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

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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. Hop on Swiftwind and take a trip through these 12 little-known facts about the warrior princess of Etheria.  

1. Toy Stores Didn’t Know Where to Stock Her.

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 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. That Headdress? It’s 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 Had a Lust Animation Specialist.

YouTube

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 Her 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 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 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.

11. She’s Become a Gay Icon.

According to Filmation’s Erika Scheimer, daughter of president Lou Scheimer, She-Ra has emerged in recent years as a gay icon due in part to some subversive references made in the series by writers. (One episode featured male sidekick Bow in a dress.) Scheimer also says the She-Ra animated feature theme song, "I Have the Power," has been played at several gay weddings.   

BONUS: A woman named She-Ra Once Robbed a Store.

She-Ra Batey, a cashier in the United Kingdom, was arrested in 2014 for stealing over $5000 US from her employers at a Derby-area supermarket so she could go on vacation in Mexico. Batey pled guilty and was ordered to pay restitution.  

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14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.

1. JACQUELINE SUSANN DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”

2. BARBARA PARKINS WAS “NERVOUS” TO WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.

Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”

3. WILLIAM TRAVILLA BASED THE FILM'S COSTUMES ON THE WOMEN’S LIKES.

Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”

4. SUSANN THOUGHT GARLAND “GOT RATTLED.”

In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”

5. PATTY DUKE PARTIALLY BLAMES THE DIRECTOR’S BEHAVIOR FOR GARLAND’S EXIT.

During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”

6. DUKE DIDN’T SING NEELY’S SONGS.

All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”

7. GARLAND STOLE ONE OF THE MOVIE'S COSTUMES.

Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”

8. A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HID THE TITLE.

Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”

9. IT MARKED RICHARD DREYFUSS'S FILM DEBUT.


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”

10. THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T DIG TOO DEEP.

In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”

11. A STAGE ADAPTATION MADE IT TO OFF-BROADWAY.

In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.

12. JACKIE SUSANN BARELY ESCAPED THE MANSON FAMILY.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.

13. PATTY DUKE LEARNED TO EMBRACE THE FILM.

Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”

14. LEE GRANT DOESN’T THINK IT’S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.

In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

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How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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