Masters of the Universe was a multimedia franchise that was best-known for an animated series that debuted in the early '80s and the series of action figures that it was created to promote.
He-Man and the other cast members of Masters of the Universe have long since entered the realm of kitsch and have been parodied and satirized on many occasions, due to the fact that they have come to symbolize an age of corporate shilling. The He-Man cartoon claimed to be a show about the battle between good & evil and attempted to tell stories with good morals, but the program only existed to sell cheap plastic toys and the kids who wanted them as gifts are now all aware of that fact as adults.
The cultural impact and financial success of the Master of the Universe franchise did not come for free. The numerous action figures, animated shows, and the feature film all had shady dealings going on in order to facilitate their creation and continued existence.
We are here today to look at the most controversial and obscure facts concerning the Masters of the Universe franchise. From the toy who has stunk for thirty years, to the music video that resulted in a cease & desist from Mattel.
Here are Twenty Facts About He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe!
Stinkor was one of Skeleton's allies in the Masters of the Universe toyline. The unique trait of the Stinkor toy was the fact that it had a horrible smell, which made sense, considering that Stinkor was basically a giant skunk in a suit of armor.
The method for making the Stinkor toy smell was by mixing the plastic of the figure with patchouli oil.
This meant that the oil was used in the creation of the figure, rather than being sprayed on, which is what many fans assumed was done to Stinkor to make him smell. According to toy collectors who own unboxed Stinkor action figures; the toy still stinks horribly, even though they were made in 1985. The unique way in which the plastic/oil combination was used to make the figure means that they may still stink for another hundred years.
Premium-rate telephone numbers were a big thing in the late '80s and early '90s. These were hotlines that cost a lot of money to call and were generally reserved for more adult subject matter than normal. They have fallen out of favor in recent years, due to the Internet and prominence of pre-paid mobile contracts, but are still used for things like voting on TV show and tech support.
There were certain companies who tried to market premium-rate hotlines to kids, which involved the use of popular cartoon and TV show characters. These hotlines generally charged a few dollars for the initial minute and a smaller amount for the additional minutes. He-Man and She-Ra both appeared in commercials for a Masters of the Universe hotline, which promised to tell stories set in their respective cartoon universe.
Fisto was one of He-Man's allies in the Masters of the Universe cartoon and its reboot. You might have gathered why he is named Fisto, based on his name and the picture above. Fisto has one giant hand that he uses to wail on his enemies.
He is also tired of the jokes about his giant hand, of which the first such incident in 1984.
Fisto appeared in the 2002 iteration of Masters of the Universe, yet his action figure was called Battle Fist. The reason for this was due to the fact that the name Fisto had already been trademarked, by the Star Wars people. There is a character in the Star Wars series named Kit Fisto, who is a Jedi from an aquatic species. When Mattel's trademark for Fisto expired, it was snapped up for Kit Fisto. This meant that Fisto's action figure had to be given a new name when Masters of the Universe returned.
In 1986, Mattel held a contest for kids to design the next Masters of the Universe action figure. The winner was Nathan Bitner, who designed a camera-themed hero, named Fearless Photog. This character had a head that resembled a camera lens, which possessed the power to drain the life force of those it recorded. Nathan Bitner received a $100,000 college scholarship and a five-day trip to Disneyland. The one thing he didn't receive was the promised prize of Fearless Photog being turned into an action figure.
It wasn't until 2011 that a Fearless Photog figure was made as part of the Masters of the Universe Classics 30th Anniversary series.
Nathan Bitner would go on to work on Halo: Combat Evolved and authored the Cortana Letters, which were part of the advertisement campaign for the game.
There was an attempt to revive the Masters of the Universe franchise in the early '00s, which wasn't as successful as the original version of the show. It may have been a bit too early to bring He-Man back at the point, as it hadn't quite entered the realm of nostalgia by that point. A similar fate would await the Thundercats revival that came later.
There was an even earlier attempt at bringing back Masters of the Universe in 1996, with a direct sequel to the original series that would star He-Man and Teela's adopted son.
He-Ro Son of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a show that was pitched to DiC Entertainment. The premise of the show was that He-Man and Teela had become the King and Queen of Eternia. He-Man would find a child, who was suggested to be the son of She-Ra and take him in as his son. This would coincide with the return of Skeletor, who has finally escaped imprisonment and seeks revenge against his old enemy.
