He-Man's Original Cartoon Was Nearly Followed By a Series Set in the Past of Eternia
TV URBAN LEGEND: There was nearly a sequel to the original Masters of the Universeseries in the late 1980s set in the past of Eternia (Preternia) starring a magical hero known as He-Ro.
In one of the first TV Legends Revealed I did in this series of He-Man features (of which this is the last one, a full month's worth of He-Man-related legends!), I wrote about how Mattel and Filmation took a break in the late 1980s from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The reason for that break, as I explained, is that things in the world of He-Man turned pear shape very quickly.
The Mattel toyline and its tie-in Filmation animated series followed the the adventures of the heroic He-Man and his allies versus the villainous Skeletor and his minions set against the backdrop of the mystical planet known as Eternia. The series was extremely popular and the toy line did INSANE numbers. But like Icarus flying too close to the sun (or really, pretty much every other popular toy line ever. I have this great article from the New York Times circa 1982 that's all about how Strawberry Shortcake will never NOT be popular. Toy lines that get popular super quickly tend to have an inflated sense of just how much the world is relying on them. Sort of like a J. Alfred Prufrock type of "Dare I eat a peach?" deal), the toy line melted horrifically in 1987, going from $400 million in sales to $7 million in a single year between 1986 and 1987.
As I mentioned in that aforementioned TV Legend, Mattel and Filmation felt that oversaturation was the main culprit, so it pulled back in 1988 and waited a whole year before trying to wring that market out again with a new 1989 He-Man toy line that tied in with the 1990 animated series, The New Adventures of He-Man, where a slimmed down He-Man traveled to another world to have more science-fiction centric adventures...
However, before Mattel knew that things were going terribly, the company first had a whole other plan for the He-Man toyline in place that had only just begun before things fell apart. The concept was going to be called The Powers of Grayskull and it would star a character known as He-Ro and it would be set in the ancient past of Eternia (Preternia). Now why would this be the case?
Yes, Mattel thought, "Hey, kids love He-Man and they love dinosaurs, so why not combine the two?"
That was the concept behind Powers of Grayskull, which would have a new line of heroes compatible with the previous line of He-Man toys, but also a whole pile of dinosaur-themed toys.
Here is the prototype figure for He-Ro (thanks to the Battle Ram Blog for the images. Check out that site for an IN-DEPTH look at this failed line of toys).
The fascinating thing about this failed toyline is that you rarely get to see the great amount of work and effort that a toy company puts into a new toyline and just see it go NOWHERE. This was clearly going to get a big push, but when He-Man sales plummeted, in large part because toy stores felt that Mattel was oversaturating the market (you know, a new wave of He-Man toys before people had purchased all of the previous wave and the new wave, of course, makes the previous wave seem "outdated" and thus even harder to move), Mattel realized that they couldn't just add a whole NEW line of tie-in toys, despite the fact that they had been planning this since early 1985!
They sent out catalogs to toy sellers advertising this new line and they sent a licensing kit (so they clearly thought that THIS was going to be big). Here is how He-Ro is described (Gray is his secret identity, like Prince Adam for He-Man):
Reared under the tutelage of his mentor, ELDOR, and the tribal chieftess, Sharella, Gray was one day mysteriously drawn to a nearby cave. There, in darkness and in light, he was invested with the newly evolved powers that would change his his life and alter the course of history in Eternia. The exact details of what transpired in that cave have remained secret, but Eldor has made cryptic allusions…references to the boy’s mysterious past, to an amazing legacy… and an awesome task which Gray accomplished that day in the cave. By placing one hand on his heart, flexing the other arm into a muscle and incanting, “Magic and strength…tempered by heart!” Gray causes an amazing transformation to occur, becoming the He-Ro of Grayskull and announcing, “I stand for Peace!”
They even went so far as to introduce a mini-comic setting up He-Ro by sending He-Man and The Sorceress back in time and the mini-comic (the LAST original mini-comic published in the 1980s) set up the mystery of He-Ro...
In addition, Filmation was going to get in on this, as well, and they did a series bible for an animated series called Hero and the Land of Legend.
That, of course, was also squelched when Mattel dropped the toy line (although Mattel did release a few of the dinosaurs as part of the He-Man toy line). Amusingly, though, as you can see from the use of the name He-Ro, that was the name of Filmation's attempt to do a sequel series to Masters of the Universe centered on He-Man's SON named He-Ro. And the concepts of He-Ro as He-Man's son ultimately became the basis for the Adventures of He-Man series, only with He-Man in place of his theoretical son. Companies like Filmation knew to always try to reuse whatever good idea you come up with!