Interview by Thomas Foss - 1999
To start, I should probably inform(warn?) you that as a He-Man and She-Ra fan predominantly, most of my questions will be narrowed to that field. So,for the fans that will end up reading this in the future, could you give alittle background information, what your job is, exactly, and what you did on He-Man andShe-Ra?
I was a staff writer at Filmation, that is I was paida weekly salary to work on whatever projects Filmation was doing. Naturally thebulk of my time was spent on He-Man and then She-Ra.I wrote 15 episodes of each show and also rewrote episodes by other writers aswas needed. I worked for Filmation for two or three years and then moved overto DIC to work on Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. Inaddition to He-Manand She-Ra I also did about nine episodes of FatAlbert and the Cosby Kids, as well as a lot of development on showsFilmation was trying to sell. I did the bulk of the development work on She-Ra when Mattel decided to finance it.
Are there any shows in your past thatstand out as your favorite(s)?
He-Man and She-Ra certainly. Then I would say Babylon 5 and CaptainPower and the Soldiers of the Future.
Now, your episodes of He-Man and She-Ra often introduced newcharacters. Was there a motive for this? Many of the characters you created,for instance, Light Hope, Sea Hawk, Huntara, Lord Masque, and Granamyr, hadappearances that differed greatly from the stock character styles. Who designedthem, and did you have any input into their appearances or voices?
There were several motives. The greatest was what Icall "the Skeletor syndrome". As fans know most of the He-Man episodes had Skeletor and his henchmantrying to pull off some scheme to rule Eternia and He-Man and company foilingit. This was okay at first, but after 65 episodes became rather tedious. Indeedwe had fans writing in to say they were sick of seeing Skeletor getting beatenall the time and could he maybe win one now and then? Of course no way wasFilmation going for that. In addition, Filmation had sold the rights to He-Man overseas and in France they refused to show episodes with Skeletor (claiming that he wassimply too frightening a figure for small children - this was a culturalthing). So Filmation realized they needed new adversaries. Hence I begancreating some new characters with different motives and ways of working to keepthe stories interesting. These new characters were all designed by theanimators and directors and I didn't have a great deal of input on the designs(outside of the descriptions I wrote of the characters). Filmation liked tokeep its units separate from each other, so writers didn't have much"official" input on character design. However unofficially I wouldoften speak with designers and artists as to what the character might looklike.
Here's a question that's been debated todeath on the He-Man list, but I'd be interested in your take on it: Who, in your opinion,was a better love interest for Adora, Bow or Sea Hawk?
No question, it was Sea Hawk. Bow was tooself-absorbed and immature for Adora.
Did you keep in touch with the voiceactors and/or animators?
We had virtually no contact with the voice actors andlimited contact with the animators.
Were there any stories you wanted to doand couldn't, or things that you wish you could have changed on the show?
The first thing I would have changed is the terribleanimation. But this was a Filmation standard, it was limited, it was cheap andit relied heavily on stock footage rather than new footage. Filmation was justabout the last company to do all its animation in the United States and it wasn't easy for them to remain competitive when even Disney wassending the work overseas. In fact it is a tribute to Lou that he even tried. Asfor stories, I can't recall any that I desperately wanted to write and wasn'table to.
Who were your favorite characters, oranyone you found really interesting/fun to write?
I had a perverse fondness for Ram-Man who was simplythe dumbest character ever but somehow was lots of fun to work with. And Iquite liked both He-Man and She-Ra, though since I had more of a hand increating She-Ra she was probably my favorite. And of course Granamyr was myabsolute fave since he was all my creation and I have a large affection fordragonkind. Sea Hawk I liked simply because I loved pirates. I liked Skeletortoo, he was a great villain, if something of a boob at times.
Conversely, were there any charactersyou really didn't like?
Okay, I'll admit it, Orko was not my favorite guy,though I learned to kind of like the little guy after awhile. Loo-Kee Iabsolutely detested and despised forever.
Who came up with the idea of Loo-Kee,and were the end morals required by some law? I know many of them were onlyloosely connected to the episodes, if at all.
