Filmation Studios (September 9, 1985 – November 28, 1987), BCI (November 7, 2006), 6 disc set, 688 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original fullscreen ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Not Rated, Retail: $49.98
Adora, formerly a Force Captain for the evil Horde, fights for freedom and liberty in the mystical land of Etheria. With the magical Sword of Protection, she invokes the power of Castle Greyskull and becomes She-Ra, Princess of Power! Together with her band of rebels and her flying unicorn Swift Wind, she battles against the Horde led by the evil Hordak and his minions.
The Sweatbox Review:
After the success of He-Man And The Masters of the Universe, Mattel and Filmation were looking into getting together again for a new cartoon series. Their latest idea was to make a female version of He-Man that would appeal to young girls in the same way He-Man appealed to young boys. All the parties agreed and the plan was set in motion. She-Ra: Princess Of Power made its debut on September 9, 1985. There had been a feature-length film released earlier that year called The Secret Of The Sword which explained the origins of She-Ra and her relationship to He-Man (more on that in the next paragraph). The movie made over $7 million at the box-office (modest, but impressive at the time) and began the new phenomenon. In the fall, the popular series made its debut with the movie spread out over five episodes. The show would last for two seasons, ending nearly two years after its debut. Nearly 20 years after it went off the air, She-Ra continues to be one of the most popular and memorable cartoons to come out of the 80s.
The Secret Of The Sword (the first five episodes of the series) begins with Adam, back on Eternia, going on a mission for the Sorceress on another world called Etheria. He is sent to find someone who is meant to hold the Sword of Protection, similar to his own Sword of Power. In Etheria, he finds a world under the oppressive regime of the Horde, a group of alien invaders who settled on the planet decades before. The native people are afraid, but there is a small rebellion beginning to take shape in the Whispering Woods. Eventually, Adam comes face to face with one of the leaders of the Horde, Force Captain Adora, a spirited and committed soldier who is convinced she is doing the right thing for her planet. Adam eventually realizes that Adora is the person he is looking for, but he is captured before he can fully convince her that she is working for the wrong side. Eventually, Adora comes around and faces the facts about the Horde. When she lifts the Sword of Protection up in the air and invokes the grace of Greyskull, she is transformed into She-Ra, the Princess of Power. Adam and Adora later learn that they are in fact twins separated in their youth when the Horde attempted to invade Eternia. After a brief family reunion, Adora returns to Etheria where she is determined to lead the fight against the Horde in the rebellion.
She-Ra is a powerful heroine, unrivaled by any other female character in the He-Man universe. She is smart, strong, swift, and sexy. In truth, She-Ra is like a mix between Wonder Woman and Supergirl, except she can’t fly and doesn’t have a magic lasso. She does however have a magic sword that can turn into anything she wants and can also emit a beam of energy on command. Adora/She-Ra counts on many people to help her in the rebellion. Aside from Adam/He-Man who occasionally makes an appearance, she is also aided by Bow, an archer, Princess Glimmer of Brightmoon, who can manipulate light, Madame Razz, an absent-minded magician (similar to Orko), Broom, Madame Razz´s flying broom, Kowl, a wise owl-bird mix, Castaspella, the sorceress Queen of Mystacor, and her horse Spirit, who turns into Swift Wind, a flying unicorn. Adora even has a love interest in Sea Hawk, a dashing pirate, who occasionally helps her on her fight against the Horde. It is interesting to note that while both She-Ra and He-Man have swords, they never actually use it to fight against a villain. Most of the battles usually end up with the villains being flung far away or being captured by a rope or chain.
She-Ra’s nemesis on Etheria is Hordak, something of a mix between a vampire and a robot. He is a mechanical being that can turn any part of his body into some sort of weapon or rocket. Hordak is the stereotypical villain who likes to tell his victims what he plans to do with them before actually doing it, giving them ample time to get away. However, he is not the only villain on the show. Like Skeletor’s Masters of the Universe, he has a large group of villains that help him keep Etheria under his control. His main partner is Shadow Weaver, a powerful, dark sorceress. He is also aided by Catra, a woman who can turn into a cat, Mantenna, a four-legged creature that can emit energy beams from his eyes, Grizzlor, a hairy beast, Leech, an amphibian-like creature that sucks the energy from his victims, and Scorpia, who is a woman of half-human and half-scorpion parts. What is interesting about the villains on this show, and what differentiates them from He-Man, is the fact that Adora was once a part of their group. Sure, she was under a spell, but they don’t all necessarily know that or particularly care. All of them knew her closely and are angry at her for leaving them to fight in the rebellion. One interesting side note about the Horde is that Skeletor was also a member of the Horde that was left behind on Eternia after the attack on the planet failed. He has since become an enemy of Hordak.
