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Back in the '80s, a whole bunch of Gen Xers oriented their little kid lives around watching the animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Hunched over an afternoon snack those Gen Xers watched the drama-filled life of Prince Adam — who was secretly He-Man — like it was a candy-colored soap for kids, just with a much cooler tiger for a pet.
Yes, we know now that it was essentially a half-hour-long toy commercial, but it wove itself into the imaginations and memories of a whole generation of kids who ran around screaming, “I have the POWER!” in playgrounds around the world.
Which is why there was equal parts trepidation and cautious optimism when it was announced Kevin Smith would be showrunning Netflix’s new animated continuation of the ‘80s series, Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Would it be some crazy re-imagination? Would it poke fun at the old series (which, come on, deserves it a little), and mock which many hold dear? It was the first thing SYFY WIRE asked Smith when we got on a Zoom with him recently. How do you write to our times while also being careful not to alienate nostalgia-loving fans?
“I never felt like we were gonna piss people off,” Smith says candidly about continuing the canon of the original show. “We always said, this is for those people. We're not trying to win new converts, although we think other converts will come typically as parents watch the show with their kids. And even if you don't know anything about He-Man this is a wicked-ass cartoon series. But if you know the world of He-Man, we were engineering this for you to make sure that you didn't leave this experience going, "That ain't my show! They ruined it! They dropped the ball!"
Taking place right after the last original episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the new series updates the animation style (a lot) but keeps the very same character dynamics and Eternia mythology in place. Prince Adam is still secretly He-Man (Chris Wood), and he works closely with Teela (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Man-At-Arms (Liam Cunningham) and the purple mage Orko (Griffin Newman). Together, they protect the realm from Skeletor (Mark Hamill) and his minions like Evil-Lyn (Lena Headey).
Smith says when Mattel Television’s EP/VP of Content, Rob David, and Netflix’s Ted Biaselli brought him on to Revelation, his only marching orders were not to make fun of the old show and characters and to give this new series real stakes. “These were Ted’s words: 'Treat him like Shakespeare,'" Smith recalls. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I couldn't have been given better marching orders. I can't write Shakespeare, but I can write Fake-speare!’ You know what I'm saying, and put it in the mouths of these cartoon characters, so they sound quality, important. I love that my parameters were, like, 'don't reinvent this, just make a spiritual sequel.'"
Smith and his writers have taken those marching orders to heart. The first episode of the series, he promises, will make it very clear that the news series respects the original — and that the stakes are indeed higher.
“For the first 10 minutes of the show, it plays like an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, just better drawing," Smith teases. "And then at the 10-minute mark, we switch. Everybody's still the same, but they have to deal with the fallout of something dire happening for the first time. We tee off from there.”
Part 1 (five episodes) of Masters of the Universe: Revelation will premiere on Friday, July 23, 2021