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1987 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
February 27, 1987, Friday, Final Edition
    

SECTION: STYLE; PAGE C1
HEADLINE: He-Mania, The Heroes' Welcome: The Cartoons Come Alive on the 'Masters Of the Universe' Tour
BYLINE: Victoria Dawson, Washington Post Staff Writer
If Richard Wagner had been born in 1913 instead of 1813, he would have spent his twilight years in Hawthorne, Calif., working for Mattel.
The company's licensing department would have rented rights to his Nibelungen, Valkyries, Giants and Norns and the country's children would be looking at the Ring Cycle through View-Masters, wearing Wotan Underoos, and reading about the incestuous love between Siegmunde and Sieglinde in a Golden Book.
There would have been no need for Mattel to invent the Masters of the Universe, He-Man, She-Ra, Eternia, Etheria, Skeletor, Hordak, Clamp Champ, Snout Spout, Rokkon and Grizzlor.
Valhalla would have been a pink plastic carrying case and Wotan, Fricka, Freia and Loge would have been "fully articulated" dolls with "look-around" eyes and "glow-in-the-dark" fashion accessories.
And, of course, there would have been no "He-Man, She-Ra and the Masters of the Universe Power Tour" booked into the Patriot Center through Sunday.
But Wagner is dead; the Ring saga remains in the opera house; and children are filling the Patriot Center instead of the Kennedy Center, waving their jaundice-colored Power Swords, bearing bouquets of blinking styrofoam stars, singing the Eternia National Anthem and leaping from their seats at intermission to eat blue cotton candy and duel unsparingly with any other sword-bearing tyke.
The two-year nationwide Power Tour, ($ 10.50 and $ 11.50 per ticket) began in January in Memphis, and just completed a sold-out run at the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall in New York. Sixteen shows could not quench the He-hunger of New York's youngsters and three performances had to be added.
"Hello, Fairfax, my name is Songster," said the glittering crooner who narrates the Power Tour show. He wears silver high-heel boots and a purple cape. He plays a blinking guitar that looks like something broken off a marquee in Times Square.
"Are you ready to hear the legends of Eternia?"
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!
For those who need work on their Hordaks, their He-Men and their Skeletors, the story sort of goes like this:
Once upon a time there was an earthling named Marlena who went cruising in a rocket that crashed on a planet called Eternia so she married Eternia's King Randor and they had a son called Adam in a castle called Grayskull that was guarded by a Sorceress who flies around disguised as a falcon and defends goodness and tells the baby prince Adam his destiny and gives him a Power Sword that makes him He-Man the most powerful man in the universe whose arch enemy is a former student of Hordak and the dead leader of the Masters of Evil and only the Smurfy-looking Orko and Man-at-Arms know the secret ...
It's really complicated. Ask a kid.
What you need to know is that somewhere in this epic swirl, He-Man/Adam's baby sister Adora is stolen by Hordak. Brother and sister meet up in a battle and just before Adam is about to commit sororicide against Adora the Sorceress appears and tells them of their relationship and He-man splits his Power Sword and gives one half to Adora who becomes She-Ra and this way they each get a syndicated television show.
As for the He/She-rans in the audience, they are primed.
Their childhood has been inundated with Masters of the Universe products since the first He-Man doll came off the assembly line in 1982: dishes, watches, pajamas, luggage sets, vitamins, toothbrushes, bathing suits, belts, backpacks, slippers, cake decorations, kites, comic books, Halloween costumes, sleeping bags, cake pans, raincoats and even wind socks.
And on their night out, they want the lasers. The lights. The smoke-filled auditorium. The roller derby showdown between the forces of Good and Evil. They want a circus of giant puppets -- Talliwallis, Jooglers and Zebrites. The two large-screen TVs that flank the stage, providing that in-the-rec-room feeling for otherwise disoriented children.
They are ready for He-Man and She-Ra.
Five-year-old Donald Bruce is a He-Man addict. According to his mother Gina Bruce, Donald owns at least 45 Masters of the Universe figures. Thursday night, as he stood chewing on the handle of his Power Sword, he listed a few of the characters: "Cringer and Panther and Scare Glow and Snake Man and ..."
Barry Alperstein, 3, was ready. "Hee haa ... Heeee haaaa ..." he growled as he thrashed his just-purchased Power Sword in a garbage can in the Patriot Center lobby. Asked to identify himself, he dug his Power Sword into his father's side and commanded: "TELL!"
"He's Skeletor," his father replied obediently.
Ameika, Tiffany and Cristal Clark (8, 7, and 5, respectively) were so ready that the whole of Section 7 heard them. As Songster introduced the famous intergalactic characters (Man-at-Arms, Teela, Rio Blast, Snout Mouth, Orko ...) the pitch and volume of their screams would have shamed a Bruce Springsteen fan.
And then, there they were. Silvery. Blond. He, rippling with real Nautilus muscles. She, full of small-waisted, long-legged Spa Lady beauty.
The Clark girls' screeches were blood-chilling. "HE-MAN! Don't do it! Don't!" they screamed when the hero was about to lose his Power Sword. "She-Ra, hi! Hi! She-Ra! Hey, She-Ra!"
Real life was never this vivid.
Mattel calls He-Man a "male action figure." He is 5 1/2 inches tall, "fully articulated" with "spring-loaded arms" and a twisting waist.
She-Ra, it would stand to reason, is a "female action figure." But, Mattel says she's a "fashion-action doll," born in 1985 to a product "line" called "Princess of Power." She has her own special "adventure" clothes. He-Man doesn't. "Basically, what we did was to combine the action theme of power action toys with the fashion element to create an entirely new doll category," says Mattel's Cathy Thorpe.
Some people -- just a few -- aren't buying the whole Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power package. Robert Joy, owner of the Red Balloon toy store in Georgetown, puts them in the "merciless marketing" category and doesn't sell them. What "Chrysler commercials with beautiful blond girls" are to adults, Joy says, He-Man and She-Ra are to kids. "The only way that it touches my life," he says, "is that my 8-year-old [daughter] seems to want to watch the show on television."




