“By the Power of Grayskull, I have the power!!!” This weekend, we visited Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles to check out “Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”, a new He-Man-based art exhibition. One hundred artists were featured, bringing us everything from Prince Adam getting a hair cut, to Mekaneck peeking in a window at a half dressed Teela, to a gorgeous painting of Battle Cat the size of my apartment wall. There were even a few She-Ra pieces, including a $750 Kowl plush doll. Mattel co-sponsored the event and debuted a few new action figures. We got a chance to speak with Associate Marketing Manager Scott Neitlich about the event. He teased us with some info about the upcoming film, gave his two favorite fun facts about the toy lines and told us about the shiny new toys they were producing. Check out the pics. There were even a few accessories lying in the case to hint at what's to come. Got any guesses?Seth Green Likes He-Man If you want to check out the collection and maybe buy yourself a painting of Sorceress nursing Teela, a la the Madonna and child or my personal favorite, Skeletor surprising He-Man on the toilet, check out the website, http://gallery1988.com. Um, anyone else notice how much the Sorceress' falcon helmet looks like Mark's helmet from “Battle of the Planets”? I watch too much television.
Newsarama: So, how did this whole exhibition come about?
Scott Neitlich: Well, Mattel and Gallery 1988 have had a long standing relationship. Two years ago, we had a Hot Wheels exhibit here. And kind of talking about what would be a great follow up, and all the buzz about “Masters” with the movie in the works, and the really successful “Masters of the Universe Classics” line on mattycollector.com, there's my plug, it seemed like a really great time to do something. There's so many people that grew up in the eighties with this property, who are now professional artists and toy makers, etc. that it really just felt like a natural thing.
Nrama: So how did you go about acquiring all of this stuff?
Neitlich: A lot of it is from the artists that display at the gallery. A lot of the art is from Mattel designers. Mattel artists, pop culture friends of Mattel...the internet spreads this stuff pretty dang quick. A lot of people wanted to get pieces in and it was an open call. If you had something professional..
Nrama: Tell us more about what's coming up with the classics line.
Neitlich: Just tonight we revealed Optic who is our May 2010 figure. He's our first figure from the “New Adventures” line from 1989. So we now have “Princess of Power” figures, we have “Masters of the Universe” figures, and now we have “New Adventures”. We're bringing everyone together into one cohesive line.
Nrama: Any other new stuff you want to tell us about? Secrets you want to reveal...?
What toy will these accessories come with?Neitlich: Tonight's the first time we've mentioned Optic. There's also a few other things in the case that we revealed. We have Evil-Lyn, who is our April figure. We unveiled all of her accessories. She comes with a wand, a staff, a dagger, Screeech the bird (that's with 3 'E's) and Screeech's perch and armor...we haven't done the perch and the armor yet. So that was a big reveal. And there are a few other accessories in there that we put down there for future figures. We're not saying who they're from. You'll have to guess. I think some of them will be pretty obvious and others you'll have no idea. [note: Neitlich later revealed that the two he believed would be the hardest for people to place would be the round shield and the yellow sword.]
Nrama: Can you tease anything that's coming up for Toy Fair or Comic Con?
Neitlich: Well at Toy Fair we'll have at least four new figures, if not more, and we'll have some brand new sku's. Things are are actually not in the line now, that no one is expecting. We'll have at least two of those. One will be evil and one will be good. We'll also have two “Masters of the Universe” Comic Con exclusives. One will be a celebrity character, which we were supposed to reveal tonight. He's not actually ready yet....we hope to have it near Toy Fair. And we'll have another San Diego Comic Con figure that's more of a traditional “Masters of the Universe” figure like we've had the past two years and that one will definitely be one of the most requested figures.
Nrama: So, you have seen the most recent draft of the script for the upcoming film. What can you tell us?
Neitlich: The script is evolving. We're definitely not ready to announce anything about it. Who's attached to it. But it's coming along very well. We're excited. The script has become much more Eternia-based. I don't mean to say in any way...it always took place on Eternia, but they're really capturing now more of what Eternia is really about. That it's a mix of magic and technology and vehicles and creatures. All those great vehicles that you've been collecting from the toy line. I'm just going to pick random vehicles. Don't in any way assume I'm talking about vehicles from the movie. But when you have vehicles like the Attak Traks and Spydors and the Talon Fighters. The way the script is coming along, it's choosing certain vehicles and using them as if they really were in this world, how they would function. And I really think that's going to be exciting. We're going to see all the vehicles and creatures and the armor and what it would be like if they were not cartoon characters....like you're really standing next to Beast Man. What would that be like? What would that smell like?
Nrama: Not good, I'm assuming. If you had a dream cast, who would be in it?
Neitlich: I wouldn't even know where to start. I think a lot is going to be done with makeup and prosthetics, especially with some of the more creature-esque characters. I don't think Dolph Lundgren will be playing He-Man. I can tell you that. [laughs]
Nrama: Would he do a cameo, do you think?
Neitlich: I think that would be funny, personally. If he just showed up as an Eternian peasant or something. Who knows?
Nrama: Any chance She-Ra might show up?
Neitlich: I can't confirm who's in and who's out, but we're definitely big fans of She-Ra and the whole “Princess of Power” entourage...we're getting them into the toy line too. As far as getting her into the movie, we can't confirm that yet, but there's definitely been fan interest.
Nrama: So what are some of your favorite little know fun facts about the He-Man and She-Ra toy lines?
Neitlich: One of my favorite fun facts about the line is about the original Battle Cat. It was taken from Mattel's 1970's “Big Jim” line. It was from a toy called “Big Jim On the Tiger Trail”. We actually had a cage from a previous Big Jim...Big Jim was a ten inch figure that we did in the seventies. He was a Jack of all trades, kind of like Barbie. And in this set he was going to be a hunter in Africa, and we already had a cage. And they asked the designer to create a tiger that fit in the cage. So the reason Battle Cat is the size he is, is because he was designed to fit in the existing cage. And that designer is actually the same designer that went on to design the Eternia play set in “Masters” years later. And that tiger, when we did the “Masters” line, we wanted some beasts he could ride on. There are actually a couple different characters from “Big Jim”. The tiger became Battle Cat because they found that the five inch He-Man could ride him. We also took Big Jim's eagle, who became Zoar the falcon. And another character from “Big Jim” was a gorilla. That gorilla was going to become a character called Gygor that never ended up being in the line.
Another fun fact from the original “She-Ra” line. You can see in the mini-comic that came with She-Ra that her mask is covering her eyes, but on the toy, you can see her whole face. And the reason is that, when the toy was tested with little girls, they didn't like the idea of the beautiful She-Ra being covered up. So they simply just turned the mask upside down. So if you look at She-Ra, the one we played with for twenty-five years now, you can see that the mask, if you flipped it upside down, it would actually fit perfectly over her face, with the eye holes over her eyes. You've been playing with an upside down mask for twenty-five years.
“Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” exhibit runs from January 8th through January 29th at Gallery 1998 in Los Angeles.Click through the gallery up top for tons of images of new toys and artwork from the show.