I may have been more into watching the live-action Batman re-runs after school, but I will admit I spent plenty a half-hour watching the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. I'll also admit that my friend Mike and I would grab his little brother's Mattel toys out of his hands and set-up "death-matches" between the figures. Hey, we were watching a lot of WWF. And aside from thinking Orco was the most annoying sounding sidekick in cartoon history, we loved Castle Grayskull, and Skelator was an undeniable badass. Like all things retro, nowadays, Mattel redesigned the toys and a new animated series was launched to help sell them. Mike Young Productions (the people that brought you Bratz) handled the animation and Cartoon Network aired it.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 2002 (as you can see it isn't so new) wasn't given the chance to develop a new following, as it was cancelled before it could develop its legs, but this first volume of the series (13 episodes-plus on 3 DVD's) gives you a good enough taste to see why it offered both old and new fans some exciting possibilities. For one, all of your favorite characters are there: Man-At-Arms, Ram Man, Buzz-Off, Mekanek, and Teela for the good guys, but much more fun are Trap Jaw, Tri-Klops, Mer-Man, Evil-Lyn, and one of the most Heavy Metal villain in all of cartoons - Skelator. While the new series preserves the color scheme of the original (Adam's tan flesh and blond hair, to Skelator's purple and black), the new production takes into account the twenty years of animation advancements, most specifically, the influence of Japanese animation and a focus on a martial arts-style soaring across the screen. They also find an excellent balance between the original's more rounded drawings and the new, more "edgy" lines. Many of you may get that great flashback experience when He-Man yields his mighty sword, we get the familiar proclamation, "By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!"
In this first volume, Prince Adam is very much like Clark Kent - a stumbling, mumbling amateur who is more often laughed at than laughing with, but when he becomes He-Man he's capable of saving the day like the other Übermench, Superman. Teela is the Lois Lane who only sees the spoiled Prince Adam as a coward and never sees him as the heroic He-Man. The new series gives origins and back-stories for several of the characters, and we learn that before Skeletor got his famous skull-face, he was a warlord named Keldor. While betraying his teacher, Hordak, Keldor tried to attack the Hall of Wisdom, where Captain Randor and his officers fought him off, using his shield to backfire the vial of acid that ate away the aggressors face. Keldor submitted to Hordak, begging for mercy from his now mangled face, and the master agreed, transforming him into and naming him, SKELATOR! Years later, Captain Randor is now King of Eternia, having been crowned by the Council of Elders - everyone in the land is safe, knowing that Skeletor is locked behind the walls of Snake Mountain. But not for long: When Skeletor breaks free, his henchmen kidnap King Randor, and now more than ever, the Eternians need a hero. It is then that the Sorceress lets Man-At-Arms know that it's time to tell Prince Adam of his true destiny. Just like the Greatest American Hero Adam has a hard time accepting and physically handling his new gifts, but he's certain he must rise to greatness in order to rescue his father and keep the Kingdom safe from Skeletor. Cringer, his scared pussycat, also has a courageous wildcat inside of him, and with saddle on his back, he's ready to aide He-Man in any situation. He-Man soon discovers that it's not just his people and castle that he must protect from Skeletor, but the great Castle Grayskull. The source of his power as well as home to the Council of Elders, the attacking, capturing, and acquiring its power becomes Skeletor's goal for the rest of the season.
The Beginning pt 1
The Beginning pt 2
The Courage of Adam
The Deep End
The Siren's Song
The Ties That Bind
Night of the Shadow Beasts
The Mystery of Anwat Gar
The Monster Within
This is not my old man's He-Man! Actually, the old man in this case is me, but you get the idea. This He-Man was created for a generation of kids who don't ask what those black bars are on the top and bottom of the screen, and with its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, this much more cinematic He-Man is ready for his close-up. The colors are absolutely magnificent: from the deep and solid blacks to the shades of purple and pink, to the bloody (relax parents, there's no bloody violence) reds, the rainbow is here. The digital image is pristine, and there's really nothing to complain about image wise.
The Dolby Digital soundtrack gives you slamming sonics to back up the action. You can definitely feel the surround in motion, especially during the face-offs.
End of Episode Morals: You can't just look at a Skeleton all day, you have to learn something, and so just like the 80s version of the show this is where your child can pick up some "important" advice. It still doesn't beat G.I. Joe's "and knowing is half the battle."
"World of He-Man" Highlight Show Producer Ian Richter narrates this 25-minute featurette. It opens with some teaser montage giving the main gist of the series. Richter gives each character a their own intro, and he explains their individual weapons/powers.
3 Image Galleries: There is a Heroes Gallery, a Sketch Gallery, and a Background Gallery
3 Extended Video Commentaries: Head writer and story editor Dean Stefan, Producer Ian Richter, and director Gary Hartle have all got their headsets/microphones on as they host a little commentary session. You've got them talking on the upper part of the screen, and on the lower right section of the screen we see the cartoon as it runs. What's cool is that they show some original sketches at the same time.
5 Audio Commentaries: Writers Dean Stefan, Ian Richter, and Gary Hartle handle the commentaries for the first three episodes of disc one. The guys talk about how they wanted to put some emphasis on mythology and they agreed to write an origin story. They reveal that they each character had its own sculpture so that the crew could manipulate in coming up with action sequences. They give props to just about everyone involved, especially the actors. They also put diehards at ease by telling us how they incorporated obscure factoids from the original show into the new series. On disc two, we get Larry Ditillio tells us how they wanted to go back to the old days where Orco and Man-At-Arms get their own time to go at it. The guys generally geek out talking about Adam's character arc and contemplated other story possibilities. And of course they laugh at Orco's voice.
3 Full Episode Animatics:These are essentially moving sketches with some voice-overs. It's all stripped-down and in black and white, and it's fascinating to see how it all comes together.
Scripts For Episodes 1-13 (DVD-Rom or PC/Mac): The 3rd disc contains scripts in whatever format you need
2 Art Cards: These are cards by acclaimed comic book artists Ben Templesmith and Dustin Nguyen
It should be noted that if your disc is missing a scene from "The Courage of Adam" then you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a replacement, though I'm not sure if that's an older problem which has already been addressed by this release. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a fantastic release, that offers new fans a chance to experience the magic, while bringing some more intricate details to the storyline. The Anime look puts the series in a brand-new context, but still holds reverence for the old-school look (most obviously with the colors). Not nearly as embarrassing as the 1987 live-action version, Masters of the Universe (with Dolph Lundgren and a post-Springsteen video but pre-Friends Courtney Cox), this 2002 series should be a welcome part of yours or your kids collection.
Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?