Documentary ‘Toy Masters’ Examines The Creation Of He-Man

by Ben Martin

The Mad Monster Party: Carolina is always a fun convention. (You can read my coverage of this year’s Mad Monster Party here.) One of the highlights of this con is its film festival, which always offers a nice mix of independent short and feature films. The festival’s screenings are curated by Mutantville Productions and the Charlotte Film Society ; two organizations focus on getting independent genre pictures and art films with limited distribution on the screen for fellow North Carolina-based movie lovers like myself. Like every film fest, there’s always a couple of big screenings. Without a doubt, the biggest one at The 8th Annual MMP Film Festival was The Southeastern Premiere of Toy Masters (2018)!

This documentary focuses on the history and creation of Mattel’s beloved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toy line and the franchise it spawned. Like most pop culture that takes the world by storm, the creator(s) and their place in history are contested.  As such, filmmakers Corey Landis and Roger Lay Jr. document the case each potential creator, namely Roger Sweet and Mark Taylor, among others, make for their rightful (and sole) credit. While indeed a talking heads doc, Toy Masters also features a plethora of concept art, images, and clips to fill in much of its history. Thus, making for an entertaining examination of the toy industry and pop culture history for any interested viewer.

Alas, Toy Masters also has a couple of consistent issues. Most notably, all of the content in Toy Masters has been covered in two Netflix documentaries, Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017) and an episode of The Toys That Made Us: Season 1 (2017). Therefore, the doc in review feels a little redundant. However, that’s because Toy Masters gives its key subjects more than enough time to tell their respective versions of this portion of history. For this reason, Roger Sweet and Mark Taylor quickly go from gentlemen who are merely seeking proper credit to sounding like petulant children. Petulant children with their broken records.
Despite its flaws, two things that separate this film from its fellow docs. Toy Masters is a well-made and independently produced picture. More importantly, though, the passion of the filmmakers for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe shines through. As I said, Toy Masters isn’t perfect. But, it’s a documentary made by He-Man fans and can undoubtedly be appreciated by fellow fans. The film is currently still playing festivals, but I expect it to be widely-distributed later this year.

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