Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017) Movie Script

They always talk about that guy
that went into a bar
and kicked everybody's ass.
That's what they talk about.
"You should have seen this huge...
You know, he had scars," and they'd go on.
And I wanted that hero
mixed with the Galahad legend.
But you have a hero
who has an intellect, a He-Man.
You also have an alter ego for the hero,
who is Adam.
Prince Adam raises the sword
and the planet shakes,
sends all this energy up,
transforms him into He-Man.
Without the sword,
he cannot achieve the power.
The sword is a bridge.
It's like the Force.
When He-Man says,
"I have the power,"
it's saying to the kids, "You don't have
to do what you're told anymore.
You can be your own person."
The idea of being transformed
into your own inner true self
is very attractive.
We were in the business
of making things out of plastic, man,
and all of the sudden, all the stuff
that we created became live.
Well, let me take you back.
Let's go in the way-back machine.
The way-back machine
starts in 1975, when...
the world of male action figures changed.
The Six Million Dollar Man was introduced.
'Cause prior to that,
things like G.I. Joe and Big Jim
were the sort of norm.
Historically, male action figures
only were licensed, only.
They were either a license
from a cartoon or a film.
Mattel had a number of really key brands
and Barbie and Hot Wheels
were two of the best.
But it was very product-oriented
rather than, say, brand-oriented.
The marketing people would say,
"We need these kinds of products,"
and then we'd invent them.
They'd say, "Yes, no, yes, no."
You couldn't scratch your butt there
without a research project.
Mattel would get a license
and then try it,
and then the film would open
and close in March.
Then in December, they're sitting
there with a bunch of inventory.
Up to that point,
there really had never been
a successful movie that had become a toy.
Someone at Mattel bought
the license for Clash of the Titans
and so I started talking
with the movie people
and getting all the art I could
and stuff, and...
I got the product out there
three or four weeks before the movie.
It was selling like crazy,
till the movie came out.
The myths.
The magic.
The mystery.
Who's buying these licenses?
Who's deciding to buy
Clash of the Titans and Flash Gordon?
Who's doing this?
For Clash of the Titans,
we'd spend $500,000 for the license,
$500,000 for the tooling
and getting it all together,
a million dollars in inventory.
Then you're sitting there going,
"Now what?"
'Cause it opened and closed in March.
We get a call from Lucas, they've
got this thing they wanted to show us.
So the president says,
"When could you have product?"
"We could get it tooled up and everything.
We could probably get product by March."
The kids are gonna want this
for Christmas, right?
What's the point?
He says, "Pass."
Bernie Loomis, who was at Kenner,
says, "Screw that,"
and he ended up doing the figures
with a piece of paper inside
that says, "We owe you a figure."
I mean, talk about balls.
Five-year-olds, what did you
get for Christmas? "A coupon."
Now Ray is really upset
'cause he's seen what happened
and we missed the opportunity.
So we say, "What can we do?
We can do, uh, cowboys and Indians.
Let's do Westerns, is that popular?"
Star Wars had already come out,
so that was space.
Military was tried and true.
I'd done a lot of reading in sci-fi
so I was a Frank Frazetta fan.
The third one out was Barbarian.
Space, army, and Barbarian.
Then along comes Conan,
they said, "Hey, we got a movie."
They wanted to sell us the license.
My boss, a very nice guy,
Shel Platt,
he said, "Can you do some stuff,
like Conan stuff?" I said, "Sure."
We took the license
and we presented it to the trade.
We modeled it, we made all the samples.
We did all the packaging.
Went through the expense work.
Then Mattel, to their horror,
found that Conan
was gonna be an R-rated film
with nudity and violence and stuff.
And they're like, "We can't do
a toy line based on that."
They came back
and claimed that we
just took the license to bury it.
And we didn't. We presented it.
I presented it myself.
I presented it to Toys 'R' Us, to Walmart.
I presented it to every account.
We also presented He-Man at the same time.
Mark would sit in his office
and just sketch.
He was really into comic books.
One of the marketing people
was passing his office.
He had done this thing.
It was the Torak, the original drawing.
And this guy passed by
and said, "What's that?"
He said, "Just something
I'm messing with."
He said, "Let me present it."
Then Roger
and the other prelim guys,
they came around and they wanted
to show it to Ray Wagner.
Roger Sweet
was a big part of this.
He said, "All these male action figures
that Kenner was doing,
and Big Jim for that matter,
they're all so wimpy"; he said,
"Why don't we do a massive figure?"
So he went to the product conference
with this figure,
and they presented it to Ray.
And Roger Sweet comes out
with three sculptures about so big.
I think he took a Big Jim
and he used clay to buff it up.
I think he had a tank
that was like a hat, with a gun.
And another guy,
his whole head looked like a bullet.
And the third guy had a face
and a bearskin cape.
And he called this one Tank Head,
and he called this one Bullet Head,
and he called this one He-Man.
And we said, "He-Man."
Here's the man, here's the hero.
Here's the template.
You notice his feet are not straight ahead
like action figures were at that time.
He has his weapon,
he's ready to whack you one.
And this is more a comic book,
but done in 3-D.
That's what's important about He-Man.
That's how we took a nip
out of Kenner's business,
'cause Kenner was killing us.
And how we did it was by bringing
this kind of action to the figure.
If you have a good guy, you measure
the good guy by the bad guy.
And this is, this is Skeletor.
I said, "He-Man's the hero,
he's the good guy, so he's He Man."
So I said,
"Well, we'll have other 'mans'."
Which we had to change.
We had Man-At-Arms. Man on the front side.
And the bad guys, I had D-Man, like demon.
Became Skeletor later on.
The girl that we had, we called it Wo-Man,
and it became Teela.
All the first names I came up with
were really dorky.
Like Wo-Man? Come on.
But I...
It was keeping with my man theme.
And also there was female members
of our brand group,
and they would come in and say, "No."
And once we got comic-book writers
working on it, they came up
with better names; they're the ones
that came up with Mer-Man.
I'm like, "Oh, Mer-man, thank you.
That's genius."
Because I couldn't stick
with Sea-Man for long.
Mark was very energized
about creating a new scale of product.
Most of the figures were like this.
Now we have a much bulkier figure.
But that's getting a visual shelf presence
and a signature that you can stick to.
Something that was just
a little more maneuverable
with moving arms and legs
so they could strike power positions,
and, you know, over-the-top muscles,
and nobody had done that yet.
And, of course, we were all influenced
by Conan and Frank Frazetta
and, you know, that whole genre.
They never did a figure in 3-D
that would be correct proportions.
They would try to do the figure
so they could take pieces of it
and turn it into tooling directly
and not have to resculpt it.
So Tony came up with the idea, he said,
"I'll sculpt the whole thing,
one-to-one, as it should look,
with no articulation.
And let's look at what that looks like
and put it next to the vehicles
and when you do the castle,
put it next to the castle."
In effect, he was talking about doing
a really nice 3-D study.
By doing those, we could test them
at Child Test when they looked good.
And that's where we saw
little kids going, "You do this
because I tell you to do it!"
You know, exactly the words
their mother would say.
So, they wanted the power.
So that's where the power theme came up.
They want the power to do
whatever they want to do,
without being told...
by mom or dad or someone else.
So we just said, "I have the power."
When they took the figures out,
these kids went bats, they went crazy.
"Oh, look, look, look!"
I didn't realize what was going on.
These kids went nuts.
And then the kids start trying
to steal He-Man and Skeletor
and Teela.
Because Teela was sculpted like
she was really a babe.
Tony got carried away.
And the little boys liked that.
Then, especially in dolls,
it's the...
little stuff, you know.
The little stuff actually gives
a lot of play value.
So if you look at every one of the male
action figure lines we did in He-Man,
they all have swords and axes
and stuff like that.
We picked this up from
the girls' Barbie and all that stuff
in terms of the value, so there's always
a little packet in the He-Man thing.
Then I came up with
a couple vehicles, which they were
good enough to let Ted help me,
and Ted is a real industrial designer.
He can work out the engineering
and everything as he goes.
I was originally trained
before design school as an engineer,
and in technical illustration.
I'd do a sketch like this,
I'd discuss it with Mark,
and you see, he'd say,
"You know, like we need a cannon,"
so I'd add the cannon here.
And then it would evolve...
And you'll see here, this was
the final sketch that was presented.
This was one of the prelim things
of the Wind Raider,
a different design.
