It’s Christmas eve and you know what that means: A marathon of Christmas films on the TV. Now while so many people will watching things like A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Miracle on 34th Street and other classics… Then there are those monsters among you that who think that things like Gremlins and Die Hard are must watch films during the season. Well for me Christmas time means watching popular 1980s and 1990s cartoon specials based around Christmas, and that is what we are going to look at today with one of the weirdest: He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special.
Title: He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
Production Company: Filmation
Distributed by: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (USA) & Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Directed by: Bill Reed & Ernie Schmidt
Written by: Bob Forward & Don Heckman
Produced by: Lou Scheimer
Starring: John Erwin, Melendy Britt, Alan Oppenheimer, Linda Gary, George DiCenzo, Lou Scheimer & Erika Scheimer
Based on: He-Man & She-Ra by Mattel, Inc. & Filmation
Release dates: December 6, 2005 (DVD-United States) / December 7, 2005 (DVD-Australia)
Running time: 51 minutes
Rating: PG (United States) / G (Australia)
While everybody else is preparing for Adam’s and Adora’s birthday, Adam is helping Man-At-Arms finish up the Sky Spy, a space shuttle intended to spy on Skeletor. The moment they head back to the palace, though, Orko gets inside the ship and messes around with the controls, causing the ship to blast off into the sky with him in it. Skeletor catches sight of the aircraft and, despite not knowing what it is or who is flying it, he gives chase after it in the Collector. Before he can take it down, He-Man and She-Ra, who are also unaware that Orko is in the Sky Spy, show up and punch a hole in the Collector, throwing it off course.
Orko, meanwhile, tries to get the Sky Spy to land by way of a magic spell, which causes the shuttle to disappear from Eternia’s atmosphere and crash-land somewhere on Earth. Immediately following this, he meets two children named Miguel and Alisha, who had gone out to get their family’s Christmas tree and become lost in doing so. Orko brings them into the crashed Sky Spy, where they explain Christmas to him.
Back on Eternia, everyone discovers that Orko is missing when they find his magic spellbook, which he supposedly is never without. Man-At-Arms manages to pull up the coordinates for the Sky Spy’s location, which Queen Marlena recognizes as Earth’s coordinates. Unfortunately, Man-At-Arms’ Transport Beam needs a Carium Water Crystal, of which there are none on Eternia, in order to gain enough power to bring Orko back. Adora suggests that there might be one on Etheria, and, after secretly transforming into She-Ra, rides off on Swift Wind.
Once on Etheria, She-Ra enlists the help of Mermista to attain the crystal, which is guarded by a fierce creature known as the Beast Monster. They manage to secure the crystal in their possession, but just as She-Ra and Swift Wind prepare to leave, they are halted by a group of huge android menaces who trap them in a plastic bubble. She-Ra recognizes these robots as the Monstroids, having been told about them by some friends of hers known as the Manchines. The Monstroids then leave for their headquarters, leaving She-Ra and Swift Wind to escape.
Upon Adora’s return with the crystal, Man-At-Arms gets the Transport Beam working, and sure enough, Orko and the Sky Spy are transported back in, but Orko has brought Miguel, Alisha and their Christmas tree with them. After explanations of where they came from, the children are told that it may take a few days for the crystal to recharge before they can return to Earth, and they are quite distressed that they might miss Christmas. Queen Marlena, sympathizing with these children from her own planet, decides to combine Adam and Adora’s birthday party into a Christmas party. Meanwhile, Skeletor and Hordak are summoned by their supreme master, Horde Prime, who believes that the Christmas spirit that is now being brought to Eternia is the only thing that could stop his rise to power. He orders them to go capture the two Earth children, saying that whoever brings them to him will be well-rewarded.
Soon, just as Bow finishes writing a song he wrote about Christmas, Hordak shows up and uses a tractor beam to capture Miguel and Alisha, taking Orko with them. He and his minions do not get far, though, before their ship is brought down by the Monstroids, who take the children hostage themselves, they plan on dealing with Horde Prime themselves when he comes for the children, and force Hordak and his men to retreat. Luckily, the Manchines show up to rescue Orko and the children. The Monstroids try to stop them from escaping, but He-Man and She-Ra, having been told of the children’s location by Peekablue, show up just in time to handle them, with help from the other Manchines. But while that’s going on, Skeletor comes in and captures Miguel and Alisha, taking with them a Manchine puppy named Relay.