1987 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
March 15, 1987, Sunday, Bulldog Edition
    


SECTION: Part 1; Page 2; Column 3; Advance Desk
HEADLINE: MATTEL TRIES TO STAGE A REVIVAL: FLOUNDERING HE-MAN BROUGHT TO LIFE AND TOLD TO HIT THE ROAD
BYLINE: By TAMARA JONES, Associated Press
DATELINE: NEW YORK
He-Man was in a pickle. He'd spent all morning saving Radio City Music Hall from the forces of evil, relying on a blunt sword and baby-oiled biceps to massacre the Snakemen, humiliate Beastman and even clinch the interplanetary roller derby.
He-Man was tired and He-Man was hungry, and now the unthinkable was happening.
Some snooty Manhattan restaurant was refusing him service. No jacket, no lunch. And borrowing a jacket from the house is out of the question when you wear size 54.
"How embarrassing," said He-Man, Master of the Universe, as he slunk away.
Fear not, boys and girls. It will take more than a snub to stop this superhero in his 245-pound tracks.
For the uninformed, He-Man is the most powerful man in the universe, leading the Masters of Good from Castle Grayskull on the planet Eternia. The Masters of Evil answer to Skeletor and hang out on Etheria.
Since Mattel Inc. introduced the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line of toys in 1982, sales have topped $2 billion for the toys and myriad spin-off products, including cake pans, toothpaste caps and underwear.
The official Masters magazine boasts 750,000 readers.
There is no official fan club, but the plastic hunk's appeal was so great at one point that he even edged out Barbie in the popularity polls.
Half-hour He-Man cartoons are beamed to between 3 million and 6 million viewers five days a week on 101 television stations nationwide, and He-Man has conquered the airwaves in 48 other countries.
His trademark cry of "I have the power!" can be heard in Zulu, Swahili, Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Turkish.
It would seem that all was dandy in the Universe.
But the big numbers belie an inevitable truth: He-Man is in trouble, facing a fate even worse than the Evil Hordes' dreaded slime pit.
The fad is dying.
So an amazing rescue attempt is afoot, a mission unparalleled in cartoondom:
They have brought He-Man to life and told him to take his show on the road, in four semi-trailers and two buses. To Memphis, to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Mobile, with a cast and crew of almost 50 and a portable Castle Grayskull.
The $3-million live-action show is an entertainment enigma: people imitating cartoon characters imitating toys. Evolution in reverse.
"I have the power!" He-Man bellows in city after city before throngs of loyal children who salute him with $5 plastic swords. "Pint-sized groupies," sneers Skeletor, who loses the war but gets the best lines.
Jack Wadsworth, a 33-year-old Teamster from Alaska, seemed custom-crafted for the role of He-Man.
He has a 49-inch chest, 20-inch arms and 28-inch thighs -- a redwood tree in search of a dinner jacket. Although blond and bronzed with a raspy voice that suggests even his vocal chords do bench presses, Wadsworth is humble.
"I think we were chosen for the parts because of our sword-fighting ability," he explains over a plateful of meat.
"We" includes his wife, Leslie, 25, who plays She-Ra on the tour.
The couple met when playing Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja in a show on the Universal Studios Tour in California a few years ago. Universal offered to pick up the wedding tab if they would exchange vows on the set. The wedding album shows bride and bridegroom in the set's dungeon with barbarians looking on.
Now, they don skimpy costumes, duel with villains and lip-synch their lines to the taped voices of cartoon characters. They will be doing it for at least 60 weeks and possibly two years.
"People ask us if we don't feel kind of silly," Jack volunteers. "And the answer is yeah, we feel real silly at times."
The traveling salvation show has been well-received, selling 106,078 tickets and grossing $1.2 million at Radio City alone. Souvenirs fetched $352,311 in the two-week run.