The Masters of the Universe movie has sometimes been called a rip-off of Jack Kirby's Fourth World series, which introduced the concept of the New Gods to the DC universe. These characters have remained important to this day, with Darkseid being planned as the main villain of the DC Cinematic Universe, assuming it hasn't fallen apart as of the time of writing.
The director of Masters of the Universe was Gary Goddard, who has admitted that the film was directly inspired by the works of Jack Kirby. Goddard was actually a friend of Jack Kirby and tried hard to convince the studio to hire him as a conceptual artist on the film. Gary Goddard had wanted to include a tribute to Jack Kirby in the credits of Masters of the Universe, but the studio took it out without his knowledge.
Masters of the Universe and Thundercats have often been compared to each other, due to that they are best remembered for their cheesy animated shows and the popular toylines that they spawned.
DC Comics actually published a crossover series between Masters of the Universe and Thundercats. The fourth issue of the series has since become infamous, due to the fact that Mumm-Ra and Skeletor work together and manage to off He-Man.
Mumm-Ra is able to overpower Prince Adam and stabs him in the chest with his own sword. Prince Adam is able to transform into He-Man and survive the wound. Skeletor later discovers a way to force He-Man to revert back to his original form, which causes Prince Adam to return and perish.
A new Masters of the Universe movie has been in development hell for over a decade now. Hollywood always seems quick to greenlight films from famous properties, but Masters of the Universe has the problem of being compared to the previous movie that helped to end the franchise, as well as the characters/setting being expensive to realize on the big screen.
It seems that development is finally underway on a new Masters of the Universe film. David S. Goyer was tapped for the Director role, but he recently stepped down and has become an executive producer on the project. The movie will still be using the script that he wrote for the proect. The director's chair has now gone to the Nee Brothers, who had previously worked on The Last Romantic.
The original Masters of the Universe animated series and toyline ended in 1985, though the She-Ra: Princess of Power lasted for another two years. The two shows did well in syndication, which meant that Mattel wasn't so quick to let the series end.
To most casual fans; the end of Masters of the Universe came with the release of the horrible movie and the series wouldn't be revived until the early '00s.
There was another He-Man series between them which has almost totally been forgotten about, called The New Adventures of He-Man. This series involved He-Man and Skeletor being sent to the future and encountering a whole new cast of characters and becoming involved in a new war for the fate of Eternia. The series is not well regarded and has become a footnote in the history of the series.
George Lucas is responsible for some of the best and worst parts of our collective childhoods. This is even truer than you think, as he was also indirectly responsible for the creation of Masters of the Universe. The unprecedented success of the original Stars Wars movie (before it was referred to as Episode IV) meant that a bidding war was underway to buy the toy rights for the series. Mattel approached George Lucas, who asked for $750,000 for the rights. Mattel refused and decided to create their own series instead.
They tried to ape Star Wars and created a series that mixed elements of fantasy and science fiction. The main difference was that they chose to focus more on Arthurian legends and conflicts between royalty than Star Wars did.
The success of Dungeons & Dragons led to the creation of numerous other tabletop RPGs. There have been a few that were based on famous properties, with Star Wars and Star Trek receiving numerous tabletop adaptations. There was a Masters of the Universe tabletop game that was released in 1985, called The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game.
This game was developed by FASA, which is the company best-known for making the Shadowrun RPG.
The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game has been panned due to the fact that most of the rules don't make sense. There are some stats in the game which aren't explained, as they were planned to be used in an expanded advanced rules set that never got released.
DreamWorks and Netflix have had a successful working relationship over the past few years, with the former producing some amazing animated series that have been financed by the latter.
You would think that the next Masters of the Universe cartoon would be saved for the release of the upcoming film. That is not the case, as the next official entry in the series is a reboot of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Not much is known about the upcoming She-Ra reboot, save for the fact that it is being made by Noelle Stevenson, who created Nimona and Lumberjanes. The Netflix reboot of She-Ra is due to be released at some point in 2018.
Battle Cat is He-Man's trusted steed. Prince Adam has to impart some of the power of Grayskull to his cowardly cat, Cringer, in order to turn him into a mighty beast that inflicts fear into the heart of his enemies.