It was Mark's idea to have this futuristic
and yet something from yesteryear
that had technicality.
You know, with all the details
and mechanical things happening.
Oh, wait a minute,
we don't have a storyline,
we don't have a film,
so we need a diorama.
We need a setting,
so bango, it's Castle Grayskull.
Well, Castle Grayskull,
my favorite toy growing up was
the Guns of Navarone play set,
which was sort a half shell of a mountain
and had layers in the inside.
And I'm going, "Do Guns of Navarone
play set," you know?
I'd drawn
the castle from the beginning,
'cause when you do the world,
you gotta show where his fort is.
So I gave it to a sculptor,
and it was like an architect did it.
It was all straight.
I wanted it to be organic,
like it was coming to life.
And so they tried another sculptor,
then they tried another one,
and about that time, I said,
"Forget it, just forget it,"
and I went back and took some clay
and sculpted Castle Grayskull myself.
And Mark Ellis comes in
and says, "This won't work."
I said, "Why not?"
He forgot how tall the action figures were
and the door on the Grayskull
was like an inch shorter than He-Man;
said yeah,
"Mark, you gotta resculpt the door.
It needs to be big enough
to let He-Man go in."
And then other than that, he did it.
And Glenn Hastings, by the way, said,
"That's $20, $20 at retail.
No one's gonna buy that."
We couldn't do a bunch of blocks.
We had to make that part of the mold,
so we wanted the overspray
to not only emphasize the drawbridge,
but to show that it was textured
all the way.
Manufacturing did everything
with paint mask.
All the painting had to be the same,
and I went to the factory
because that was my background.
I said, "No, no, no, no, no.
Just give me a spray can."
I said, it's like the guys painting
the fence outside with graffiti.
Just line it up and go... spray up.
And they said... Then I did
a different one, I went like this.
Then I did one that went like this.
I said, "Do Zorro if you want,
I don't care."
And so every castle was different.
They wouldn't let me do an interior 'cause
they didn't want the price to go up.
So Rebecca did the labels
that glue on the interior.
I did the artwork,
she turned them into labels,
and that became the interior
of the castle.
We have a character here,
the main character is He-Man.
And this is way more Skeletor
than it is He-Man.
Well, why don't we make it so it belongs
to whoever has the power of Grayskull?
And that's where I think
the divided sword,
and when you've got the two pieces,
you own the castle.
It doesn't belong to Skeletor
and it doesn't belong to He-Man.
We did it so the bad guy
had half and the good guy had half
and you try to get them both together,
and together you could open
the door on Castle Grayskull.
It's the seat of power, OK?
And you don't know if it's
a good place or a bad place.
And it's kind of always in the background.
It has that light side/dark side,
and that appeals to little boys.
It's just one of those things, you know.
They're looking to...
gotta be a little dangerous.
He-Man sculpture was gonna
be the basic sculpture for every body.
Except for Ram Man.
Ram Man was a big, heavyset guy.
Even the evil characters use
the same legs, the same arms,
the same torso.
We ran out of tooling dollars
easily as we were developing this thing.
So we're saying, "We need another vehicle
but we gotta find something for nothing."
This cat was part of the Big Jim line.
And all we did was paint it green
and then put the hood on it.
So the tooling was this.
They had the little
5-inch He-Man guy
all in wax sitting there,
and they put the tiger down.
They said, "It's out of scale."
I said, "I don't care if you paint it
green and give it orange stripes,
we're gonna have the tiger 'cause
it saved us a whole tooling bill."
So they painted it green
and gave it orange stripes.
They come back, "See?
See?" I said, "Wow, that looks great."
And they go, "Oh, no."
They said, "Well, it still won't work.
It's as big as a horse, Paul, compared...
Look at He-Man."
Put a saddle on it.
And that's how we came up with
the Battle Cat that He-Man would ride.
And it's not as romantic
as people would like it to be,
but sometimes you back into these things.
Beautiful fantasy and monsters
and dragons all mixed together.
And... it's just great.
For a little boy, when you are five or six
years old and you find this character
with all, you know, in this world,
where imagination is beyond dream,
it's just amazing.
Back then, the way packaging worked is
we would create the names of the brands.
the names of the toys,
the graphics that went with it,
all the packaging.
Everything about the retail presentation
would come out of the packaging group.
I had designed a logo called
"The Lords of Power" first.
And that was a name
that they seemed to favor.
Our president, Glenn Hastings,
said, "No, you're not doing Power Lords."
He thought that had
a religious connotation.
Some executive high up said,
"Let's call it 'Masters of the Universe.'"
And I said, "Let's go right
to the heart of this thing.
There's a guy who paints
exactly like this line looks."
Because Frank Frazetta was, at that time,
kind of a new thing, and there were
posters all over.
It'd probably be something
that's glazes and oil
so it has this kind of luminescence,
do great things with light.
And Rudy Obrebro came in.
So he said, "Hey, I got this project.
Can you paint like Frazetta?"
And I go, "Man, I can paint like anybody."
I said, "Let's give it a try.
Do one as fast as you can."
And he went and did a Battle Cat.
I felt like I shouldn't
rip off Frazetta completely,
'cause, you know, sheesh, man.
I don't wanna insult the man.
I'm not that good.
I mean, he just had such an emotional cue
in his work, and we were
trying to get that, too.
Not just big muscles and fur
and all that stuff, Barbarian stuff.
It was the emotion
of the light in his paint.
I remember I was five years old.
We were walking to a toy store.
And on the top shelf,
there was the Castle Grayskull box.
You're transported into this world,
just by looking, the art is amazing.
It's really capturing your attention.
You just look at the box and you already
have a scenario to play with your figures.
The development of the advertising
was going to be the key,
because we didn't have a television show,
weren't even thinking about it.
And I wanted to do a slice of life.
Who's the big guy with the muscles?
He's He-Man, the most powerful man
in the universe!
Skeletor is his enemy!
He-man, Skeletor
and Castle Grayskull.
You have to put the castle together.
You're doomed, He-Man.
Oh, yeah? Watch this action, Dad!
He-Man and Skeletor
sold separately.
Castle Grayskull sold separately,
from the Masters of the Universe
collection from Mattel.
And we brought the major retailers
into Hawthorne
and showed them the line.
I remember it
being in a brand review
or a sales meeting or something.
Somebody said, "How are you
gonna tell the story?"
So he said, "Well, what program
have you developed
that's a tie-in with somebody else,
another company,
that I know is gonna happen,
that isn't just your advertising,
which I know you cut back on?
- So what do you got?"
- And Mark spouts out,
he says, "Oh, didn't we tell ya?
We're gonna put a mini comic book
in with every toy."
We had these original four
minicomics that came with the toys,
that were written
by Don Glut and drawn by Alfredo Alcala.
And they're beautiful, but you could tell
when you look at them
that the world had not been defined.
It was very Barbarian,
it was very crude and dark.
A lot of people say Frank Frazetta-esque.
Up until then, I'd written the backstory,
and He-Man came out of the jungle,
like Jungle Book.
He was a little boy raised
in the jungle by apes.
And they changed it to be more fantasy,
Eternia and stuff, which was way better.
You can tell after that, they were
starting to create a voice,
like define the world more,
get these character interactions down,
rather than just "bad guy/good guy,
smash 'em up" kind of thing.
Other writers in the minicomics
brought more stuff
and the tighter minicomics
that came out in '86, '87,
that Tim Kilpin worked on
and Bruce Timm drew
and Stan Sakai did lettered.
These amazing talents
working on these minicomics.
And so you had DC took over
producing the comics.
I said, "I wanna buy ten pages
of advertising, full rate card."
Well, nobody's done that
in the history of mankind.
I said, "Oh, small little catch,
you need to develop a line on my figure."
And so we ended up doing the deal
for a miniline,
which came on in DC 47,
and that was Superman versus He-Man.
So what they did was they produced
a three-issue mini-series,
a full-size, regular,
modern comic-size issues.
And at the same time, they were producing
a series of minicomics
that also had gone on to define
the world a little more.
You know, you had the tale of Teela
and the "Power of Point Dread!"
Now, the King and Queen in He-Man
was more well-spoken and articulate
and you knew who the characters were
and what they did.
And in the DC miniseries in particular,
that's when we really saw Prince Adam
starting to come out and be defined.
When I found out that they were gonna
have mini comic books behind the toys,
it's like, oh, OK.