The law was the "Nadel/Scheimer" Law. ArthurNadel was the chief producer at Filmation, basically Lou's right arm. Both Artand Lou felt all cartoons should teach some moral lesson. Now He-Man had been castigated by a lot of"watchdog" groups (you know, a bunch of adults who band together tofoist their brand of morality on the public) for it's violence (which as youknow was really tame compared to things like G.I. Joe and Transformers) so when She-Ra came around Art and Lou decided to adda "moral lesson" at the end of each episode. I think I can safely saythat every writer who ever worked on the show HATED that stupid moral lesson. Memost of all. While I had no problem with teaching kids something, I felt if theepisode did indeed make a point than that was enough. And in fact when I wantedto use Loo-Kee to really say something important, it was always rewrittenwithout my knowledge or consent. The example that comes to mind is a show I didabout prejudice in which one of Twiggets has to team up with a Troll, trollsbeing abhorrent to Twiggets. It was simply about racism and this was apparentin Loo-Kee's comments about not judging people on how they looked or what racethey were. When the episode finally aired Loo-Kee said something about"getting enough sleep at night" or "eating your vegetables"or something. That was one of my worst moments. If you wanted to teach lessons,teach important lessons, not fluff about eating your damned vegetables. Ireally felt betrayed on that one.
Many of the episodes dealt with thingsthat no other cartoon at the time would come close to, and "House ofShokoti" is generally regarded as the most frightening story of eitherseries. Was there ever any censorship on such episodes and topics?
I really don't recall any obvious examples ofcensorship on the shows. And I will admit I way pushed the envelope with"House of Shokoti." I was a big Lovecraft fan and wanted to do astraight horror episode of He-Man. It started out as a single episode and thenbecause the animators liked it so much, it was bumped to two so we couldamortize the cost. And to give them lots of credit, they did a grand job on it.
Fans have often noted the similaritiesbetween She-Ra and Star Wars (Horde Troopers/Stormtroopers, Adora & Adam/Luke & Leia, SeaHawk/Han Solo, etc.) Was this intentional, or are we seeing connections wherenone were meant?
On this I would have to say, it's a little bit ofboth. I too was a Star Wars fan and was influenced enough tocreate a storyline involving a Rebellion against a vast technological Empire. Andyes Horde Troopers were just like Stormtroopers but let's face it, they werecannon fodder in both instances, so who cared? On the other hand, it was Mattelwho demanded Adora be Adam's sister, so that was out of my hands. And Sea Hawkwas never meant to be Han Solo, though there are some similarities.
What were the influences on thestorylines for the series? On that same line, how was it decided that Hordakand the Horde would become She-Ra's main villains, when their toys were a part of the Masters of the Universe line?
The main difference between He-Man and She-Ra was that Eternia was obviously ruledby the good guys, while Etheria was firmly in the hands of the bad guys. Thisis what made the storylines so different. She-Ra was always up against agreater power with lots more resources, He-Man and his crew were pretty muchmore in control of the planet. We also wanted to do more stories on She-Ra that had a good amount of "girlappeal," so we had more romantic relationships going on, more groupactivity, more magic and less battle (though not too much less). I sometimesfancy that She-Ra kind of paved the way for Xena many years later. As for why Hordakand company became the She-Ra villains, well it was simply becausethey were there. Mattel was more concerned with the heroine/hero figures in She-Ra,rightly thinking that they would sell better than the villains. So as Hordakwas available at the same time She-Ra needed a crew of villains, Mattel justsaid well make them the villains. It actually worked out pretty nicely.
Where were the shows headed at the timeof cancellation? Were there plans to introduce the Snake Men or He-Ro, had thestories continued?
Fact of show biz life, when a show gets cancelled itis almost literally erased from your mind. Same thing happened with BeastWars, once we heard Beast Wars was no more, we just let it go. Alsoyou know pretty quickly when a show is coming to an end and it generallyhappens before you even start thinking about a new season. Filmation wasalready on to Bravestarr and I was headed for DIC when the He-Man/She-Ra era ended.
If He-Man was to be"resurrected" today, how would you like to see it handled (artists,art-style, writers, etc.)? Any network preference (Fox, KidsWB, syndication)?
Well we saw what happened when He-Man was resurrected many moons ago - Itstunk! And it quickly got the oblivion it well deserved. If by chance I wasasked to work on a revival (and I never was asked to work on either the revivedcartoon or the abysmal live action feature film) I guess I would probably shootfor a show much like Hercules or Xena, fast-paced, innovative, with realcharacters and stories that stemmed from the characters. As for the venue,frankly, not one of these pseudo-networks are any different. Nor are thenetworks. What makes a working situation click is executives with imaginationenough to leave good writers alone to do the job they do. This you seldom getbut on occasion it does happen and then you just love doing your job.
Let's say you could do to He-Man and/or She-Ra what you did to Transformers with Beast Wars: Make a newshow set in the future, using new and/or old characters. What would you change?What characters would you re-use?