The 90-minute show, co-sponsored by Mattel Toys, Pace Concerts, MTM Presentations Ltd. and Front Row Theatre, features acrobats, a black light circus, a roller derby, simulated explosions and more than 100 costumes, including a few electronic ones.
Although the live tour, a summer movie and new toys in the line may guarantee He-Man one last, lucrative spin around the galaxy, the Universe may already be beyond saving.
Mattel's quarterly report last September largely blamed the faltering Masters of the Universe for a $127.3-million drop in domestic sales over the preceding nine months.
At least 30 stations have dropped the cartoon, and there are no plans to add to the library of 130 He-Man shows, which Group W Productions made for $250,000 per episode.
"I'm sure they thought they had another Barbie in the making," said Paul Valentine, a toy industry analyst with Standard & Poor's Corp.
Instead, battery-operated water pistols, laser guns and a "more robust" GI Joe now top the toy heap, Valentine said, and the industry's Top 20 list no longer includes Masters of the Universe.
Joseph F. Morrison Jr., Mattel's executive vice president of marketing, concedes that the toys "may not be around that much longer."
"Sales have been slowing down, but the appeal of the character isn't," he added, pointing to the success of the road show and high hopes for the Masters movie.
However, the decline of the billion-dollar beefcake did not discourage Mattel from adding seven figures to the Masters line this year, including He-Man's prehistoric relatives. The toys range from about $5 for He-Man to $80 for Mt. Eternia.
He-Man and his twin, She-Ra, the Princess of Power, have been scrutinized, analyzed, criticized and idolized. Child psychologists, college students, market analysts, fundamentalists and parents have all taken their best shots.
It took a design group two years and 17 research studies to come up with Masters of the Universe; the cartoons quickly followed.
The show has drawn heavy criticism from groups such as the Massachusetts-based Action for Children's Television, which complains that it is nothing but a "program-length commercial."
"If we were to do Macbeth on TV and it stimulated the buying of books, would this issue be raised?" asks Gordon Berry, a UCLA psychologist who served as an early consultant for the He-Man cartoon.
Positive Thinking
The underlying theme of Masters of the Universe is one of positive thinking. He-Man is Dale Carnegie in a leather loincloth. There is always a moral at the end of his adventure. "You can be whatever you want to be," children are told. "You have the power."
Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski recalled the time that the writers received a letter from the parents of a 6-year-old boy who had recently been blinded. The child would perk up only while listening to He-Man.
The scriptwriters sent a personalized episode to the boy, with He-Man telling him never to give up hope.
Lydia Rogers, a Staten Island, N. Y., fan, brought her son and nephews to the live show.
"It's like Superman," she said. "Everybody likes it. It's Good versus Evil."
Sometimes the good is calculated. As the first act ends, Skeletor is threatening to wipe out the Masters of Good and the whole audience as well.
Oath Requires Sword
The good guys exhort the youngsters to help save the world by taking the Oath of Grayskull, which requires holding up a replica of He-Man's trusty sword.
"Good thinking," She-Ra exclaims. "With their powerswords, they'll be able to help us keep Skeletor's army from ruining the show."
Those without a sword are invited to raise their hands.
The audience rises for the Eternian national anthem. At Radio City, a grown man was seen placing a hand reverently over his heart, mouthing the words.
They take the oath, shamelessly cribbed from the Boy Scouts, swearing to be loyal, brave and honest. And, of course, "protect my country from Skeletor's wrath."
En masse, the children scream, "I have the power!"




