A rigorous romp through three soundtrack albums from the Filmation/Mattel phenomena that spawned three TV series, two feature films and vast toy aisles.
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: THE SECRET OF THE SWORD
Original Soundtrack Recording
Kid Stuff Records DAR-3900 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo) DAT-4900 (Cassette)
Released in 1985. Narrator: Peter Fernandez. Producers: Lou Scheimer, Arthur Nadel. Co-Producer: John Braden. Writers: Larry DeTillio, Bob Forward. Music: Shuki Levy, Haim Saban, Erika Lane (Scheimer). Conductors: Haim Saban, Shuki Levy. Running Time: 37 minutes.
Song: “I Have the Power” by Erica Lane, Haim Saban, Shuki Levy.
Soundtrack Dialogue Voices: John Erwin (He-Man/Prince Adam, Beast Man); Melendy Britt (She-Ra/Princess Adora, Catra, Hunga); Alan Oppenheimer (Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, Cringer/Battle Cat, Bald Rebel, Chef Alan); Linda Gary (Teela, Queen Marlena, Sorceress, Shadow Weaver, Glimmer, Madame Razz); George DiCenzo (Bow, Hordak); Erika Scheimer (Queen Angella. Imp, Vocalist); Lou Scheimer (King Randor, Swift Wind, Kowl, Manenna, Broom, Sprag, Sprocker, Gary the Innkeeper, Bard, Messenger, Horde Computer); Noam Kaniel (Vocalist).
In the 1960’s, a hue and cry went up when certain groups became peeved that network children’s TV shows were being used to sell things to kids. The biggest offenders seemed to be the shows with characters that started as toys. This controversy brought the curtain down on shows like ABC’s Hot Wheels and also prevented cartoon characters from appearing in commercials during their shows.Meanwhile, daytime TV syndication was taking hold as sitcom reruns, classic cartoons and a few made-for-daytime programs took hold. Two decades later, before cable had made cartoons a 24-hour offering, syndication still offered advertisers a sizable youth segment. Syndication was not subject to the same content pressures as networks, so Filmation and Mattel (who had also developed Hot Wheels) combined forces to create He-Man and Masters of the Universe.
Mattel brought an ability to play-test with groups of children to make each character meet their specifications. Filmation drew upon the proven talents of their artists and writers to make the show as appealing as possible. It was a calculated business scheme, but not without sincere intentions among those creatives assigned to make both the products and cartoons as good as possible given the time, money and creative parameters. That observation is borne out of the bonus features on the DVD collections, in which the writers explain their thought processes behind each and every episode. From their standpoint, telling a good story was the goal and merchandise was not their issue.
Whatever the intentions, there were no assurances that producing 65 half-hour episodes at a rapid clip and rolling thousands of toys off assembly lines was going to work. But it did succeed, beyond anyone’s expectations. A second season was produced, followed by this feature film, which was actually a combination of five episodes created as separate shows.
The Secret of the Sword was a pilot film, released to theaters to drum up excitement for She-Ra, Princess of Power. The film—and the episodes—introduced new characters, a second universe of storylines, and widened the marketing segment for toys.If any of this inspires a scoff or two, it might be worth noting that the shows feature some highly accomplished voice actors. No one was more surprised than John Erwin when Lou Scheimer asked him to play the lead, after years of supporting Filmation characters like Reggie Mantle on the various Archie series (he was also the voice of Morris the Cat in the Nine Lives Cat Food commercials). For the dual characters of Prince Adam and He-Man, Erwin employs a vocal shift much as Bud Collyer did for Clark Kent/Superman—plus Erwin had already served Filmation well with his skills in voicing multiple roles.
Equally versatile was Linda Gary, whose earliest work includes narration and voices for numerous Disney records and albums (along with her husband, Chuck Howerton and daughter Dana). Rounding things off were more veteran actors like Alan Oppenheimer, George DiCenzo, Scheimer himself and his daughter Erika. As She-Ra, Melendy Britt had already played Batgirl for Filmation and was their vocal approximation of Jane Webb, who had been the ‘go-to” actor for Betty, Veronica, Sabrina, Ginger, Mary Ann and others. (Another great voice actor, Sam Edwards, told me that Webb had moved to the southwest. Sam was Jane’s brother-in-law. Webb used her maiden and married names for the credits on Filmation’s New Adventures of Gilligan.)
Two TV revivals of Masters of the Universe and a live-action feature film tried to duplicate the breakout success of Filmation’s bonanza, but even Filmation could never make the lightning strike twice. However, the door flew open to a new age of first-run animated daytime TV shows—from Disney, Spielberg and others–with more fluid animation and creative levels that are still impressive.
Kid Stuff released a full line of He-Man and She-Ra story and song albums and read-alongs, but this record is the only one with soundtrack voices. Another plus is the narration of Peter “Speed Racer” Fernandez, whose presence suggests that the production work for the album may have been done in New York instead of Florida.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“I Have the Power” Stereo Version
This song was played over the closing credits of the feature, but it is only heard in stereo on this Kid Stuff album.
HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
La-La Land Records LLC-1347 (CD / Stereo)
Currently available on amazon.com. [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VS9IPAO?keywords=he-man%20cd&qid=1452560117&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1]
Released in 2015. Reissue Album Producers: Neil S. Bulk, John Takis. Executive Producers: MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys. Associate Producer: Dan Goldwasser. Digital Music: Shuki Levy, Haim Saban, Erika Lane (Scheimer). Conductors: Haim Saban, Shuki Levy. Liner Notes: John Takis. Transfers: Johnny Dee Davis. Mastering: Stephen Marsh, Fernando Lee. Production Assistance: Frank K. DeWald, Mike Joffe. Art Director: Dan Goldwasser. Running Time: 131 minutes.
The Album: “He-Man (Main Theme),” “Teela’s Theme,” “Orko’s Theme,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Facing the Castle,” “Royal Family,” “Run, Orko, Run!” “The Castle,” “Meditation,” “Orko’s Time Machine,” “Magic Planet.”
Music from the Television Series: “He-Man at Home,” “Orko Meets Wolf,” “He-Man Trapped,” “Prince Adam and Teela,” “Strangers in the Castle,” “Evil-Lyn,” “Battle in the Sky,” “Queen of the Planet Phantos,” “Evil-Lyn Chase,” “The Sorceress,” “Brave Teela,” “Trouble in Grayskull,” “Snake Mountain,” “Darkness Falls,” “Attack Truck,” “Dragon Invasion,” “Dragon’s Eggs,” “Stone Statue,” “Skeletor’s Spaceship,” “Farewell,” “Beast Man and Skulls,” “Magical Orko,” “Greatest Show on Eternia,” “Circus Parade,” “Beast Man,” “Desolation,” “See You Again,” “Attack Truck Fight,” “Memories,” “Violent Attack (He-Man),” “Memory Loss,” “Goodbye (Teela),” Meteor Attack,” “Journey Back in Time,” “Book-Man,” “Tar Swamp,” “Changes,” “Bad Attack,” “Flash Chase,” “Goodbye (Orko),” “Save the Day,” “He-Man Theme (Full Version),” “Story Title (Heroic),” “Story Title (Mysterious),” “From Bad to Worse,” “Adam and Orko,” “Magical Dragon,” “The Game Machine,” “Electronic Game,” “Villain Plays the Game,” “Swordfight,” “Octopus Windbag,” “Video Game Sting,” “Video Battle,” “Aliens Attack,” “Suspenseful Act-Out,” “Good Vibes (He-Man),” “Fanfare,” “Story Title (Main Theme),” “Opening A (Main Theme),” “Opening B,” “Catch the Lightning,” “Happy Times,” “The Unknown Planet,” “Journey to the Unknown Planet,” “He-Man in Space,” “Good Guys,” “Lute Piece,” “Singing Crystal (Remix),” “The Pyramid,” “He-Man in the Country,” “Marching Guy,” “Look for Orko,” “Joining Forces,” “Quite Interlude,” “A Surprise,” “Danger’s Coming,” “Bad Guys Attack,” “A Near Miss,” “End Sting,” “Suspense Sting,” “Getting Close,” “The Fight,” “The Munchkins,” “Teela Saves the Day.”
Bonus Tracks: “He-Man (Main Theme)” (No Vocal), “Book-Man” (Alternate Ending), “Bad Attack” (Alternate Ending), “Flash Chase” (Alternate Ending), “Dragon’s Eggs” (Alternate Ending), “Circus Parade” (Alternate Ending), “Beast Man and Skulls” (Alternate Ending), “Meditation” (Mono), “Teela’s Theme” (Mono), “Run, Orko, Run” (Mono), “Facing the Castle” (Mono), “Royal Family” (Mono), “Orko’s Time Machine” (Mono), “He-Man” (Main Theme in Spanish – Sung by Memo Aguirre).
For fans of Filmation or television animation in general, to have a collection of soundtrack music cues and themes can be considered quite a wonderful thing. Haim Saban and Shuki Levy wrote the music (with Scheimer’s daughter Erika), after creating similar scores for Inspector Gadget and other DIC shows, and before Saban started his own company. Before He-Man, Filmation’s main composer was Ray Ellis (who arranged many a hit for such singers as Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett)—and it sure would be great to see some of Ellis’ cues get equally grand CD treatment, including liner notes as informative as the ones in this album, written by John Takis.
The music recalls the Filmation audio style, just as the series visually sustains the Filmation house “look” (right down to Madame Razz’s broom, which looks just like the Talking Signpost in Filmation’s seminal feature, Journey Back to Oz).
Watching the shows one after another, the music cues are repeated so often that it makes one believe there are only a small handful, but as this album proves, there are many of them (though some are played more frequently than others, to be sure). Some of the cues make for pleasant listening on their own, especially the mellower ones.
The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 30th Anniversary DVD Box Set, which contains all the Filmation shows, a selection from the second series and the complete third series as well as a generous supply of special features, there is a bonus single audio disc with the stereo background music also included on this new two-disc release. The theme songs on this album are in mono, while they seem to be stereo on the earlier disc. However, the two-channel effect may just be a very effective simulation.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Masters of the Universe – Alternate Theme”
This is the stereo-sounding version from the CD that was packed in the 30th Anniversary DVD Box Set. It has no vocals, so the music is allowed to be heard more fully.