Netflix, Mattel Partner for ‘Masters of the Universe’ Live-Action Movie

The battle to turn action figure toys into live-action movies intensified with Mattel and Netflix announcing they are developing the toymaker’s “Masters of the Universe” franchise from the 1980s into a motion picture.

Production is expected to begin this summer with the Nee Brothers (The Lost City, Band of Robbers) co-directing from a screenplay written by the Nee’s and David Callaham (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsWonder Woman 1984). Kyle Allen (West Side Story) will star as Prince Adam/He-Man.

When an orphan named Adam discovers he is a prince destined to be the savior of a faraway land, he must quickly learn of his power and the importance of saving his true home from an evil force.

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“‘Masters of the Universe’ is an iconic property that shaped the imaginations of an entire generation of kids in the ’80s with the message of becoming the best version of yourself,” Robbie Brenner, executive producer of Mattel Films, said in a statement. “With our partners at Netflix, we are continuing to unlock this global franchise in new ways.”

Brenner and Kevin McKeon (VP of Mattel Films) will lead the project for Mattel Films. Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch (Being the Ricardos, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, The EqualizerThe Upside) and DeVon Franklin will produce. The project was formerly in development at Sony Pictures.

Last summer, Mattel and Netflix partnered to bring Eternia back to screens in two animated series. “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” a continuation of the classic storyline from the 1980s, featured an all-star voice cast including Mark Hamill, Lena Headey, Chris Wood and Sarah Michelle Gellar, with Kevin Smith serving as the showrunner. Netflix also launched “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” a CG-animated series that reimagined the adventures of the Guardians of Grayskull for a new generation of fans.

Masters of the Universe was first introduced in 1982 through a line of action figures. In 1983, the animated series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” premiered and became one of the first kids’ shows to be syndicated on television.

A year ago, Netflix acquired Hasbro’s animated My Little Pony movie from Entertainment One, the media company the toymaker acquired in 2019 for $4 billion.

Netflix Teaming With Kevin Smith on Animated ‘He-Man’ Relaunch

A new animated version of the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” franchise is on the way from Netflix.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith Aug. 18 told fans at Power-Con, a “He-Man” convention being held over the weekend in Anaheim, Calif., that he was working with the streaming service on a new anime series based on the Mattel toy line that first launched in 1982.

The show, called “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” was described as “a wholly original story set in the epic world of Mattel’s … He-Man toy franchise.”

Smith, will serve as showrunner and executive producer of the show, teased that the series would pick up unresolved storylines from the 1980s era of “He-Man,” when the characters were featured in the popular animated series by Filmation.

“I’m Eternia-ly grateful to Mattel TV and Netflix for entrusting me with not only the secrets of Grayskull, but also their entire Universe,” Smith said in a statement. “In ‘Revelation,’ we pick up right where the classic era left off to tell an epic tale of what may be the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor! This is the Masters of the Universe story you always wanted to see as a kid!”

According to Netflix’s description, the series takes place “after a ferocious final battle forever fractures Eternia,” He-Man’s home planet. “It’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe.”

The animation will be provided by Powerhouse Animation Studios, the team behind Netflix’s “Castlevania” anime series.

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Netflix’s lineup already includes “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,” based on the She-Ra character that was introduced in the classic animated series as He-Man’s sister. A third batch of “She-Ra” episodes bowed on Netflix Aug. 2, bringing the episode total to 26.

Development of a live-action “He-Man” reboot by Sony Pictures has reportedly stalled.

Smith’s next film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, a return to his “View-Askewniverse” franchise, is due in theaters Oct. 15.

The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/7/19;
Screen Media;
Documentary;
$29.98 DVD;
Not rated.

This eight-part documentary series that originally premiered on Netflix delves into the history of some of the most influential toy brands from the past 50 years.

With a particular focus on toys that were big in the 1980s, when the loosening of the rules governing television programming blurred the line between content and advertising, it’s no surprise that many of the toy lines profiled here also rank among the most significant pop culture franchises as well.

Fittingly, then, the first episode deals with “Star Wars,” and how the George Lucas space opera forever changed the landscape of movie merchandising, while elevating a small toymaker such as Kenner into a national powerhouse. Not that other major players such as Hasbro and Mattel aren’t represented.

The hour-long episodes are divided into two seasons — one season per disc — and smartly focus on a different toy brand each episode. That allows each episode to find its own voice in telling the story of that particular toy, while letting viewers pick and choose which episodes they want to watch based on which of the toys are of interest to them.

Other season one episodes focus on “Barbie,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “G.I. Joe.” Season two deals with “Star Trek,” “The Transformers,” “Lego” and “Hello Kitty.”

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Aside from some invaluable under-the-radar lessons about business and marketing, the episodes offer a pure blast of childhood nostalgia, particularly for Gen Xers who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Which isn’t to say that younger viewers can’t find something to enjoy in the show, as most of these toy lines are pretty timeless. Plus, the upcoming third season will look at newer toys such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Power Rangers” (in addition to “My Little Pony” and professional wrestling toys).

The shows offer a lot of fascinating details about how the toys were created and evolved. The “He-Man” show is entertaining simply for how so many of the line’s creators want to take credit for coming up with it. The story of the creation of Battle Cat is particularly hilarious.

The first disc offers an eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with series creator Brian Volk-Weiss, who delves into what his goals for the show were and why certain toys were chosen to be profiled.

It seems like a bit of an odd choice to include “Star Trek,” which has never really been associated with a robust toy line. But as the narrator continually brings up how less successful “Trek” toys have been compared with “Star Wars,” the episode comes across more as an avenue to profile the various toy companies like Mego, Galoob and Playmates that tried their hands at “Star Trek” toy lines over the years, with varying degrees of success.

In fact, the lone deleted scene included with the DVDs is from the “Star Trek” episode, consisting of a two-minute clip of various talking heads wondering why the toys based on the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” reboot didn’t sell well.

That discussion hints at the challenges that not just toymakers, but any steward of a popular brand face in the rapidly changing information age. Some brands have always had better success than others in crossing from one generation to the next, but the means of instant gratification brought on by the Internet have altered the tactile relationship viewers have with their favorite content, both in the collectability and playability of the merchandise associated with it.

As one of the talking heads notes in the deleted scene, we don’t really have pop culture anymore. We have a customizable culture, in which consumers can focus on their fandoms like never before.

Whatever the case, at least we have shows like “The Toys That Made Us” to help remind us why we love these things to begin with.