I had to approach it differently
than working on regular comic books.
I knew there are certain ways
you can tell a story,
even if the book is about this big.
Actually, you know, about this big.
I just decided that I wanted to try
and expand the world of He-Man
so people and the kids could see
that it was like
an inclusive of all different races,
and so different people buying the toys
could see themselves in the books.
I got my first Masters toys
on my fourth birthday
and it was just love at first sight.
They were full of muscles,
they were colorful,
and you instantly knew who the bad guy
was and who the good guy was.
Like Star Wars, Darth Vader,
you know that's the bad guy.
We've got an army of goodies and
baddies 'cause we wanna make more toys.
That's where that comes up,
and you build on these
and it becomes more colorful
and a kid becomes more invested in it.
"I must buy that," and the adventures
become bigger and bigger until...
My dad is the cornerstone
of Saturday morning cartoons.
He and Fred Silverman got them started
in 1965, with the first program
that was ever specifically bought
for Saturday morning,
which was Superman,
and it sort of changed the whole
dynamics of Saturday morning.
In the sixties,
there was a regulation passed
regulating children's advertising.
They had a show called
Linus the Lionhearted.
And then Linus was on boxes of Alpha-Bits.
I get my strength from
new Post Heart of Oats.
Reagan and the Supreme Court
handed over a reversal of decision
in like '81; before that, a toy company
could not make a half-an-hour...
what was essentially
a commercial for their toys,
'cause it was considered a commercial,
and that changed in 1981.
This all came about
roughly three years ago
when the Federal Communications
Commission reversed itself
on some policy guidelines
in children's programming.
It said, in effect, the marketplace,
not the federal government,
can best determine what is suitable
for youngsters to watch.
In late 1982, Mattel approached
Filmation and said,
"We've got this Castle Grayskull
that we'd like to advertise,"
so Filmation are like,
"We'll animate this commercial for you."
This toy comes with something that can
really open up a kid's imagination.
Its own legend.
- He-Man!
- Skeletor is his enemy!
It's the Masters of the Universe
And for my kids, the legend begins here,
with Castle Grayskull.
Gwen Wetzler, director
of the Flash Gordon cartoon,
would later direct He-Man and She-Ra,
set up a team of ex-Disney animators.
They sat down, they had
the action figures: He-Man,
Beast Man, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor, Teela,
Mer-Man and Castle Grayskull.
Maybe just probably knowing
just photos of the characters.
I produced and directed the promo
that sold the series.
And we did full animation.
We had like two weeks to do it.
We were just flying.
And it sold the show.
Defeat He-Man's forces,
but leave him to me!
Here I am, Skeletor!
Skeletor is getting away!
But Castle Grayskull is safe with us!
Nothing's safe
while Skeletor is out there.
And so the legend continues
in this Masters of the Universe
And in the imagination of my kids.
Look for it, it's new.
From Mattel.
And then my dad's like, "Wait a minute,
this could be a great show!"
He was a major Conan Barbarian fan.
- "We could do something with this!"
- I remember
I was working on these different ideas
to kind of get something going there.
Then I remember somebody
came into the office, he puts in a box,
about like that, comes in.
It was full of action figures
and vehicles from Mattel.
He goes, "This is the next show
we're gonna do."
My first week, I turned
to the storyboard artist next to me,
a guy named Don Manuel, and I said,
"Don, the name of this show
isn't really He-Man, right?
That's like a temp title.
The real name's gonna be
like Radnar or Karnak
or Thorok!"
And he goes, "No, it's really He-Man."
When you first heard the name,
it was so macho
and so male chauvinistic,
said, "No, you could never,
that'll never work 'cause it's awful.
Every little girl
is gonna turn that down."
Because it was a syndicated show,
he said, "You know what?
We need this to work for five days a week,
Monday through Friday.
Kids coming home from school.
There's got to be at least
13 original weeks.
And that adds up to 65 half-hours.
And that adds up to working year-round
for all the animators
and all the people at Filmation."
And the Masters of the Universe!
I am Adam, Prince of Eternia
and defender of the secrets
of Castle Grayskull.
This is Cringer, my fearless friend.
Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me
the day I held aloft my magic sword
and said...
By the power of Grayskull!
I have the power!
They had come out with a series
of minicomics,
when they began to market the toys.
And each of the comics unfortunately
had a different storyline.
A different way of,
how did He-Man become He-Man.
Create a bible for a show,
it contains all the rules of the show.
The background of the characters.
Who was whose parents?
What their powers are,
how they're related to each other.
It's a telephone book
containing all the characters.
The initial idea was to write
the bible for the TV series,
which would also be used as a bible
for marketing the toy.
They didn't have a concept.
They had a bunch of characters designed,
guys with muscles that are gonna
come ripping out of the forest
and wreak havoc someplace.
I told them we would be interested in
doing it if we had total creative control.
So I began to create a story
and create a universe around it.
And I came up with the idea
of the planet of Eternia.
And there has to be some kind
of an arc to the story
and an underpinning for the story,
so that they understand
what the subtext is,
even if they don't quite get it,
because that's what's
going to drive viewers.
I figured a way to write above their
level and at their level at the same time,
which makes the stories kind of have
some lasting shelf value.
I watched them, the first time as a goof,
just to see what it was.
But then I saw
that someone had really sat down
and worked out the mythos
and the history and where
these characters came from.
They had the rules worked out of how
the powers worked and didn't work.
A lot of thought had gone into it
and that to me was appealing
because science-fiction and fantasy,
it's not whatever you want to do.
There have to be rules.
In animation, you break down the shots,
two shot, closeup.
You actually direct as you write.
Which is how people think you write
screenplays and teleplays,
but it's only how you write animation.
These are two of the earliest
drawings ever done of He-Man,
when we were trying to design
the character because he was a toy.
This is the very beginning of the series.
The script would be written
and then the storyboard people
would basically visualize the script
and create just like little comics.
Then it goes to a phase called layout.
This is how we would work.
We draw the character in blue pencil.
That's something we do in animation,
use blue pencil extensively.
And I would do this in layout,
show He-Man struggling against that vine.
Then, pop.
See that? He bursts free.
And you don't see anything over here
because this was a held cel.
Then it would go to the animator
and the track had already been recorded,
and the track was called "Red."
When you look at old movie film,
you see a strip of cellular
with these little button squares.
Well, each square is one photograph.
A sheet like this, each one of these
little lines is one of those squares.
This much here is one second.
And I'd just be thinking action, I'd not
be worried about all the details yet.
The other thing, heroes never have
spaces in the teeth.
Heroes, this is always solid.
Villains have spaces in the teeth.
I don't know why.
So that would be like one key frame.
And then you would do another one.
So, see, key frames is one and nine,
and then this is the middle.
It's called a breakdown drawing
because it defines the arc of motion.
So this is your middle
between these two here.
And one of the dirty secrets
that comes out now
but Disney would never admit to
is they did a lot of rotoscoping.
Rotoscope was an early form
of motion capture,
where you filmed an actor,
in black or whatever.
They made photostats of live action frames
and the animator would draw
the character on top,
so it's based on the movement
of the human being.
They got a muscle guy, a woman,
some other characters,
and dressed them up in costumes
and shot black-and-white footage of it
for stock scenes.
They were like, He-Man runs in, stops,
looks around, runs off this way,
runs off that way.
They were action scenes
more than dialogue scenes.
He-Man had his sword and he does this.
He goes...
You know, like that. Um...
Stock 16 was the laugh.
That's the one where he goes...
There was a wonderful old
assistant animator named Jim Logan,
who had worked for Fleischer
and Famous Studios
when they were doing Popeyes,
and he could never remember the names
of the He-Man characters,
so he made up his own names.
So he'd go with He-Man,
and Skeletor he would call Boneman,
and Beast Man he called Dogman
and Mer-Man was Fishman.
So I'd talk to him about a scene
and he goes,
"Oh, I got this scene here of Boneman,
and Boneman is talking to Fishman,
and Fishman and Boneman
get together with Dogman, and..."
And I said, "Jim, that's a great show.
I wanna work on that show."
Like, we should develop that.
I like it.
Gwen Wetzler
was a good director,
and part of it was she had
a really good eye for cinematics,
and she really liked what she was doing.
It wasn't just a job.
And part of that was her and part of it
was probably trying to prove
that a woman should be a director,
because back then it was a boys' club.
