As Kevin Smith and those bods over at Netflix announce a new series of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, writers and directors Randall Lobb (“Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) and Robert McCallum (“Nintendo Quest”, “Missing Mom”) bring us the definitive history.
We start at toymaker Mattel, makers of Barbie, who also produced Big Jim, G.I. Joe and many, many movie spin-offs. It was George Lucas who originally approached Mattel about the Star Wars figures but they company couldn’t make them in time.
As Mattel licked their wounds from missing that one, they began yet another movie tie-in, this time for Conan The Barbarian. However, this had to be curtailed when they realised the movie was going to be R-rated and there was no-way they could produce toys aimed at kids for an R-rated movie.
However, having all of these barbarian style figures gave some in Mattel an idea and, mixing those with an idea Mark Taylor, former development designer at Mattel, had of “Torak Hero Of Pre-History” had, they created He-Man.
The figure itself was a radical departure from other toy figures that were on the market at that time. For starters it was a lot bigger, there were more moving parts and, borrowing from their Barbie range, they ensured that each character had an accessory. Though rather than skirts and boots it was helmets and swords.
However, with no film or series to market He-Man with, Mattel came up with the idea of putting a mini comic book in each toy. They also had the packages elaborately designed to show the back-story of the characters.
It wasn’t until some time later that Filmation got involved and created the series, ultimately providing a universe for these characters. Then there was the movie with Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella but it’s probably best not to dwell on that.
Power Of Grayskull is just an hour and 35 minutes long but its subtitle of “the definitive history of He-Man” is spot-on. It’s an exhausting watch at times, it feels much longer than the run-time as every minute is poured over in some detail.
If you are a huge fan of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe I’m sure you’ll lap it all up. I had the figures as a kid and I remember watching the cartoons, but I just couldn’t get onboard with all aspects of the documentary, it felt a tad to fanboy-ish for me.
It’s comprehensive, and that’s a good thing, but in making it so comprehensive it also feels like it isn’t for the casual watcher, or someone who hasn’t thought about He-Man since the eighties when they were a child.
2nd September 2019
THE QUICK SELL
The history of Mattel's definitive action figure toy line.