did you become involved with writing for He-Man and
the Masters of the Universe?
agent phoned me and said Filmation was looking for writers
for Fat Albert. I said "No way." First,
I had never written a cartoon before (actually I had written
a short cartoon once, but it was a long time before that
and didn't really count). And I was certain I could never
write the so-called black "dialect" that the Fat
Albert gang spoke. My background was situation comedy
and variety shows. But I ended up meeting with Arthur Nadel
at Filmation and I wrote a freelance Fat Albert
episode - which they liked and hired me for staff. I wrote
13 Fat Albert's and then the series was finished.
Arthur came into my office and told me that next week we
would start writing He-Man. I freaked because as
much as I thought I could never write a Fat Albert
script, I was POSITIVE I could never write He-Man.
For one thing, the show was on for a couple of seasons and
there was a history of the show that I had no idea about.
I had never seen an episode of He-Man and the character
descriptions seemed rather odd. I mean they had such weird
names like "Man-At-Arms," etc. Well, nevertheless
I started writing He-Man and ended up writing 4
of them, before I left Filmation and started writing for
DIC Entertainment, which was in its beginning years.
you have any memories of ideas you had that inspired the
stories you wrote?
my memories are vague about what inspired my He-Man
episodes. However I know that years before that I was staff
writer for one of the versions of the Sid and Marty Krofft
series Pufnstuf. I wrote an episode for Pufnstuf
that had a story with an energy creature or (or some internal
energy force, I don't remember exactly) that Pufnstuf
and his friends (Witchiepoo, etc.) had to deal with (using
cheap chroma key). So I thought it would be fun to reprise
that element. The stories were completely different - just
the Energy element was incorporated into "The Energy
Beast." Also I liked volcanoes. So that's why I wrote
"Monster on the Mountain." (In the future when
I would work with Larry DiTillio on similar series, he always
knew I would submit one storyline featuring a volcano!).
Larry, I'm sure all will agree was a great He-Man
writer and still sends me Christmas cards every year. Hi
have no idea what inspired that rather odd plot of "The
Shadow of Skeletor." "The Greatest Show on Eternia"
was my last script for He Man, and I thought it
would be fun to have a circus show arrive at Eternia, especially
since the Orko character was a kid and could relate. So
that's why I wrote that one.
first episode was "The Energy Beast." Was there
a monster movie influence behind this episode?
it wasn't a monster movie but my episode of Pufnstuf
that inspired that. I'm not sure what inspired my Pufnstuf
episode. Probably some 1950's hokey monster movie I assume.
But I'm not sure.
this episode, the King proclaims the day "He-Man Day."
Did you know that Tom Bradley the former mayor of Los Angeles
declared April 28th 1987 as 'Masters of the Universe Day'?
Does this surprise you, and do you think He-Man was that
big back in the day?
didn't know that Mayor Bradley declared a "He-Man Day"
- but that is no big deal. Just about anyone can get a Mayoral
Proclamation declared in Los Angeles. I think all you need
to be is reasonably worthy and give a "donation"
to the City Treasury to basically pay for the Proclamation.
But yes, He-Man was very big - it was the only
cartoon of its kind at the beginning. Then came the other
toy-based (and financed) cartoon series.
a lot of the history of Eternia discovered in this episode
such as the origin of the Energy Beast, the creation of
Mount Eternia, and the appearance of the Spirit of the Ancients.
Do you like to add to the mythology of a show when you write?
Well I remember that there
was a problem with creating this Mount Eternia. I wanted
the volcano, but when I looked at the series background
drawings there was no volcano-like mountain near the palace.
So I asked the background artists if there was any window
in the throne room that wasn't seen on camera before. They
found one for me and I wrote in the script to use that specific
window to reveal the volcano. I remember the storyboard
department was a bit dismayed that I'd stick a mountain
into the Eternian landscape that was never there before.
But Bob Forward and the (very talented) storyboard team
were used to me being weird, so they went ahead and stuck
it in. I have no idea how the Spirit of the Ancients came
about, or if it was ever used again. If it was used in future
episodes, that's nice!
Skeletor's Raven influenced by Edgar Allen Poe and his famous
poem 'The Raven'?
the Raven was certainly influenced by (or should I say stolen
from) Poe's 'The Raven.' I think Poe would have made a good
writer at Filmation if he could figure out how to fill out
a time card. (More about the infamous Filmation timecards
played a prominent role in "The Shadow of Skeletor."
