He-Man Knows “What’s Up”
As the bass thumps intensely and a rattling snare grows louder, He-Man pumps his right arm back and forth awkwardly, robotically. The camera draws in on his square face, framed by his trademark golden bob and backdropped by twinkling lights floating across a horizontal rainbow pattern. He begins to “sing” in a quivering falsetto, “And so I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed just to get it all out, what’s in my head, and I-eee-yaaa!” –– he tosses his head back cavalierly –– “am feelin’ feelin’ / A little peculiar.”
Immediately, it becomes clear: “Fabulous Secret Powers” is what the internet was made for.
A mash-up of the early-’80s superhero and his fantastical friends and enemies performing a dance version of 4 Non Blondes’ early-’90s hit “What’s Up,” the video and song arrangement were created by SLACKCiRCUS, a Fort Worth production company co-founded by Jay Allen and Ryan Haines. Inspired by Eric Fensler’s outrageous G.I. Joe PSAs, Allen and Haines simply thought the video and song would make a few of their friends laugh, Allen said. But a couple of years after SLACKCiRCUS posted “Fabulous Secret Powers” to The Something Awful Forums in 2005, YouTube user dkilzer2000 posted it to his channel. As of this writing, dkilzer2000’s post has received more than two million views. An abbreviated version of the video that another user (ProtoOfSnagem) posted on YouTube in 2010 has received nearly 40 million views.
SLACKCiRCUS didn’t create “Fabulous Secret Powers” to make money, Allen said. “Classic Media Inc. owns all the rights to the He-Man footage, so nobody can make money directly from this video except them,” Allen said in a statement. But in 2007, the video brought SLACKCiRCUS in contact with a major video game developer. “They asked us if we’d be interested in doing some original animation for their game,” Allen said. “Fast forward two years, and we’d both quit our salaried jobs to do SLACKCiRCUS full time, creating trailers and specialized animation for video game clients. So I owe my current career to that video.”
Allen has personal reasons for releasing the song now. “Ironically, it’d been a long time since I’d done any fun, creative side projects, being wrapped up in client work and the demands of running a business,” he said. “This is a long way of telling you that releasing this song was about jolting myself out of a long creative slump.”
He feels liberated. “People have asked for this song in downloadable form for years, and I avoided it for a number of reasons, primarily fear,” he said. “When you throw something out into the world, and it gets unexpectedly popular, there’s a fear you’re not capable of doing anything like that ever again. Now that [the song is] out there, I feel like I can move on and hopefully make more stuff that makes people happy.”
Near the end of “Fabulous Secret Powers,” Kuduk Ungol –– who’s part bird, part vixen –– and He-Man’s right-hand man Duncan perform a duet of the weepy ’70s ballad “Don’t Cry Out Loud” as He-Man continues belting out “What’s Up,” really getting into it. And just as the party appears to be elevating toward ecstasy, the camera briefly cuts away to Chef Allen standing in the kitchen with his back to us, casually stirring a pot, the song muffled to the point in which only the thumping bass and a series of “hey, yay-eee-yay”s can be heard. Oh, nuthin. Just another day at Castle Grayskull.
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