But then Hordak reappears and shoots down Skeletor’s sky-scooter, crash-landing him in some snowy mountains; because of this, Skeletor is now forced to bring his prisoners to Horde Prime on foot. During the trek, he finds a sudden urge of kindness that results in him fitting the children with winter jackets to protect them from the cold, bringing Relay along so he doesn’t freeze to death, and even protecting the children from a snowbeast. He also inquires the children about Christmas, all the while trying to reassure them, and himself, that he is still a bad guy. Just as Horde Prime arrives in his ship, He-Man and She-Ra finally catch up, but Hordak arrives as well; he knocks Skeletor out by deflecting a laser blast and distracts He-Man and She-Ra by sending out numerous Horde Troopers. But just in the nick of time, Relay licks Skeletor’s face; he wakes up and saves his would-be captives by shooting down Horde Prime’s ship. Obviously angry at this, Horde Prime attempts to shoot Skeletor, but He-Man and She-Ra lift his ship up and throw it into space before he has a chance to. The children thank Skeletor for saving them, a fact that He-Man is surprised at, which he reluctantly admits is true, and Skeletor is relieved to learn that he will only be overtaken by Christmas spirit once a year.
Back at the palace, as the good guys celebrate their Christmas party, Adam, dressed as Santa Claus, gives the children flying belts. Man-At-Arms then uses the Transporter to send Miguel and Alisha back to their home on Earth, where they are welcomed back by their parents.
At the end of the special, Prince Adam and Orko give us a very special Christmas moral. Adam states that “Though we celebrate it and get presents, Christmas is about caring, sharing and goodwill and its spirit is within all of us”. And in fun fashion, Orko states that what make him happy on Christmas is…presents.
Before we jump into a lot of character stuff, I just have to give credit to everyone mentioned in this section as amazing professionals. Four out of these six people are He-Man/She-Ra regulars who fill multiple roles in the one production. This practice was very common in the 1980s as dubbing wasn’t something that only celebrities could do at the time and it needed to be done cheap. This is why I will always have more appreciation for the voice actors of this era over any other… Especially modern day where celebrities get hired more than professional voice actors at a rate of 5 to 1.
John Erwin as He-Man / Prince Adam / Webstor
While John Erwin did a good job in all his roles, the main one that we see for the majority of the film is He-Man… duh. So over the course of the Christmas Special He-Man is doing his usual thing, trying to save someone or something from Skeletor. This case being the children that are accidentally brought over from Earth to Eternia. What He-Man doesn’t understand is that while he is chasing down Skeletor and facing off against Monstroids and the like, his arch enemy is getting a lesson in the Christmas Spirit. I’m sure that by the end of the film, if Skeletor wasn’t a wanted criminal with He-Man & She-Ra seeing the good he did for the children, He-Man would invite Skeletor back to the palace to partake in the Christmas party.
Alan Oppenheimer as Skeletor / Man-At-Arms / Zipper
Oppenheimer is a legend, with tat great laugh as Skeletor and the brash wisdom and command as Man-At-Arms. Though as characters, Man-At-Arms doesn’t do too much in the Christmas Special besides showing off his latest invention: The Sky Spy, a rocket ship that is able to travel through dimensions. Outside of that, Man-At-Arms doesn’t contribute much to the overall story. On the other hand, Skeletor is one of the main characters who goes through a lot in the film. Skeletor begins things out as the usual evil, kidnapping the children from Earth in order to deliver them to Horde Prime and one up Hordak. While spending time with the children, Skeletor learns a bit about looking out for others and sometimes that doing good can actually make you feel better than doing evil. Many would see this as a softening of the character, but it’s for the sake of one episode, so it’s ok.
