Do you have the power? Ahead of the release of the fantastic documentary The Power of Grayskull on DVD and Digital September 3, we spoke to co-director Robert McCallum about his obsession with He-Man and what he thinks about the Masters of the Universe comeback that is on the horizon.
When was He-Man created, sir?
That depends on who you ask. Mark Taylor had the seeds of He-Man in the 60s; the toy was designed in the late 70s, and then came out in the early 80s. All in all, a lot of people were involved that put parts of themselves and their own adventures into what became He-Man.
Do you know the motivation? Was it in response to the very successful line of Star Wars toys at the time?
I think Star Wars really shook things up for the industry. There was money to be made and what other options could people create? Hasbro had G.I. Joe and Mattel decided to try He-Man after some research and market studies.
And how long after did they do the TV series?
I believe it was a year or so, depending on the part of the world where you grew up. There wasn’t a huge gap but long enough that more waves of toys hit the shelf.
We’ll learn about it in the documentary, but just how successful was the series? I imagine some networks would kill for an animated hit like that, today!?
It was huge and really groundbreaking in that it started in “reruns.” Basically the deal worked in a way that a new episode would be on five days a week. It was unheard of before he-man, but it happens frequently now.
Tell us how the creators of He-Man reacted when you approached them about wanting to do a documentary on the brand?
Everyone was accommodating and gracious with their time. They all had interesting stories and indulged our fan shenanigans which would arise from time to time. These folks were some of my heroes after all.
Are there any stories they refused to tell on the doc?
No, nothing was off limits. And even though a lot of people were talking about events 30-50 years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of misremembering things.
Were you hearing most of these stories, and being educated about the brand, for the first time then?
It was more of an education from the industry side of things. The process to create a toy line or a cartoon series. The people, their roles and how it all worked together – that was all new and very interesting.
I’m especially intrigued in how the feature film came about. At one stage, it was going to be something much bigger, I believe – with Sylvester Stallone playing He-Man?
I’m not sure on the original designs or approach but it was something in the works for a while. Cannon Films was producing and their finances were dwindling everyday through the 80s, I guess. Mattel needed it to help revive brand interest so it was a “now or never” situation. There’s some great stuff in that flick.
Is Dolph Lundgren fond of the film?
Yep, absolutely. Especially all these years later when it’s been fully embraced as a cult classic. It was a big role for him and I think he did well.
Let’s talk about the upcoming movie. Have you got your finger on the pulse as far as its concerned?
I’ve been following as much as I can. There has been talk about this for a long time now…
Have you read any scripts for the film? Anything you can tell us?
I read the script by Justin Marks which was written back in 2006, I think. It was very Batman Begins-like. Adam didn’t become He-Man until near the end. It included a lot of characters and was written really well. The best moments, though, were between Cringer, the green and yellow-striped tiger and Adam. He handled the animal/human relationships extraordinarily well and so it’s no surprise he ended up as the writer for the live-action version of Disney’s The Jungle Book.
I do wonder, as do many others I imagine, how faithful the new adaptation will be to the original series?
I hope it doesn’t feel the need to be too faithful. It’s a hard balance that meshes Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and has a main character with the silly sounding name of He-Man, which isn’t exactly very “me too” friendly. They just need the essence of the show, the agency, the memorable characters with an easy to understand conflict.
What do you think of the young actor they’ve cast as He-Man?
I don’t know much about him to be honest but I think he seems to have great personality and some decent acting chops which can only help things.