By The Power Of Grayskull: 15 Rad Facts About The Masters Of The Universe Franchise

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe


It’s been 35 years since Masters of the Universe landed on the big screen, kicking off Mattel’s expansion of a franchise that gave us TV shows, video games, and various lines of toys ranging from the cool to the totally bizarre (we can still smell the original Moss Man action figure just thinking about it). The sci-fi fantasy franchise has had its ups and downs, but they’re still managing to create content — from LGBTQ+ storylines in the Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power to Kevin Smith doing his Kevin Smith-thing in Masters of the Universe: Revelation.

Here, then, are a few MOTU facts and trivia about all these characters sharing a bizarre fashion sense.

Skeletor Was Inspired By An Actual Corpse

Atlas Obscura

We’ve written at length about the dumb life and even dumber death of the outlaw who wasn’t good at outlawing and whose corpse ended up as a carnival display because people are weird. It was the corpse of Elmer McCurdy that would go on to inspire that goofball Skeletor after Mattel designer Mark Taylor encountered said corpse at the Pike Amusement Park.

“I knew that was a real person. Over 60 years later, I’m watching the Discovery Channel, it turns out he was a real guy, and he was really at the Long Beach Pike! It confirmed all my suspicions!”

He-Man Was Created After Mattel Passed On Star Wars


Mattel was asked to create an action figure toy line for George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, but Mattel’s then-president Ray Wagner declined due to the costly property license that had to be paid upfront. Instead, it was decided that they would come up with their own property, and the blonde barbarian was born.

He-Man Was Inspired By Frank Frazetta’s Paintings

Frank Frazetta

Creator Roger Sweet said that he used the paintings of Frank Frazetta to submit his initial idea for He-Man. Frazetta painted the illustrations for Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian book series.

The Original He-Man Draft Was Way More Tanned


He-Man was originally going to have jet black hair and darker skin, giving him a Middle Eastern look. Mattel’s upper management decided the action figure needed to look more like Barbie’s Ken, apparently.

The Original Title Was Deemed Too Religious


Die-hard fans know that Lords of Power was going to be the franchise’s original title and that the creators ultimately decided to change it. Packaging designer Bob Nall explained: “When the product designers developed He-Man (largely designed by Mark Taylor - who worked in the same group) I had the opportunity to look at the retail face of the brand. We looked at many names before coming up with MOTU - it was almost called Lords of Power but many thought that was too religious in nature.”

He-Man Was One Of Dolph Lundgren’s Toughest Roles

Warner Bros. Pictures

The actor has said in the past that it wasn’t the funnest of times for him. Lundgren was unsure whether he should essentially play a toy to begin with, given that his career was just taking off in the ‘80s. It was also challenging playing a character with so little clothes on. 

“There wasn’t much of a costume. It was just two leather straps and some kind of mini leather diaper or something,” he said during a 2014 interview. “I remember I had to fly on this disk through Whittier, just south of L.A. And we did 58 nights in a row on this frickin’ disk. You know, I’m there in the middle of the winter with no clothes on. It was tough. But it was also hard for me because I was playing kind of a hero now, and I’d played the bad guy. And I felt a lot of pressure. You know, just as this young Swedish kid. Internally, I was a bit lost at that time. Because I’d gotten famous for Rocky IV.

It Was One Of The First Movies To Adopt The Post-Credit Scene

While the gimmick was first used in a silver screen feature film in 1966 (The Silencers), it didn’t really catch on until pre-planned franchises came along. Makes sense, since MOTU’s post-credit scene had Skeletor saying “I’ll be back.” Turns out the movie would not, in fact, get a sequel.

The Failed Sequel And A Spider-Man Movie Led To Jean-Claude Van Damme’ Cyborg Movie

The Cannon Group

The making of the first film was an absolute disaster thanks to budget cuts being made while they were still shooting the movie. And yet, Cannon Films were sure they could pull off a sequel, even when Dolph Lundgren pulled out and they had to recast him. Albert Pyun was set to direct both the sequel and a Spider-Man movie, but both films were ultimately abandoned when checks started bouncing and Cannon Films lost the Mattel and Marvel licenses. They had to come up with an alternative project fast, and Cyborg was born.

The Cartoon Was Rejected By Everyone


Everyone from Hanna-Barbera to CBS, NBC and ABC rejected it for a Saturday morning slot, so Filmnation decided to repackage it as a 65-episode season that could run during the week, proving a major success with a total of nine million viewers.

The He-Man Comic Strip Was Short-Lived But Highly Popular

Chris Weber / Mattel

A daily comic strip ran from 1986 to 1991 in newspapers all over the world. Created by Chris Weber for Mattel, it was printed in over 80 papers and was translated in many languages, proving quite popular in South America.

She-Ra Was Supposed To Be In The Masters of the Universe Movie


The production designer was commissioned to design a costume for She-Ra for the film, but it was decided to leave her out in the end because director Gary Goddard wanted to focus more on Conan Ken.

Huntara Was Based On Grace Jones

Mattel, Stuart Sevastos / Wikimedia Commons

Huntara was the warrior Hordak recruited to capture She-Ra in the ‘80s cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power. Since Jones played Zula in the 1984 Conan the Destroyer, she proved to be the perfect model for Huntara.

There’s A Spotify Playlist For Every Character In The Netflix Series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power


The creator of the show, Nate Diana Stevenson, created these playlists herself, with Adora and Glimmer being Lorde fans, and Catra being more punk.

Kevin Smith Looked To Superman To Create The New Masters of the Universe: Revelation Cartoon


Smith told EW: “We approached He-Man like you would Superman. You have one of the most powerful beings in the entire world, who can literally do anything. For storytellers, okay, what do I do with that? Where's the conflict? There's been conflict for 40 years between Skeletor and He-Man, so you start there. What happens if one of them finally gets their way? What happens if they finally died in battle? What happens if you take Superman out of Metropolis? Everyone's identity in Metropolis is predicated on Superman. Everyone in Eternia's identity is predicated on He-Man. Everybody has to grow up and change and take charge of their own lives.”

Amazon Is Working On A Live-Action She-Ra Show


DreamWorks Animation is serving as current executive producers, and Nicole Kassell of Watchmen, The Leftovers, and Westworld is set to direct.

Thumbnail: Mattel

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