Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 2

 Day 1 available: Here

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Now let's find out what the second pick is.

He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)

           Okay, second day and this is already making life a little more fun. Even though the toy line was all but dead by the time I was old enough for it, hand-me-downs, the stocking vagaries of toy stores in the 1980s, and reruns of the cartoon on the USA Network conspired to ensure that Masters of the Universe dominated my childhood. It is still one of my favorite properties to this day, and that is despite Matty Collector doing everything in its power to make being a MOTU fan a frustrating experience.
           That being said, it wasn't until 2008 that I actually saw this special. Hell, I didn't even know it existed until the late nineties when I read about it on To me, that is a real tragedy. Because, while I enjoy it now for what it is, I would have absolutely loved it as a kid. Christmas was already a uniquely magical time of the year for me back then and, if I could have hitched that season up to a prime time He-Man and She-Ra special, I would likely have been running back and forth through the house in a manner that would have made my mom think I had finally snapped completely.


           The mythos of the Masters of the Universe/Princess of Power brand can be confusing even if you have been a lifetime devotee. Making story notes clear wasn't as important as making sure each new toy looked as enticing as possible. With that in mind, I'm going to do my best to make this story as understandable as possible.
           The special opens at the Eternian Royal Palace. Many of Eternia's heroic warriors as well as members of Etheria's Great Rebellion are decorating in preparation for the celebration of the birthday of Adam and Adora (twins separated at birth and also the alter-ego's of He-Man and She-Ra). Watching over the preparations, Queen Marlena (formerly Earth astronaut Marlena Glenn, who became stranded on Eternia after mishap on a space mission and mother to Adam and Adora) comments that it reminds her of decorating for Christmas back on Earth.
           Meanwhile, Adam and Man-at-Arms are working on the Sky Spy, a spy rocket designed to give them the ability to more effectively monitor Skeletor's schemes. While the Sky Spy is unattended, Orko sneaks aboard out of curiosity and accidentally launches it. The launch of the Sky Spy attracts the attention of Skeletor, who sets off in pursuit of it. Seeing the Sky Spy in peril, Adam transforms in to He-Man and heads to confront Skeletor. Adora assumes that her brother may need assistance in the battle and transforms to She-Ra. Through their combined efforts they force Skeletor to break off his pursuit. However, in the chaos, Orko casts a spell to cause the Sky Spy to bring him to safety. This has the unintended consequence for rocketing him across space only to crash on Earth.
           On Earth, Orko rescues a brother and sister from an avalanche and discovers that they are lost. Orko comforts them and they begin to explain Christmas to him. Back on Eternia, the heroes realize that Orko must have been aboard the Sky Spy and set about formulating a plan to rescue him. The Sky Spy was equipped with a retrieval mechanism but it requires a water crystal found only on Etheria to work. She-Ra makes short work of that quest and soon Orko is returned to Eternia. However, Orko is not alone. The children have come to Eternia with him.

Orko learns that you get presents at Christmas, such as a Castle Grayskull playset.

           Horde Prime, a supreme evil character making his introduction in this special, summons Hordak and Skeletor and informs them that the knowledge of Christmas carried by the children threatens his power. He orders Skeletor and Hordak to capture the children for him. Skeletor and Hordak do some posturing to assert dominance over one another and to let the audience know that they don't get along very well.
           After a song break, Hordak launches an assault on the Eternian Palace and successfully kidnaps Orko and the children and departs for Etheria. Once on Etheria, the kids are taken from Hordak by the Monstroids, giant transforming robot creatures also debuting in this special. While He-Man and She-ra are figuring out where the children have been taken, the Manchines arrive at the Monstroids' jail and mount a rescue. The attempt goes awry and Orko, the children, and the Manchines are soon running from the Monsteroids. He-Man and She-Ra arrive to save the day, but in the confusion of battle, Skeletor absconds with the children. Hordak forces Skeletor's sky sled in to a crash landing as he still wants to be the one to deliver the children to Horde Prime. However, Skeletor also damages Hordak's ship and forces him to break off his pursuit.
           Skeletor and the children start a trek across a frozen mountain and to Skeletor's surprise he starts doing acts of kindness for the children, such as conjuring them up warmer clothing. After Skeletor fights off a snow beast, Hordak, with a repaired ship, attempts a final attack to steal the children back. He-Man and She-Ra arrive and fight off numerous Horde Troopers. However, it is Skeletor that strikes the final blow against Hordak, firing a magical blast that severely damages his ship and causes it to crash. That battle resolved and with Skeletor utterly transformed by the Christmas spirit, the heroic warriors are finally able to send the children back to Earth in time for Christmas.
Our unlikely hero is glad Christmas only comes once a year.
Final Thoughts

           This was an interesting one. As the synopsis shows, there is a lot of story packed into just 45 minutes of television. Things can feel quite rushed. Further, one of the common complaints of the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons is readily on display. Namely, the show is unapologetically a toy commercial. To wit, by the time this special aired, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had been out of production for close to a year so that Filmation could focus on She-Ra. Instead of showing kids the minions of Skeletor that they were familiar with, Mattel and Filmation used the opportunity to feature newer figures/characters Webstor, Rattlor, Spikor, and Two-Bad. Given all this, I would understand if you thought that I had lied when I said that I enjoyed this special earlier on. While the weaknesses are readily apparent to adult eyes, they are some of the things that would have made it exciting to me as a child. I owned Two-Bad; I never had Trap-Jaw or Tri-Klops. It would have been exciting to see one of my figures featured so prominently, even if all he does is hit buttons on a control panel. 
Two-Bad's moment of glory.
           As for the story, while it is both simple and rushed at the same time, the pacing is likely suited for kids. They do frequently have shorter attention spans than adults. At least, I know I did. And, while the story is simple, it has just the right kind of earnest charm for the season. Christmas is treated as truly magical. It has the power to turn He-Man's arch-nemesis good, if only for a day. A recommended viewing, assuming you are at least familiar with the characters and don't mind a little cheese. That's two down, join me tomorrow for number three.

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