There's no denying it: BCI Eclipse had some incredible animated titles that risked becoming forever lost to the archives of time once the company was forced to shut its doors this past year. Fortunately Mill Creek Entertainment, which by the way is distributed by BCI's parent company, Navarre, has acquired the rights to bring many of BCI's titles to the home market once more. Even more impressive still is that these sets will be packaged up and sold as complete box sets (rather than individual season releases).
In the case of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, this set represents the complete 2002-series release by Mike Young Corporation. Coming in at a total runtime of 960 minutes, this set spans 4 discs and contains the same clear-plastic slipcase and artwork-style as the previous BCI releases.
The extras contained are only slightly less thorough than the individual season releases and include:
End of Episodes Morals
Interviews with Toyline Artists from Mattel and The Four Horsemen
12 audio commentaries
Scripts for episodes 1-40
A PDF Comic Book for unproduced episode #40
Notably missing from this set are the original art cards (a pair was included in each of the three season releases).
Now let's take a look at the show itself:
Fans are treated to what many consider the most accurate and exciting rendition of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe saga. Debuting in 2002 under the Mike Young Productions umbrella, this latest rendition of the He-Man source material closely follows the original Filmation standard set in the early 1980s with modernized animation quality and in-depth stories that further built upon the original characters and environments. The first season consisted of the following 26 episodes:
The Beginning Part 1
The Beginning Part 2
The Beginning Part 3
The Courage of Adam
The Deep End
The Ties That Bind
Night of the Shadowbeasts
The Mystery of Anwat Gar
The Monster Within
The Sweet Smell of Victory
The Council of Evil Part 1
The Council of Evil Part 2
Season two consisted of the following thirteen:
The Last Stand
To Walk With Dragons
Out of the Past
Rise of the Snake Men Part 1
Rise of the Snake Men Part 2
The Price of Deceit
Of Machines and Men
The Power of Grayskull
Web of Evil
Rattle of the Snake
Awaken the Serpent
In case you're just tuning in, no this isn't the Filmation version of the show so many of us recall with warm fuzzies from our youth. This is in fact the third (and most recent) animated iteration of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Produced for Cartoon Network by Mike Young
Productions, this version ran from 2002 until 2004 where it went for two full seasons (26 in the first season, 13 in the second). Along the way it managed to snag a very well deserved Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing (2004).
While there are few who could argue successfully that anything could replace the original Filmation series, Mike Young Productions managed to capture all of the elements that made the original so successful and to bring them up to modern standards of animation quality, sound work, and script writing. As a result the mythos had been brought to an entirely new generation of fans while simultaneously pleasing fans of the original.
Without giving too much away (I hate spoilers personally), I will say that the origins of Snake Mountain will begin to unfold in the second-half of the first season in addition to the complete origin of the Dark Hemisphere which imprisons Skeletor and his minions. New characters are plentiful as well and contain some slick back-story efforts, which make even the original Mattel toys a lot more desirable. Among the notables includes the stories of Two-Bad, Cobra Kahn, Cyclone, Roboto, Moss Man, Zodak, and Stinkor. Many of these characters were never fully fleshed out in the original show (if they appeared at all) and would have remained only in the imaginations of those who played with the toys if not for the spectacular effort here. We are also treated to a couple of new looks for He-Man himself including an amped up version of he and Skeletor in combat and his ever impressive winter gear which includes a flowing fur cape and a heavy battle ax.
The Snakemen element introduced in the first season develops into sheer brilliance in the second (and unfortunately final) season! Not to insinuate that the Masters didn't have their hands full as it was with Skeletor and his minions, this time around the threats to peace and justice come in from all angles in the form of the Skeletor and company, the Snake Men, and the Evil Horde! Yes, you read that correctly- She-Ra's arch nemesis, Hordak, who just so happens to have been Skeletor's mentor, shows up in Season 2 within Skeletor's origin story that finally ties all of the loose threads of Mattel's franchise together once and for all.
I often like to wonder what ground Mike Young's team would have covered had the show continued. Would they have expanded to include He-Man's sister (She-Ra's) story arc? Could have writer Larry DeTillio revisited some of his wise dragon influence? A shame that we'll probably never know.
All in all, the show simply continued to build upon the foundation first set by Filmation in the 1980s and thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, can be yours in its entirety for the cost of each of the single season releases.