PowerCon/ThunderCon 2011: “By the Power of Grayskull, Thundercats Ho!”
This past weekend saw the debut of the first ever dedicated convention to classic cartoon and toy franchises in ThunderCats and He-Man and the Masters of The Universe in a special double-shot event entitled the PowerCon/ThunderCon. The event was nowhere near the size of specially themed conventions such as BotCon or JoeCon, more comparable to last year’s Power Morphicon. However, what the event lacked in size it made up for in pure charm. The two-day convention took place in the rather confined space of the Four Points Hotel in Los Angeles. In attendance were Mattel, the original creators and owners of the Masters of The Universe franchise, and the legendary toy sculptors and designers the Four Horsemen. Mattel displayed new and upcoming products for Masters of The Universe Classics, their popular, premium collectors line of action figures. Fans of the classic 1980’s She-Ra, Princess of Power cartoon can look forward to new, spiffy action figures of Shadow Weaver, the Star Sisters, and Swift Wind. Also in attendance were numerous voice actors and creators who have worked on the Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats franchises, new and old, as well as notable artists for the franchises such as Emiliano Santalucia.
There were many amazing stories throughout the weekend. While in the lobby and conversing to members of Mattel’s staff, I bore witness to Masters of the Universe brand manager, Scott Neitlich, presenting designer Mark Taylor with his very own Vikor action figure. Mark Taylor is in many ways a godfather of the Masters of the Universe franchise since he created the original artwork for Vikor, who would later be re-imagined as the He-Man character. ThunderCats voice actor Larry Kenney, who voiced Lion-O in the original animated series and now voices Claudus in the new ThunderCats show on Cartoon Network, had his breakfast purchased by extremely grateful and enthusiastic fans in a rather fun, humorous moment. Alan Oppenheimer, the original voice actor for Skeletor was also at the show to greet fans and sign autographs.
The panels brought together the cast and crew from Masters of the Universe and both versions of the ThunderCats show. Masters of the Universe writer Michael Halperin offered some hidden tidbits regarding story elements originally conceived for Filmation’s original Masters of the Universe cartoon that were later brought back and re-integrated into the story for the 2002 Mike Young Production series, such as the origins of Castle Greyskull, the Council of Elders, and King Randor’s reign. In one of the ThunderCats panels, the irreverent Larry Kenney offered a hilarious story of being brought into record his part for the new ThunderCats series by voice director Andrea Romano. Already knowing about the written fate of Claudus, Kenney instead put on a ruse that “Claudus gets stabbed in the back and survives.” This forced poor Romano to have to apologetically explain to Kenney that Claudus in fact dies. A panel was also held for the feature documentary, Toy Masters, and a portion of the film was shown. The movie offers an overview and attempts to piece the puzzle of who is actually responsible for the name and creation of the He-Man character despite many heated debates by Mattel designers and employees.
I was told by convention staff that convention will be held again in Los Angeles in 2012 and in New York the following year, so the convention appears to be a success and will continue for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, internet personality Unemployed Skeletor was not in attendance. Besides Kenney, the only other member at the convention from the new ThunderCats show was Tygra voice actor, Matthew Mercer, so the convention could certainly have used a stronger ThunderCats presence and emphasis. Maybe next year.