When He-Man first hit television screens in 1983, it took the cartoon world by storm. First and foremost, it was the first cartoon series directed at children that had a collection of toys, the He-Man action figures to accompany it. Generally, advertising directed at children was heavily censored so that the makers of the He-Man action figures, Mattel, used the cartoon to promote the brand was considered innovative at the time.
Also it was the first cartoon that had a certain amount of violence. Up until that point, cartoons typically fitted the Tom & Jerry slapstick mould but He-Man had a cast of characters and stayed true to its comic book origins. To get around the strict censorship concerning violence in children’s cartoons, most of the episodes ended with a ‘moral of the story’ or ‘life lesson’ to justify the story lines.
It was also the first cartoon to be produced for syndication, which meant that for the first series a bulk of 65 episodes were made, which meant the show could be broadcast across thirteen weeks which allowed it to build its fan base and establish the brand. This series was hugely popular and before long every child in the UK and the USA wanted their own collection of He-Man action figures.
It is also thought that the series was one of the cheaper cartoons to produce when in fact it was the most expensive animation production of its time. However, the cast of voices that were used were kept to a minimum, so for example a woman named Linda Gary provided all the voices for all the female characters.
The production company that Mattel used for the first series was Filmation and when they decided to convert the story into a cartoon, they decided to expand the storyline to make way for a new range of He-Man action figures.
The story begins in Eternia where Prince Adam / He-Man lives with his parents, King Randor and Queen Marlena. Prince Adam is considered by all who know him as lazy, clumsy and generally useless. However, the prince has a secret power which the Sorceress of Grayskull who lives in Castle Grayskulls endows upon him.
When he lifts his magic sword, with the words, “By the power of Grayskull! I have the power!” the prince is transformed into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. The story line of the fist series is concerned with protecting Eternia from the evil Skeletor who is determined to steal the power of Castle Grayskull.
When Mattel wanted to extend the range of He-Man action figures, they looked to He-Man’s sister, Adora who was kidnapped at birth and raised by the evil Hordak. She also has special powers and transforms into She-Ra.
After She-Ra, the creators of He-Man looked to the past for inspiration. So the next series of He-Man is based in Preternia, which is ancient Eternia. This series explains the origins of He-Man, how he got his special powers and was also the inspiration for a whole new range of He-Man action figures.