Was the episode intended as a vehicle for this character?
can't be specific about if this episode was to be a Man-E-Faces
(SPEAKING OF A WEIRD CHARACTER NAME) vehicle. But we were
occasionally "suggested" to use certain toy characters
so I guess I may have been told to feature him in this one.
I do know that I was at one or two meetings at Mattel where
their future and new characters (and props/vehicles) were
shown to us writers (under great security) with the obvious
hope that we would be inspired to find stories to feature
these new toys.
there any particular reason to take the episode into outer
because like volcanoes I was interested in space travel.
And another planet seemed like a good place to do something
a little different with the He-Man characters.
episode has a very good act break where it looks like Adam
might have to turn into He-Man in front of everybody. Very
rarely did anyone use this plot point to as great effect
as that, did you see it as a challenge to come up with something
as exciting as that?
tell the truth I don't recall much about the creation or
writing of this episode at all. But writing every episode
of He-Man was a challenge for me. For one thing,
I was really not a He-Man type of writer. My background
was comedy - not the kind of fantastic adventures of He-Man.
Also there was one big challenge about writing for Filmation.
And that challenge was Arthur Nadel (he was in charge of
the writers) who I have many fond memories of. Arthur Nadel
would approve the stories but always would suggest adding
something to the plot that would baffle me. But I'd go ahead
and stick it in and find a way to make it work. Then I'd
give Arthur the first draft and he'd want something else
added so I'd add that. Finally by the final draft the script
was totally too long so I'd have to take things out. To
make the plot make any sense at all I had to remove things
that were very much mine and leave things in that were very
much Arthur. Or vice versa; I'd take things out that Arthur
wanted in and keep my things in - whatever was necessary
to make the story work while letting me take out those 10-15
extra pages. Then after I'd finally get the script back
to the correct page length, Arthur might want just a "tiny"
portion of his plot point put back in - which would make
the script too long again. And then after Storyboard got
finished with it, the script was once again too long so
I'd have to butcher another 10 pages out of it. But the
challenge was even with all these changes, I always liked
the idea that I was still able to find a way to give the
even the most convoluted (and outrageous/ridiculous) plots
some sense of storyline. I actually looked forward when
Arthur would tell me to add something that I felt was completely
out of place - but find a way to make it "work."
Did that answer the question?
did! What inspired you to mix the somewhat diverse worlds
of Eternia and the circus in "The Greatest Show on
wanted me to write an episode that featured Orko - since
I liked that character. Well I thought since Orko was really
a kid (or kid-like) what would be more perfect than a circus
coming to Eternia. I kept pushing the limits of what I hoped
to get away with - and never thought I would get away with
shooting Skeletor out of a cannon. The storyboard artists
were once again "bemused" with me that I had the
nerve to do that! As it turned out, instead of shooting
Skeletor out of the cannon I think they had him riding a
big firecracker. How humiliating for Skeletor and me!
know there are some He-Man fans who think that
bringing a circus to Eternia was awful and on one He-Man
fan site at least one "fan" has said some pretty
bad things about me because of that. He called me the worst
writer on the series and he hated what I did to his beloved
Skeletor. But I figured that basically, at least to me,
the whole He-Man concept made little sense anyway.
(I mean characters with names like "Man-At-Arms"
seemed so outrageous that I never took the series seriously.)
Even that one fan admitted that even within what he called
my miserable writing for the circus episode he admitted
it "really has me laughing at a couple of points, I
must admit!" (I assume this same fan hated my episode
of that sophisticated comedy "Three's Company.")
if I may ramble on, the writer's assistants Pam and Joyce
loved my scripts. I would always hear them laughing as they
would retype my material into their humungous Radio
Shack computers. To this day when I see Pam (who now
works at DIC) she brings up the line that really broke her
up. I don't recall the exact line, but it featured the word
"traif" which means "non-kosher." Not
sure which He-Man episode I stuck that word into
but if you ever do an interview with Pam she has that line
embedded in her brain matter.
like Larry DiTillio were really into the He-Man
concept and the whole world of fantastic adventure. All
I know is I made Pam and Joyce laugh and Arthur Nadel smile
- and that was good enough for me.
fans need to know is that they are watching the results
of a complicated behind the scenes process that leads to
the resulting cartoon. Especially for He-Man there
were budget restraints which limited the number of sets,
characters and even actions we could use in an episode.
