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I picked up The New Adventures of He-Man: Vol. 1 on a lark, just got the first disc to see what kind of transition the animations studio came up with to move He-Man from a weird little fantasy universe to a futuristic one. The answer is the worst transition conceivable. Everything about this cartoon is cheap, dull and sad. The animation is bad, the character designs are bad and it combines the worst elements of the original cartoons with the worst elements you could rip off from Thundercats and Voltron.

He-Man and Skeletor get basically picked up from their own world and transported to a new one by visitors from the future. Given how they look, sound and act virtually nothing like the original characters, though, there was no good reason not to just start fresh with them already living there. He-Man gets 90s-ed up with his new ponytail, trading in his furry shorts for blue tights and a lack of understanding of human anatomy. His new sword has an impossible-to-grip pommel, so it just sits on top of his fist. All he lacked was pouches, a big gun and crosshatching and to be perfectly representative of the era.

But worse than the new look is what they kept. He-Man’s alter ego, Prince Adam, kept that a secret to protect his friends and family from attack. Here on New Whatever, he has no friends or family but he chooses a secret identity again for no good reason. I suppose the transformation is a large part of the characters’ identity but even that was toned down for this show. There isn’t even a Grayskull from which to draw the POOOOOWWWWAAAA. Another thing toned down, and one of the only good things about He-Man, is the smack talk he throws out while besting goons. The only thing I ever really liked about the character was how he would beat up Beast-Man and Mer-Man while basically laughing at them and telling them how easy it was. That’s the epitome of awesome, as would later be proved by the Rock.

In an instance of things they not only kept but in fact made worse, the palace has four bumbling sort of technological wizards on staff, creating gizmos in their bumbling manner. If there’s anything worse than Orko, it’s FOUR ORKOS. These characters get worse every time they waste screen time, too. Right now you’re probably thinking, At least they didn’t add a little kid character. Wishful thinking, because they did just that, too. Yes, in this update they added extra comic relief and a fucking kid.

The other new characters are a combination of being grossly dull while also looking like shit. Say what you will about Stratos or Tri-Klops but you could pick them out of a lineup. The two nimrods who pick He-Man up from Eternia are clearly “Flying Guy” and “Water Guy,” who look like they were drawn directly from their shitty action figure packaging. W.G. even wears a glass dome helmet. ON LAND. All the time. The cartoon was produced by “ParaFrance,“ and if you’ve ever see an episode of the inexplicably bizarre Highlander cartoon series you’ve seen a sample of the true shittiness of French-produced cartoon series.

Their nemeses, the Mutants, mostly look and act like they never made the callback for crew on Prince Lotor’s ship. A guy that couldn’t even make a single Ro-Beast that didn’t get the utter shit kicked out of it after hundreds of attempts would still have seen this crew as D-grade. They are taken over by the subtle machinations of Skeletor with relative ease, and his previous experience at subtlety was to lay out every step of his plan for everyone to hear in a five mile radius at the top of his shrieking voice. Now I really need to talk about that happened to Skeletor.

The very worst part of this abomination is how Skeletor changed. Gone is the yellowed skull-for-a-face with the empty eye sockets. In its place is some sort of metallic, skeletal mask and fucking eyeballs, and big goony ones at that. So, right away he looks nothing like the original character. His cackling voice is also done in as he now has a monotonous, dreary voice, in which he applies understated attempts at manipulating the other characters. Which sounds on paper like an admiral attempt at writing a good character, until you remember the fact that the best thing about Skeletor was his constant shouting, insulting his henchman and threatening everyone in sight all the time. He never whispered when he could scream, never used a nail when driving in a railroad spike was an overblown option. In other words, he was hilarious. His revamped character is just sort of sleazy and creepy, insinuating himself where he doesn’t really belong, and acting like the evil Mutants’ controlling boyfriend.

So, now I understand how this cartoon came to be so reviled among fans of the original, itself hardly a masterpiece of craft. But it had style and memorable characters which made an impact on impressionable youth. This garbage just slides past the eye, leaving an ugly stain at best. 1 star

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