November 5, 2012, 02:31pm
Princess of Power Secrets Revealed - Part 1
For those of you who have been following my series of historical articles on Mattel's '87 Star Sisters, the trio of unproduced figures for Princess of Power (along with their pet, Glory Bird), you will recall that Jon Seisa was brought on to Mattel Toys in October of 1985 to conceptualize this extention line; a line which ultimately never got off the ground due to fact that toy shelves were bogged down with older product that wasn't selling fast enough, and thus resulted in low orders from retailers.
Since tracking down Jon in early March of this year, he has become an invaluable resource for information on the vintage Princess of Power toy line. Despite not being around when it was in its embryonic stages, he has acted as a middle-man of sorts between myself and former employees who pre-dated his arrival at Mattel Toys.
Back in late March, Jon was awesome enough to offer to reconnect with his former boss Chris McAdam, the Design Manager for the whole of Princess of Power, for additional details. At the time, she was just getting back from Hong Kong and extremely busy with her VP job but took some time out of her schedule to pass along some interesting tid bits of information and history on the evolution of the brand to Jon for myself and the fans. However, by the time Jon heard back from Chris McAdam and got back to me in May, he had gotten tied up with design jobs and couldn't relay the information to me until more recently.
Before passing on Jon's message, I would like to preface (as I did in previous articles) that some of the information contained therein could potentially change and/or be clarified as I (hopefully) start to hear back from some of the employees mentioned in it.
PRINCESS OF POWER SECRETS REVEALED - PART 1
"Chris McAdam relayed to me that the original Princess of Power She-Ra was first developed not in her group in Girls' Toys (before I got there in 1985) but in the NBC Group (New Business Concepts), a special separate blue sky design team headed by Susannah Rosenthal, at the time, and located in an isolated location. It was the doll designer Justine Dantzer who created She-Ra. Justine is one of the 3 Dantzer sisters who are all known doll/toy designers in the industry. I knew Justine, briefly through a mutual friend, but more so her sister Elonne; I didn’t know Marlene Dantzer, personally, though saw all of them at parties and industry functions.
Originally, Justine proposed the idea of a female superhero named She-Ra as an antithesis to He-Man for the Masters of the Universe product line; because her observation was that the line lacked a female character, and thus this would add an interesting twist. The aesthetical look and play accessories, and even a castle were created and constructed for She-Ra for Justine’s initial prototype prelim creation and presentation. It had a more masculine and rugged quality to it (than the later Princess of Power line) due to its original placement in boys toys.
As strategies formed and coalesced, the idea emerged to place it in Girls Toys to empower girls. Chris McAdam was part of that evolution after it was handed over to the Girl’s Toy Design Group. The objective was to “feminize” and “soften” the aesthetics for girl play. Chris was able to get the talents of Kitty Black (Perkins) on the project (click HERE for biography), who at the time was a new emergent designer in fashion dolls at Mattel (who later became one of the top celebrity designers on Barbie). Kitty created the clever flashy and sassy action fashions with some sort of transformation feature. Noreen Porter was used to create the wonderful illustrations of the dolls for their sculpts with more feminine proportions and prettier faces, and also their superhero accessories."
Of Noreen Porter, Jon had this to say:
"We were fortunate to have in the POP design group a fabulous and highly talented in-house veteran doll designer/illustrator named Noreen Porter who worked on the main POP line... and specifically on the Bubble Carriage, Spinerella, Catra and She-Ra. Her illustrations where highly technical anatomically correct depictions and were incredible masterpieces (done in pencil with perfect highlights and shadows), The sculptors could literally use her illustrations to sculpt directly from. I understand that eventually Noreen went into medical illustration, a perfect field for her, IMHO, due to her meticulous attention to illustrative details."
Although I could be wrong, from what I gather, the Crystal Castle playset that was constructed for use in Justine's presentation may have been the same as the version shown in the U-Matic videocassette discovered in the Filmation Archives. (I believe it was Emiliano that posted the ARTICLE some years back.)
This seems to coincide with an old book from 1990 about the toy industry from called "TOYLAND The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry", where it is stated that the original Crystal Castle included a special bird's-beak entrance that would swoop down and pick up the figures to bring them inside the castle. Apparently both little girls (and their mothers) were uninterested in the mechanical feature when Mattel tested it. They preferred a "softer, less action-oriented product", so Mattel replaced the action feature with a traditional castle door. This change reduced the cost of the playset.
The She-Ra in Justine's presentation is a bit trickier. It's obviously not the same as the prototype shown in the U-Matic video, as it doesn't have a "masculine and rugged quality", so it's possibly a version that predates even the wax sculpt that was discovered on eBay a few years ago because the aforementioned book also mentions that She-Ra's action figure wasn't well received by little girls until Mattel "pinked it up."