Lou was very progressive.
The other directors and some
of the animators, the men,
did not like the idea
of working with a woman.
One of the directors threw his work
on my desk and refused to work with me.
If you were a woman, even if you drew
like Michelangelo,
they still would give you a minor role.
And Gwen was one of those people
who went against that
and fought for women
to have more important roles.
So she was an animator, a story writer,
and a very good director.
My dad was a very moral,
upstanding fellow.
He did care about his audience.
Even before the messages
and that whole thing
sort of took center stage,
he still made sure there wasn't
too much violence.
It was action in the cartoons.
When they announced they were
doing the show, Peggy Charren
of Action for Children's Television was
up in arms, just because of the title.
Peggy Charren has been
the American voice
of the kids' TV wilderness
ever since she founded
Action for Children's Television
back in 1968.
But the group has had
few successes recently.
For, if the 1970s belonged
to the watchdogs like Peggy Charren,
the 1980s have belonged
to those American He-Men.
We did 130 episodes of Skeletor losing.
It got difficult to figure out how
to make him lose without killing him.
Ah, you know... violence?
There's more violence on the streets
than on television.
There was a scene
in one of Michael's scripts
where he had He-Man uprooting a tree,
and the editors wrote,
"Please do not portray He-Man
uprooting a tree.
Small children will be moved to emulate."
I mean, you couldn't have
a character look cross
at another character,
like grimace at them.
That was considered "a violent act,"
and you could have no violent act.
So here comes this guy named He-Man
and he looks like Conan
and Conan is violent, everybody thinks
it's gonna be really violent.
They brought in,
as they had been doing since the '70s,
the educational consultant who made sure
everything was pro-social and...
And they had the tags at the end,
which I never wrote one.
That's a staff writer, it might have been
Arthur Nadel or Paul Dini
or one of the guys on staff
who cooked up those,
"Today, Adam learned a valuable lesson
about not being a dork."
You would do a story about monsters
fighting each other
and having at the end, "Look both ways
before crossing the street."
Come on!
Uh... It was just a sop to the consultants
because He-Man at that time
was being pilloried
for being one of the most violent shows,
though it was not.
Because as you saw
on today's episode,
no matter how big the problem,
one person, or one living creature,
can make a big difference.
See ya next time.
This right here is
the first original character
that was ever designed for the series.
This is a guy called Lizard Man,
and he appeared in an episode
called "She-Demon of Phantos."
Well, we better think of something fast!
They know we're here now.
My dad's favorite character,
right there, is Orko.
And absolutely
was one of the best characters
and his beloved, and I really think
says the most about him.
He really was kind of Orko in his own way.
If there's one thing better
than being a great magician,
it's being alive and having
great friends like you.
And I'm gonna make the most of it.
OK, that's Skeletor.
That's probably the first
production design drawing
ever done of Skeletor right there.
Skeletor, he's one of the most
interesting villains to this day,
'cause in the first few episodes
of He-Man, he's a dark villain.
There's no humor or anything;
then halfway through the first season,
they realize, "Hang on, if we play
Skeletor for laughs, this is quite good."
- OK, rolling?
- Rolling.
The laugh came because
villainous laughs are usually
"heh-heh-heh," or sneering, you know?
But I gave it a comedic laugh.
I chose to talk to myself.
The reason being,
I wanted to keep the flow.
So, if I said it one way,
I wanted the answer to come.
So I would do,
let's say Skeletor and Mer-Man,
and be like...
Mer-Man, get out of my face.
Don't tell me what to do.
I was very fortunate because
I got to direct the second season
of He-Man.
So I got to work with all those actors.
And John Erwin, He-Man.
Really, really lovely, lovely man.
He did his work, he was prepared.
He got his lines, he really cared,
and then he sort of disappeared.
For two years, I've tried.
I said, "If you came out,
the line would be around the block."
Between... He just won't...
He thinks about it like,
"Oh, no, you know I'm not He-Man."
I said, "No shit.
And I'm not Skeletor. So what?"
The enigma about John Erwin
is he's just an incredibly shy guy.
You know, put him behind a microphone,
you know, off-camera, he works great.
We had a premiere...
at the Chinese Theater
on Hollywood Boulevard.
At eleven o'clock in the morning,
or some outrageous time.
Black tie, blocked off two blocks.
Had the He-Man hot-air balloon.
Sci-fi vehicles that we rented
from prop lots and stuff,
and the premiere was great.
I bussed in kids
from all over L.A. County,
and we used all the theaters,
not just one.
And Lou strung together three episodes
to make like a 90-minute movie.
And the kids loved it, they loved it.
And we're just going, "Never would have
thought of this in a billion years."
Uh... that was pretty spectacular.
We were in the business
of making things out of plastic, man.
It was just another thing we're making;
all of the sudden, the stuff became live.
The world they created
and the characters
and the color and the adventure,
it went from plain just, "Oh, take that,"
Then you're creating...
I've still got cassette tapes I recorded.
I recorded myself singing
a soundtrack to it.
I played that on a separate recorder
while playing with the figures,
so I made a soundtrack.
By the power of Grayskull!
I have the power!
Let's go, Duncan. I've got a city to save.
So there was something in that show
that was more than just the moment.
There was more to the character
than that, but...
what was timely was hitting at exactly
the moment to break open a new market
as it transformed television and created
an opportunity for all kinds of shows.
I think Lou Scheimer doesn't get
enough credit
for what he did for He-Man.
'Cause I think the brand
was Mattel, and I think they're fine.
But Filmation's cartoon came along
and gave it an injection of life,
that suddenly your kids are like,
"My goodness!"
And "I have the power"
became a catchphrase.
And suddenly He-Man became
this billion-dollar empire.
The impact was huge.
Uh, all the kids were raising the sword,
and, "By the power of Grayskull!"
I have the power!
When you have a very successful,
uh... brand, of course, they're gonna
spread with these kind of items.
And there's tons and tons
of macho collectibles available,
or were available back in the day,
so it's a little bit of everything.
So the impact, I think it left a huge mark
in the toy and the cartoon world
and especially for the people
of this generation.
We had the television business
after us to do more stuff.
So, here, let's take our success
with the He-Man television show
and do a girls' version television show,
'cause we can sell it.
We just decided, if we're gonna do
a female fashion action doll,
she might as well ride on the coattails
of the popularity and the awareness
of this huge iconic brand called He-Man.
These are character designs.
They wanted a feminine lead for He-Man,
so I did a couple of these.
They eventually took this off
and spun it off
onto the She-Ra thing.
It was given to Justine Dantzer, I think.
It was just a feminine lead for He-Man.
I was doing freelance for
a lot of people at this time,
but I wanted a change,
and I went to work at Kenner Prelim,
working on Strawberry Shortcake,
working on Glamour Gals,
established lines that they had
when I came in.
But I also created a superpower
small doll girl.
Didn't know what to call her.
I called her Nova, I called her Andromeda.
So we came up with the concept
of a female fashion action doll,
which would compete with Barbie.
But not really expecting it to stay
in the marketplace long-term.
I'm sure it's surprising to everybody
that we'd produce a doll line to feed
the main brand, Barbie.
When Mattel interviewed me, they said,
"We notice that Teela
is selling well in Masters.
We're thinking about doing
a small doll line like this.
We want you to do it."
One of the biggest
challenges is, what are we gonna call her?
She had so many different names.
We tested Leela.
Then we looked at the name Shela,
'cause we wanted a female,
some kind of pronoun in there, you know.
We looked at Hera, and people thought,
that's gonna sound like "hair-a"
in a commercial, so we can't use that.
She was not named She-Ra.
There was no name, no nothing.
So, when those drawings went through,
got all the approvals
and the commitment for more money,
they came to me and they said,
"Now do what you want.
We trust what you've done.
Now do more, do what you want.
And she doesn't have to look
like Teela anymore."
So, I said, "Wait a minute,
maybe I got something good going.
He's he, so she's she."
So that'll work.
And Ra is a god, Egyptian word for God.
You know, He-Man is like a gigantic god,
you know.
Big, big muscles.
So we created She-Ra,
or "Princess Adora," who, uh...
was He-Man's twin sister.
Look what I found
in the forest.
There was more
to She-Ra being
just a female version.
One of the important things was
to respect and show what is female.
It wasn't just aping He-Man.
We gave her different powers that were
more reflective of female sides.
