Interviews
History Of The Star Sisters - Part 1

When the opportunity arose to communicate directly with the artist responsible for conceiving the unproduced '87 Star Sisters trio, I felt an adrenaline-charged rush of excitement over the possibility of hearing back from this former Mattel employee who, in my mind, is a legend for having been instrumental in giving life to what I believe would have been some of the most innovative figures of the entire Princess of Power toy line.

For a toy line geared toward young girls, I always felt the feature-driven Starla, Jewelstar and Tallstar figures were somewhat ahead of their time and pushed the boundaries of what was possible from a storyline perspective.

Excitement then turned into almost paralyzing awe and an overwhelming feeling of honor when I finally saw the initial response in my e-mail inbox, which divulged some basic information on how the project came into existence at Mattel and left the door open for me to acquire further details.

The artist later promised to send me a word file with some additional thoughts the following week, but little did I know that I would receive a whopping four pages of information that probably had not been recounted in a number of years.

My mind was spinning. Frankly, I fantasized about something like this happening for over a decade. Ha-ha

All of the aforementioned feelings were almost immediately followed by some self-created pressure to come up with a plan for presenting the history behind The Star Sisters in way that would not only do justice to the characters, but also honor everyone who was involved back in the day. After all, this is a particularly important piece of Princess of Power history that's on par with the Powers of Grayskull extension line for Masters of the Universe.

At the same time, I was mindful of the hardcore Princess of Power fans who haven't really heard much in terms of the history of classic toy line over the years; especially when compared to the venerable Masters of the Universe line. (Let's face it. Masters fans have been treated to an explosion of information, interviews, concept art and so on, over the last decade.)

I struggled with several hypothetical scenarios. Finally, I decided Princess of Power fans would probably appreciate an online series of historical articles. This option would allow me to get something out "sooner, rather than later" to the fans who have been fiending for historical background on the Princess of Power toy line, while giving me some time to get into contact with some other members of the Mattel team who also played a role in the creation of The Star Sisters.

By now, many of you may be eager to know the name of the artist I've been showering with praise and admiration. That person is Jon Seisa, an award-winning professional with 35 years of experience as an Art Director, Designer and Illustrator. At Mattel, he served as Art Director Of Advanced Concepts for the Girls' Toy Division during his 7-year run from 1985 to 1992. He also conceived The Star Sisters.

If you don't recognize the name, no doubt many of you will be familiar with some of the brands and products Jon was involved in at Mattel: The Spectra doll line, Barbie and The Sensations, Perfume Pretty Barbie, Jewel Secrets Barbie, The Heart Family Schooltime Fun, and many, many more.

Before I continue on, I would like to preface by saying that, at the moment, I'm conceptualizing this as a two-part series of articles, and they will not be in your typical Q & A interview format, but rather Jon's personal account of working on The Star Sisters. Jon's statements will be in bold text. He readily admitted to me that his memory is a bit fuzzy on some of the details, as it's been 27 years, so would I suggest that the fans go into this with the understanding that certain information may change if/when more information comes in. I'm hoping the story of the Star Sisters will come together/become clearer when I hopefully hear back from the former Disney employee that was hired to help with the backstory on The Star Sisters, as well as some past Mattel employees who were involved in the marketing end of things.

This is the story of The Star Sisters Part 1:

The Star Sisters doll line was designed to be an extension line to the Mattel Toys She-Ra, Princess of Power (POP) doll line with the lead doll She-Ra of Eternia, being for the girl-oriented consumer market and branch of the Masters of the Universe world and the animation sequels animated by Filmation. At the time, market research indicated that the life expectancy of a doll line is roughly 3 years; and thus, the marketing strategy emerged to revitalize the aging POP brand for additive commercial longevity with an extension line. Hence, The Star Sisters was the subsequent created and proposed result brought forth. However and sadly, orders from retailers and buyers were ultimately disappointing not meeting the projected and anticipated goals, and subsequently the potential line was regrettably terminated. Consumer interests were changing and moving on to other interests and new trends, and consequently the POP line began to overall fade.

Initially, I was brought on to Mattel Toys in October of 1985 to join the Princess of Power design team headed by design manager Chris McAdam and under Diana Troup, then design director of Barbie and POP, to help facilitate a creative product vision of what form this extension line might possibly embody. Working with the POP design team in ideation and brainstorm sessions, with illustrators,material and artist vendors, model makers, sculptors, fashion designers, hair rooters, and face painters, we developed The Star Sisters.

