In the latter half of the 1980s, Filmation dreamed up a brand new hero that would celebrate Native Americans, Bravestarr. This new character was dreamed up by both the Vice President of Creative Affairs at Filmation, Arther Nadel, and their art director, Josh Grusd. With their prior success on He-Man in mind, Filmation sought out Mattel to team up and help produce a line of toys.
While production on this show began in 1984, it did not begin airing until September 1987. During this time, Filmation even began work on a full-length animated film that would kick off the series, setting up the characters and planet, New Texas. Unfortunately, this film was pushed back and did not arrive in theaters until after the series finished airing. During this time, Mattel also made moves that would impact the success of Bravestarr.
Before any animated media came out, Mattel believed that they could cash in on the holiday season of 1986 by releasing the toys early. Whether financially motivated or overly ambitious, they launched the toy line with extravagant packaging that included a gold foil logo. These 8” action figures stood out with their size and windowed boxes.
Mattel released several action figures that would stand on the side of the law with Marshall Bravestarr. There were also Thirty/Thirty, Deputy Fuzz, and Handlebar. Looking to loot the Kerium that Bravestarr and his friends protected were Tex Mex and his gang. The other villains included Outlaw Scuzz, Thunder Stick, Colonel Borobot, and Sand Storm.
Accompanying these toys were the electronic backpacks that emitted space-age noises when activated by infrared “lasers”. While these backpacks could be bought separately as accessories, Mattel also released special versions of both Bravestarr and Tex Mex that included the backpacks. There was even a two-pack that included both of these action figures and 2 backpacks.
Further bolstering the toy line were two vehicles: the Turbo-Mule and Tex Hex’s Skull Walker. There were also two major playsets: Fort Kerium and Stratocoach. Hoping to attract buyers of all economic tiers, Mattel sold Fort Kerium as a full set or as three separate pieces: the 1st Kerium Bank, the Planetarium Jail, and the Command Center. These toys also interacted with the laser-firing backpacks.
There was also a full-size role-play toy, the Neutra-Laser. Like the rest of these toys, it came equipped with infrared emitters and receivers. So, players could shoot at the figures, another laser, or the playset to activate sounds
Despite Mattel’s high hopes, their early release only proved that children from the late 1980s would show no interest in a toy that they had not seen on television first. So, their rush to market both harmed their sales and Filmation’s cartoon series.
Bravestarr finally began airing in September 1987 and lasted until February 1988. During this time, 65 episodes detailed the exploits of Marshall Bravestarr in 2349 as he protected New Texas from Tex Mex. The planet had become a delectable target for bandits after a rare mineral, Kerium, was discovered. This mineral glowed red and held several mystical energies, including healing. Not to mention, Bravestarr had to protect the native population of New Texas, the Prairie People.
Unlike most heroes of the time, Bravestarr was of Native American descent, with mystical powers that emphasized this fact. He could call upon spirit animals to grant him additional abilities and powers. His powers included the eyes of the hawk, the ears of the wolf, the strength of the bear, and the speed of the puma.
Bravestarr had several friends at his side. First and foremost was the cybernetic horse, Thirty-Thirty, which could either assume a bipedal or quadruped form. Thus, he acted as both a fellow fighter and Bravestarr’s mount. Then, there was Deputy Fuzz, a member of the Prairie People. Bravestarr could also rely on the assistance of Judge JB McBride or Shaman, another Native American character with mystical powers.
Together, this team fought off the plots of Tex Hex, an undead bandit that wanted the wealth and power that Kerium granted. Even though Tex Mex commanded several other bandits, he gained power from an even more evil force, Stampede. Notably, Tex Hex had been designed for Filmation’s Ghostbusters cartoon before they decided that his design was too good for a one-off villain. This decision helped launch Bravestarr.
As the series came to a close, the prequel film, Bravestar: The Movie, was finally released in 1988. This 91-minute-long film acted as a prequel to the series. It told the tale of how Bravestarr became a Galactic Marshall as he battled the malevolent spirit, Stampede, that had devastated his people. This film became known as Bravestar – The Legend in Europe and The Legend of Bravestar in parts of Asia and the Philippines. Unfortunately, the lengthy delay for this film did not pay off, for it became a commercial failure.
With the failure of the film and toy line, Filmation wound up canceling their plans for a second season and a spin-off series that focused on the Prairie People. Likewise, Mattel terminated its plans to release a second series of toys. Before this cancelation, Mattel had created some plans and prototypes for toys of Judge J.B. McBride, Long Arm John, Rampage, Dingo Dan, and the Starr Hawk vehicle. Since some of these toys made it through to the prototype phase, there were bootleg companies that produced toys of these characters.
Before Bravestarr fully vanished, it also made an appearance on the Commodore 64. Probe Software created a side-scrolling adventure featuring Filmation’s space-age western. It also appeared on the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
While fans continue to treasure Bravestarr and his adventures, there have been no signs of a reboot or new adaption. Still, they could relive the excitement of the series by collecting merchandise like Mattel’s toy line.
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