She-Ra is a good show. It is not the best thing to come out of the 80s (that would be Duck Tales), but probably one of the best series to come out of Filmation. He-Man was a strong character with an exciting action-adventure cartoon. However, the plot was rather simple and not very complex. The complexity in She-Ra is much more interesting and it tackles some important issues. While in He-Man, the plot usually centered on the battle of good versus evil, She-Ra dealt with issues such as oppression, freedom of speech, liberty, and justice. Even the main characters were much more complex. Adam was a lazy playboy who waited for Skeletor to do something bad so he could stop him as He-Man. Adora, as She-Ra, is much more proactive. She seeks out to find situations where she can be of service in the rebellion against the Horde. Being a former member of the Horde, Adora is also a more complex character because she is fighting to redeem herself at the same time as she is fighting for the liberty and freedom of Etheria. There is even a complexity in the nature of the universes. On He-Man, technology and magic worked hand-in-hand in the battle between good and evil. On Etheria, the people are nature-focused and only rely on magic to help them, while the Horde relies on technology and science (although they also use some dark magic). It is an eco-friendly message, even if it is not the focus of the show.
In most of the episodes of the show, the Horde is repressing a group of individuals in a village, town, or kingdom. The rebellion usually comes to their help facing some setbacks along the way. Ultimately, She-Ra usually ends up saving the day, although there are some episodes where she is rescued by one of her friends. One of my favorite characters in the series is Sea Hawk, a dashing pirate who first meets Adora when she tries to convince him to use his skills for good and help the rebellion. Sea Hawk is one of those Hans Solo-like characters heroines usually grow fond of. Sea Hawk is also one of the characters that ultimately has to save She-Ra in one of her adventures. Many episodes also include a visit from characters from the original He-Man cartoon such as Adam or Skeletor. These make for some of the best episodes because it is always cool to watch He-Man interact with She-Ra. They are equally powerful and they are best when fighting together. Some of my favorite episodes with both of them fighting together include “King Miro’s Journey”, “He Ain’t Heavy”, “Gateway to Trouble”, and “The Price of Freedom.” Other great episodes include “Return of the Sea Hawk” (great action-adventure story), “The Stone in the Sword” (where we learn about the crystal on She-Ra’s sword), “The Crystal Castle” (an origin story for some mysteries), and “A Loss for Words” (one of the more interesting episodes that deals with freedom – in this case freedom of speech).
Is This Thing Loaded?
Like all BCI releases, this one boasts a good number of special features. There is a documentary, two episode commentaries, an animated storyboard, two collectible cards, 50 detailed profiles, fun facts and trivia, plus many DVD-ROM features.
The highlight of the release is the documentary about the show called The Stories Of She-Ra: Part 1. In this documentary, we are treated to interviews from many of the original writers, directors, and artists from the show talking about their experiences making She-Ra. We get to hear from Tom Sito, storyboard artist and director, Larry DiTillio, staff writer, J. Michael Straczynski, staff writer, Francis Moss, writer, Tom Tataranowicz, director, and Michael Swanigan, storyboard artist. In their interviews, they discuss their initial thoughts about writing a female character for a female audience, the fantasy elements of She-Ra, the technology-magic split on Etheria, their favorite characters (Sea Hawk and Red Knight are big favorites), political themes in the show, their favorite Skeletor & Hordak moments, and the importance of the Crystal Castle. Overall, it is a neat documentary that really does a good job at letting us see the creative process behind the show. I am already looking forward to parts 2 and 3 in future She-Ra volumes.
Another highlight on this DVD set are the two commentary tracks included for the episodes “The Sea Hawk” and “King Miro’s Journey.” “The Sea Hawk” includes commentaries by Larry DiTillio, staff writer, and Rick Gehr (story editor). They provide interesting commentary on the behind the scenes process of animating a TV show in the early 80s. They talk extensively about reusing animation and on the origins of the Sea Hawk character. “King Miro’s Journey” features commentaries by Michael Swanigan, storyboard artists, and J. Michael Straczynski, writer and co-creator of She-Ra. They discuss the opening sequence, the comic relief, the uselessness of the Twiggets, and the inner workings of Filmation. Both commentary tracks are hosted by Andy Mangelis who does a great job at keeping the discussion going. It was interesting to understand that Filmation’s use of stock footage and repeat animation sequences actually was a contributing factor of keeping the show in the United States. Another interesting highlight I got from the tracks was the fact that they had brought in consultants before they designed the show to find out how they should design a show for girls. The consultants suggested that they refrain from hitting or kicking anyone and to resort to ballerina-like moves for She-Ra. Just think…it would have been such a different show!
