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He-Man & the Masters of the Universe

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Episode Review
DVD Releases
History of He-Man & the Masters of the Universe
Quick Facts
Voice Cast

History of He-Man & the Masters of the UniverseI've never been into too many of the 1980s-onward action cartoons, but He-Man was my definite favorite growing up.  Anyone who knows what He-Man is about knows that the show was more than a toy commercial.  Filmation did a great job with the MOTU property and it's easy to see why it was their most successful series.  "He-Man" is truly original, fiercely creative, and still entertaining to watch after all these years.  It's colorful with lots of activity and quite a bit more humor than most action cartoons.  Those not familiar with the "He-Man" cartoon might like to know that the vast majority of it is funny stuff.  The title and the show's premise would make it seem more serious than it really is.  I also like the tags at the end of the episode that told the viewer something useful about life.  It was a light-hearted show and something really fun to see.  The cartoons definitely helped the sales of MOTU toys and merchandise, but it never straight-out exploited the franchise like most TV cartoons have.  Mattel, the MOTU toy manufacturer, is the one most responsible for exploiting the MOTU brand.  They might be the ones most responsible for burning out He-Man.

    For all of He-Man's popularity, some may find it hard to believe the show was only in production for two seasons (1983-1985), but for an impressive 130 episodes.  The toyline debuted in 1982 (conceived in 1981) and continued long after new cartoons ceased being made, in 1988.  The show still ran on TV until 1988, but strictly in reruns.  Many of the popular figures from 1985-1988 were never in the cartoon.  "He-Man & the Masters of the Universe" was stopped to give way to its spinoff show, "She-Ra: Princess of Power".  She-Ra was He-Man's long lost twin sister and had her own, similar cast of supporting characters on a planet similar to Eternia.  Some of the He-Man characters from the previous cartoon and toy releases found their spot in "She-Ra".  The She-Ra cartoon was in production from 1985-1986 for a total of 93 episodes.

Cringer and Battlecat:
    Cringer and Battlecat certainly share a Jekyll & Hyde relationship.  The major difference is that both sides of his personality are heroic.  Cringer is cowardly and peace-loving; just a big ol' pussycat.  However, he's probably a bit wiser than Battlecat.  He-Man's sidekick, Battlecat, is always up for battle, but he doesn't seem too intelligent.  Cringer clearly doesn't like being Battlecat.  It does not seem, however, that Battlecat harbors any bad feelings toward his Cringer counterpart.

Man-at-Arms and Orko:

    The interplay between Man-at-Arms and Orko is like Abbott and Costello, respectively.  Man-at-Arms is the straight man.  Orko is the comedy relief.  What's really interesting about their characters is that they operate just as well on their own, but in different ways.  Man-at-Arms can be a very serious action hero when he has to be.  And Orko isn't always stupid.  Sometimes Orko shows common sense.  There was no Orko in the live-action film from 1987, and a very important part of "Masters of the Universe" was missing.

Skeletor's Most-Seen Underlings:
    All of Skeletor's associates would overthrow him if they had the chance, but they still obey his every command.  There is a very uneasy alliance.  Evil-Lyn is definitely his second-in-command.  Beast-Man is his third-in-command, but he takes no orders from anyone but Skeletor.  Other common punching bags for He-Man include Mer-Man, Trapjaw, and Tri-Klops.

Little-Known Heroes and Villains:

: Villain. Appeared in only one episode. Much more popular as an action figure. In the cartoon, he looked exactly like He-Man despite glowing eyes. The action figure shows him with a blue body, red hair, and orange armor. The backstory for the figure version is that he is a He-Man copycat who didn't work out. In the cartoon, he was simply a magical creation of Skeletor.
: Villain.  Only appeared in Season 1 episode, "The Time Corridor". He never had a toy made of him. A Filmation creation.
Villain. Appeared in only one episode. Like Faker, he was much more popular as an action figure. His cartoon appearance was made before the figure's release. Although he was supposed to be named Chopper in the script, he wasn't given any name in the actual show.
: Hero. He was only in two episodes of the series and never saw toy form. Another Filmation-only creation. However, many figures in the MOTU line never appeared in the cartoon.

Skeletor's Robot Knights: Villain. These were in many episodes, but they never saw toy form. Skeletor would send out these hovering robots on the heroes before dealing with them personally. The Robot Knights were strictly a Filmation company creation.