I don't wanna get into saying,
"Oh, well, these are boys' traits
and those are girls' traits,"
and we didn't wanna pigeonhole.
But we wanted to showcase what is
more inherently a girl kind of thing.
She should present a feeling of strength,
not a feeling of high-heeled,
"can't hardly move" slimness.
And that became a point of discussion
in several meetings.
And even exclamation
where the men would say,
"Oh, my God, look at those legs,"
when I would show drawings.
There were times when I was
very, very disgusted
hearing about men's opinions
about women's bodies, ad infinitum.
So making her a little more fuller lipped
and more open eyes,
giving her stronger facial features,
and it was hard to get to that.
We would do tear sheets of different
actresses and models,
and give those to the sculptors
and say, "Let's go this way."
Couldn't look like a fashion model
or runway model.
She had to look strong in the face.
Said she was powerful,
that she had the capacity
to take care of herself.
I don't know how well
most men know most women
I know that there are some men
who find women rather mysterious.
Many male fantasy writers, they know
they should have a woman in the story,
but they're not quite sure how
she interacts with the others.
And sometimes I have the feeling
that their knowledge
of how to write a woman character
comes from reading
other male fantasy writers
or watching movies.
The problem
that we ran into was that,
in the aftermath of the public approbation
against the violence of He-Man,
the consultants really
came after us hard on She-Ra,
to the point where they said,
"A female character
should not be fighting.
Female characters should not
be using a sword."
The male characters,
they could use swords,
they could fire things, hit people,
but She-Ra,
rather than punching someone,
she would do a ballet-style kick,
and almost by accident hit somebody,
and she never could use a sword
to hurt someone,
and it was all latent misogyny
and sexism,
that we cannot have a female character
acting in a strong fashion.
Which really bristled me and Larry a lot.
'Cause we had been charged
with developing the show,
and the two of us wrote
the bible for She-Ra,
created the characters, and we wanted this
to be a really strong female character.
And we feel hobbled by the toy company
and by the psychologists.
When She-Ra came on,
it was exciting because the artwork
had picked up in quality.
Towards the end of He-Man,
we were getting really good animators
and really good assistants.
The background crew was great.
And we were getting good board artists,
and so it was exciting,
because, hey, this is looking far better
than you ever would have thought
anything like this would look.
I'm looking for Loo-Kee.
He's hiding.
You know, Loo-Kee's hiding again.
I mean, I was stuck hiding Loo-Kee
in the She-Ra shows.
That was my job,
on top of everything else.
I really hated that little guy after that.
Why do I gotta put him in the show now?
Loo-Kee was my favorite.
He was, even to this day, Loo-Kee is...
I would say my favorite character
that I ever designed.
This is Hordak from development artwork,
where we're first coming up with
the design for the character for She-Ra.
And this is Kowl and that's Bow.
My version of it.
Kowl originally did not have wings
coming out of his ear.
He was an owl with butterfly wings.
Here we go.
There he is.
There's Loo-Kee. There's Loo-Kee.
That's him.
That's the original rotation of Loo-Kee.
Hey, it's me again, Loo-Kee!
Did you find where I was hiding today?
If not, try again! Can you see me?
Here I am!
There was a scene where this Sweet Bee,
she had some kind of French accent,
is telling He-Man how great he is,
and this wasn't in the script,
I staged Frosta in back here,
and she's going...
You know, and that was totally me
putting that in.
So, I don't wanna say it's subversive,
because it's a kids cartoon,
nothing's subversive particularly,
but it was that kind of thing, like,
how can I really push this a bit?
Her stronger episodes were,
stronger than the He-Man's, an episode
where the Horde are burning books.
One day you will thank the Horde
for ridding you of these lies.
Burn the books!
It was very like,
oh, that's pretty serious.
That's the days
of the Third Reich kind of thing.
Or like "The Price of Freedom"
where the baddies win.
The camaraderie of the She-Ra universe
was about fighting a war,
which brings you together,
creates friendships,
a more varied kind of bunch of characters,
versus the He-Man story,
which is more of a family operation.
It was a king, it was a queen, a prince,
and they dealt with those sort of stories,
while he dealt with
the occasional bad guy,
versus, "We're all in this together
to fight this guy."
The boys liked it, too.
You know, that was...
I was surprised by that.
They enjoyed it.
I think they learned to...
I think with She-Ra we learned to bring
men and women closer together
in what they liked about fantasy worlds.
I am She-Ra!
I think I loved the She-Ra show
more than the He-Man show;
I found the stories more sophisticated.
I even stole my sister's She-Ra.
She got two She-Ras for her birthday,
two years later.
So since she had two of them,
"Well, I'll just take that one."
Once he threatened Eternia.
Now Hordak and the Horde menace Etheria
and She-Ra must stop them!
Joining She-Ra in her heroic struggles
are Swift Wind,
Bow, Glimmer, Queen Angella,
Madame Razz and Broom.
And even He-Man will lend
his awesome strength
when the Horde threatens Etheria's rebels.
Team up with He-Man,
weekdays at 3:00, and She-Ra at 3:30,
beginning Monday on Channel 13's
Power Hour!
Everybody was saying,
"We need more product,
we need more product.
We need more of this exciting product."
And I started seeing stuff
that I didn't agree with.
We introduced it to the trade,
and as soon as the trade loves it
and they start buying space, we gotta dump
a bunch of products in that space.
So we were frantically designing vehicles
and accessories for He-Man and his crew.
Between '82 and '87,
He-Man represented roughly 95%
of all the growth in the toy division.
It was phenomenal,
and through the '86, '87 period,
it was bigger than Barbie.
I kept doing my best
through Man-E-Faces, Ram Man.
That's when I started realizing
the company was dumbing it down.
and they were making it silly,
and He-Man was never meant to be silly.
Everyone thought, "This is ridiculous.
It's never gonna be a hit,"
because it was so different as a toy line,
so no one paid any attention,
but once it was a success,
everyone came in
and started giving their input.
And I finally said,
"You know what? I don't need this."
I can't watch them turn this into
another Barbie product, and...
And I left to go to another company
and they did.
Those are big shoes to fill; when I
was told about filling in for Mark Taylor,
I said, "What?"
But, uh, yeah, I didn't transition
into Mark's shoes right away.
I think when I got there he had just left
to go to Playmates to do Turtles.
They did a Hot Wheels car
with a spring-loaded side panel,
and when you crashed it,
it flipped over and it looks
like it's wrecked.
I said, "We can do that."
So we stole that
and put it in He-Man's chest.
So when you hit his chest,
Skeletor and He-Man,
you would get battle damage.
I think that's why we call it
Battle Damage He-Man
and Battle Damage Skeletor.
That was the very first one
I remember working on.
Then I did a bunch of what we used
to call back then "refreshes."
Moss Man was basically Beast Man's sculpt,
flocked again with green.
They injected what was supposed to be,
came from our chem lab,
that was supposed to smell like moss;
it didn't really smell like moss.
It smelled more like a Christmas tree,
but I guess it was green
and it smelled woodsy,
so that's what we ended up with.
Stinkor was Mer-Man
painted black and white
with a stripe down him and had a scent.
It was supposed to be unpleasant,
but it didn't really smell bad.
Man-At-Arms cannot escape
the evil smell of Stinkor!
Now, He-Man!
Smell your own stink, Stinkor! Yarrr!
with real smell, is new
from the Masters of the Universe
Other action figures each sold separately.
From Mattel.
We would do many sketches
of the same thing, trying to perfect it.
There's tons of stuff here.
Then they wanted water
to come out of the snout.
They're pushing the head up and down.
Then I kind of thought that that was
kind of cumbersome to a kid, right?
So what I did is I said, well,
rather than doing it
in a little aerosol pumpy thing,
let's have a little button on the back.
So if you open up Snout Spout,
there's a little reservoir on the inside,
and I had to make sure
that thing wouldn't leak.
I had to figure out how to fill it,
so an engineer would come up
with the guts, right, all very mechanical.
Figures sold separately.
Snout Spout, heroic hose nose!
What hurts a lot of brands
is going way up, maybe too high,
leaving a lot of product
sitting on the shelves,
and then getting less support.
I mean, that's the cycle
of even the hit brands.
It grew so quickly and we made
so many figures and accessories and toys
that we kind of killed it.
The people running He-Man believed
the reason they were having a down year
is because She-Ra made it seem like
He-Man was becoming more wimpy,
because it was a female character
in a male action television series.
