Call her the Princess of Power or the Most Powerful Woman In The Universe – odds are you recognize this blonde bombshell. Created in a joint effort between toy manufacturer Mattel and animation firm Filmation in answer to the popularity of He-Man and The Masters of The Universe and the need for a female equivalent, She-Ra went on to become an inescapable force if you were a child or a parent in the mid to late 1980s.
She-Ra was an anomaly – an action-based series for girls at a time when most animated series and toy lines aimed at girls were more traditionally feminine. The character was just as strong as her famous brother, He-Man, but no less glamorous for that fact. She-Ra’s toys proved as odd a hybrid as the character herself, combining the comb-able hair and fashion appeal of a Barbie doll with the sword-swinging action and accessories of a traditional boy’s action-figure.
Defying conventional wisdom, this anomaly proved popular. Soon She-Ra was a pop-culture icon whose toys sold an estimated $60 million in her first year of existence alone. Yet for all of the character’s popularity, there’s still so much that her fans don’t know about her.
With that in mind, here are 16 Jaw-Dropping Secrets About She-Ra You Need To Know!
16. Her skirt defied gravity by executive order
Maybe it comes of spending so much time working in a world of innocence on entertainment aimed at shaping young minds but the history of animation is rife with examples of adult humor and fan-service being snuck into children’s programming.
Presumably aware of this and how She-Ra’s costume design would draw accusations of being too revealing in any event, Executive Producer Lou Scheimer lay down the law with Animation Coordinator Dori Littell-Herrick early on during the show’s production. Scheimer decreed that under no circumstances would the cartoon depict She-Ra’s underwear, no matter how high her kicks or acrobatic her flips.
15. Her action figure’s headdress was also a mask
Versatility is a key feature of many of the fashion dolls aimed at little girls. Dresses made of reversible fabric that become a dress of a different color are commonplace and there are numerous changeable accessories that present dozens of options in dressing up your doll.
The original She-Ra action figure was designed in a similar fashion, with the Princess Adora figure donning a special headdress whenever she was transformed into She-Ra. A key detail that many missed, however, was that the headdress could be flipped upside down and worn as a different headdress with a mask!
While She-Ra was sometimes depicted wearing the mask in the mini-comics that came with each She-Ra action figure, this feature went largely unnoticed. Indeed, focus groups of girls quizzed on the mask didn’t like it, preferring the simpler tiara-style crown that She-Ra sported in the cartoon.
14. Her part in the live-action Masters of the Universe movie was cut
The 1987 Masters Of The Universe film was an incredible disappointment. Fans of the cartoons disliked how the film strayed from the source material. Film buffs lamented the movie’s production being managed by the notoriously budget-conscious Golan-Globus company. Between that and the filming being shut down due to a lack of funding at one point, it’s a miracle that the film managed to make back it’s $17.3 million dollar budget!
Few realize that the movie was originally planned to include She-Ra as well as He-Man. Indeed, artist William Stout – who has done design work on over 30 films including Pan’s Labyrinth and The Prestige – crafted a design for She-Ra (pictured above) among other pre-production sketches.
Ultimately, director Gary Goddard cut the part, deciding it would be better for the first movie in the assumed blockbuster franchise to focus on He-Man. Sadly, the sequel starring She-Ra would never emerge.
13. She was more popular with boys than girls
It’s no surprise that She-Ra was a popular figure with young girls in the 1980s. Indeed, sales on the She-Ra toys helped to boost the floundering sales of the Barbie doll line. What proved astonishing to many in the toy business was that She-Ra proved more popular with young boys.
A 1989 study by the Center for Media Literacy revealed that 70% of the boys they surveyed preferred She-Ra as a potential mother, friend, or girlfriend compared to Barbie or Mrs. Heart. Girls were more likely to prefer Mrs. Heart as a friend or mother, but still saw She-Ra as the best mentor of the three characters.
12. She was pitted against Hordak to sell He-Man toys
At the same time Mattel’s toy designers were developing Hordak and The Evil Horde – a new group of world-conquering villains for He-Man to fight – Filmation was winding-down production on the He-Man animated series, in order to begin work on the She-Ra cartoon. This worried Mattel, which knew that part of the reason for the Masters Of The Universe line’s phenomenal success had been the popularity of the He-Man cartoon.
