Tomart's Action Figure Digest, October 1996

Tomart's Action Figure Digest
October 1996


Masters of the Universe is significant for two reasons. It was the first major line which incorporated action features, making the figures more than just posable toys. As a result, many future lines would strive to include some sort of action feature...even if it was nothing more than an accessory which snapped onto the figure itself. Action features, however, were not the key factor in the success of the line.

Just prior to Christmas 1983, the Federal Communication Commission lifted a number of restrictions on children's television programming. Among the regulations which were overturned was a 1969 decision which prohibited television shows based on toy products. This precedent had been established when the Tonka corporation filed suit with the FCC to prevent Mattel from producing a Hot Wheels television program.

Filmation Associates, a subsidiary of Westinghouse, was quick to take advantage of the deregulation. Witht he cooperation of Mattel, they produced sixty-five half-hour episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Filmation was unable to sell the series to any of the major networks, so they tried a different approach. Instead of selling the show, they traded the animated sequences for a portion of the air time, allowing local stations to keep the advertising revenues.

The line ultimately ran for ten years, and inspired a spin-off for girls, called Princess of Power. The marketing approach was quickly copied. Product-based TV shows were created for Transformers, Care Bears, G.I. Joe, and many other toy lines which followed. Critics mourned the loss of educational programs, but there was no arguing with ratings.

Primary characters were often re-done with different features over the years. Figures were sold on bubble-packed cards which changed as new merchandise was released. In 1990, a new series of figures was marketed under the name He-Man.

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