We also short-shipped all the retailers
because we couldn't make
He-Man fast enough.
So, when Toys 'R' Us ordered a hundred,
we shipped them 70.
There was a forecast
of the number that we had to hit
at the end of whatever year.
It was by the time
we introduced the dinosaurs.
And a high-level executive
"Let's ship the He-Man characters,
'cause we got open orders."
Shipped it in December, went on the books,
still didn't make our numbers.
Goes on the retail shelf in January
when sales suck anyway.
And it's all the old characters
we already sold 150,000 through.
So I had to put together a plan to go out,
take those characters off the shelf
and replace them with new characters.
We were approached by a number of studios
who wanted to do something,
who felt that maybe
we needed something new,
some impetus to push us further.
'Cause we came out in '82,
'87 we're starting to slow down.
The trick to getting this film
done is, you have to start in Eternia,
but you need a segue to get back to Earth
in the first five minutes.
One of the questions
that gets asked a lot is why characters
like Orko and Battle Cat
didn't appear in the film.
And it would have been incredibly
expensive to do those characters
because they didn't have digital effects.
And the one actor that director
Gary Goddard didn't cast for the film
was actually the star of the film,
Dolph Lundgren.
Dolph had just come off of
the hit movie Rocky IV.
And prior to that, he was in
the James Bond film
A View to a Kill, and so this was
his third film as an actor
and really it was his first big break
as an action star.
Even though I was very new at it,
things happen quickly,
and I got a role in the Rocky picture,
and then next thing up, I was gonna be
this toy.
Now it's a big deal to play a toy
or play a superhero and...
the cartoon character, but in those days,
it was kind of suspicious
and kind of potentially damaging
to your career.
So I wasn't sure about it,
but I ended up saying yes.
When they first started work,
there was actually a production designer
doing the designs for Gary,
but things didn't really work out.
He wasn't a big fan
of that kind of science-fiction
fantasy genre,
and so the two just weren't
really seeing eye to eye.
Uh, fortunately for Gary,
William Stout had been hired
to do the storyboards for the film,
and both of them are big comic book fans,
big fans of Kirby.
And then William ended up
taking over from there.
So, under my domain
as production designer,
I'm in charge of all the special effects,
costumes, set dressing,
set decoration, uh...
If it's on the screen, that's...
someone working under me
has done that for me.
I hired Jean to do some work
on Masters of the Universe.
First thing I threw at him, I said, "Jean,
He-Man: what would you do with him?"
He came back with this pen sketch
and I cleaned it up
and did a color version of it.
Mattel saw it and flipped out,
they hated it.
They said, "There's blood on the sword!"
And then they say,
"He-Man can't kill anybody!"
You know? OK.
And they said, "That's not his costume!
We've never seen that stuff before."
Exactly. It doesn't look like the toy.
We don't want it to look like that.
- "He's gotta look like the toy."
- I said, "No, he really doesn't."
I said, "We can do our version of it.
It'll still be He-Man,
but he just won't look goofy."
I was a young man,
I was in the gym a lot,
and I really had a great physical body
at that time.
It didn't last, but I did, and I was
in fabulous shape, so I
had them design a costume
so you could see the pecs
and the legs and all of that,
and I wanted that,
and in a lot of the cartoons,
Skeletor is as undressed,
and Gary and I had
long conversations about,
he didn't want me to look sexy.
He wanted me to look dominant
and powerful and...
So I gave up showing my body off.
Here's a He-Man I just hated.
This was the gold He-Man.
There's another gold He-Man.
I can't remember why
he was gold momentarily, but...
Oh, here was the final He-Man.
Which was my least favorite.
One issue that Mattel had
with the original script for the film
was the fact that He-Man killed.
Skeletor had a lot of demon-like creatures
and He-Man was striking them down
with his sword,
and they're like, "No, no, no.
He-Man can't do that, He-Man can't kill."
So the director said,
"Well, this is an action film.
There's gotta be action on screen,
a little bit of violence."
And they said, "Nope, he can't kill."
Our movie, we were playing to little kids,
so, once you kill somebody
with an eight-foot sword,
I mean, it's not a nice picture, you know.
And you want to show some of that
but we couldn't show much of it
so I think that was something
that I knew was gonna perhaps
be a bit of, you know,
a weakness in the picture.
That was one of the first
transformative roles I took on.
I was in my 40s and relatively
still a leading man.
And, uh, I so loved being disguised.
The studio said, "Why are we
gonna spend this much
on a famous actor when he's just
gonna be wearing a skull mask
in all of his scenes?
We can hire a body builder
and just put a skull mask on."
And Gary said, "No, it has to be Frank.
I need an actor who will be
believable behind the mask."
Then Gary and I began
a wonderful collaboration
on Skeletor's words.
It became very important to me
that I not say silly, foolish things,
that I find inspiration
in some of the great writers.
So we went to Joseph Campbell,
The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
That's where the line, "Tell me about
the loneliness of good, He-Man.
Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?"
Most of those, and then I had a tendency
in this character to improvise,
so my minute minion came to me
when I was sitting on that big throne.
I saw the movie finished
with Langella's dialogue,
and he's a great actor, right?
And even though his mouth
was tied up with prosthetics...
you still got a great performance
out of him.
The Alpha and the Omega.
Death and rebirth.
And as you die,
so will I be reborn!
How do you design a bony face that's also
flexible enough to show expression
and doesn't inhibit the actor
from speaking as well?
And so I went through a number of designs
before I got one that I liked
and that worked with Langella.
I think this was drawn over a photograph
of Frank Langella.
That was days, weeks,
finding Skeletor.
I mean, the amount of stuff
we put on my face over and over again.
We must have had 20 different
kinds of prosthetics
till we found how much to do
and how much not to do.
I was looking for the skeleton
that we had to pay homage to
and my eyes being there,
because they're so important.
This particular kind of villain,
they all want to conquer the world.
They all want to be, you know,
as Skeletor does that thing
about, "Now I am Master of the Universe."
I really worked hard to try to find
an original...
way to be that sort of clich, which is,
"I want to rule the world,
and you, you big hunk of He-Man,
I'm going to get you."
During the Masters era,
which was photochemical,
we had no digital capability
other than motion control for the camera.
And so each operation that are involved
in this line of steps
that you have to go through to get
to the final thing
involves art.
They're gonna move on it, and then
we're gonna come to this figure here
and the Masters of the Universe
was gonna come in from above.
When this gets done, it's not like
storyboarding, it's a little different.
They actually shoot the actual...
the drawing, the painting that I do.
Your best matte painter is...
is much more of an impressionist
than a photorealist.
Keeping in mind that matte paintings
is a temporal situation,
you're only gonna be able
to see it for three seconds.
...and the capture of Grayskull
is evermost in their minds.
For, to those that control Grayskull
will come the power.
This is a pen-and-ink version
of Castle Grayskull.
And you can see the mixture
of classic architecture,
but with also high-tech elements as well.
Here's a different version
of Castle Grayskull.
What I like about this is,
I like the flickering lights
but also the mistiness,
so this is sort of rising up
but also disappearing.
Then here's another Grayskull pass.
Originally we had all the major characters
of Masters of the Universe in the film,
including She-Ra, and She-Ra
eventually got cut from the film,
even though I'd designed everything.
William Stout had storyboarded
a couple of scenes of She-Ra
where's she inside
the Grayskull Throne Room,
fighting off Skeletor's troops
and whatnot with He-Man.
Her toy line had just come out
and they thought,
"We should have a female character
that the girls will like."
But they already had a strong female
character in the film, and that was Teela.
So this is all the bad guys
shown for height comparison.
Mattel had a little over 50, 60
Masters of the Universe characters,
and basically wanted them all in the film.
So what he told them was, "Why don't we
take some of the most popular characters
from the toy line and the cartoon,
like He-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela,
Evil-Lyn, Skeletor, and Beast Man,
and then create a few new characters
that we could make new toys of?"
Well, right away, Mattel loved that
because, hey,
"If we can make new toys to sell,
then you're doing our job for us."
We're talking mid-eighties,
and there was very little CGI.
Basically all the makeup was Latex pieces
that were glued on,
and the guy who played Beast Man
would faint like every other day
'cause of heat stroke, you know,
so they'd have to pull him out
of the costume, he's this big guy.
Some of the other people had
all of those Latex things glued to them
for three or four hours before work.