To that end, the She-Ra animated series was reworked to establish The Evil Horde as the main antagonists, despite the She-Ra toy-line being based around the feline-themed Catra as She-Ra’s main enemy. Mattel banked on the She-Ra tie-in cartoon being able to promote the He-Man toy-line as well, despite She-Ra nominally being created to capitalize on a need within the market for girls’ toys.
11. The mini-comics that came with her toys were sexist
Like the original He-Man toys, each She-Ra action figure came bundled with a mini-comic. Like the He-Man mini-comics, the world of the She-Ra mini-comics was quite different compared to the cartoon based on the toys. That is where the similarities end, however. While the world of the He-Man mini-comics was darker than the cartoons, seemingly drawn from the works of Howard and Frazetta, the She-Ra mini-comics were a neon feminist nightmare.
Rather than defending Etheria from the armies of a space-Nazi cyborg-vampire, the mini-comic’s version of She-Ra concerned herself with thwarting the evil schemes of Catra. Said evil schemes usually involved stealing the affections of She-Ra’s love interest, the bard Bow, but Catra also plotted to destroy the garden of the flower-loving Perfuma with magical weeds. She also once kidnapped talking fish with the intent of forcing them to perform in the water-park she was opening… to impress Bow.
10. She made in-store appearances to promote her toy line
Over thirty years after her cartoon originally aired, She-Ra is still a frequently sighted character at comic conventions and Halloween parties. Costumes based on the Princess of Power are still sold to this day and many cosplayers such as Alkali Layke (pictured above) have a She-Ra cosplay in their wardrobe.
The first women to dress as She-Ra and her friends didn’t have it quite so easy. In order to promote the original She-Ra toy-line, Mattel hired actresses to play the parts of She-Ra, Glimmer, and Catra for a traveling road-show of appearances at toy stores around the country.
Janice Varney-Hamlin, former Director of Worldwide Marketing Fashion Dolls for Matte, noted with some amusement that many of the male employees at the Mattel offices just happened to stop by her office to say hello on the day the actresses were auditioning.
9. She was blamed for killing He-Man
All good things must come to an end and such was the case with He-Man‘s legendary sales. The Masters of The Universe line sold only $7 million worth of product in 1987, compared to $400 million in 1986.
Why the sudden drop-off? Dave Capper, Director of Marketing for Boys’ Toys at Mattel, put the blame firmly on She-Ra. According to an interview with Capper in the Netflix documentary series The Toys That Made Us, Mattel received comments that the boys lost interest in He-Man when their sisters started running around shouting “I have the power!” as well.
Capper seems to be alone his analysis. Janice Varney-Hamlin, former Director of Worldwide Marketing Fashion Dolls for Mattel, called Capper’s theory “the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of.” Mark Ellis, a former Mattel VP, suggested the real problem was Mattel overproducing new figures and not enough of the original line.
8. She had healing powers
It was shown repeatedly that She-Ra was every bit as strong as He-Man. Both characters performed amazing feats of strength in virtually every episode of their individual cartoons. In terms of sheer variety of superpowers, however, Princess Adora had her her twin brother beat easily.
One power which She-Ra displayed that He-Man did not was the ability to heal other people with a touch. She-Ra first displayed this power, much to He-Man’s astonishment, in The Secret Of The Sword. While trying to comfort her flying unicorn mount, Swift Wind, who had been shot by a Horde trooper, She-Ra’s hands began to glow, restoring Swift Wind to full health within seconds. She-Ra also used this power in the episode “The Unicorn King” in order to heal the injured wings of the titular unicorn king, Bright Wing.
7. She could communicate with animals telepathically
Another power that She-Ra possessed which her brother lacked was the ability to communicate telepathically with animals. She-Ra first displayed this ability in The Secret Of The Sword, when a group of enraged animals entered into The Great Rebellion’s secret base deep within The Whispering Woods. Though the rebels were rightly fearful of the enraged bear leading the pack, She-Ra sensed the animal’s noble intentions, calming the bear and explaining that the animals had come to lend their strength to the rebel’s upcoming attack on The Evil Horde.
Unfortunately, She-Ra rarely used this ability in her animated series and never as a means of offense. Presumably she didn’t want to risk hurting her animal friends. Curiously, She-Ra seemed to display this power even in her unpowered form as Princess Adora, who showed an ability for talking to animals in the episode “Jungle Fever”.
6. The character of Huntara was based on Grace Jones
One of the grandest traditions in fantasy is for a villain to pit two heroes against each other after convincing one that the other is evil. Such was the case with Huntara – a master trapper and warrior Hordak recruited to capture She-Ra. Naturally, the truth was revealed and both heroines teamed against Hordak in the end.
