Finally finished the first season of He-Man. It's something like 65 episodes long! Man, no matter what you say about the show, just getting that amount of episodes out is a damn feat!
The way they managed that is interesting, by building a library of animation over time that they would reuse.
This works to the shows detriment as well as it's benefit. On the one hand, the show is seriously limited in the types of shots and camera angles it can use-- it can mainly only use shots used before, and most shots are fairly straightforward so that they can be as reusable as possible. This prevents the show from being as visually dynamic or cinematographic as other shows from the 80s, like Thundercats or Ninja Turtles. And when they run into a spot where they just have to "make do" with the animation cells that they have, sometimes it's pretty funny. On the other hand, the drawings they have are actually really good for the most part, and the animation they have is pretty generally pretty smooth. Also, there is a certain charm to the simplicity, and it gives the show a remarkable visual consistency, that other shows of the era definitely don't have. There are very few "bad" episodes based on the visuals (although there are a few), because they're all pretty much the same.
Although that unbroken consistency really makes me dream of a "Spider-Friends Season 2" type of thing, where they got other animation studios of the time to produce a few episodes-- Could you imagine the Thundercats or Voltron team doing an episode of He-Man? Man, that would have been cool!
There are a couple episodes toward the end where they got a bit overambitious about drawing new cells, and that led to some noticeably bad drawings and animation-- and you know they're bad because they never use those bits of animation again!
I'm certain that if I were to work on a project like this, that's the mistake I would make too!
The story quality remains mostly the same since the last time I wrote about this, but then you get to the last five episodes or so, and suddenly the stories are actually really good. Like, noticeably better. I wonder if there was a change in the writers lineup at that point? Or maybe after sixty episodes they finally got sick of the usual formula and inspired to make something a bit more interesting?
The first one that stood out to me was an episode where Teela and Evil-Lyn have to team up to survive crossing some kind of desert wasteland. The episode was okay, but it was interesting to see the focus shifted from He-Man to Teela for a change.
Then there was one where some cosmic collector-type guy wants to kidnap He-Man to fight in his arena, and although that's a story trope in this series that always annoys the hell out of me, it was actually cool this time because they did a lot of really clever things.
For instance, when the bad guy shows up looking for He-Man, Teela is training Adam in the palace courtyard, and she grabs his sword to fight the bad guy, and the bad guy is impressed by her fighting skills, so he captures her, along with the sword. Now Adam has to save the day on his own, without his powers, which is something the show hadn't explored before, and was one of the very few situations in the whole series where I really didn't know how things were going to go down, which is always something that makes for an exciting story.
The way they wrapped it all up-- with Adam having to prove his own worth and relying on Orko and a powerless Cringer for help-- was actually clever and played out really well.
This episode even talked about some of the normally unspoken romance between Adam and Teela, where she actually says that she's looking for a man that's as clever as Adam, but as brave as He-Man, or something like that. Which could only have prompted Adam to say "WHAT THE HELL MAKES YOU THINK WE'RE DIFFERENT PEOPLE?!?!"
It's insane. She really has no clue.
I think Adam's mom might know, though. There's a couple of things she's said in later episodes-- or perhaps more the way she said them-- that seem to imply that when she's talking to Adam, she's talking to He-Man as well. I wonder if they'll play that up some more in season 2?
Randor has no idea, for sure.
Anyway, then there was another one that was really good, where the king of a city-state that's friendly with Eternia is poaching rare animals, and Adam and Teela have to confront him diplomatically before actually putting a stop to him. This one's interesting because it's one of the few times that He-Man is essentially the aggressor, proactively making moves against an uncooperative ally, rather than just defending someone from Skeletor.
It was actually kind of complex.
The morals of the story continue to be great too. Some of the lessons, like actually listening to what other people are saying, or not losing your temper so that other people can hear what YOU'RE saying, are so relevant for today. Seriously, someone should put all those lessons online somewhere, so He-Man and Teela can lecture 21st century Americans on their behavior.
So anyway, the first season started off pretty rough and random, and actually ended up with a pretty decent show. Good job, He-Man!
Also, I'm gonna say it. Orko's great. Yeah, he started off the series PAINFULLY annoying. Like, those Orko-centric episodes at the beginning of the season were some of the hardest to watch, but at this point they've figured out how to use him, and he's pretty great. He's actually interesting, almost funny, and I'm not going to say that he's not annoying, but he's exactly the kind of annoying you want him to be.
Cringer has actually become almost interesting too, which is weird because I always thought of him as a bit of a non-entity, but the last few episodes actually make decent use of him.
The Sorceress is intrinsically interesting to me-- I really want to know more about her-- but we never do. Hopefully in season two there will be a couple Sorceress-centric episodes?
Man-At-Arms is the one character at this point that I still think needs some rehabilitation. He's just too boring. There are a couple episodes where they try to flesh him out, and go into his backstory a bit, but he always just feels like "the parent."
He needs to do something that's really impressive to make me want to see him on the screen more. At this point, his best contributions are simply inventions that He-Man uses, so it's not really Duncan's character that gets to benefit from them.
Will is still into the show, and still sometimes raises his little hand up into the air and says "He-Man!" and sometimes adds "and Orko!" So he's in the pro-Orko camp as well. And of course Battle-Cat is still his favorite.
And he LOOOOOOVES the "Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" book that Dark Horse put out a few years ago. Thanks to Timothy Seeley for that! Before bed every night he says "He-Man book. Read it! Read it!"
So anyway, that's my progress on He-Man. Now on to season two!