‘She-Ra’ Showrunner Noelle Stevenson on Why the Title Hero’s Return Is Overdue

     November 13, 2018

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She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is now available in its 13-episode, Season 1 entirety on Netflix! This new DreamWorks TV series reimagines the classic and iconic 80s hero in a modern way for an all-new generation. Originally created by Filmation writers Larry DiTillio and J. Michael Straczynski for the Mattel property, this new, contemporary spin comes courtesy of showrunner Noelle Stevenson, the Eisner Award-winning creator of comics Nimona and Lumberjanes. (Be sure to catch my review here!)

I had a chance to chat with Stevenson ahead of She-Ra‘s debut on Netflix. We talked about the timeliness of the series and how She-Ra’s return as a powerful hero and symbol of strength for girls and women (and everyone, really) is long overdue. Since the characters and their designs get quite the overhaul from the original 80s series, both visually and in their defining personalities, we also talked about the process of finding the right look and tone for Adora, Glimmer, Bow, Catra, and more. And though the new series is aimed at a younger audience, the nuanced and mature take on complicated relationships makes it well worth a watch for all ages.

If you’re on the fence about checking out this new take on She-Ra, this teaser clip featuring Adora’s transformation into the title hero should convince you to give it a shot:

Fighting Catra won’t be easy for Adora. She’s going to need more than the power of She-Ra on her side. Watch She-Ra, Glimmer, and Bow band together in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, on Netflix November 13th!

Why is this the right time for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power?

Noelle Stevenson: I think it’s been the right time for a while, honestly. That’s what’s so exciting about getting to do this now; it feels like something that has been overdue. I feel very fortunate, very privileged to be able to be the one to bring this to a whole new generation.

Right now, I really want to bring relief, and sanctuary, a safe place for viewers to escape from the real world while also tackling a lot of the issues that we are dealing with in the real world in a way that feels real and empowering.

How did this opportunity come about?

Stevenson: I started out in comics. I had published a few books of my own and then I stepped into animation writing. When DreamWorks was looking for someone to develop a reboot of She-Ra, the development exec Beth Cannon was a fan of my comics work. She reached out to me in the interest of getting me to pitch my take on the series. I really jumped at the opportunity, it was such an awesome opportunity to get, and I pitched my take on it. I wrote the pilot and the show bible, and eventually became the showrunner and developed the show for them. That was my path.

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Image via Netflix, DreamWorks Animation TV

When you were putting together the pitch and the bible, were sketches, storyboards, and concept art part of the whole thing?

Stevenson: Early on, when it was just me pitching it, I did sketches of my own. They were less what my vision for the aesthetics of the show would be because it’s not really in my personal style, and more just a way to supply one example of what it could look like, and to bring a little bit of color and life to the show bible. A lot of what I went into, I did a deeper dive into the characters, the mythology of the world, and general world-building. I pulled inspiration, I made a vision board from illustrators that I found inspirational, other things that I found inspiration in just to paint a visual of overall what I wanted the world to look like before we hired any artists to eventually go on to develop the world of the show.

What was your approach to the redesign process of the characters, walking that balance between honoring the original and freshening things up?

Stevenson: Obviously there’s a lot that goes into designing characters, especially based on an iconic property like this. So once I was working on developing the show, we reached out to a lot of illustrators [and] character designers that I found inspirational and had them do blue sky, exploratory illustration work to find the look of the show. We had a bunch of people do character designs, really pushing the boundaries of what they could do and what the vision was, get a little weird with it and explore avenues to develop the characters that might not be the immediate first thought of updating the characters. We had a bunch of character designs from that, we had a bunch of environments for the world, and that was sort of our jumping-off point. We would take some of these character designs that were really out there, like, “Okay, maybe this goes a little too far away from classic She-Ra, but here’s this one element that’s really cool. She’s wearing these awesome sneaker-boots, she has these shorts … this is something that feels really fresh and new and exciting.” There were a lot of eyes on it early on, there was a lot of going back and forth. It was really just trying to find this fresh take with all of this really creative, inspirational illustration work in the beginning.

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