Interviewby Robbie Beiswenger - 1997
Why was there only one two-part story in the He-Man series?
When I first wrote "House of Shokoti" it was only one part. Then they came to me and said, "No way can we do this show, we love it but it's too expensive. However," they said, "If you could make it into a two-part story, then we could afford it by amortizing the costover two episodes." So I went back to the script, added a bunch of storymaterial (in essence I wrote a "first part" that led into my script,which was easier than trying to just expand it) and that is why "House of Shokoti" is the only two-part story in the He-Man series.
What kind of boneheaded ideas did Matteltry to force upon Filmation at the start of the series?
Mattel had bonehead ideas, but they couldn't forcethem on us. You see this was one of the first times, a toy company had financeda cartoon show (now it's almost an essential part of the industry), and LouScheimer (president of Filmation) made the deal with the express condition that while Mattel could "suggest" ideas, they had NO approval over story OR script. So when Mattel came up with such notions, Lou would smile and say,"Read the contract." Unhappily, no one has had the brains to make similar deals with toy companies since. About the only nutty idea I remember is when Mattel brought us all in to show us new toys which they wanted put into the show (they did this frequently). One of the toys was a catapult device orvehicle that shot large balls. Mattel was calling it "The BallBuster." Lou scotched that one two seconds after it came out of the toy company executive's mouth. Lou would only use toys if he thought they fit with what the show already had done and was quite adamant in maintaining the show's integrity. It was just one of the things I loved about the man.
Why did the Masters of the Universe series end?
He-Man was a toy-driven show, exactlylike Transformers orany of the other multitude of cartoon shows which have flowed down the pikesince. This means the show is created to sell a toy line and financed by A TOYCOMPANY! What a surprise. Toy-driven shows are never meant to last more then a season or two, enough to create a demand, satisfy it, then move on to a new toy(and possibly a new show). However on occasion, the writers take the toyconcept and despite all the bonehead obstacles in their way (and believe methere are many) they create solid characters and good stories to feature themin. The show becomes independent of the toy and is watched by people of alldifferent ages, not just youngsters. Good writers, good storytellers make agood show. They are not always big hits, but He-Man was. Why did the show end? Because the toy line was being phased out. Mattel put up the money and when they no longer desired what they saw as a toy commercial (which is perfectly reasonable thinking for a toy company) they no longer financed it. In short, even He-Man couldn't beat businessman.
Did you invent any of the characters that were seen in the He-Man cartoons?
Well, yes and no. Since He-Man was what we call "toy-driven", every character was usually a toy first. We did give them personalities, so you might call that "creating" them. On the other hand, there were plenty of one-shot and minor characters in the show that we DID create. Granamyr was my creation, for example. Also, J. Michael Straczynski wrote He-Man episodes as well. He currently writes the scripts for Babylon 5. And for the first two years of Babylon 5, I was story editor and wrote seven scripts. Isn't that cool?
What were your thoughts on Granamyr?
Ah, Granamyr. Here's that story. Before breaking into the cartoon biz at Filmation, I worked for the FBI, that is, Flying Buffalo Inc., a spiffy little game company that does Play by Mail games and the Tunnels & Trolls roleplaying game. I wrote a game scenario for them called "The Isle Of Darksmoke" and in it was this grouchy terrible dragon called Granamyr. I had played the part so many times in games I knew him as well as I knew myself. So when it came time to do a story for He-Man I decided to use a dragon (creatures I am quite fond of and sometimes have the temper of) and Granamyr became that dragon. Granamyr indeed is responsible for my whole career, for that story was what got me on staff at Filmation.
Why was Skeletor such a dork in thecartoon?
Skeletor was a dork because that's how Filmation wanted him, a comic opera villain. This is no surprise to any cartoon writer who specializes in action genres. Dorky villains are par for the course. Now on occasion we could actually make Skeletor a little bit of a schemer, however after the first thirty or shows were written we realized we had another problem. Every show was a reaction to a plan by Skeletor. In short, it was boring. So we started to create NEW villains, new challenges and kind of let Skeletor be for awhile. This freshened the show. However, in defense of Skeletor, every survey we ever did showed he was the second most popular character on the show. Kids ate up that comic opera cackly-villain stuff and still do. And Skeletor also let us ham it up as writers, something we like todo now and then. And cool is not what you go for when the target audience is five to twelve. You ham it up. It worked. The New Adventures of He-Man didn't.
What are you currently doing? Are you writing for any TV series now?
Not yet. I am actively pursuing work for Xena, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Timecop while awaiting news of a possible second season of Beast Wars.