Some of the other special features are pretty basic. The coolest of these is a storyboard comparison feature for the episode “Into Etheria” where we can watch the show in three different ways. We can watch with the storyboard in the main screen and the animated cartoon in the corner, the cartoon in the main screen with the storyboard in the corner, or a side-by-side shot of both. There are character profiles for Adora, Arrow, Bow, Broom, Castaspella, Catra, Dylamug, Frit, Glimmer, Hordak, Imp, Kowl, Light Hope, Lohni, Madame Razz, Mortella, Prince Jol, Prince Zed, Queen Angella, Red Knight, Scorpia, Sea Hawk, Shadow Weaver, She-Ra, Sorrowful, Spirit, Sprag, Sprocker, Spunk, and Swift Wind. There is also a profile for artifacts and groups such as the Eldritch Book of Spells, Elves, Glowing Book, Horde Troopers, Great Clock, Rebels, Moon Mirror, Trolls, Sword of Protection, and the Twiggets. Finally, there are descriptions for locations and technology including ones for Beast Island, Command Crawler, Crystal Castle, Doom Balloon, Fright Zone, Glonda, Spikeheart, Horde Transport, Whispering Woods, and Solar Sailor. Many descriptions also offer clips.
Other special features are an image gallery with about 50 character sketches from the show. “Loo-Kee’s Vault” requires a special code sequence to unlock it. Once unlocked, you will be treated to a clip about the voice behind Loo-Kee. The “More Ink and Paint” section includes trailers for He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, The New Adventures of He-Man, Flash Gordon, Ghostbusters, Journey Back to Oz, Groovie Goolies, Bravestarr, Blackstar, Happily Ever After, Hero High, Space Sentinels, Mission Magic! , and A Snow White Christmas.
There are some great DVD-ROM features that can be accessed using your DVD-ROM drive. This includes the Series Bible, an extensive guide for writers when writing episodes, a Coloring Book, episode scripts, and a Secret of the Sword comic book.
This show is being released with a similar packaging used on the previous He-Man sets, with a 6 disc digipack foldout. Each disc features different character images for their disc arts making a very colorful package. Inside the case we also get two collectible 4” by 6” She-Ra: Princess Of Power art cards by comic artists Dave Johnson (of Batman and Justice League comics) and Humberto Ramos (from Spider-Man and Wolverine). There is also a great episode and disc guide and a couple of advertisements for online games and BCI products. Overall, a great set!
Ink And Paint:
One of the things I have loved about these BCI releases is that they are so clean! I was wowed by the quality of the prints on the He-Man set and She-Ra does not disappoint. The cell art is very clean with only a couple of shots in some episodes with noticeable dust spots. Credit is also due to Filmation who kept their library in good shape, probably due to the need they had to reuse old stock footage.
This release comes with English and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. I am glad that BCI remembered to add a Spanish track because that was one noticeable thing missing from the Best Of He-Man set I reviewed. There are, however, no subtitles available which I think should be their next step. I enjoyed the score with its eclectic mix of sci fi and goofy music. It’s very catchy. I cannot say the same about the voice actors. My one problem with this and with other Filmation shows is the lack of quality in the voice actors. I give them props for their hard work, but not all voices are great. On She-Ra, I particularly get irritated by Glimmer and Mantenna’s voices. Something about them just doesn’t match their physique, in my opinion.
When I was a kid, it was clear. He-Man was for boys while She-Ra was for girls. The popular He-Man spin-off was Filmation’s attempt to cater and sell more toys to the younger girls market. Still, I think that many boys secretly watched and enjoyed She-Ra, even if they would never admit it at the time. Twenty years later, things have changed and the boys have grown up. In fact, I think that more men will purchase this release than women. They will enjoy it too. BCI continues to produce great DVD sets for their fans. Building on their success with He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, they have managed to produce an exciting and complete collector’s set with some great special features.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?