The ‘80s were a time when heroes became huge. No longer were people being saved by the scrawny or flabby. The cinema was dominated by Arnold and Sly with their bulging pecs. Pro Wrestling was all about muscle men such as Hulk Hogan and Jesse the Body. No more did fans want to root for Haystack Calhoun. This transformation came to TV cartoons when fat Fred Flintstone was bumped for He-Man. Like G.I. Joe, He-Man was an animated toy catalog. Two years after the introduction of Mattel’s He-Man action figures with mini-comics in toy stores, the characters finally came to TV. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete First Season contains a beefcake heavy 65 episodes.
The show takes place on the magical Eternia. King Rando and Queen Marlena are in control with their clumsy son Prince Adam. The kid has a cowardly lion and seems rather helpless. What they don’t know is that Prince Adam has a magical sword that turns him into He-Man. The weird element is that he’s rather muscular as Prince Adam. Basically he whips his shirt off, straps on a mini-chestplate and bam he’s He-Man. As an added bonus his wimpy tiger grows a sack and attacks. There needs to be a lot of muscle in the royal family since they’re constantly under attack.
Skeletor and his evil partners constantly scheme to take over Castle Grayskull. He’s got a colorful cast of monster pals including Beast Man, Mer-Man, Evil-Lyn, Tri-Klops, Trap Jaw, and Megator. Oddly enough the one evil critter that didn’t make the original series was Stinktor a muscle bound skunk creature. His toy stunk up Child World since it was soaked in patchouli oil. Skeletor didn’t need him to create havoc in the kingdom. The action has lots of blasts and hits so kids don’t feel like they’re being cheated like on Super Friends. Although nobody gets any bones broken. This was the Three Stooges of the ‘80s. In order to keep these cartoons from merely being a half hour time slot of violence, each episode wraps up with a morality summary from He-Man. There’s a lesson to be learned besides do whatever possible to have a muscle beach body and beat down guys with skulls for faces.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has maintained its cult status thanks to Robot Chicken. The action figures with their amazing physiques hold up. The show only lasted for two seasons, but provides more than enough episodes to keep a modern kid amazed. Filmation were notorious with their limited animated techniques of reusing footage and giving lots of time to backgrounds with no motion. He-Man is a much more physical than so many of their other cartoons including Star Trek: The Animated Series and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete First Season keeps up its entertainment value by refusing to play weak on the screen. It dares to flex its animated muscles.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. There image looks fine with the D&D backgrounds in sharp detail. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. You can hear those muscles flex in both speakers. You’ll clearly hear the morality lesson at the end of each episode. There’s a Spanish dub track.
The Secret Origins of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (19:47) lets Filmation’s Lou Scheimer explain how his company handled a season consisting of 65 episodes since they usually made 17 episodes for a Saturday morning show.
The Stories of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (57:59) is a two part documentary that let writers such as Paul Dini discuss various scripts and how they got around budget constraints.
Profiles is a handy way to keep track of the various characters and artifacts. There’s even a video link so you can see it in action. This is a proper study guide.
Scripts are provided for “The Dragon’s Gift,” “The Search,” “Temple of the Sun,” “Game Plan,” and “Pawns of the Game Master.”.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete First Season is all after school fun of a time when being musclebound was entertaining. The episodes have a quick pacing. The characters pack a punch instead of finding non-violent means to create conflict. Each DVD averages around 10 episodes on a single side. These aren’t flippers. The bonus features were originally on the BCI Eclipse release from 2005. The big difference between this new release and previous boxset is a major price drop.
Mill Creek Entertainment presents He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete First Season. Starring: John Erwin, Linda Gary, Alan Oppenheimer, Lou Scheimer and Erika Scheimer. Boxset Contents: 65 episodes on 8 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 15, 2011.
Tags: He-Man, Hulk Hogan, Star Trek