Exclusive Interview: Director Robert McCallum Talks New He-Man Doc – THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL

Discover the history of Mattel’s definitive action figure toy line this September! From Randall Lobb and Robert McCallum, THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL : The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe chronicles the beginnings and blockbuster-success of ‘80s toy sensation He-Man in an exhaustive, captivating 95 minute documentary that melts back the plastic on Eternia’s best-kept secrets! Featuring Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Richard Edlund, J. Michael Straczynski, Alan Oppenheimer and many more, the “fantastic documentary”* THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL will be available on Digital and DVD for the first time this September from High Octane Pictures.

In the early 1980s He-Man arrived on the scene and hit the world with a punch as powerful as the character himself. Designed in the wake of Conan the barbarian and under the shadow of Star Wars, He-Man’s surprising popularity spawned a multi billion dollar empire that included toys, comic books, cartoons, live-action movies and a literal sister spinoff show – She-Ra – and continues to appeal to a ravenous fan-base today. Watch as artists, creators and collaborators dig deep, tell tales and share the surprising developments of an unlikely, unparalleled pop culture success in this Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Do you have the power?

Alien Bee – Robert. When did your filmmaking career kick off?

Robert McCallum – I was lucky enough to know in high school that I wanted to make films. The first films I made were three shorts, all Evil Dead parodies, in French, and the audience reaction coupled with the fun during production sealed it for me. I had to keep making films.

Alien Bee – And was the goal to one day do this for a living?

Robert McCallum – “For a living” is a phrase I’ve never really used; I’ve honestly just kept my goal to keep making films and telling stories by any means necessary. There are certain goals you hope to achieve like making a short, then a feature, then a good feature etc and one of the goals was selling something that made more than it cost. It’s nice to be at that point on a frequent basis. That’s not to say I can live off of the receipts of my films, but things are good. That’s the next goal, I suppose.

Alien Bee – How’s that goal coming along?

Robert McCallum – Really well. “Nintendo Quest” was my first big hit that struck a chord with the fan audiences. “Missing Mom” has continued to perform well on steaming platforms. The documentary I made on the heavy metal band, Kittie, sold really well out of the gate and that brings us to “Power of Grayskull” which, again, thankfully has sold well. My next series, “Video Game Box Art” debuts in Canada on SuperChannel in November so, I have a lot to smile about these days including s new series on Action Figures in shooting now. I’m really very lucky.

Alien Bee – One imagines, based on the types of films you’re making, that you were greatly influenced by the big brands of the ‘80s, be it Masters of the Universe, Star Wars, Star Trek and so on?

Robert McCallum – Ya, that tends to happen when you grow up in that era. It was also a decade of great exploration in terms of brands and world building and that’s the part that really appeals to me.

Alien Bee – Why He-Man…?

Robert McCallum – As a kid it gave me hope that I could have the power. I had a pretty interesting scenario growing up – see “Missing Mom” – and that phrase “I have the power!” helped me keep it together. It’s also a really wonderful world of magic and technology with memorable characters.

Alien Bee – What was it about Masters of the Universe that led to its quick success, you think?

Robert McCallum – The character design and scale of the line was kind of brand new. When you held a figure, it was a really meaty experience. There was nothing else like it. Couple that with diverse colors and interesting characters and settings, and you’ve got a winner.

Alien Bee – Were you yourself a collector? Did you have all the action figures and toys?

Robert McCallum – I still collect nowadays but to a lesser extent. I had all the He-Man stuff growing up as a kid, but when my family situation went south, I could only take what I could carry in the middle of the night. I rebuilt my collection while in university but sold that iteration to make Nintendo Quest. I started collecting the Masters of the Universe Classics Line in 2008, but sold that lot when my daughter was born and we needed cash to move. Now, I’ve got less than a dozen figures but I’m quite happy with what I have.

Alien Bee – How did the Masters brand differ to the Star Wars brand, if it all, during that time?

Robert McCallum – I think Masters kind of filled the gap after Jedi came out. There wasn’t much Star Wars during the mid 80s and on, but He-Man was everywhere and there were many more adventures to recreate with the toys thanks to all the episodes Filmation created that explored a lot of different cultures, myths that Star Wars didn’t. I guess the biggest difference was there was more Masters to consume both in toys and media.

Alien Bee – Are the Masters of the Universe toys still just as popular?

Robert McCallum – I think sales are a far cry from the hundred million year after year revenue of the 80s which is why it’s largely been an online subscription brand for “adult collectors” the last ten years. But who knows? The new film seems to have pushed the brand back to retail according to announcements at SDCC – we’ll see if it can get back to the glory days.

Alien Bee – Do you think the 1987 feature film version hurt or helped the brand?

Robert McCallum – I think it helped but it just came out at the wrong time. I think it probably didn’t live up to expectations because there were many years of all those characters and places looking a certain way and it would be impossible for it to be the same in the live-action film. And there’s no such thing as bad press too right? It kept people talking and if the toy-side of things could’ve held on, it would’ve likely performed better at the box office.

Alien Bee – Is it fair to say the movie has become somewhat of a cult classic over the years?

Robert McCallum – Ya, and a lot of 80s films will fall into the same category but much more when it’s based on a big brand that’s endured for multiple Decades thanks to a devoted fan base.

Alien Bee – What will we learn about during the doc?

Robert McCallum – I think the biggest thing you’d learn is how many people were instrumental in making every facet of Masters of the Universe successful. A lot of brands have one or two key creators, but Masters was a collective undertaking where each part be it toyline, cartoon, movie, or comic helped the other in equal parts.

Alien Bee – And I believe this is an extended version of the same doc that was shown on Netflix?

Robert McCallum – Nope, same length but there might be some cool DVD extras. (I don’t know for sure, to be honest)

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