(The Storyboard department put together a notebook of standard
character movements that were already created for past He-Man
episodes, and we were strongly encouraged to re-use those
movements whenever possible in order to keep the episodes
on budget. The cel department actually kept those previously
inked-and-painted cells on shelves and would and turn them
over to the camera operators to re-use them.) Then there
were storylines which don't always come from the writers,
but come from the results of Mattel's "subliminal suggestions"
to include certain toy characters, vehicles etc. There were
severe time restraints in writing the scripts, and finally
notes from the production company which the writer may or
may not agree with but must include somehow. In my case,
I was a writer brought on Filmation's staff to write Fat
Albert, who suddenly found myself writing He-Man,
so I wrote my episodes in my own style. There was no way
I could write like Larry DiTillio, one of the great He-Man
writers. I did it my way. I suppose if I stayed with the
series I would have turned it into a total comedy and it
would have ended up being re-titled Hee Hee Man.
episode is obviously very comical and appealing to children.
I've seen episodes that you've written of Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles and Beast Wars that had gags
that the parents of children in the audience might get before
their children do (movie references for instance). Do you
have that goal in mind when you write to appeal to both
children and their parents watching the show?
writing comedy for kids shows, I would write what kids could
understand - but wouldn't hesitate to put things in for
their parents - so long as it didn't confuse the kids. Those
"parents" lines were always secondary and if they
went over the heads of the kids that was okay as long as
it didn't confuse them or interfere with the storyline.
Also, I always feel that it doesn't hurt for kids to see
their parents laughing at a kid's favorite cartoon. But
I never wrote in a way which ignores a child's world. I've
seen too many scripts for kids where the writer puts in
things that baffle a kid and interfere with their enjoyment
of a story.
"Monster on the Mountain" based on old folk tales
and local legends as well as the rumors and superstitions
that arise out of them?
I read very little fiction, and my knowledge of myths and
legends is pretty much nil. It was based on me liking volcanoes,
and finding a way to fit the He-Man characters
the end of the episode, the Tingler reveals that his name
is Herman. Is this a reference to Herman's Hermits?
that is why I chose that name. That is a perfect example
of how I would use a joke that would appeal to adults and
not confuse the kid. It didn't hurt to use the name Herman,
and if the kids didn't get it, their parents would.
villains in your episodes always had very good lines. Are
villains easier to write for than heroes?
villains are always more fun to write for. When I was writing
for Pufnstuf it was more fun to write for Voodoo
and Witchiepoo and the other villains than the usually bland
were your favorite characters from the show?
I could do some comedy with him.
you get a chance to see the episodes you wrote? If so, did
the end results match what you planned on paper and imagined
in your mind?
saw a few. Of course I was prepared for the limited animation
so I didn't expect much so far as the execution. So I never
expected great animation. But I was really shocked and disappointed
on the really cheap way the circus tent collapsed in "The
Greatest Show on Eternia." If you recall, it was done
with a wide shot of the tent. The collapse was handled with
dissolves of the tent collapsing. Really looked awful especially
because of the importance to the plot of the tent collapse.
But I couldn't blame anyone - they were probably WAY over
budget already on that episode because of all the new backgrounds,
there any characters that you created or any mark that you
were proud of making on the show?
I liked the circus episode
because it ran counter to what the whole series was about.
there any episodes planned that didn't get past the drawing
Well, we would turn in many
story ideas and not all were approved. But once they were
written they were shot. There was no room in the Filmation
budget for trashing a script that was paid for. We had some
outside writers that Arthur would take a chance on and if
their script was no good, then a staff writer would re-write
you had chance to see the new He-Man show? If so,
what are your thoughts on it? Do you have any interest in
being involved in it?
there a new He-Man show? I knew about the second
non-Filmation one, which I didn't watch. But had no idea
there is a new one. And no, I have no interest in writing
for it. I am in a totally different and exciting part of
media now - streaming video on the Internet. But hey, if
they want to stream it on the net I'll do that!
I forget, everyone at Filmation had to fill out time cards.
I was a writer who came from major television shows and
the idea of filling out a time card was so bizarre. But
it was a union house and they had to keep track of hours
(especially the ink and paint department). Even Arthur Nadel
would fill out a time card. Arthur was also a director and
he would direct the live action segments of Fat Albert
- and he filled in a time card and wrote "Directing"
in the appropriate line on the card, to my amusement.
are you working on at the moment? Where can people find
out more about your work?
am President of a company that is involved with streaming
video on the net. It is a very exciting business because
of what it can do for the creative community. No more network
video presidents that must approve your stories. We feature
all types of streaming media but focus on WindowsMedia9
because it offers the most incredible video on the net.
Go to www.123streamingplanet.com
and become a member of the Rowby Fan Club of which
I am President. New streaming videos will be added soon
including a live puppet show.
thanks to Rowby for taking the time out to answer all these
questions - make sure to visit his site soon!