“From the first moment I saw that opening sequence and the characters on the cliff with the rainbow overhead, I was in love. This is made for me,” Noelle Stevenson said about the 1985 Filmation cartoon, She-Ra: Princess of Power. Stevenson aims to give that feeling to all children today with her new animated Netflix show, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which will be released on November 13.
Freed from the constraints of TV channels airing episodes out of order and missed episodes due to soccer practice, the cast and crew will explore the world of Etheria in new ways by deepening lore, fleshing out characters and relationships, approaching previously unexplored topics, and telling a more serialized story that the original couldn’t. The first season is also free from He-Man (but will contain plenty of Easter Eggs to the original series), allowing the stories to be driven by She-Ra and her relationships.
Aimee Carrero, the voice actor behind She-Ra and Adora, believes this is the perfect time for She-Ra to come back. She says that it can be helpful for audiences of all ages to see a story free of the constraints of the real world to process what is going on in their lives. She-Ra will show girls being brave, making hard decisions, and learning from mistakes. Stevenson says she wanted the take away from the show to make them more active in their lives, communities, and with their loved ones.
The first season of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a story of redemption. It begins with Adora in a far different position than as a princess of power; instead of being a hero that changes in to the seven-foot tall warrior She-Ra, she’s a soldier for the evil horde of Hordak. When she is taken prisoner by Glimmer and Bow, she is given the opportunity to see the world through their eyes and realize that Hordak – and herself – are in the wrong.
The first arc of the show is focused on “what is real?” Adora has to go through deprogramming of the propaganda that was drilled into her and adjust to reality. She will have to stand against the people she grew up with and loves, like Catra (AJ Michalka), a cat person and her best friend from the horde. Their love for each other, despite being on opposites sides of a war, is the core relationship of the show.
Adora loves her and tries to convince her to leave the Horde, but Catra refuses to; Catra feels betrayed by Adora abandoning her, and Adora’s heart breaks every time she fails to convince Catra to leave. Catra originally began as a more comedic character, but after Stevenson heard the pain in Michalka’s voice, the writers started giving her more dramatic material. Carrero said that she knew when Michalka and herself had a great take because they would hear sobbing afterwards from Stevenson and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (the voice director).
Glimmer and Bow
While there are heavy emotions in the show, the cast is quick to point out there are plenty of lighter and comedic moments. Some of those moments will be coming from Adora’s new friends, Glimmer and Bow. The two are the people that capture her and are her first friends in the Rebellion, a coalition formed to overthrow Hordak and free the planet of Etheria.
Glimmer is the Princess of Bright Moon, a stubborn and headstrong leader. She wants to find other princesses and reform the Princess Alliance, a team that her parents were part of years ago that fell apart in disaster. Voice actor Karen Fukuhara said she reveled in playing the role and getting to combine her girly side with determination. Glimmer is quick to take action and doesn’t second-guess herself; she’s always 100% dedicated and is passionate about what she does. Fukuhara said she’s excited for audiences to see her version of Glimmer.
“Glimmer in the old series has this perfect body and she looks beautiful and in our version she is beautiful and she is strong. It’s definitely different from what we normally know as a princess, which I love and I also love that in our show we don’t mention that. Because that is not the focus of the show, the focus is how powerful she can be, no matter what you look like.”
Glimmer distrusts Adora at first, but her best friend Bow helps her to see that Adora can become a hero. Bow is a support figure, the tech nerd of the Princesses of Power. He’s always supportive and believes wholeheartedly in unconditional friendship. A running joke on the show is his Best Friend Squad, a group that includes anyone he meets that cares about Etheria; he’ll invite anybody, even his enemies. This character type is not explored much in animation and voice actor Marcus Scribner believes Bow is a great role model for boys.
Bow tries hard to be a moral compass, which can weigh him down, but Glimmer is there to support him and lift him up. Scribner, like his character, can be very lighthearted and silly; on the changes from the original he said, “Bow is not ripped nor white. I mean, he’s pretty cut, like not gonna lie, he’s got defined shoulders and everything. But if you see original Bow, that man was yoked. Biceps the size of my head, bro. Besides that, Bow has definitely changed as a character and a person [but] we keep true to the source material as well. Because in the original, Bow was getting captured a lot; Bow gets captured a lot in the new show. He’s definitely there for support.”
Along with the original cartoon, a number of other period sources were used. Stevenson took inspiration from ‘70s and ‘80s sci-fi ranging from movies and TV to the art of the time. She said she wanted to capture that, “feeling when you’re a little kid and pick up one of those old paperback novels, and there’s this world painted on it and there’s all these moons and spire in the distance, and spaceships, and you’re like ‘I want to go there.’”
There’s an influence of greats from that time like Roger Dean and Moebius. There’s also an amount of anime influence coming through that came from the crew in a natural way. “We really wanted to capture the fun, campiness, and excitement of this kind of idealized futuristic version of the eighties,” Stevenson says. “The shoulder pads, the kind of big hair, the bright colors… [we wanted to] pay homage to the original and show what was so exciting about it.”
Another major inspiration was Noelle Stevenson’s love of Dungeons and Dragons. She had started playing D&D at the same time she started developing the show and feels that the show is secretly a big D&D campaign. “Adora, Glimmer, and Bow are like, alright, here we are, Adora’s the fighter/paladin, Glimmer’s a sorcerer, Bow is multi-classed as a bard and a ranger. Also, like they’re children. They’re between being teenagers and adults, they’re right on the edge, so it’s like we’re figuring what these roles are for ourselves, like roll for initiative. Like okay, I’m gonna try to be a ranger right now, but like, ‘Oh god, I’ve never done this before, this is all new to me’. They are stumbling through the same as you would in a D&D campaign. They feel like they’re interacting in the world with their quest in that way, where they’re trying to be something, but they might not be them fully yet, but they’re on the journey towards being that. So it’s very very influential.”
Glimmer’s limited teleportation was inspired by Stevenson’s first D&D character. “[The character] had the ability to teleport, but I could only do it twice and so she gets tired all the time, and I’m like, ‘Damn it, I didn’t think this through, I’m running from monsters, I can’t go anywhere.’ So that was really inspirational for Glimmer, to be like what if she just was like, ‘I’m going in,’ and then was like, ‘Crap, I can’t get out, I didn’t think this through.’ A lot of that from the game has sort of infiltrated the show in various ways.”
Hand drawn animation was an important part of the original series that Stevenson wanted to keep. “It makes it alive… especially in a show that’s so much about relationships and the characters interact with each other a lot. They’re always grabbing each other, hugging each other, carrying each other around, it’s a lot of physical comedy. That’s hard to capture sometimes with CG. It can be done, it’s just more difficult. Whereas, there’s something tactile about hand drawn animation… you get the feeling of the touch of the emotion.”