-writing work from Paul Dini, who went on to great success creating the stylistically-impeccable Batman: The Animated Series in the 1990s.

The cartoon was highly controversial in that it was produced to market a line of toys, thus advertising to children in a seemingly insidious way. As a kid, I always assumed that the toys were based on the series (as with Star Wars), not the other way round. In Britain, advertising regulations forbade adverts for He-Man toys to accompany the programme itself. In an attempt to allay such criticism, each episode concluded with a moral or life lesson. This moral was usually directly tied to the action or central theme of that episode.

The bewildering array of characters were for the most part voiced by just four actors. John Erwin played He-Man and his alter ego Prince Adam, as well as Ram-Man, Beast Man, Webstor and Whiplash. Alan Oppenheimer played both Skeletor, and Man-At-Arms, as well as Cringer, Battle Cat, Mer-Man, Buzz-Off and Roboto. The incredibly versatile actress Linda Gary played virtually all the female characters, including Teela, Evil-Lyn, Queen Marlena and The Sorceress. Even within the context of a vaguely-absurd children’s animation, Gary was able to deliver emotive vocal performances. Series producer Lou Scheimer played court magician Orko, as well as King Randor, Stratos, Man-E-Faces, Mekaneck, Zodak, Sy-Klone, Moss Man, Trap-Jaw, Tri-Klops, Kobra Khan, Clawful, Jitsu, Spikor, Two-Bad, Modulok and others. Scheimer is usually credited as ‘Erik Gunden’.

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Comments (15)

Interesting and informative.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Jerry.

For some odd reason the Celtic fans sometimes refer to the Rangers ground as 'Castle Grayskull', thinking the implication is that it is a bad thing, even though Castle Grayskull is the home of the good guys - always makes me laugh. lol Good piece. :)

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Alistair. I didn't know that.

Your personal activities in this article made it so much more interesting since I knew nothing of this subject.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Roberta. That's how I spent my childhood.

I loved, loved, loved He-Man as a kid. My parents say I closed my eyes out of fear everytime Skeletor came up on screen:D

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Pinar. I would have said you're too young!

Ranked #10 in Popular Culture

Do you believe that I am a fan of He-man when its at peak? I bought my son the castle Gray-skull together with the sorceress and allies....great presentation Michael.

Ranked #44 in Popular Culture

Thanks for an excellent share! It reminded me of my childhood days ! It was a delight to see the opening theme too :) "I am the power " My favourite part !

Oh, I loved he man too, loved reading it. You reminded me of my childhood.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Ron. That's nice to know.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Ruby and Deepa. I got quite nostalgic writing this piece.

Awesome share, Michael... He-Man was already past my generation. My I remember my sisters and the older kids being crazy about He-man. Great that you shared this.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks, Sir Guims. I see that you're still young. That must be nice!