At this time of year, it’s common to watch holiday specials to get in the spirit of the season. There are always new ones making the rounds, but it’s the old classics that are frankly the most fun to revisit. However, I’ve noticed over the years everyone tends to talk about the same geeky holiday specials and one Christmas special in particular never seems to get enough love: He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special.
Released in 1985, this special combined the two animated series She-Ra: Princess of Power and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I was too young to have watched these shows when they were on TV, but with older siblings who were fans I was exposed to whatever we had on tape, which meant regularly watching Masters of the Universe and this special every Christmas. He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special is my clearest memory of these cartoons because of our yearly rewatch, and it’s a special my siblings and I still try to watch together around the holidays if we can every year. You might be wondering … why? The special is extremely cheesy and sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense, but that’s not a huge surprise. It’s just another of those bad yet classic specials that you can't help but watch again and again. Even if you’re not a huge He-Man or She-Ra fan, you need to check it out at least once, and here’s why.
The holiday messaging
This special doesn’t let you forget that it’s more than just a fun crossover. The holiday messaging hammers it home that this is a Christmas special to be specific. Yet it never feels quite as overwhelming as in other holiday shows, which offers a nice change from what you're probably already watching for the holidays. The first reference happens in the beginning, when Queen Marlena mentions that the current birthday party preparations for twins Adam and Adora remind her of Christmas preparations on Earth. After that and the opening music, which combines both familiar music with a bit of Christmas music to give it that holiday spin, it takes a good seven minutes before we get another holiday reference.
At that point, it becomes more prominent when Orko ends up crashing on Earth and meeting two lost kids, Miguel and Alisha. They mention how they were out getting a Christmas tree, and eventually they explain to Orko what Christmas is, starting with the presents part. They tell Orko about peace and angels and tell what they see as the whole story behind Christmas—which viewers luckily don't have to sit through, as they cut away from the characters. They go through all of this before even mentioning Santa, which is rather interesting considering they’re kids. These explanations for Orko are alw,ays short and then we head back to the more action-packed storyline of Orko's friends trying to get him back.
It’s when the kids and Orko get brought to Eternia about halfway through the show that the holiday messaging increases. The kids are worried about getting home in time for Christmas, so just in case they don’t make it the Queen suggests making the twins’ birthday the next day a joint Christmas party. These kids apparently are really filled with the Christmas spirit, though, because as soon as they arrive the evil Horde Prime feels a disturbing new spirit of goodness on Eternia that can threaten him, so he orders Hordak and Skeletor to find it and crush it. This steers the rest of the special as the villains try to stop the Christmas spirit, go after the kids, and the two children repeatedly try to explain what Christmas is to Skeletor, but I’ll get to that amazing part later.
The special even introduces a short, cheesy Christmas song performed by Bow and the kids, and at the end sees the joint Christmas and birthday party in full swing with presents and an Adam dressed as Santa! The show also tries to acknowledge that there are actually other holidays during this time of year in a short after-the-show message from Adam and Orko. They unfortunately don’t mention any of the other holidays and just say the spirit of the Christmas season is in everyone. It's not exactly a successful attempt at acknowledging what everyone else is doing this time of year.
Still, I always thought it was a decently balanced holiday special compared to some others. There are fun battles, and other things happen unrelated to the holiday, so it offers just enough of both holiday aspects and the original geeky property to make it watchable again and again.
The characters are one of the best parts of He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special. Seeing the casts of both shows play a role in the story and interact with each other is a lot of fun. The heroes and their friends are brought together on Eternia for the twins’ birthday, and right away we’re treated to a scene of the various characters getting ready for the celebration. It doesn’t take long to get to the action and the meeting of heroes everyone really wants to see, though. He-Man goes to stop Skeletor and gets in some trouble, but She-Ra comes to the rescue and soon they’re fighting side by side. It’s one of many battles we see them in, and it’s exciting to see the different ways the brother and sister work together throughout the special.
Their team-ups are the most fun to watch, but there are other moments with other characters that are great too. It’s fun to spot characters like Snout Spout, Ram Man, and Glimmer getting ready for and then hanging out at the twins’ party, or watching Orko and Kowl dance during Bow’s horrible song. I also always enjoyed how the show portrays the rivalry between Skeletor and Hordak as they try to capture the children. In this special they even try to expand the lore by introducing new characters, the Monstroids and the Manchines, with She-Ra stating that the Manchines told her about the Monstroids before. I like that they let themselves get creative in a special when combining two shows already gave them access to a lot of characters that fans would recognize more easily. Plus when She-Ra and Swift Wind encounter the Monstroids, it leads to one of the best lines in the show, since the Monstroids start transforming and Swift Wind says, “They’re changing into other forms. What evil robots!” Get the message, Transformers?
The characters, old and new, from He-Man and She-Ra make this a holiday special that is really fun, even if not all the characters get their time to shine with speaking parts and the main characters are the best to see together. It’s still cool to see who you can spot and get at least a few minutes with here!
Skeletor, the Christmas spirit, and a robot puppy
Remember when I mentioned Skeletor and the kids earlier? Well, he’s the biggest reason you need to watch this special. It all starts when he finally kidnaps the kids and a Manchine puppy that the siblings just met named Relay. Hordak quickly shoots them down to stop Skeletor from reaching Horde Prime and getting a reward. Skeletor and the kids crash-land, but Skeletor plans to push ahead and demands the kids walk despite the fact that they crashed in a very snowy and cold location. The children say they can’t move, and when Skeletor demands, they ask him to be nice since it’s Christmas. Despite thinking Christmas is disgusting, he magically gives the kids coats so they’ll move. The kids suddenly think their kidnapper is quite nice, and this only gets worse when, after Skeletor demands they leave the puppy behind to freeze, Skeletor can’t ignore it and goes back to get it. A confused Skeletor decides, despite the kids offering to hold it, to keep holding the puppy, which constantly licks his face. Thus, my favorite He-Man and She-Ra friendship is born: Skeletor and Relay!
As they walk, Skeletor asks to hear more about Christmas, which leads to some of the best lines in the whole special. When the kids mention having fun, Skeletor asks if they mean everyone gets in fights, because that’s what he thinks is fun. When the kids mention presents, he asks if they explode when someone opens them. The kids dash his dreams of that, but that can’t stop the Christmas spirit from reaching the villain. Soon he’s saving the kids heroically from a snow beast and even smiling a bit! Eventually She-Ra, He-Man, and Hordak all arrive for the kids and Skeletor briefly gets knocked out. As She-Ra and He-Man are occupied, Horde Prime arrives and almost takes the kids but more licking, from Relay wakes up Skeletor, who saves the children. The kids thank and hug Skeletor, He-Man is shocked, and a confused Skeletor is reassured by She-Ra that Christmas only comes once a year, so he doesn’t have to worry about feeling good due to the Christmas spirit all the time. So, after all of that, in the end Skeletor becomes a hero by saving two kids and a robot puppy, and offers us some of the most classic Christmas special lines ever uttered on screen.
That ridiculous sentence sums up why everyone really needs to watch this special. Like all holiday classics, if you just don’t take it too seriously, embrace the weirdness, and allow yourself to be transported to the world of ‘80s cartoons, you’ll have a good time and will soon be adding this to your list of holiday specials to watch every year. No one should miss out on this glorious, terrible, cheesy, fantastic holiday special!