In the 80s in the golden age of Barbie and the fever for the Masters of the Universe appears: She-ra Princess of Power!
Let's put ourselves in a situation, Masters of the Universe was born at a time when Mattel had to compete with Star Wars and that was not an easy task, what could they do? In the groups in which Mattel tested toys and watched children play with them, they observed a pattern of yearning for "power" in the little ones tired of adults always telling them what to do. They had the key and ... the power.
Masters of the Universe was born with everything, comic, series, muscles and even a tiger taken from the line Big Jim that served as a mount for his protagonist He-man who apparently had a twin sister, Princess Adora, better known as... She -ra!
And it is that according to the story Adora was the twin sister of Prince Adam (He-man) kidnapped as a baby by Skeletor's master, Hordak and taken to Etheria. Subjected by Hordak and under the influence of a spell, Adora is faithful until she discovers the truth about her past and, now turned into She-ra, she leads the rebellion.
It goes without saying that in the 80s for a toy line to be successful it had to be accompanied by good cartoons. In any case, and back to design, these empowered female action figures were commissioned to Justine Dantzer, a well-known and talented toy designer who was at Mattel at the time. The line would have to satisfy girls but also fit in with boys at a time when the toy market was highly segmented and serve as a bridge between Barbie and Masters of the Universe to increase the popularity and sales of both lines.
Apparently Teela was selling well within the MOTU line so the premise, at first, was to start with Teela to create the characters but when they saw Justine's designs they told her to design them to her liking and superheroines like Perfuma, Peekablue, Entrapta or Castaspella were born although, unfortunately, with the reluctance of many male professional colleagues who critisized the toned body of these action dolls for hours.
"She had to present a feeling of strength, not slenderness in a high heel of the 'I can hardly move' and that became a point of discussion during several meetings. Even exclamations from the men saying 'Oh my God look at those legs' when I showed my pictures. There were times when I was very, very disgusted hearing men's opinions about women's bodies ad infinitum. " Justine Dantzer in the documentary The Power of Grayskull
Fortunately and although the line Princess of the Power tended to be closer to toys, back then, for girls, muscles stayed, magic stayed and fashion and fantastic animals too!
Eventually Justine left Mattel, the line was left in the hands of other designers and faces were sculpted based on the faces of models of the moment:
"So making her more fuller lipped and more open eyes giving her stronger facial features and it was hard to get to do that. We would do tear sheets of different actresses or models and give those to the sculptors and say 'Let's go this way'. Couldn't look like a fashion model or a runway model. She had to look strong in the face" Janice Varney-Hamlin, formar Mattel Director of WW Marketing Fashion Dolls in the documental The Power of Grayskull
But since nothing is forever, the line ended up dying in the late 80s and when that happened, many blamed She-ra for having sunk Masters of the Universe, although it is much more plausible that it collapsed due to the large number of secondary characters that were included at MOTU as explained in the documentary "The Power of Grayskull"
In any case, today She-ra is a symbol of female empowerment and a precious collector's item both for those who lived the line in the 80s and for those who imagine what it was.
by The Barbiest