Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) John Erwin, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gary, Lou Scheimer
Written by: Robby London, Paul Dini, Barney Cohen, Beth Bornstein, J. Michael Straczynski, Robert Lamb, Joseph Botsford, Bob Forward, Leslie Wilson (various episodes)
Directed by: Lou Zukor, Marsh Lamore, Gwen Wetzler, Steve Clark, Bob Arkwright, Lou Kachivas, Tom Tataranowicz (various episodes)
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 215
Date: 10/21/1983

The Best of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

From Here to Eternia

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I was never much of a fan of this 1980s cartoon series, which was literally based on a line of toys (and not the other way around), though I admit I owned a couple of the comic books. When this new two-disc box set arrived, I expected that I would look at a few minutes, cringe at its horrific ineptitude and move on. But I found myself sucked in and I watched every episode.

How can I explain this?

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is a very simple and almost charmingly naïve sci-fi concept (swords and castles and battle-cats), despite the marketing machine behind it. It's a safe bet that the animators, hired to do this particular show with these particular characters, ironically found themselves with a certain amount of freedom to do some interesting things. And so, saddled with cheap 1980s time-saving animation, they turned their attention to the stories. Like dime novels or drive-in movies, the episodes came out reeking of a weird personality.

The setup brings us to the alternate world of Eternia. Prince Adam (voiced by John Erwin) is the lazy son of the local king and queen, but like Clark Kent, he uses his personality to hide his secret identity as He-Man, savior of the universe. He-Man has his good-natured sidekicks, just as Eternia's resident bad guy, Skeletor (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), has his evil ones. Certain episodes in this box set focus on different characters, such as Teela (voiced by Linda Gary), the warrior girl who doesn't know the identity of her real mother, or in the case of an episode like "Evilseed," He-Man and Skeletor must team up to fight a greater evil.

The other reason the new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe box set works so well is that, instead of the usual "Season One" lineup, this one contains the ten best episodes chosen by fans on the internet. Ten episodes, running about 22 minutes apiece, won't put anyone out. Plus the fans have included some seriously detailed "fun facts" about each episode, and, on a DVD-Rom drive, viewers can access the original teleplays for the top two episodes. In addition, two half-hour making-of featurettes interview the writers and directors behind the top ten.

Of course, the show has its cheesy fun, too. Each time Prince Adam changes into He-Man, the creators drag out the exact same footage where he pulls out his sword and yells "I have the power!!!" So we have to watch this over and over again, once at the beginning of the show, and at least once more during the show. And every time a scene changes, the show cuts to a black cutaway of the title card, plus a chorus of deep-voiced singers chanting "He-MAN!"

I'm not sure who else will enjoy He-Man as much as I did. Certainly today's younger viewers are used to much higher-quality and faster-paced animation, but Gen Xers looking for a bit of nostalgia might check it out. Definitely DVD producers should take a look; I'd much prefer other TV shows and cartoons in this "ten best" format than in an unwieldy season-by-season basis.

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