I kind of answered this above but let me babble on alittle more. I definitely would bring back the big duo He-Man and She-Ra,perhaps working together, along with the characters I liked, such as Granamyr,Sea Hawk, Huntara etc. Some of the real "toy" characters like BeastMan I would probably leave out in favor or more sophisticated characters. Imight decide that Hordak had conquered Etheria and He-Man and She-Ra needed toget it back. Or I might go a completely different way. I certainly would demandbetter animation.
Do you ever write"fan-fiction," stories based on shows you watch/worked on? Do youever read other peoples' fanfics?
No, and no. AT the risk of incurring people's wrath Ithink fanfic is a huge waste of time. If someone wants to take the time toactually write a story why not create a story out of your own imagination andexperience rather than using someone else's model? Once or twice I did happento see a Beast Wars fanfic and they were always terrible. Allthey really had was the names of the characters, not the feel of thecharacters, or an innovative story with the characters. They read like poor Mad magazine parodies of movies and TVshows. If you have the time to write, look into your own heart and brain andfind what's there. But please don't subject the world to yet another fanfic.
You often worked pre-existing RPGcharacters or references in your episodes, Granamyr and Masque from "Houseof Shokoti" being the best-known of these, were there any others that werelesser-known or more obscure?
It is true that I was both an RPG gamer and author. Granamyrcame out of my Tunnels & Trolls scenario "The Isle ofDarksmoke" and Masque was from my Cerilon campaign which began as a Dungeons& Dragonsworld and which I later converted to my own system. Ioften used names I liked in my RPG worlds in my TV work. Though outside ofthose two I can't think of any at the moment.
Rumors abound that the She-Ra characterwas originally called "He-Ra". Is there a story behind that, and thechange?
No rumor. She-Ra was originally called Hera, like theGreek Goddess. But a copyright search showed that someone had the rights to thename and they asked me to come up with a new one. I thought about it anddecided I wanted something that was goddess-like and wanted the SHE to coincidewith the HE in He-Man. As I had just finished a big Egyptian RPG scenario, thename Ra was in my head and when I put them together, voila!
Did Granamyr know He-Man and She-Ra'strue identities? I seem to remember him saying something like that once, but Ican't recall for sure.
Absolutely. Granamyr knew most of the secrets ofEternia..
Hordak was Skeletor's mentor, but asidefrom the shape-changing abilities, we rarely see Hordak use magic. Is heunskilled in such arts, and taught Skeletor something else, or does he justprefer technology?
I will have to speculate since this relationship wasnever really expanded upon overmuch. So I would say - Hordak was basically atechno guy who used a bit of magic, whereas Skeletor had more of an affinityfor the eldritch arts. In addition, Skeletor would need something other thantechnology to best Hordak (since the master never teaches the pupil everything)and chose magic.
Which was a more fun series to writeoverall, He-Man or She-Ra?
This is almost like the question above. I had a greattime on both series and wouldn't say one was more fun than the other. They bothwere terrific. She-Ra was maybe closer to my heart because Ihad a lot more input on it, but the fun factor was the same.
Is there anything else you'd like tosay, or would you like to add to or amend a previous statement?
Two things: - a nod to Lou Scheimer. I got to know Loupretty well at Filmation and early this year was fortunate to see him again. Healways treated me great and in fact of all the "bosses" I ever workedfor, Lou was the best. Oh he didn't pay great (mainly because he reallycouldn't and still stay in business) and we didn't always see eye to eye butLou always loved the people who worked for him and did his best to keepeveryone feeling like they were part of a big family at Filmation. This is aVERY rare thing in a business where most bosses would sooner cut your throatthan do something nice for you. He was and is a great gentleman.
In a similar vein, I would like to acknowledge ArthurNadel who unfortunately is no longer with us. I almost never agreed withArthur, nor he with me, and yet in retrospect he taught me a helluva lot aboutmy craft and he gave me and about one-hundred other writers our starts in thecrazy world of show biz. We might not have always agreed with him, but damn ifwe didn't love him anyway!
Without these two, there would have been no He-Man,no She-Ra, and no fun.
What advice would you give to anaspiring writer (such as myself)?
Simple. You need 4 things to be a writer - TALENT,DESIRE, PERSISTENCE and LUCK. With those 4 things you can go wherever you want.
BUT, there is something else. Don't look to trends orfads or "what is selling now" to tell you what to write about. Yourheart and your head are what informs your work.
You must write the movie/TV show/book/cartoon/playetc., that YOU want to see and your characters must come out of your ownexperience and sensibility. That is all any aspiring writer brings to the table- human experience and reflection on same. Stories are always about humanhearts in conflict, so look for what makes you and those around you human.
And good luck. Larry DiTillio.