A life-sized statue of Battle Cat was created by some students in England, as part of the 2012 Go Safari Exhibition. This sculpture was placed in Wood Hill, Northampton.
The Battle Cat statue had to be moved, due to pictures being leaked on social media of revelers removing their clothes and taking pictures while sitting on his saddle. The statue of Battle Cat was moved to the courtyard of the Northampton Guildhall until it was finally removed when the exhibition ended.
The Masters of the Universe cartoon was popular in Germany. This led to the creation of a series of audiobooks that were released on cassette tape, that was created just for the German language territories.
It seems that Mattel didn't keep an eye on the foreign language versions of their He-Man franchise. If they did, then they wouldn't have allowed "Nacht uber Castle Grayskull" to be released. The origin of Beast Man is revealed in "Nacht uber Castle Grayskull." He was originally a brilliant scientist who had defied Skeletor in the past. Skeletor captured and hurt the scientist, before injecting him with a toxin that destroyed his mind and turned him into a ravenous monster, which is how he became Beast Man.
Masters of the Universe was so popular in the '80s that many of the names from the series entered common parlance, with Skeletor's name often being used to describe a thin person with prominent bones.
Skeletor's name has also been used for an unfinished building in Poland that has a long and tumultuous history.
The Unity Tower is an unfinished building in Krakow, Poland. Construction on the building began in 1975 but was stopped in 1985 due to problems with the economy in Poland. The unfinished state of the Unity Tower building makes it look like the skeleton of a building, which is how it earned the name Szkieletor, which is how Skeletor's name is written in the Polish language.
The Masters of the Universe film was a critical and commercial flop. This did not stop pre-production work being done on a potential sequel to the film, which led to Cannon Films spending millions of dollars on costumes and sets. Cannon Films was planning on making a sequel to Masters of the Universe and a live-action Spider-Man movie. Financial problems led to both projects being canceled, which meant that Cannon was left with a bunch of costumes and sets that they couldn't use.
In order to recoup the costs spent on costumes & sets, Cannon Films created a new movie, called Cyborg, which recycled them into a new project.
Cyborg was hated by critics but actually made a profit at the box office, to the point where it received two sequels.
Zodac (also known as Zodak) was one of the most mysterious characters in Masters of the Universe. He wasn't an ally or enemy of He-Man & Skeletor and declared himself as neutral in the conflict raging on Eternia. You would think that Zodac is such a unique name that no one would ever accidentally create another Masters of the Universe character with the exact same name, but you would be wrong.
The "Slave City!" minicomic came bundled with several different Masters of the Universe toys. The author of the comic named the villain Zodak, as he was unaware that a character named Zodac already existed. This led to the comic being changed after it went to print, with L replacing Z and R replacing K so that his name was Lodar instead.
Frank Langella is a highly-acclaimed actor, who has won four Tony Awards throughout his career. He was also nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.
Frank Langella also played Skeletor in Masters of the Universe, which is often considered to be one of the worst adaptations of all time.
You would think that Frank Langella would be embarrassed by the Skeletor role, especially when you consider how distinguished the rest of his career is. The truth is that Skeletor is the role that he loves more than any other, as it allowed him to really cut loose and play a scenery-chewing villain for the first time in his career.
Beavis and Butt-Head was considered controversial when it was first released, due to its portrayal of teenagers as being idiotic and callously violent without any sort of remorse. You might think that Beavis and Butt-Head was the first show that was crazy enough to have a character named Butt-Head, but you would be wrong. That distinction goes to The New Adventures of He-Man, as one of the villains in the show was named Butthead.
Butthead referred to the fact that he loved to perform headbutts, which is something reflected in the action figure based on the character. Butthead's head will slam forward if you press the button on his back. This was due to the fact that his neck was spring-loaded.
The Internet has helped to keep Masters of the Universe relevant, thanks to the numerous funny videos and memes that have been based on the series.
The band called CKY were honoring Masters of the Universe in their own way, with a song called "Skeletor vs. Beastman" which talked about the numerous illegal antics that the two got up to in private. A video was created for the song and released on CKY4: The Latest & Greatest.
The people at Mattel weren't so thrilled with CKY's tribute to the villains of Masters of the Universe. They sent a cease-and-desist order to the band, which meant that the later editions of the DVD had to replace the "Skeletor vs. Beastman" video with skateboarding footage.