For the Honor of Grayskull
In 2008 Mattel gave fans of He-Man and She-Ra a new reason to rejoice when the toy company teamed up with the Four Horsemen Design Studios to launch Masters of the Universe Classics—a new action figure line sold exclusively through their collector website Mattycollector.com
Aimed at the adult market, this line of beautifully sculpted action figures combines the look of the original toy lines from the 1980s with their animated incarnations to create new collectables that are both familiar and fresh.
While He-Man and She-Ra enjoyed a shared universe in their classic cartoons, the original toy lines based on the popular characters had little in common with one another—much to the disappointment of fans. However, Masters of the Universe Classics (MOTUC) integrates the worlds of He-Man and She-Ra into one unified toy line for the first time and has already served up several products that fans have demanded for more than 25 years.
Since MOTUC debuted over three years ago, only a small number of characters from She-Ra's universe of Etheria have actually received action figures, but Mattel has announced several of the Princess of Power's friends and foes will arrive in plastic form over the next few months. In fact, both her flying unicorn, Swiftwind, and a new version of She-Ra, (based on a variation from the classic toy series), will be available for purchase from Mattycollector.com on November 15.
With She-Ra’s increased visibility in MOTUC, Gay.net thought it would be a perfect time to chat with Mattel about this incredible line of collectables. Scott Neitlich, Brand Manager for Masters of the Universe, took time to answer some questions about the history of MOTUC, the creative process behind the toy line, and his casting choices for a live action He-Man and She-Ra film.
Gay.net: How did the concept for Masters of the Universe Classics evolve?
Scott Neitlich: MOTUC started from two creative directions. In early 2007 I was helping to start up the Mattycollector.com business and pitched an adult collector scale Masters of the Universe (MOTU) line as part of the new online collector store.
At the same time, very serendipitously, the Four Horsemen brought an unrequested prototype of a new vision for MOTU (which became Classics) to the 2007 Comic-Con International: San Diego. We put it in our showcase and the fans loved it. That gave us the green light and we immediately started work on the line.
MOTUC began as a series of three 3-packs that would pair a hero and villain from MOTU together. At the last minute we made the choice to break them into single monthly figures and the line grew from there.
What prompted Mattel to use outside toy designers like the Four Horsemen Design Studios to create this line?
We had already been working with the Four Horsemen for a few years on both the 2002 MOTU line and our DC Universe 6” line. The original idea for an online MOTU series was to continue the 2002 line. Once the Horsemen presented their reimagined MOTUC He-Man figure we jumped at the chance to use this as the prototype for an entirely new line that became Classics. The Horsemen are lifelong MOTU fans and aside from their amazing talents, that fact makes them ideal partners to work with.
Is a partnership like this rare for a big toy company like Mattel?
It isn’t 100% common, but it is not rare, either. We sometimes use outside vendors for our lines to get additional creative perspective for our lines.
In the 1980s, Masters of the Universe was an action figure line that targeted boys while Princess of Power (POP) was a line of dolls aimed at girls. Are there challenges that come with incorporating characters from She-Ra into the MOTUC?
When we started MOTUC, one of the main goals was to create one unified line and look for all characters. When we tackled the POP characters in particular, special attention was made to reimagine the characters as if they were modern updates to a hypothetical vintage MOTU figure. Since the vintage POP line was indeed a doll line aimed at girls, we took the approach that all the characters “could have” been boys’ action figure toys in the vintage MOTU line. We tried to look at them more as action figures and not dolls and take a modern approach in articulation and detail. This is why you don’t see rooted hair or soft good dresses on the POP figures in Classics.
What is the most exciting part of working on MOTUC?
For me personally it is about the little influences I can have on the line. But, of course, one of the coolest parts is helping to create the master character roll-out schedule. We wanted to ensure that each year had a robust selection of characters—and we didn’t want to burn through key characters too quickly—which is why we laid out MOTU for a long term road map of releases for many years ahead. Getting to be a key part of this planning stage was a huge thrill.
Which character from POP would you most like to see made into a MOTUC figure?
Personally, I’d love to get to Castaspella. She was one of the dolls my sister had as a kid and I used to “steal” her for my MOTU play. I particularly look forward to getting to her since I have many memories of playing with her as a child. (Adora was another one, but we did her already. She was years overdue for a figure!)
She-Ra and He-Man have become huge gay icons over the years. Is that something you’re aware of at Mattel?
Absolutely. It is great to see that both He-Man and She-Ra can act as such powerful avatars and role models for diversity in which all ages and lifestyles can embrace.
As an adult, can you see why characters like these might have spoken differently to young gay kids?
Totally. My answer is with a bit of an outside perspective—being a straight male— but when you are dealing with an empowered cast of characters possessing strength, courage and determination, I can see how these characters would speak to young gay children in a positive way!
If you could cast a live-action movie today, which actors would you choose to play He-Man and She-Ra?
Honestly, I would leave that to the talented folks in casting. But one thing I would love to see is Dolph Lundgren [who played He-Man in the 1987 film Masters of the Universe] as King Randor [He-Man's father]! How cool would that be?