Sunday, February 14, 2010

Entertainment: Finished watching The NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN

I finished watching THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN (NA) this week. The series contained 65 episodes, most of which were written by series creator Jack Olesker. NA was quite a departure from the original HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE cartoon series in just about every way - new animation and design style, new characters, new voices, a more cohesive story line... Now, keep in mind, this is a show that was created for kids to promote toys, so to be a 30-something criticizing the quality of the show could be questionable.

HOWEVER, there have been cartoon series over the years that have not sacrificed story and character development for the sake of keeping it dumbed-down for the kids, and just selling toys. BEAST WARS and BEAST MACHINES, the Beast Era Transformers cartoon series, were successful in attracting adult collectors and new kids alike...

But we're talking about the late 80s here, and NA came at a time when something new was happening to all those great 80s toy franchises that sprung up and created a marketing phenomenon- the nececessity to recreate the toy lines for a new generation of kids.

This was the challenge presented to the creators of the NA toyline - bring in a new generation of kids. What they DIDN'T consider was that: just because there was a need to draw in a new target audience didn't mean that the original target audience had to be sacrificed. NA was launched only 2-3 years after the original He-Man line was ended...not necessarily long enough for the fans/collectors to grieve and completely move on. Action figures are made for Ages 4+ Boys, so if you're 12-15 you don't necessarily fit in this bracket. What was later discovered was there were kids going well into their 20s and 30s that were still ravenous about this stuff.

The decision was made to make NA more or less a totally different show from the original - there are the basic connections - He-Man is Prince Adam from the planet Eternia, son of King Randor and Queen Marlena, and sworn enemy to Skeletor of Snake Mountain. That's about it. Everything else is pretty much left in the past. He-Man, Skeletor and even The Sorceress's costumes change without any explanation. Even He-Man's iconic sword is changed. In retrospect, not a good move. But the age of the original He-Man had passed - his sales had declined significantly. Mattel figured by casting the futuristic barbarian in a more futuristic design and esthetic would appeal to new audiences. It may have worked had they not purged the entire franchise of all those iconic characteres that made the He-Man brand so great.

To old fans, it was a slap in the face. To new fans, well they were lost. Mattel didn't reboot the franchise for the new fans to pick up and delve into. The NA franchise was more or less codependent on it's predecessor, although it did everything to be nothing like it.

In Mr. Olesker's defense, he made due with the commands he was given. The show is more cohesive than the original ever was. We were never treated to an origin episode or mini series for He-Man in the original - we were just dropped in. The NA series had a definitive beginning and ending, showing He-Man's journey into the distant future as he joins forces with the Galactic Guardians to defend them against the relentless attacks of Skeletor, Flog and the Evil Mutants. He-Man learns more about his powers under the guidance of Master Sebrian and the Sorceress. The hero experiences homesickness, but stays true to his mission. The villain Flogg even comes to see the error of his ways in attacking the Galactic Guardians and the planet Primus, realizing that over the course of the series it was Skeletor that was manipulating and dragging out the conflict to advance his own devious goals.

What makes this show work in my mind is that it is one adventure - though a rather long one - that He-Man experiences in his career. It's a time travel adventure that many fans loose sight of. The main fan criticism is: How could He-Man just leave Eternia behind to go help Primus? And I've always held that with this being a time travel adventure, He-Man could easily return to his own time only seconds after he had left. Time travel stuff always gets tricky doesn't it?

New Adventures of He-Man has a hero's journey, and the characters do have development over the course of the show. However, there are the weak points - the annoying scientists, and a few other characters like the Mites and the Gleenons, meant to cater to the kiddys, and the departure of the show from the original. The show is watchable compared to the painfully plotless Voltron series for example, and deserves recognition in the history and story continuity of the He-Man franchise.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. I'd like to hear from you what your thoughts are about the New Adventures of He-Man and it's place in the Masters of the Universe franchise?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

He-Man Transformation sequences

Something about He-Man's original transformation still gives me warm fuzzies. Perhaps it's nostalgia, but the lighting and sound effects, and even John Erwin's voice always appealed to me.

Original Transformation
John Erwin voiced He-Man in the original cartoon. Filmation's simple animation style and use of lighting and sound effects makes this transformation sequence iconic, and one people refer to to this day.

MOTU: The Motion Picture
Dolph Lundren portrayed He-Man in the 1987 film. There was no transformation sequence due to budget restraints, thus the Prince Adam character did not appear. However, on two occasions in the film, He-Man "claims" the power. It harks back to the original, but falls a little short.

New Adventures of He-Man
New Adventures is a sequel series to the original. It sends He-Man and his nemesis Skeletor to the far future, thus the costume changes. Gary Chalk (known for playing Optimus Primal in Beast Wars, and Man-At-Arms in the 2002 He-Man) portrayed He-Man in this show. The transformation sequence seems rushed, and just doesn't carry the same weight of the original.

2002 Cartoon Snake Armor
Cam Clarke portrayed He-Man in this remake. Scaling Adam to a more logical 16 years of age, the transformation here is a major one. And though it is more dynamic and epic, the lighting seems to be more static, and the sequence just doesn't seem as captivating. Perhaps less is more...

This of course is my honest opinion. What do you think?

Smallville: Absolute Justice, is a two-hour episode written by Geoff Johns - writer of DC Comics' Green Lantern: Rebirth. The episode proves to me that there is a solid direction for the show to continue in, and how the show can be an enjoying experience, and just exciting to watch. Likely taking cues from the recent hit DC comic book film Watchmen, the episode is rich with material pulled straight from comics lore, and is also rich in dark tones as a superhero serial killer goes on the rampage. A lot of potential story arcs are set up with the introduction of the Checkmate and Suicide Squad organizations, and some revelations establish future story trails.

The tone of the Absolute Justice leaves one to ask:
What is the future of Smallville?
Will it become a show called Metropolis?
Will it spin off into a Superman film series?

I think there is a future there, but only time will tell the path...

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Transformers Stuff

According to and, Transformers is getting some fresh entertainment with a new animated series called Transformers: Prime. This new show marks a new chapter in the rather schizophrenic Transformers franchise (the changes in the franchise are MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE), as the door to the rather over-extended Revenge of the Fallen line comes to a close. Very few details have been revealed about this show, other than the fact that actor Jeffery Combs will be portraying the legendary Autobot Medic named Ratchet, and that the show will air on Hasbro's new network The Hub. The Hub is Hasbro's joint venture with Discovery Communications, and presently exists as the network Discovery Kids. The Hub will start off with a heavy focus on programming from Hasbro's extensive library of kids' entertainment. I would suspect that the success of the two Transformers movies, and the mild success of the recent G.I. Joe film has emboldened Hasbro to push further into the multimedia arena - now having a movie production wing and a television network to call its own.

We'll see...

There are only two Transformers series that I remember as having any true substance and staying power - The Beast Era (composed of 3 seasons of Beast Wars, and 2 seasons of Beast Machines) and Transformers Animated (the most recent Transformers cartoon series that had excellent character development and story, and was painfully short-lived). I hope Hasbro doesn't decide to do Transformers: Prime for a year or so, and then decide that the franchise needs to take yet another new direction.

I for one feel that the franchise is becoming far too over-saturated with new reboots, and reinventions. The core of what Transformers is is getting lost in this goopy soup of marketing/merchandising overload.

Hasbro, stick with one thing and find a creative way to keep it going for a few years, and allow your "audience" to get attached to the characters/figures for a while.