Looking at Huntara, it’s not hard to see her resemblance to actress/singer Grace Jones, who played the amazon Zula in Conan The Destroyer. Indeed, Larry DiTillio’s script refers to Jones when describing Huntara’s physicality and her animation model sheet describes her as having ebony skin.
So why is her skin in the cartoon violet? Fear of a strong black woman at Filmation? Quite the opposite, according to DiTillio, who said the change was due to fears that having Huntara ultimately lose a fight to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed She-Ra might be seen as racist.
5. She first appeared in The Secret Of The Sword
Originally released on March 22, 1985, The Secret of The Sword was a ground-breaking movie. While it was not uncommon for animated series to create “movies” by stringing together several episodes, The Secret of The Sword was the first such movie to have a theatrical release.
The story details Prince Adam (aka He-Man) being sent to the world of Etheria with a twin to his own Sword of Power, being told only that he must find someone who was lost. He discovers Etheria under the grip of The Evil Horde and that the woman he was sent to find is Force Captain Adora, a high-ranking Horde officer.
Adora is quickly revealed to be Adam’s twin sister, kidnapped in infancy by The Horde during a failed invasion of He-Man’s homeworld of Eternia. After a quick family reunion, Adora returns to Etheria to make amends for her crimes and liberate the planet.
4. Two sci-fi icons worked on She-Ra
If you’re a fan of comics, RPGs or science-fiction, there’s a fair chance you’re a fan of Larry DiTillio and J. Michael Straczynski’s work. You’re definitely a fan if you love She-Ra, as the two writers worked extensively on both the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons.
DiTillio wrote the majority of the series bible for She-Ra, with Straczynski helping maintain continuity between the two series. Sadly, both writers elected to leave the show after Filmation balked at their request to be officially credited as story editors for She-Ra‘s second season.
Both would go on to greater things with Babylon 5 – the science fiction series which Straczynski created and DiTillio script-edited. DiTillio is credited by many with saving the Transformers franchise with his work on Beast Wars: Transformers. Straczynski went on to write the script for the first Thor movie, co-created Sense8, and secured a BAFTA nomination for his screenplay for Changeling.
3. She-Ra is a gay icon
Much like Wonder Woman, She-Ra has a tremendous following in the LGBTQ community. Comparisons between the two are apt, with both heroines having an secret identity that transforms into a more glamorous alter-ego and both shows having a degree of camp appeal. Indeed, the song “I Have The Power” from the The Secret Of The Sword, has also become a standard at many gay weddings in the United States.
Erika Scheimer – who worked on the cartoon and came out in 2007 – voiced her theories as to why She-Ra is so popular in the gay community in a 2011 interview: “Women and gay people have to go through a lot and we know what it’s like to be labeled and told you can’t be one thing or another. I think She-Ra breaks that mold and she speaks to boys every bit as much as she does girls.”
2. Feminist fantasy author Barbara Hambly wrote an episode
Barbara Hambly is another notable science-fiction and fantasy icon who lent her pen to She-Ra. Perhaps best known for her Sun Wolf and Starhawk series, which details the adventures of a mercenary captain recruited to train a city full of women into warriors, Hambly has also written novels set in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes.
There’s no word on what Hambly was paid for her work on her one episode, “Above It All”, but we do know Mattel paid her $25,000 for the ancillary rights to Sun Wolf and Starhawk. Why? Presumably because the leader of the titular Ladies of Mandrigyn (the first Sun Wolf and Starhawk novel) was named Sheera and they wished to cut off any attempts at a rival toy-line. Never mind that Sun Wolf and Starhawk isn’t exactly aimed at children…
1. She’s returning in 2018 with a new cartoon on Netflix
Though She-Ra has made appearances as part of the revitalized Masters of The Universe Classics toy-line in 2008 and a 2012 He-Man And the Masters Of The Universe comic by DC Comics, The Princess of Power has not been given a chance to stand on her own since her animated series ended. Still, you can’t keep a good woman down: She-Ra is poised to make a comeback in 2018.
Netflix recently announced that they will be releasing a new She-Ra animated series later this year. There’s no word yet on what aspects, if any, of the original Masters of the Universe line will be used or if He-Man will be making an appearance. All we know for certain is that with Eisner-Award winner Noelle Stevenson being one of the creative talents behind the reboot, this will be one to watch for!
Did we miss any She-Ra trivia? Let us know in the comments!
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