This is the very first pass
I took at the Beast Man.
Slightly influenced by sort of
apish and wolfish kind of things.
And then here's definitely
the wolf influence, wolf influence here.
Again, here is, I put a patch over his eye
and then replaced a quarter of his brain
with a high-tech equivalent.
Here's a really early pass on Saurod.
Did a lot of different versions of Saurod.
A later pass at Saurod, and he's starting
to look a little more human.
Another Saurod take; this is starting
to get closer to what we built.
These are all proposed Saurod helmets.
He's like the most interesting
of the villains.
Why did we kill him first?
We should have killed Karg first,
so we could keep him around,
he's so fun to watch.
I was playing Blade and Walter Scott
was stunt coordinator.
Walter called me in and he basically said,
"You train Dolph,
you know more about swords."
We trained for about a month,
and Dolph very quickly saw
that I was there
to help him look great, and...
Boy, thank goodness Dolph was as strong
and physically capable as he is,
he's a tremendous athlete,
because he had... the sword was not easy.
Dolph's sword, which was easily
two fingers wider and probably
this much longer.
So this sword is from the '87 movie.
It says "screen use version."
Dolph was the guy to carry that sword,
definitely, because it's very heavy.
I went and rewatched
Captain Blood and Seahawk
'cause we're gonna
have lots of sword fighting.
I pulled out all kinds of stuff.
They had the opportunity to go
over things, under things, behind things,
around things; it made for
a much more interesting fight
than if they were fighting
on a floor with each other.
I think the schedule and budget started
collapsing towards the end of the shoot,
and suddenly this intricate fight
with Skeletor had to be simplified
into like 20% of what it was originally.
I got on the set, prepared
to shoot an intricate, terrific battle,
and they pulled the plug.
It's very dangerous,
the last few days of a movie.
You have to watch yourself because
there were so many compromises
in that film, so many that were made.
We were also filming in 110
on a set that had no air conditioning.
And when he told me that,
which another actor might have said,
"Oh, great, I don't have to fight,
I can go home.
I won't have to sweat through this,"
but I had worked out so many things
about how exciting that fight could be,
and it was truncated down to a few hours.
- ...from my memory forever!
- Enough talk!
Yes! Let this be our final battle!
He liked what I was doing; he said,
"I'm gonna have you double Skeletor."
So I had the power staff
and he had his He-Man sword.
So I put together
some things that allow
big movement with the staff.
Right before we shot, they went,
"No, this is after the transformation."
Thank you so much
for giving me elk antlers
and the New York skyline.
It was made worse by the fact that, uh...
in what I was in,
I couldn't see anything below this,
so my peripheral vision was terrible.
And then they were using a smoke
that coated the whole floor
with this thin film of oil,
so it was slippery as all get out.
I couldn't really see, you know,
and Dolph's coming at me
with Buick Slayer,
and I'm going, "Oh, boy."
I remember, I was
in Cannes, 1986, I was there
with Menahem Golan, and he was in there
and he was announcing
Masters of the Universe.
"Yes! He will be as big as Stallone!
Bigger than Stallone!"
I was kind of embarrassed,
but the Cannon people,
of course, were interesting,
and Gary was fighting a battle there
to try to save the picture.
I guess Gary, you know,
not only managed to direct the picture,
not only managed to get the picture made,
but he also managed to keep
any of that anxiety,
you know, from the cast, so it didn't get
in the way of the performances.
He carried that on his shoulders,
and I tip my hat to him for that.
Goddard created
this really cool universe, and...
there's something about the picture,
when I see it, occasionally,
you know, I catch it, that it is charming.
It has like a charm to it
because it is in camera.
Everything is kind of in camera
and the props are real
and... it's not as slick
as some of the movies now,
and it gives it a certain charm, I think.
It's one of my favorite roles, remains so,
and always will be so for the...
sheer bravura of it.
I like bravura acting.
The older I get,
I get simpler and simpler.
But remember, this is 30 years ago.
I loved the role because I felt
as long as I stayed tasteful
within his majesty and size,
I could go to the Moon with him,
and I tried to go to the Moon
with him all the time.
Each day, I found myself
more and more liberated
to do that sort of thing.
That version, I would say, skewed closer
also to a sense of Dark Crystal
or Labyrinth or all this spirit
in the way that it was scary.
Now, there were choices made in 1987
that I feel are choices born of 1987,
but, uh, he was reaching for something.
I mean, and I think there's something
to be said for movies that do reach.
Of course, there was some
disappointment with the way the film
was, perhaps, finished,
and some of the results,
the box office and so forth,
but, you know, Masters
is just one of those classic movies
that I will never forget.
And actually I showed it to my kids
when they were small.
The only picture they could see
that I was in was Masters,
you know, where there wasn't
blood flying everywhere.
My son Alexander was...
a He-Man freak.
He wasn't interested in Skeletor,
but he would run around the house
in his pajamas with a little belt
and a little sword
and say, "I have the power!" all the time.
So when Gary Goddard asked me to do it,
I could not say no.
I literally had not read it or...
I hadn't met Gary yet, but I thought
this will be something for my son,
who eventually saw it
at a private screening
and slept through it.
You kind of think it will go
on forever, but it never does.
If it sits on the peg too long,
it gets dusty, it's over.
They don't care what you've done.
Somebody else comes along,
and that's competition.
And then there's another idea,
and another guy comes in.
Meanwhile you've sold too many
Castle Grayskulls in.
The executives did the same,
made the same mistake.
Why? Because we survived last year.
Let's do it again this year.
Shot ourselves in the foot,
and no recovery.
It was pretty sad because
it could have gone on forever.
For a while, it's like
the toy line of He-Man has ended as well.
They're the wasteland,
what's happening next, then Mattel
are like, "We're gonna
do He-Man in space!"
They pitch a bunch of ideas.
We tried to do every iteration
of He-Man you could possibly think of.
We went from He-Man as G.I. Joe...
He-Man wrestler, He-Man playing baseball.
You wouldn't believe me.
There must have been ten iterations of,
"What could He-Man be doing?"
It didn't work; it goes against
everything He-Man stands for.
It's like.
"I've come to make peace."
Whoa there. Slow down.
I think we ended up, either through
market research or something,
He-Man went to outer space.
- Hence, New Adventures, right?
- I think it was too soon.
The toy business is ever evolving,
and I think you needed to wait
until some of the toy buyers
had forgotten what happened.
He was like, "Let's send
everything overseas,
as little here as possible."
And because they were using
a lot of Japanese artists
and Korean artists, it has more
of an anime kind of like feel to it.
I have the power!
I remember Jill, she took a trip
to Asente in Japan.
They were a very well known
design outfit at the time.
And what they did was they showed her
a lot of cool mechanisms.
Skeletor is waging war
on all the power in the universe!
Now it's your turn!
Give it up, Skeletor, I've got He-Man,
the most powerful man...
And then Jill wants them
a smaller scale
to make it different from the first line.
I said, "Some of these are going
to be nearly impossible to build."
All right, you hear the ratchet.
The ratchet means
you're gonna overwind it.
These always had trouble standing.
So this one you spun around
with a little latch on the back of it,
so it's all spring-loaded
and then you... rrrr!
This was very simple.
I loved the simple ones 'cause
the other ones were harder.
This one you just spun around.
You could grab stuff or grab
another figure and spin it around.
Some people are like,
"The toys are thin and flimsy.
It doesn't really look like He-Man,"
so by the third year, I think,
of that toy line,
they'd make He-Man big again
with his crazy amount of muscles.
He-Man had been out of the limelight
for a very, very long time,
almost ten years at that point,
and I had talked on and off
with Mattel for a few years,
tried to talk to people,
hadn't had a lot of success,
and then they reached out to me in 2001
because I owned He-Man.org.
And we started talking about He-Man,
and I was like, "Why are you asking?"
They're like, "We're doing
this commemorative toy line."
In 2001, Mattel premiered
their new-looking, modern He-Man toy line,
which takes all the elements
of the original figures
and makes them cool and slightly '90s,
but in the early noughties.
He's got crazy sharp hair,
big chunky swords and weapons,
and more realistic bodies.
So the Four Horsemen
is an independent toy sculpting studio
out of New Jersey.
Before them, action figures
were always very minimal.
Minimal detail, minimal paint.
Ship it out and get it in the kids' hands.