I formulated a preliminary product positioning for the character dolls that ultimately emerged, creating a mythic type legend of their origin. This first served as an introduction to my presentation to upper management and was used as a rudimentary foundation for further development of the back-story when we hired an outside writer/vendor, (name removed), a former associate of mine from my years at Walt Disney Imagineering prior to my employment at Mattel Toys.

The legend was simple. Once upon a bygone eon… The Star Sisters were banished by a wicked celestial witch who entombed the sidereal siblings in a small star that was hurled on a collision course with the planet Eternia, resulting in a catastrophic impact that formed the subterranean Crystal Catacombs of Eternia. Thus, The Star Sisters were eternally imprisoned inside the crystalline formations, awaiting for the day of their liberation. This legend changed somewhat down the road and to some degree with the marketers’ input and the writer hired (name removed), but basically this was the fundamental scenario I had concocted and established, initially. The celestial witch remained nameless because this was not a character (doll) scheduled by management to be budgeted for development within the line.

My first significant unveiling and presentation of the doll line was to one of Mattel’s top brass design executives, Judy Shackelford, and subsequently thereafter to Jill Barad, at that time the girls toys marketing director. For the Shackelford presentation, I knew I would be extremely nervous since my very employment hinged on the success of this line, so my strategy was to begin with a highly dramatic ice-breaker by creating something that I could purposely read verbatim, but in a dramatic theatrical fashion, and this would guarantee me that my nerves would not overwhelm my thought process to forget crucial details of my presentational speech. Consequently, I decided to create a legion of The Star Sisters to read, and so I created a large scroll out of over sized ochre parchment and wrote on it in calligraphy the legend of The Star Sisters. I aged the scroll to look utterly ancient and scorched its edges for additive authenticity. But before rolling it up, I sprinkled some baby talc powder and iridescent glitter in its center, and then after rolling it up I sealed it with a ribbon tie.

For the presentation I strategically spread out a plethora of exotic eye-catching sparkly materials in intoxicating colorful piles on the presentation table to enhance the visual senses of the world I intended to convey; glitter fabrics, pearlized colored fabrics, lenticular colored plastics, dazzling acrylic clear jewels, large mirrored prisms, strands of crystal and vacuum metalized plastic beads,iridescent foils, Mylars, and so on. As the key people sat before me I began my presentation by relaying, "Recently, I had ventured down into the deep dark recess of Mattel’s dank and musty basement, and to my absolute bewilderment I stumbled upon the most astonishing discovery, the unearthing of this utterly ancient scroll festooned with----- the dust of the ages!" As I spoke I untied the ribbon and unfurled the scroll held before me, and immediately after I uttered the words, "…the dust of the age!" I comically blew off the baby talc and glitter lying on the open scroll which undulated upward into a big billowing white cloud of dazzling star dust. Delightfully surprised, everyone burst out with an uproar of gleeful laughter. Instantly, the ice was broken and the rest of the presentation went exceedingly well… much to my relief, as I settled calmly in the rhythm of my presentation with flawless delivery.

The names of the two character dolls "Starla" and "Crystal Star" retained their original names from the very start, but "Tall Star" was a name later established by the marketing group for whatever rationale they cited, most likely for simplicity and to have the "star" aspect integrated into the name, while originally myself and the design group referred to her initially as "Expandra" and then later for my presentation it was changed to "Telescopa". The marketing culture at Mattel at that time had a tendency to rely too heavily on child testing and most often created names that were overly simplistic, often giving children elements within their known sphere of knowledge and influence, rather than promoting new unknown elements to expand their knowledge, like learning a new word. So names marketing considered to be "difficult" for children’s minds to grasp or pronounce were entirely avoided for more simplistic names, hence "Tall Star".

Glory Bird was merely a reincarnation of another POP bird with color and aesthetical material changes enhancing glittery visual attributes.

I never agreed with this basic Mattel Marketing principle because it promotes the "Dumbing Down of America", particularly since in Mattel’s historical infancy names for Barbie lead and feature dolls and fashions where extremely sophisticated and embodied an "ambience" that allowed children to learn new big words, like "Rhapsody Blue" or "Sophisticated Lady," which later and tragically evolved to painfully rudimentary names with the iconic Barbie name attached as if no one in the entire world knew her name was "Barbie," like "Golden Dream Barbie" or "Western Barbie."


Other
Tallstar Prototype From The Italian Mattel Catalog
Tallstar Prototype From The Italian Mattel Catalog

Other
Glory Bird Prototype From The Italian Mattel CatalogJewelstar Prototype From The Italian Mattel CatalogStarla Prototype From The Italian Mattel Catalog
Glory Bird Prototype From The Italian Mattel CatalogJewelstar Prototype From The Italian Mattel CatalogStarla Prototype From The Italian Mattel Catalog
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