He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special premiered in December of ‘85, and I was one of the presumed millions who watched it with their jaws to the floor. He-Man, in prime time?! That was huge!
The special featured just about every character from both He-Man and She-Ra’s cartoons, even if most of those appearances were of the cameo variety. In bigger news, we learned that Skeletor and Hordak both served a higher power, Horde Prime, who was sort of like a Godzilla-sized Dr. Claw.
Still, the most memorable part of the special was Skeletor’s turn to heroics. For one night only, Skeletor went good, too filled with Christmas spirit to let his giant yelling robot boss eat a pair of innocent children.
(Not a Christmas since 1985 has gone by without me and my older brother randomly quoting Skeletor’s lines from the special. “I don’t LIKE to feel good! I like to feel EVIL!”)
The whole special now lives on He-Man’s official YouTube channel. (Yes, He-Man has a YouTube channel.)
Course, if you’re like me, these 1980s Christmas specials don’t pack the same punch without their original commercials. Like I get that McDonald’s may very well still advertise during A Charlie Brown Christmas, but if I don’t see Ronald McDonald teaching a sad boy to ice skate, it just isn’t the same.
Luckily for me — and soon for you — a generous reader donated a copy of the special’s original 1985 broadcast, complete with every commercial. Oh my GOD, guys. It’s an absolute parade of the best ‘80s toys, with all of the major toy companies treating He-Man’s Christmas special like it was the goddamned Super Bowl. Hey, in their world, it kinda was.
Below are all six breaks from the hourlong special, with over twenty different toy commercials. (Ironically, none of the commercials featured He-Man or She-Ra figures. Even back then, you weren’t allowed to advertise toys connected to a particular show during that show. Mattel countered by advertising fucktons of Barbie dolls instead.)
Commercial Break #1:
Sectaurs, Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie, Robotech, Capsela
In the first break, that Sectaurs commercial hit me hardest. I’ll spare you another Dino Drac diatribe about how amazing Sectaurs toys were, but it’s worth noting that even a shitty action figure line would’ve made its mark with commercials like this.
The bulk of Sectaurs commercials were episodic, with a vaguely consistent story woven through umpteen product shots. I submit that more kids paid attention to that story than whatever came out of the actual Sectaurs cartoon series.
Commercial Break #2:
Cap’n Crunch, Wheeled Warriors, Electronic Talk ‘N Play, Hello Color
Here, the big one for me is that Wheeled Warriors playset. If you don’t remember Wheeled Warriors, they were futuristic “cars” that each came with about a dozen interchangeable parts. (The heroic cars were driven by human pilots, while the evil ones were basically just living cars themselves.)
The toy line wasn’t super conducive to a playset, but bless Mattel for trying. I myself owned the Lightning League Battle Base, though I got it on clearance at Kiddie City years after production halted on the toy line. Even by then, it was still obvious that the Battle Base worked better with G.I. Joe-scale figures than Wheeled Warriors cars. (And used that way, the playset effectively became the Joes’ version of Shredder’s Technodrome!)
Commercial Break #3:
The Animal, Day-to-Night Barbie, Verbot, Voltron
Boy, there was a lot of good stuff in commercial break #3. Since The Animal will turn up again, I’ll save that for later.
I owned the Tomy Verbot, though I wasn’t so good at figuring out its hundred electronic functions. I settled on making the robot move at all as the opus achievement, and was barely able to handle that. Still, Verbot looked like a cross between R2-D2 and Screech’s roommate, so I was happy to have him.
The Voltron set was a gift from my late godmother, who became more of a fairy godmother at Christmastime. That thing was HEAVY METAL, and not in the musical sense. It was easy to lose the accessories, but the lions were so indestructible that I still have Voltron’s legs more than 30 years later.
Commercial Break #4:
Cabbage Patch Kids, Crack-Ups, Thundercats Racing Set, Petster
Cabbage Patch Kids were still huge sellers in 1985, though I doubt that the Christmas rush was as riotous as 1984’s, when people brought slapjacks to Toys “R” Us just in case one of the dolls turned up.
Also featured is Race to the Eye of Thundera, a Thundercats racing set that let you crash a tiny ThunderTank into tiny plastic boulders. That couldn’t have worked as well as it did in the commercial, but it’s nice to imagine.
And then there’s Petster, who was like a dumber but more mobile Furby. Using audio sensors, Petster would act like a real cat, albeit a senile one. I picked up one of these years ago, and it’s impressively huge and heavy. (It’s actually so big that I don’t doubt that many kids killed Petster by trying to ride him!)
Commercial Break #5:
Capsela, Barbie Workout Center, Transformers Cycle, Stomper Track
Big shoutout to the Transformers Power Cycle, which was like the “Gold Skeletor” version of Big Wheels.
The plastic tricycle transformed into a robot, or more accurately a plastic tricycle with half of a robot’s head attached. Even so, I’d put this right up there with the K.I.T.T. Big Wheel as one of the most desirable three-wheelers of the ‘80s.
Its commercial was phenomenal, too. It features animated Decepticons, but they’re off-model versions based on even-by-then outdated art. Gotta love Megatron’s Princess Leia hair.
Commercial Break #6:
The Animal, Barbie Glamour House, Huggy Bean, Sectaurs
The clear star of the final break was The Animal, Galoob’s famous toy truck with the goddamned tiger claws hiding in its tires.
If you were a kid in 1985, there’s no way you don’t remember that ad jingle. The lyrics were pedestrian even by 1985 standards, but it was so damn catchy that I still sometimes find myself singing it, most typically to cats because they do not judge me, and also because they think I’m singing about them.
The commercial semi-dodges the fact that The Animal wasn’t a radio controlled car, and was in actuality only a little more intuitive than most wind-up toys. On the other hand, the amazing commercial wrote a check that even real cars could never cash.
Thanks for reading about old television commercials. Just for the hell of it, I’ve embedded the full special up above, which again comes from the official He-Man YouTube channel.
Extra big thanks to reader Ryan B. for donating the ‘85 broadcast! I owe you a Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie.