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On the Tube: Cartoon Network brings He-Man, the Masters back for 20th anniversary

Friday, August 16, 2002

By Rob Owen Post-Gazette TV Editor

By the power of Grayskull, that '80s cartoon mainstay, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" returns today with 26 all-new episodes.

 
    TV Preview

"He-Man and the Masters of the Universe"

When: 4 p.m. today on Cartoon Network.

 
 

Created in 1983 as a marketing tool for a line of toys, the cartoon series became a hit with young viewers and spawned a spinoff ("She-Ra: Princess of Power"), a 1987 live-action movie (Dolph Lundgren played He-Man) and still more toys.

It's no coincidence that as the show nears its 20th anniversary the toy line has been reactivated. Cartoon Network will air the new series beginning at 4 p.m. today with a 90-minute premiere that tells the story of He-Man's origins for the first time. (Additional new episodes will air weekly beginning Sept. 13.)

Bill Schultz, executive producer of the new series, said the "He-Man" reruns have long been requested by Cartoon Network viewers. Instead, they opted to produce a new series.

"It's just an opportunity to remake it and give it its own integrity," Schultz said. "We wanted to apply today's production techniques. The cost of animation has not really increased over the last 10 years, but the quality has increased, and I think today's audience expects a certain level of quality."

The new "He-Man" features fight scenes reminiscent of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." But not everything is new. The scripts are all original, but some had been penned by writers for the '80s series.

"We're not writing over the head of our audience like some shows do, but the writers generally feel like they're being asked to write a more fleshed-out script. It's not dumbed down at all."

Schultz said new stories are less naive.

"They go a little bit deeper in terms of psyche," Schultz said. "Gaps have been filled in, connecting the dots as to who is this person and how does he relate to this situation and what's the motivation."

In other words, there's a greater emphasis on character development. Some episodes revolve around secondary characters such as Man-E-Faces and Mekanek. And there's a greater distinction between Prince Adam and his secret alter ego, He-Man.

"If you look at the old show, the guy looks the same, he just changes his clothes," Schultz said. "That's not much of a transformation."

In the new version, Prince Adam is 16, an irresponsible teen with some growing up to do. Teela, daughter of Man-At-Arms, has also become a stronger character, Schultz said, and what happened to her mother will be explained this time around.

Of course, re-creating a show that's a vivid memory for children who grew up in the '80s comes with its own concerns.

"There's tremendous pressure," Schultz acknowledged. "You don't want to go down in history as the guy who screwed up 'He-Man.' "

At least he doesn't have to worry about disappointing fans of He-Man's sister.

"We're not dealing with She-Ra in this series," he said. "She-Ra is going to have to wait."

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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