Being born in the 1990s in no way deterred Noelle Stevenson when she was handed the keys to a kingdom of the ’80s.
When Netflix named Stevenson, 26, the showrunner of its “She-Ra” revival, she was well aware it was a beloved classic cartoon and had to proceed with care.
“My m.o. when going into the series was to capture what made the original iconic and exciting and epic and all of the things that you feel when you’re a kid and watching these kinds of cartoons and then recreate that so (the series is) accessible to new audiences,” she told The Washington Post.
“She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” began streaming Nov. 13 on Netflix, and it looks a lot different than the original — so much so that some fans were disappointed when the first images were revealed online in July. The new “She-Ra” is younger, more cartoony, with less revealing clothing and more fun and laughs.
Often change can bring a few groans from the faithful. Stevenson’s background in the comic book industry (she’s an Eisner Award winner for “Nimona” and “Lumberjanes”) prepared her for such a reaction. But Stevenson was confident she and DreamWorks, the studio behind the project, were on to something.
“There’s a very specific style that (many are) used to seeing (with) animated female characters and we tried to get outside of that,” Stevenson said. “I think we are trying to broaden the description of what it means to be a female hero. What it means to be girly.”
“I feel the conversations happening around it are not entirely a negative thing,” she continued. “I think it’s a very interesting thing, honestly, and I think people are reacting with kind of their gut reaction of how it feels to see this character reimagined in this way.”
At the heart of Stevenson’s new She-Ra universe is the relationship between the protagonist Adora (who transforms into She-Ra with the help of a magical jeweled sword) and her classic antagonist Catra. On the original “She-Ra,” the two were enemies and nothing more.
“I think the best villains have been people who have that connection somehow with the hero. That was one of the first things that I knew I wanted to do with the series, (that) Adora grew up (with) Catra. They would have fought side by side. They would have been raised together,” Stevenson said.
“If they had been inseparable, if they relied on each other for everything as these kind of child soldiers and then one of them chooses to walk down another path, Adora choosing this new path for herself, what kind of path does that push Catra towards?” she continued. “It gives us so much to work with where as many times as they are at odds with each other they still always care about each other. They still have that shared history.”
Given how close in visual style DreamWorks stayed to the original for its other ’80s revamp on Netflix, “Voltron: Legendary Defender,” Stevenson says she appreciates how much freedom she had to steer away.
“We wanted to differentiate ourselves from ‘Voltron,’ ” Stevenson said. “It is kind of an inherently different property. A lot of respect for the show, but it’s also nice to have the support of DreamWorks to try this different take on an ’80s project.”