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‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’: Mythos That Spans Generations

Series creator, writer, and executive producer Rob David jumped at the chance to reboot one of his favorite childhood cartoons, bringing the larger-than-life character and show mythology, centered on the core principle that ‘heroes aren’t born, they’re made,’ to a brand-new audience.

It may be a little too on-the-nose to describe the legacy of He-Man as larger-than-life and, in the words of Netflix’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, creator, writer, and executive producer Rob David, “larger than any one of us.” But there’s no arguing with the truth. The original 1983 animated series from Filmation, based on Mattel's toy line, was considered one of the most popular animated shows of the 80s and, to this day, one of the most successful animated series ever made by the studio.

So, when long-time fan David, known for Max Steel: Team Turbo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, saw an opportunity to bring one of his favorite childhood cartoons to a new generation, he jumped at the chance.

Produced by Mattel Television with CGCG and House of Cool Studios, the new CG-animated He-Man and the Masters of the Universe first premiered on Netflix in September 2021 and is now in its third season, which debuted yesterday, August 18. The series follows mighty teen Adam and his heroic squad of misfits as they discover the legendary power of Grayskull, and their destiny to defend Eternia from the sinister Skeletor.

We got the opportunity to talk with David about his love for He-Man’s long-standing story, bringing “thunderous” action sequences to life in 3D/CG and what the new season has in store for fans. 

Victoria Davis: You were executive producer on Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which was another Netflix He-Man reboot, and the developer of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. What made you and the rest of the team decide this was a series was worth revisiting not once but twice after so many years?

Rob David: Masters of the Universe is one of the best properties that Mattel has. When it originally came out, it just completely blew the minds of a whole generation. I'm one of them. It was an amazing mash-up of science, fantasy, magic, tech, and this weird menagerie of characters who were breathtaking. And also, at the same time, it was all centered on this kid, Adam, who you wouldn't think much of by looking at him. But, inside, he had something really special and unique and, if he could unlock it, he could do tremendous things and transform not just himself but the whole universe.

It had such a powerful message and was set in such an insane scenario. It's really one of the reasons why I went into writing and producing. We had to find a way to take this, which we all loved and grew up on, and then re-express it for our kids and for the whole next generation. 

VD: Why two reboots? Was that the original plan? Or was it more kismet?

RD: A little bit of both. Masters of the Universe is something that has one of those rare stories, like its own modern pop culture, mythology, and mythos. And whenever you have a property like that, it has the potential to speak to multiple generations at the same time. We knew that we wanted to have a show that was future-forward in talking to today's generation of kids who had never even heard of the show. But we also had all of us who grew up on it, and it meant something to us. 

So, we wanted to tell stories and new mythologies for both sets of audiences. The priority was the next generation, but it was just too exciting not to do something for the fans as well. You've got parents who are sitting down and sharing Revelation with their kids, and you've got kids who are sharing He-Man and the Masters of the Universe with their parents.

VD: Looking back at this property, it was one of many beautiful, old-school cartoons produced in this very familiar, very nostalgic 2D format. And it’s a style that you pay homage to in Revelation. So, what made you transition to CG for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe?

RD: Well, one, because Masters of the Universe had never been done like that before. So, there was something fresh and cool about it. But particularly because I love what CG does by creating these 3D environments that allow you to move the camera around the set in the way you would be able to do in live-action. It opened up the kind of storytelling that we could do. And then also, we wanted to unpack their startling new powers and really make them feel thunderously over the top in a way that some heroes named “Masters of the Universe” should feel. 

The two animation studios that we partnered with for this, House of Cool and CGCG, the last time you know they worked together they had done Trollhunters, and they both give best-in-class artistry to a project. House of Cool’s storytelling was insanely amazing, and then CGCG would animate it and render it with such verisimilitudes so that it felt so authentic and so fantastical at the same time. It was breathtaking.

VD: I can imagine, especially when you’ve grown up on a show like this, that getting to see these huge action scenes filled with magic and power in 3DCG is incredibly satisfying.

RD: So, satisfying. And, you know, we've had some amazing sequences in the first two seasons, but there's some stuff in the third season, particularly in the climactic two-part finale, which is some of the best stuff that I think we've been able to pull off.

VD: With reboots, you're often trying to put in nostalgic elements from the original series, but also brand-new content that hasn't been done before in the show. What were some things that you wanted to tackle in this new season that hadn't been tackled before in He-Man?