1987 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
April 10, 1987, Friday, Orange County Edition
    


SECTION: Calendar; Part 6; Page 27; Column 1; Entertainment Desk
HEADLINE: 'MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE' WILL ZOOM INTO ANAHEIM
"The Masters of the Universe Power Tour," a fantasy-adventure spectacle based on the Mattel toy characters, will be presented April 21-26 at the Anaheim Convention Center and April 28-May 3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Featuring He-Man, his sister She-Ra and assorted warriors and wizards from the faraway planets Eternia and Etheria, the "high-tech extravaganza" is described as offering clashing armies, dazzling magical feats and even a roller derby, in addition to troupes of acrobats and dancers.
Times for the Anaheim and Los Angeles shows are 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $10.50 and $9 and are available at Ticketron outlets and at the facilities' box offices.
The $3-million production also offers an 80-by-110-foot traveling stage complete with velodrome, plus a battery of 600 lights and two 30-by-30-foot video screens.
The 60-city, two-year tour began Jan. 13 in Memphis and has already included an engagement at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. The show will play May 5-10 at the San Francisco Cow Palace and May 14-17 at the San Diego Sports Arena.
The show's director-choreographer is Anthony Christopher, who has worked on live theme-park attractions for Disney and the Six Flags chain. He staged the "Adventures of Conan" show for the Universal Studios Tour.
Christopher is also co-founder of Landmark Entertainment Group, which developed "The Masters of the Universe." The touring show's presenters are Pace Management, MTM Presentations Ltd. and the Front Row Theatre.
"The Masters of the Universe" characters were originated in 1982 by Mattel Toys. The characters, which include Orko, King Randor, Teela and the ultra-evil Hordak, have gained additional popularity through a syndicated television cartoon series and numerous comic strip magazines.
Playing the super heroes He-Man and She-Ra are Jack and Leslie Wadsworth, a married couple who met while performing as Conan and Red Sonja in the "Conan" show at the Universal Studios Tour.