Quick Facts:
  • This was the first cartoon series ever made directly for syndication.  Syndicated cartoon shows, up to 1983, were strictly reruns of old cartoons.  It is also the first cartoon series to have an ambitious 65 episodes per season, made to stretch over a period of 13 weeks.
  • Contrary to popular belief, this was not a low-budget cartoon.  It was actually one of the most expensive cartoons produced at the time, due to the fact that the animation was all handled in the U.S.  Because of that expense, four actors did nearly all the voices in the cartoon to cut down on cost.
  • The toyline was first developed in 1981, but debuted in 1982.  It ran for seven series (waves) from 1982-1988.
  • Orko says his blood is purple.  This happened in the episode, "To Save Skeletor".
  • "He-Man & the Masters of the Universe" ran original episodes from 1983-1985.  It ran on TV in reruns to 1988.  From 1988 to 1990, the show was rerun on the USA network.
  • In the first season episode 'Evil-Lyn's Plot', we learn that He-Man's harness was made by The Sorceress to supplement his already great power.  The magic harness is made of the rare metal cordonium.
  • It is said that a third season of "He-Man & the Masters of the Universe" would have been made after a season of the spinoff show, "She-Ra: Princess of Power".  This never happened.
  • In the mini-comics that came with the MOTU action figures, it was going to be revealed that Skeletor was actually He-Man's uncle!  The villain was, in reality, King Randor's missing brother Keldor.  However, the toyline's cancellation in 1988 prevented this major milestone in the MOTU saga from happening.
  • The original backstory for MOTU was quite different from what it came to be in the Filmation cartoon series.  Mattel and DC Comics had presented a much more serious, and decidedly more adult take on He-Man's adventures.  When the cartoon series came out and rocketed to popularity, the rest of MOTU media tried to fit in with the canon of the cartoon adventures.
  • A second, inferior He-Man cartoon series was developed called "The New Adventures of He-Man".  It ran from 1989-1992 for 65 episodes and was produced by DIC.  He-Man and Skeletor had entirely different looks and the show featured an almost entirely new supporting cast.  It was made to go with Mattel's new "He-Man" toyline, which also flopped.
  • In the pilot episode of "The New Adventures of He-Man", King Randor and Queen Marlena finally learn of their son's dual identity.
  • The next cartoon series, "Masters of the Universe", debuted in 2002 and ran to 2004.  It was a complete reboot of the Filmation series, although not a departure in style.  It simply fleshed things out.  Although well-done, it lasted only 39 episodes.  In many ways, it was better than the previous series'.  The continuity was much tighter and the characters were more real.
  • In the third cartoon series, it was finally revealed that Skeletor was really Keldor.  However, no family connection to King Randor was ever made.
  • If a third season of the 2002 cartoon series had been made, the identity of Teela's real father would have been revealed.  It was down to either Fisto or Man-at-Arms.

Studio: Filmation
Seasons: Two Seasons, 130 Episodes (1983-1985, 65 episodes each)

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Episode Review:

Voice Cast:

John Erwin as Beast-Man/He-Man/Prince Adam/Ram-Man/Webstor/Whiplash

Alan Oppenheimer as Battle Cat/Buzz-Off/Cringer/Man-at-Arms/Mer-Man/Roboto/Skeletor

Linda Gary as Evil-Lyn/Queen Marlena/Teela and nearly every female character

Lou Scheimer as Clawful/Fisto/Jitsu/King Randor/Lizardman/Man-E-Faces/Mekaneck/Moss Man/Orko/Spikor/Stratos/Sy-Klone/Trap Jaw/Tri-Klops/Two-Bad/Zodac [credited as Erik Gunden]

Erika Scheimer as Various Voices

DVD Releases:

Toys:  MOTU, from the very beginning, was plotted to be a major franchise for Mattel.  Although first developed in late 1981, the toyline debuted in 1982.  "Masters of the Universe" action figures and accessories were made from 1982-1988.  There were seven series, or waves, in all.  Some figures developed NEVER saw release.

    Mattel pretty much gave Filmation cart blanche with their licensed characters.  What happened is that Filmation developed new characters in the cartoon that later saw toy release.  Some Filmation-made MOTU characters were never put into toys.  This has surprised collectors over the years.  One of the major characters, The Sorceress, did not have an action figure until Series 6 in 1987!  King Randor also debuted in figure form at this time.  Queen Marlena was never given an action figure.

    The live-action "Masters of the Universe" film from 1987 was intended to boost slagging sales of the action figures.  However, the movie was radically different from the cartoons and toys.  If nothing else, toy sales dropped like a rock.  The movie was closer to Mattel's original vision of the MOTU saga in the DC mini-comics than the more familiar cartoon series and toyline.  By 1988, "Masters of the Universe" was done in toys and the cartoon was taken off mainstream TV.

    A new toyline, called "Powers of Grayskull", was supposed to be a prequel to MOTU.  The hero would be He-Ro, an ancestor to He-Man.  The toy series was axed pretty early on due to the incredible financial difficulties MOTU was facing at the time.