Lana Beeson as Alicia & R.D. Robb as Miguel
The two Earth children who are accidentally brought to Eternia after Orko ends up on Earth after a malfunction of the Sky Spy. The children don’t really have personality, just being all cheery and happy no matter whats going on because “It’s Christmas”. They are the bringers of the Christmas Spirit to the worlds and are treated as a threat to all the evil therein.
Melendy Britt as She-Ra / Princess Adora / Mermista / Catra
Britt does her usual great work as She-Ra in this film, giving a commanding performance that shows the confidence of the character at all times. Like her brother He-man, She-Ra is brought in as more of a chaser role, tracking the children through Etheria to save them from being brought to Horde Prime. While she doesn’t get the same changes with her main nemesis, Hordak, She-Ra does make friends with a new grouping of characters: The Manchines.
George DiCenzo as Hordak / Bow / Cutter
I love DiCenzo as Hordak. Like Oppenheimer as Skeletor, DiCenzo is one of those voice actors who is known for his laugh as Hordak more than anything else. As a character, Hordak is the pure evil of the movie, doing whatever is needed in order to bring the Earth children to Horde Prime. He has no remorse and doesn’t care about the state of the children as much as Skeletor ends up doing.
Lou Scheimer as Orko / King Randor / Swift Wind / Spikor / Two-Bad / Modulok / Kowl / Rattlor / Horde Prime / Father / Multi-Bot
The man who brought it all to life, Lou does a lot of the smaller roles in the film. The main two worth talking about are Horde Prime and Orka. As usual, Orko is the usual bumbling magician that he is in the series, accidentally bringing the Earth children to Eternia. Orko brings a bit of the every-man flavor to the film, as the children use him to explain all the things that make Christmas great on Earth so they can bring it to Eternia. On the flip side, Horde Prime is the biggest evil and ruler of the universe that Etheria resides in. The arrival of Christmas to the universe seems to bring some sort of threat to him personally. The vision of Horde Prime was always one of mystery in the She-Ra series and it took till the Masters of the Universe Classics toy line for anyone to see Horde Prime in full form.
For the most part, He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special is a great excuse to bring all the characters from both series together for an adventure. Before this time, there were little cameo moments in She-Ra featuring mostly He-Man or Skeletor, as the She-Ra crew didn’t show up in the He-Man series due to the timing of both series. What also works well is that instead of it being a story about Christmas and how it’s meant to be the overall savior of a problem, we’re seeing the introduction of the idea and themes of Christmas to a dimension that doesn’t have it at all. So we get to see the psychological impact of bringing a foreign tradition into a place where it never existed. More to the point, we see how the idea of Christmas works in a battle between good and evil, especially with Skeletor and what happens to him personally when he learns of the themes and feelings associated with the season.
If there is anything to dislike about this special it’s that it is very formulaic, with characters being recaptured over and over again. The children often end up getting grabbed by Hordak, Skeletor, the Monstroids, etc. The issue with this is that you have to find ways to delay or distract the heroes of the film in order for these things to happen time and time again. By the end of the movie you definitely get sick of the tropes. The other issue is that unless you are an avid watcher of the She-Ra series, you’ll be confused about characters like Horde Prime, The Manchines, and The Monstroids; as these characters would appear in that series only. For me, since I didn’t watch too much of She-Ra back in the day, I didn’t know who these characters were and just thought it was new character overload. Then to top it all off, you get the usual cheap tricks and tactics used in the animation department that made Filmation cheap to work with. This was meant to be a feature, a movie, so you think they would do a lot of new animation and stuff for this.
Overall, the He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special is a great film to watch over the Christmas season. It’s an interesting look at Christmas from a complete outsider perspective. Seeing an evil character like Skeletor realize that it’s not so bad to be good for one time of the year is a nice heartwarming story to see play out. In a more ideal world we would see this followed up and just have more people from Eternia just enjoy the season… Except Hordak, keep being evil mofo!
© 1990 Entertainment Rights Plc. Characters © 1983/1984 Mattel Inc.; All Rights Reserved. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and other character names are trademarks of Mattel, Inc.
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