Los Angeles Times
April 23, 1987, Thursday, Home Edition    

SECTION: Calendar; Part 6; Page 3; Column 1; Entertainment Desk
HEADLINE: KID BEAT: AN INTERGALACTIC EXTRAVAGANZA OPENS IN ANAHEIM
BYLINE: By LYNNE HEFFLEY
It's a gas. It's a multimillion-dollar, high-tech, computerized theatrical extravaganza.
"The Masters of the Universe Power Tour," a glitzy combo of sizzling special effects and non-stop action, opened Tuesday night at the Anaheim Convention Center, following much television and radio hoopla, and Mayor Bradley's proclamation of April 28 as "Masters of the Universe Day" in Los Angeles.
Featuring that Saturday morning television intergalactic duo He-Man and She-Ra, and a host of superheroes and bad guys, the lavish spectacle seemed to boggle the minds of the thousands of tots attending, judging from their loud cheers and eager applause.
Parents' minds also may have been boggled in the lobby, where $6 programs, $5 plastic "power-swords" and other merchandise rapidly flattened many wallets.
Mattel's $2-billion Masters of the Universe toy line has been transformed into a live galactic gold mine. Produced by PACE Management Corp., MTM Presentations Ltd. (a sister company of MTM Enterprises Inc.) and Ohio's Front Row Theatre, the show, currently on a 60-week national tour, is apparently making millions. For example, its 11-day engagement at New York's Radio City Music Hall in February grossed $1.2 million in ticket sales and $350,000 in sales of merchandise.
So, what do you get for your $9 or $10.50 ticket? If you're not stuck high up in a hard-to-see-from side section of the arena, as was this reviewer, where you sort of feel like an orphan outside a candy store, you get plenty: A prerecorded sound track, two huge video screens, ramps, platforms and an enormous stage, a Power Race on roller skates, fireworks, swordplay and a black-light Intergalactic Circus.
You also get characters like Man-at-Arms (Zack Hoffman), Beast Man (Jeff Biggs), Rokkon (Kevin Langston) and Skeletor (Eric Van Baars), their incredibly vivid costumes padded to heroically muscular proportions.
The appealing husband-and-wife team of Jack and Leslie Wadsworth portray He-Man and She-Ra. She's a gorgeous fantasy blond -- he's the one member of the cast who needs no padding.
The Masters of the Universe have transported themselves to Earth to share with its people the history and culture of their planet, Eternia. Songster (Doug Howard) serves as rock 'n' roll storyteller, narrating the action. Unfortunately, bad guys Skeletor and Beast Man, Evil-Lyn (Michelle Nevidomsky) and a contingent of Snake-Men have transported themselves as well, bent on destroying the good guys.
Flashing swordplay and acrobatics highlight the many well-choreographed fight scenes (Tony Christopher is director and choreographer). At one point, the forces of good and evil take to their Power Discs -- roller skates -- battling it out on a velodrome, roller derby-style.
Temporarily subdued, the bad guys retreat, leaving the stage clear for the Eternians to present their space circus, a parade of enormous Talliwallis, Jooglers, Zebrites and clownish Monkey Men.
In the finale, the mammoth stage bristles with swords, sparks and sound, as the evildoers make one last effort to prevail.
At nearly two hours, it's a long nighttime outting for preschoolers, but enthusiasm was not in short supply. The visual splendor of the set (designed by Tom McPhillips) and Waldo Angelo's superb costumes make this creation by Gary Goddard and Richard Hoag a memorable experience.
A 20-minute break during the show interrupts its continuity -- but gives the lobby vendors the opportunity to sell a lot of merchandise. Just before intermission, He-Man entreats the audience for its help in Eternia's struggle, urging children to raise their Power Swords and take the Eternia Oath of Allegiance.
Any guesses as to how many kids without Power Swords came back with them after intermission?
Parents, be warned.
Performances continue in Anaheim through Sunday, tonight and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (714-634-1300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            714-634-1300      end_of_the_skype_highlighting). The show resumes April 28 through May 3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tickets: $9 to $10.50 (213) 410-1062 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (213) 410-1062      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
GRAPHIC: Photo, View of the giant stage during the "Masters of the Universe Power Tour" show at the Anaheim Convention Center. MARK BOSTER / Los Angeles Times



SECTION: LIFESTYLE; Pg. E-6
HEADLINE: Yippee! Stage is set for He-Man, She-Ra
BYLINE: Divina Infusino; Arts Writer
He-Man, She-Ra and the Masters of the Universe are coming to town in a stage production.
"Oh, no," says a typical parent. "I hate She-Ra and He-Man. They didn't start out as cartoons and comic book characters. They began as toys.
Mattel puts them out.
"My kids aren't seeing cartoons on television anymore. They're watching non-stop ads. What happened to fantasy characters that didn't originate as part of some big marketing package?
"Of course, my 4-year-old daughter just loves She-Ra. When did you say the He-Man, She-Ra, Master of the Universe show is?"
It's tomorrow through Sunday at the Sports Arena. Tickets are $9 and $10.50. during its 11-day engagement in New York.
Here, the extravaganza, featuring a laser light show and other special effects, brings to life superheros She-Ra and He-Man and other Masters of the Universe characters. Included are King Randor, the monarch of Eternia; Queen Marlena, former earth astronaut; Snout Spout, the elephant warrior; Orko, the bumbling wizard; Man-At Arms, supermilitary strategist and Teela, his adopted warrior daughter.
Their task: To defend good against the forces of evil, arch-enemies Hordak and Skeletor. (Original, eh?) The battles take place on two 30-foot-square screens and on ramps and platforms with a pre-recorded rock sound track and fireworks.
The two-hour show breaks for an intermission long enough to purchase $6 programs and $5 plastic "power-swords."
Tickets are available at the box office and Ticketmaster outlets.
Showtimes are: Thursday and Friday, 7:30 p.m; Saturday, 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

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