With Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Kevin Smith and Netflix are returning to one of the most iconic pop culture franchises of the '80s in an upcoming sequel series. With a strong dose of '80s nostalgia, the new animated series will pick up where the old show left off in a move that will surely delight old school He-Man fans.
However, that approach is diametrically opposed to what's made the current She-Ra and the Princesses of Power so popular. As a reboot of the original He-Man's sister series, the new She-Ra is rebuilt from the ground up to reach a much wider audience than just those familiar with the original series. Now, CBR is taking a closer look at what has made Princesses of Power so successful, and why Netflix's He-Man series seems to be going in a different direction.
She-Ra: Stronger Together
First, the animation style of Princesses of Power is somewhat similar to the "CalArts" animation style that's been popularized by shows like Steve Universe. This decidedly soft art style is a sharp contrast to the original She-Ra, whose animation fit right in with both He-Man and other action cartoons of its day.
On top of that, while it shares a similar cast with its progenitor, many characters are changed for the sake of inclusivity. For instance, the character of Bow, who was Caucasian in the original, is now black and was raised by a same-sex couple. The series also develops key characters, such as Hordak and Catra, who were as two-dimensional as many '80s cartoon characters in the original series.
This deeper development of formerly one note characters, and alterations to them that reflect a more diverse society, have earned the series heaps of praise an awards. Much of this development for the central mythology can be attributed to the series using the original series as a mere framework, as opposed to slavishly trying to recreate something that already exists.
I Had the Power!
Though most well-known for its original '80s incarnation, the He-Man franchise has had a few different incarnations, as well. First, there was the '90s series The New Adventures of He-Man, which was a continuation of the original series. Despite that, it was radically different from what preceded it. The original He-Man was known for its combination of science fiction and fantasy. The sequel, on the other hand, verged much further into science fiction. This made it seem like the franchise was trying to thematically keep up with newer franchises like Thundercats and Silverhawks. It also didn't help that, aside of Skeletor and He-Man himself, none of the other original characters made an appearance.
The 2002 reboot of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe hued far closer to the original series, taking advantage of this to expand upon the original premise. This saw several side characters get developed far beyond their original incarnations. The show's format also gave the feel of an epic saga, again evolving past the simplistic, episodic style of the '80s show. Despite all that, the Emmy nominated show was eventually cancelled after two seasons on Cartoon Network.
Remastering the Universe
While the 2002 He-Man series premiered in the relatively early days of '80s nostalgia, that sentiment is now stronger than ever before. Franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers have definitely benefited from it, and it's even fueled Netflix hits like Stranger Things.
Unlike many of its contemporary franchises, He-Man is still very much defined by the original series. Thus, any new take on the franchise will very much be held up against the first version, and even the slightest changes could possibly rub fans the wrong way. Fans will want to know that the people behind the scenes actually respect the source material, lest the result be something akin to that of the much-maligned Thundercats Roar!
Though this approach would seem insular compared to the obviously Princesses of Power, it can also afford to be that way because of it. Princesses of Power, by virtue of being a more inclusive, universal series, allows the new He-Man to instead focus on the franchise's hardcore fans. It also has the potential to both draw in fans of Princesses of Power, and attract viewers looking for a deeper, more traditional take on the Eternia they already know and love.
Streaming now on Netflix, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power stars Aimee Carrero, Karen Fukuhara, AJ Michalka, Marcus Scribner, Reshma Shetty, Lorraine Toussaint, Keston John, Lauren Ash, Christine Woods, Genesis Rodriguez, Jordan Fisher, Vella Lovell, Merit Leighton, Sandra Oh and Krystal Joy Brown.