RD: One of the core principles of this show is that heroes are not born, they're made. People aren't just instantly perfect heroes. Heroes, when I was a kid, tended to be instantly perfect. They had all the answers with the exception of Peter Parker, who was my favorite. And we wanted to take that same approach with this group. 

We wanted to have their journey to becoming a full Master of the Universe be about self-discovery and starting off a proverbial white belt and moving all the way up to a black belt and having that not just be about mastering your skill sets but parallel a journey of self-discovery. The more you are in touch with who you truly are and what you're meant to be, the more powerful you become. So that’s the framework and, in the middle of that, we've got Krass, who is Adam's best friend, she's turned to Havoc at the end of Season 2. She's teamed up with the ghost of Skeletor, all confused about who she's supposed to be and where she should end up.

They’re raising an undead zombie snake army to uncover all the secrets of Grayskull and terraform the universe and our heroes, in trying to stop them, are going to meet characters that longtime fans will love but with a new twist on them. We’ve got Mer-Man played by George Takei. We’ve got Wallace Shawn playing the original Orko the Great, someone that our new Orko–who's a robot who's delusional and thinks that he is Orko–meets. We have Alan Oppenheimer, who played Skeletor and Battle Cat and Man-At-Arms in the original cartoon, playing King Grayskull, which is really the most perfect role for him, because he feels like the ruler of us all here.

VD: You said that the action sequences in this new season are some of the best you’ve done. That said, were there any big challenges or scenes that were difficult to pull off? How did you get over those hurdles?

RD: You're always looking at your budgets, your resources, your time, and it really helped that we have an amazing team working on it. You know, it's not just me, it's also Jeff Matsuda and Susan Corbin and Bryan Miller and Melanie Shannon, and then we've got amazing partners over at House of Cool Studios and CGCG. 

The benefit of a show like Masters of the Universe is that everybody loves it and wants to make it as good as it could be. It was just a lot of great collaboration and problem-solving.

VD: What were some favorite things you've gotten to see brought to life that are callbacks to the original cartoon?

RD: I'm most proud and most in love with the new version of Orko. Because Orko was one of my favorite characters growing up, and he represents the child and the innocent archetype in one of these stories. And he was originally a wizard who was a mess-up with magic. And I wanted to call back to that, but give it a fresh spin, one that really spoke to the heart of the Science and Technology mash up with magic and fantasy that Masters of the Universe is known for. 

Having the new Orko be Ork-0, a robot who accidentally gets the memories of the original Orko imprinted into his memory and then delusionally thinks that he's actually a wizard and that his being a robot is why he's always messing up with magic, that was a fun way of calling back to the original, but doing it in a way that could feel fun and modern, but also still true to Masters of the Universe

And the other thing is, there's a gag in the Orko episode, which I will not spoil, but it is so much fun. It’s mind-blowing, and I cannot wait for people to see.

VD: For fans of the original, fans of the reboot and for audiences who are seeing the new Masters of the Universe for the first time, what do you hope they take away from the series? And what are some messages that you wanted to instill in the new season?

RD: What I wanted to do is to use the great metaphor and dramatic storyline of Adam and He-Man from the original, and then find a way to have that apply to all of us. It always did. I mean, He-Man really was representing the best of all of us, but just more literalized that in the idea that none of us are ever really alone, and our true strength comes from our family. And a lot of times, it's a found family. 

Also, that every person in the world is three things: they're scared, they're lonely, but they're beautiful. And if you can recognize that beautiful part inside every person, the scared and the lonely goes away, and the beautiful explodes out with tremendous power, for all of us. 

We have He-Man who is a Master, but you also have Teela who's this Master of Magic and Duncan who's a Master of Technology and Cringer, the Master of the Wild, and then there are Dark Masters where each one of them is a shadow or reflection of one of our heroic Masters. He-Man has Skeletor and Duncan has Trap Jaw and Teela has Evelyn. The whole idea is that the ultimate fight for you to be as strong and self-realized as possible, is by facing that person in the mirror.

VD: That’s probably one of the most well-thought-out answers I’ve received to that question, and it really shows the passion and reflection that’s been paid to this series. Though, I’m sure there must be a lot of passion behind rebooting a series that’s been enjoyed for so long by so many. 

RD: Because it’s not just something that exists. People love it. We're all custodians of it. It's something that's larger than any one of us. And, whether it be the 80s or nowadays, the stories that these kids come up with playing with their action figures are no joke, and just as a legit part of the canon as anybody else whose job it is to make this stuff because that's how myths are made. They are living myths. We constantly tell these stories to each other.

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at