- For other uses see Masters of the Universe (disambiguation)
Masters of the Universe is the name of the media franchise created by Mattel, based upon the line of toys introduced in 1981. The franchise has since grown to include multiple animated series, comic books, feature films and other products, all pertaining the to adventures of He-Man and his allies as they oppose the forces of evil.
Masters of the Universe began as a line of toys in the 1980s featuring He-Man ("the most powerful man in the universe") and other characters in a sword and sorcery setting. As the line was developed, a backstory was created in which He-Man and his allies fight to defend the supernatural secrets of Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor. Following the success of these toys, Mattel sought to expand the female audience for the franchise. The Princess of Power toy line was introduced in 1985, featuring He-Man's sister She-Ra. By 1987, coinciding with the release of a live-action film, both Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power had faded in popularity, with the last of the Masters figures being released in 1988.
In 1989, Mattel revamped the franchise with the He-Man toy line, which reintroduced both He-Man and Skeletor in a science fiction setting. The new direction was not as successful as its predecessor, and the line drew to a close in 1992.
Seeking to capitalize on nostalgia for the original toys, in 2000 Mattel released the Masters of the Universe Commemorative Series, consisting of replicas of the most memorable figures from the 1980s. A new Masters of the Universe line began in 2002, featuring new versions of the classic characters as designed by Four Horsemen Studios; however, this series could also not recapture the success of the original, and ended in 2004.
Since 2008, Mattel has marketed the Masters of the Universe Classics line exclusively through its website, directly to adult collectors. These figures are also designed by Four Horsemen Studios, but retain the general appearance of the original characters.
To date, Masters of the Universe has spawned four different animated television series, each intended to promote a concurrent line of toys.
In 1983, Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe premiered in syndication, and presented what is now the best-known version of the franchise's mythology. Filmation's He-Man preferred to reason his way out of conflicts and avoided acting without thinking; each episode taught basic lessons about morality, and ended with a character directly addressing the viewer about social values. The series ran for 130 episodes until production ended in 1985.
However, Filmation's version of He-Man's universe carried on in a spinoff series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, based on Masters of the Universe's sister line of toys. Beginning in 1985 just as He-Man's series was ending, She-Ra frequently incorporated Masters of the Universe characters into She-Ra's world of Etheria, allowing Mattel to continue marketing both lines of toys. Finally, after 93 episodes, She-Ra came to a close in 1987.
Eternia would not return to the airwaves until 2002, when a new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, developed by Mike Young Productions, premiered on Cartoon Network. This series, though faithful to the setting and characters of the original, featured the updated designs of the Four Horsemen toys. The show ran for two seasons and 39 episodes, ending in 2004.