10 Things You Might Not Know About She-Ra, Princess of Power

At the height of He-Man's popularity in the early 1980s, Mattel and cartoon studio Filmation discovered an interesting demographic detail about the series: 30 percent of its audience consisted of girls. To help satisfy the unpredicted demand for a female fantasy character, the companies conceived of She-Ra, twin sister of the massively-muscled swordsman and sworn protector of Grayskull’s honor. In honor of the new Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, here are 10 little-known facts about the warrior princess of Etheria.

1. TOY STORES DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO STOCK SHE-RA.

Despite being an offshoot of the hyper-masculine He-Man line, She-Ra was officially described as a “fashion action doll” by Mattel, a strange amalgamation of sword fighting and hair-combing. That left stores with the dilemma of whether to place her near her Barbie brethren or among the testosterone-laced aisles of action figures. While some stores situated her adjacent to He-Man, Sears put her next to dolls in their catalog; others split the difference and stocked her in both departments.

2. SHE-RA GAVE BARBIE A BOOST.

In the toy world, “flanker” lines are created to help support a main toy product by expanding a category and raising interest. In She-Ra’s case, Mattel saw her as a way of boosting attention for their high-profile Barbie line, which had grown stale. In an interview with He-Man.org, Janice Varney-Hamlin said, “Barbie sales had flattened out at the time, so introducing a competitive fashion doll line that we owned should expand the size of the entire category and allow the Barbie business to grow.” In 1986, after surviving an onslaught from rival Jem and the Holograms, Barbie posted $350 million in sales.

3. SHE WAS VOTED MOST LIKELY TO "HOLD BACK TEARS."

A late 1980s study arranged by the Institute for the Study of Women and Men at the University of Southern California graded different lines based on what girls thought their toys were most or least likely to do. Barbie was expected to be “out on a date”; She-Ra was thought to be less apt to cry. She was also preferred as a mentor over Barbie, with one girl remarking, "I like her because she knows what she wants and how to get it.” (A boy who was asked his opinion said, “She-Ra's strong and really smart. All Barbie is worried about is wearing her clothes and living in her dream house.")

4. SHE-RA'S HEADDRESS IS AN UPSIDE-DOWN MASK.

The original She-Ra fashion action doll issued in 1985 featured a winged headdress that could be flipped upside-down and worn as a mask, but girls in focus groups disliked this feature. Mattel strayed from the idea, buyers were rarely aware of it, and Filmation had her sporting a more conventional tiara in the animated series.  

5. MATTEL BOUGHT OUT A RIVAL "SHEERA."

Before Mattel launched the line, they took notice of author Barbara Hambly’s fantasy novel, Ladies of Mandrigyn, featuring a character called Sheera. Despite no obvious similarities, Mattel decided to purchase the ancillary rights to the books for $25,000 so no competing toy companies would muddy the waters with a competing Sheera line.

6. SHE-RA HAD A LUST ANIMATION SPECIALIST.

For reaction shots where She-Ra needed to be overly expressive, producers counted on one female animator in particular. According to show writer Bob Forward, the woman in question “threw lust into everything … [the director] used her for everything where he wanted passion.”

7. MATTEL'S BOYS' DEPARTMENT BLAMED SHE-RA FOR HE-MAN'S FALLING SALES.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign, She-Ra was unable to duplicate the success of her cousin: According to former Mattel employee Roger Sweet, roughly $60 million worth of She-Ra merchandise was sold in 1985, a pittance compared to the $400 million He-Man brought in the following year. But sales subsequently plummeted: According to Hamlin, employees in charge of Mattel’s boy lines were adamant that She-Ra was responsible for their declining sales. (In fact, it was likely over-saturation in the action figure market that led to the character’s demise.)

8. SHE-RA MADE IN STORE APPEARANCES.

Hamlin, who was in charge of marketing for girls' merchandise at Mattel, hired actresses to appear in character as She-Ra for toy stores. She recalls that when she was auditioning women for the part, a sizeable number of male Mattel employees would suddenly appear in hallways.

9. SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE MOVIE.

Masters of the Universe, the notoriously under-budgeted 1987 feature, was originally intended to include She-Ra; concept art by production designer William Stout was even commissioned. But director Gary Goddard felt it would be best to concentrate on He-Man for the first film. (It would be the only film.)

10. SHE-RA WAS NEARLY IN A ROCK BAND.

Fans bemoaned a statement by onetime cartoon property owners Entertainment Rights in 2006 where it was mentioned She-Ra was being considered for a radical reinvention. “We’ll probably re-launch She-Ra featuring a rock-and-roll band and a girl with long blond hair who will have a guitar instead of a sword,” CEO Michael Heap told World Screen. The idea never went anywhere, however, and She-Ra has yet to be resurrected.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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