If you were just the right age when it first aired, you know what a pulse-pounding moment it was: He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe, found himself trapped within the bowels of the terrifying Fright Zone as a machine rapidly drained his willpower. The muscular hero seemed certain to meet his maker … that is, until a leggy blonde entered the scene. With a stirring battle cry, she raised a sword over her head and commanded the “Honor of Grayskull” to transform into She-Ra and free her long-lost twin brother in the knick of time.
Children’s animation just doesn’t get more memorable than that.
Though 30 years have passed since her big debut, time has done little to tarnish the appeal of the aforementioned Princess of Power. She-Ra remains one of television’s few animated heroines with a brand as cherished as that of her male counterpart – a distinction that continues to fill voice actress and casting director Erika Scheimer with pride, as she prepares to celebrate She-Ra‘s 30th anniversary alongside her fellow collaborators at LA’s Egyptian Theatre this Saturday.
“It’s definitely going to be a sweet ride down the nostalgia highway,” Scheimer, daughter of executive producer Lou Scheimer, said of her upcoming reunion with voice actors Melendy Britt (Adora/She-Ra) and Alan Oppenheimer (Skeletor), writers Larry DiTillio and Marc Scott Zicree, and animator Tom Sito. The group will be getting together nearly two years after Lou’s death at the age of 84.
“I’m sure I’ll be kind of teary-eyed,” Scheimer said of going through the experience without her late father, whose creative spirit built the studio that brought them all together. “He was passionate about the shows, he was passionate about the artists he employed and he was passionate about the youngsters he served, and he instilled that passion in all of us.”
Mattel approached Scheimer, Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott’s Filmation studio about animating a commercial for their upcoming Conan The Barbarian-themed toyline and Scheimer agreed, only to then sell them on the idea of a full animated series.
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As the popularity of the Masters of the Universe brand generated record-breaking profits for Mattel, Scheimer pushed forward with his idea for a spin-off series with a female lead. “Dad grew up in a household of strong women,” Erika explained. “His wife, my mom, was an unbelievably strong woman. My Dad felt passionately about trying to get some good strong female figures on television for kids – for girls and boys – and he was nothing but thwarted when he sold to the regular networks.”
As it turned out, the concept of a strong female character proved equally perplexing to toy manufacturers, who opted to give the figures rooted hair, combs and various “Fantastic Fashions” to wear. Seeking to give his new heroine as many opportunities to kick butt and save the day as her brother, Lou Scheimer made a deliberate point of not pairing her up with a love interest. Though Mattel’s Princess of Power toyline positioned archer Bow as the “special friend” whose “heart beats for She-Ra,” the staff at Filmation purposefully kept their interactions platonic.
“It would have undermined what my Dad really felt was important, which wasn’t to put her out and immediately say, ‘Oh, by the way, she’s the love interest of the other strong guy in the show.’ She-Ra stood on her own and was her own dynamic strong character.” With the integration of rogue pirate Sea Hawk, however, the series gradually set the stage for a potential romance. “Of course, you know somewhere down the road there’s gotta be a little love interest. She is a passionate woman after all,” Scheimer added.
She-Ra’s identity, of course, could very well change as the superhero, like a host of other ‘80s icons, is reinterpreted for a new generation. Though she has yet to return to the small screen, DC Comics features her in their new He-Man comic series with a greater emphasis placed on the character’s time under the spell of the Evil Horde. Scheimer sees such developments as part of a larger trend when it comes to updating childhood heroes.
“They bring back these properties and they just ramp up the violence, they ramp up the gore, they ramp up that aspect of things and that’s all we’re left with,” she said. “I really hope that they’re mindful to keep her humanity, her heart and her witty edge intact.” Recalling their own mantra of “action, not violence,” Scheimer maintains that Filmation’s heroine drew her strength from her compassion and optimistic outlook instead of her trademarked “fabulous secret powers.”
As Mattel continues with the successful Masters of the Universe Classics toyline – which now features a series of Filmation-inspired figures – and hardcore He-Man/She-Ra fans buy tickets for next year’s Power Con in Los Angeles, it seems likely that the blonde bombshell with the heart of gold will continue to be a presence for years to come. Rights to the Filmation library are currently with DreamWorks, which Scheimer points out “is certainly a studio that could afford to do something dynamic and wonderful with the property. I’ve heard little rumblings that they may. They’re crazy if they don’t.”