Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: When He-Man Wore Pants

Last week's post on the much-loved (by me) Masters of the Universe movie got me thinking about the next stab at the He-Man property, which launched the Conan-tinged fantasy hero into space and a new sci-fi setting. The New Adventures of He-Man premiered in syndication in fall of 1990, three years after the live action feature came and went, and five years after the He-Man and She-Ra animated shows from Filmation had ended their respective runs. Of course, that's an eternity in kidvid, which had by then been subsumed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their ilk. Watching the parade from the sidelines, the folks at Mattel no doubt figured this was as good a time as any to bring back the Most Powerful Man in the Universe.

However, the new take was so different that it failed to win back extant fans and didn't win over many new ones, making the  New Adventures era a brief blip. With Filmation bankrupt by 1990 (and here's part of the reason why), the show was produced by American-Japanese studio Jetlag, with the premise that He-Man (having finally brought peace to Eternia, one assumes?) is spirited to the far future by representatives of the utopian planet Primus, menaced by a dastardly band of space mutants. When arch-foe Skeletor (with a new personality more like Jack Nicholson's Joker) inadvertently ends up tagging along, the storied rivalry resumes, with new, toyetic allies like Flipshot and Flogg standing in for Man-at-Arms and Beast Man. Here's the animated show's intro:

Not sure they ever thought through or explained the consequences of randomly plucking He-Man out of the past. Or why Adam summons the "Power of Eternia" after all those years invoking Grayskull to get his He-Man on. Or, for that matter, why he suddenly looks like a hippie. Regardless, as with the previous animated show, the whole thing was mainly an excuse for Mattel to be ready to go with a full spread of action figures, accessories, and role play toys under the He-Man branding. Unlike his squat, steroidal prior incarnation, He-Man was more proportional this time, with his furry underwear replaced by blue spandex trousers. Even the legendary power sword looked more future chic. Here's a TV spot they used to sell the line:

The truth is (and I have to assume this is a very minority view) I liked The New Adventures of He-Man. I didn't love it like I did the previous version, but I also wasn't four anymore. I watched the show regularly during the summer of '91 and thought it was pretty decent. While I do own the two-volume DVD set of the series put out by BCI Eclipse a few years back (now out-of-print, but still pretty affordable), I haven't really gone through it, so I can't say whether I was right. One thing for certain is that New Adventures didn't make much of a mark on kids' psyches. The cartoon closed up shop after 65 eps, and the toys shortly thereafter. It would be twelve more years before He-Man returned, and by then he'd have trappings that were a little more familiar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They need to make a new he man movie not cartoon with todays grapics that would be big dollars for who ever made it