And they brought that detail,
and it was the first time sort of a major
toy line from a big company had that
in the 200X line for Masters.
When we left the company
that we were working with previously
and started our own company,
our first idea was,
we want to redesign or revamp He-Man
and the Masters of the Universe.
And we approached Mattel with that idea,
and they were like,
"We were thinking exactly the same thing,
let's do this,"
and it just kind of serendipitously
came to be.
One of the things that we found
that was a very unifying element
on the designs
was keeping the color consistent.
And not just the colors, but the way that
the colors were patterned on the figure.
Our storyline was that He-Man and Skeletor
had battled and Skeletor had gotten
control of the Power Sword,
so now He-Man and Man-at-Arms
and Sorceress were this band of renegades
that were trying to wrest the power
back from Skeletor
and get the power
of Castle Grayskull back.
And while that was going on,
we had this very active fan base,
which was the biggest fan base around,
and it was really kind of carrying
the torch for He-Man.
I get a phone call from Mattel.
"Guess what, we're gonna reactivate He-Man
for the 20th anniversary.
Would you like to help us do it?"
By the power of Grayskull!
I have the power!
The Masters of the Universe!
And it gave me an opportunity to create
a new version of the show,
which actually went back
to my old vision of it,
which was never really played out.
You think there's
great thinking behind it.
I met the guy who wrote
some of these original books.
I said, "Why Grayskull?"
He said, "I had a deadline the next day,
the toy's coming out,
and my wife's maiden name was Gray,
so I go with 'Grayskull, '
and I thought a skull was cool";
that's as much thought as went into it.
Then when the cartoon went out in '83,
they had to justify some of those choices,
but they didn't have the luxury we had
of looking back and cherry picking
and making a chronology.
And again, some of it, we didn't get to,
but we knew it, and again,
if you're writing, everything
is feeling like this is real,
making it real for you and then hopefully
for the actors and the audience.
And the brand manager,
who I'd been contacting,
one of the many people I'd been contacting
and trying to do a comic,
came to me and said,
"We're doing this packet.
Would you like to help produce it?"
And I didn't hesitate
because I thought that was my dream,
my only opportunity to work on it,
but there was also
a really, really passionate fan
that had done his own comic,
I think for a school project,
if I remember, called "Homecoming."
He said, "Do you want to be the lead
penciler on this project?"
I said, "Yeah, of course."
I had no idea what I was doing,
but I say, "Well, let's try."
And we did the comic
for two years and a half.
And you had this team that was,
for the most part,
fans working on it.
The only caveat that I had to agree to
is like, "OK, you can do this,
but you need to have covers
with big name artists on it,"
but they were variant covers.
So I was still able to have the fans
working on the main cover,
but then I have a variant
with really big names.
And we were able to get people like
Boris Vallejo on there.
We had to make it
fit the esthetic of what was
going on with the reboot,
which did have a little bit of
anime influence into it,
and I get where they were going
because at the time,
there was a number of anime franchises
that were really hot.
So they wanted to key in on what kids
were into, and that makes complete sense.
The name is Skeletor!
I was given voice refs with
Alan Oppenheimer's original Skeletor
and they definitely wanted to keep
the continuity.
So many years,
so many failures.
But at last, I have the key to success!
We hadn't met He-Man, Cam Clarke.
I remember...
- That's curious, too,.
- Yeah, we were like,
"We can't wait to see
the 'I have the power, '"
and the whole cast
was hopped up to meet him.
Are you ready, Prince Adam?
As I'll ever be.
They said, "We need a 17-year-old,"
or whatever it was,
"and an adult superhero."
And I went, "I got this in the bag,
this is great."
I get to use my...
my light, youthful, thinner
end of my vocal cords...
as well as a deeper, darker place.
So this is Castle Grayskull?
Could use a coat of paint.
The Canadian way, most of the time,
is always standing at your mic,
and the U.S. technique was sitting,
so we were like, "What's going on?"
All of the sudden, Cam sits down
and starts doing his stuff.
I sit down.
I'm not gonna stand up.
Gssh, gssh!
Then I heard his teenage voice,
which I really liked a lot, you know?
- Um...
- A great Adam. He did a great Adam.
- Then the transition.
- I have...
I was like, "Dude, you got it!"
By the power of Grayskull,
I have the power!
- He could do that with his eyes closed.
- Guys need another take?
We have this franchise that was
a billion-dollar engine in the '80s.
And then all of the sudden, it went down.
It was on ice for a long time
and they came back really strong
with this incredible reboot
they put a lot behind,
and that didn't do too well.
So, I understand.
You know, as a fan, you're like,
"Don't stop now."
We were waiting and waiting and waiting
and didn't really realize
that was it, it was gonna be
the end at that point.
I was expecting a bit more longevity.
So He-Man was once again
a dead property to Mattel.
It had been tried, it didn't work with
the collectors, didn't work with the kids.
I'm an adult collector and I spend
$100 to $200 a month on action figures.
And I say, essentially, I'm not
buying anything from Mattel.
We started working on
a pitch for Mattel
for a new way to get the line back out,
and so that was Classics.
That's when Scott Neitlich came in.
Completely serendipitously,
the Horsemen created
the prototype for what became
the He-Man Classics figure.
No one asked them to.
No one was talking to them,
they didn't know what I was doing.
We were working in our own bubbles.
We made a presentation to Mattel
and showed them this new style He-Man
that we came up with,
and it was very much like the old
classic style He-Man of the '80s.
With 2002, it was all original designs
and a complete fresh look
at the characters,
whereas Classics, it's all about
direct nostalgia,
so that scratches a very different itch
than the 2002 line did.
The big, beefy He-Man,
the bulky proportions and everything,
but the articulation and everything
was much better than the originals.
And we presented to the guys at Mattel,
and they were like, "I don't know, maybe."
But one guy there, Dave Voss, he was like,
"No, you know what?
Let's put it out on the shelf
here at ComicCon,
not say anything, and let's see
what the fans say about it."
I think somebody said we were
at 250 figures for that line,
so we've got a castle, we've got beasts,
we've got vehicles.
So it's really, I think,
maybe one of the longest-running
and largest toy lines
out there at this point.
Some people will look
at properties, and these properties
will be defined by, say, a book
that was created by one author.
But what they're not thinking about is
that the works they see on the screen
are further developed by artists
and creators,
but with He-Man and She-Ra,
there was never a book.
This was something that was cooked up
by an entire company of people.
People like Roger Sweet
who created the name He-Man.
Mark Taylor, who came up with some
of the original designs for He-Man,
the original B-sheets that we know
as the core characters.
Ted Mayer, who came up
with these amazing vehicles
that put together sorcery and science
and like old-school tech.
Mark Ellis and Paul Cleveland
who sold us the story,
who put it together, who gave it a voice,
who gave it names.
The people that worked
at Filmation that created
relationships between these characters
and defined them
as what people know today.
The creation that we have
for He-Man and She-Ra exists
because so many amazing people
contributed their strengths to it.
The key to discovering
the impact of He-Man
is remembering to put it into context.
The idea of being transformed
into you own inner true self with power,
with agency over yourself and your life,
is very attractive.
If you're a child,
you feel weak,
an 8-year-old, 9-year-old, or 10-year-old.
I can be something bigger,
and I can not only defeat someone
with my muscle,
but I can defeat somebody
with my wisdom and my wit,
which is what He-Man was all about.
That was the goal that I was trying
to achieve in the whole series.
"By the power of Grayskull,
I have the power."
That was the moment, because any kid,
no matter who you are,
could instantly become He-Man.
I remember all the kids
being so into He-Man,
and I think that built up, even like
the days before the Internet, it was like
a weird small little community of kids
that religiously watched the cartoon
and played with the figures.
Humans have a hunger for heroes.
It's a way... it's an idealized way of...
of dealing with the real world.
We need something new
to come along for kids
while we can still have the things that
we love done in a niche style for us
old aging people that still love it.
There's no reason to give up what you love
for something new; they can all coexist.
'Cause if we don't, unfortunately,
He-Man and She-Ra are gonna die,
they're gonna go away, and there's
something really sad about that
because I think we,
as fans my age growing up,
realize that there's something
special about it.
Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe we're
looking at it with rose-colored glasses,
maybe we're being selfish,
but there's things in here
that help define who we are,
and I think we know that these elements,
if they carry over to something new,
might help define a new generation
and connect with them
at a meaningful level that it did with us.