Continuing from last week when I covered all of the US toy commercials released in 1982, let’s take a look at what came out the following year. In 1983, Mattel released commercials that technically featured every new product, although there were no ads that I know of solely dedicated to Evil-Lyn, Tri-Klops, Panthor, Zoar or Screeech.
Probably my favorite of the commercials released in 1983 is this ad featuring all of the MOTU product available to date. Note that Zodac is grouped with the Evil Warriors:
The little kid at the end I think perfectly captures my reaction to these toys when I was that age.
The Man-E-Faces commercial has one of my favorite lines of dialogue:
Dad: “He-Man, he’s your friend?”
Boy (speaking as He-Man): “Friend and ally. He’s just kind of weird sometimes.”
The Ram Man commercial shows off Ram Man’s action feature quite well, but also highlights the original play pattern behind the Castle Grayskull playset – that it could be controlled by either the heroes or the villains at any time.
The Trap Jaw commercial uses a stand-off with He-Man to showcase all of Trap Jaw’s unique gimmicks and action features, with the curious exception of the figure’s articulated jaw:
I included the following commercial in my post for 1982 US He-Man commercials, as there seems to be a chance that it was released in 1982. However, as Faker is generally grouped with the 1983 wave, I’ll include it here as well:
I don’t remember seeing this Attak Track commercial as a kid, but if I had I would have been begging my mom for one. This thing looks unstoppable (or at least, it can’t be stopped by cardboard props):
There were actually two slightly different versions of the Point Dread and Talon Fighter commercial. One was narrated by Peter Cullen (best known as the voice of Optimus Prime), and the other by an unknown voice actor (hat tip to Grimbot2).
The facial expressions of the kid holding Skeletor are pretty priceless.
My first memory of Screeech (yes, his name is spelled with the extra “e”) is from kindergarten. There were a couple of days during the year where kids were invited to bring a favorite toy to school to show to the class. On one occasion I recall bringing in Mer-Man, who I was enamored with at the time (and still am). But another boy brought in Screeech. I owned Zoar, but I had never seen this purple and blue repaint.
It was pretty clear to me what he was – a repainted version of Zoar. Had I been a little older I might have recognized that both were repainted versions of the Big Jim Eagle:
Screeech makes all kinds of thematic sense in the Masters of the Universe scale of cosmic balance. For every Battle Cat there is a Panthor. For every He-Man there is a Faker. And for every Zoar there is a Screeech. In fact, the colors for both Screeech and Panthor were chosen by the same designer at Mattel – Martin Arriola.
Screeech was sold individually, in a gift set with Skeletor, in a gift set with Battle Armor Skeletor, and in a gift set with Trap Jaw. The packaging illustrations for the first two sets were painted by Rudy Obrero, who also did the artwork for Castle Grayskull, Battle Cat, and many others.
The Battle Armor Skeletor/Screeech set was illustrated by an unknown artist – perhaps someone on staff at Mattel:
The Trap Jaw/Screeech gift set was quite plain by comparison:
Screeech is probably the most obscure character from the first few years of the MOTU toyline. He was rarely depicted in stories or television, and when he was shown, it was usually very much in the background.
A noteworthy exception to that is in the Golden Books story, The Sunbird Legacy. In the story, Evil-Lyn has the power to transform into Screeech. This ability gives the character some nice symmetry with Filmation’s version of the Sorceress.
In Sunbird, Screeech resembles a buzzard rather than an eagle or falcon. I’m not sure if that’s because the artist wasn’t given a visual reference for the character, or if there were plans early on for Screeech to have a unique buzzard appearance.
Screeech’s cross sell artwork is likely just a recolored version of the original Zoar line art. It was seldom used, however. It didn’t appear on the back of any boxes that I’ve been able to identify. The only full color version I’ve found is on the back of the Power of Point Dread comic book and record:
In the Filmation He-Man cartoon, Screeech is a mechanical bird sent on missions by Skeletor to drop bombs on the heroic warriors:
According to James Eatock, the name for Screeech in the original cartoon scripts was the Robot Raven. Perhaps this was actually a character invented by Filmation, but renamed Screeech at the last minute to tie things back to the Mattel toy.
For kids who grew up on Saturday morning cartoons, toy commercials were a reason to stay glued to the old Curtis-Mathes.
The first four years of Masters of the Universe commercials were thematically unified by the underlying cave man chant in the background of almost all of them – “He-Man, He-Man!”
The commercials don’t typically come to us date stamped, so the year of release has to be inferred from the products featured. There are also, no doubt, commercials that were produced which have not yet surfaced.
One of the most fascinating commercials is this “lost” Masters of the Universe Commercial produced by Filmation, before they produced the weekly cartoon. It contains a mixture of animation and live actors, and features He-Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor, Beast Man, Mer-Man, Castle Grayskull, and Battle Ram. Unlike the Filmation cartoon, the animation here is quite detailed and true to the design of the toys. In the case of Teela, her animated design looks pretty close to the prototype Teela, especially in regards to her spear and shield.
Interestingly, the above sequence where Teela throws her spear to keep He-Man from falling through the trap door is repeated in the 1983 DC Comics story, “Within These Walls… Armageddon!”
The first conventional, live action He-Man commercial introduces us to He-Man and Skeletor, who are fighting over the power of Castle Grayskull. Castle Grayskull here (and in the other commercials released in 1982) is not exactly a prototype, but it is hand-painted with a much nicer than typical application of greens and blacks. This version also appeared in early catalogs and print ads:
The next live action commercial released in 1982 features He-Man fighting against Beast Man. This time the focus is more on the Castle and its interior than the characters:
I’m not entirely sure that the fourth commercial (below) was released in 1982. I’ve seen it included with in a series of commercial labeled 1982. Based on that I will include it here, with an asterisk. Faker is generally included in the 1983 wave of figures, but there is some indication he may have come out late in 1982.
The He-Man vs Faker commercial is a little unique in that it includes a bit of a backstory for Faker. “Skeletor” tells the audience that he created an evil doppelganger of He-Man to destroy the real He-Man. The actors reference the “He-Man” chant, although it doesn’t actually appear in this commercial:
If I had to guess an order to these commercials, I would say that He-Man vs Skeletor (live action) came first. He-Man vs Beast Man was probably second. The animated commercial was likely third (based on its inclusion of additional characters that were developed after He-Man, Skeletor and Beast Man) and the Faker commercial was almost certainly done last.
Moss Man is another figure that I have very clear memories of. I remember getting him for Christmas, probably in 1985. Unlike Stinkor, I didn’t remember him based on his smell. His pine scent wasn’t immediately obvious because I ripped him off of his card right next to the Christmas tree, which had an even stronger pine scent. I remember my parents had allowed us to open one present on the night before Christmas. All the lights were out in the room except for the blinking colored lights on the tree. I remember the way that Moss Man’s green and brown flock glistened in the colored lights, and the prickly texture of the figure. It wasn’t until I had got him back to my room that I realized he also had a pine scent.
Like Mekaneck and Buzz-Off, Moss Man was characterized as a spy, with the ability to blend into his surroundings. I remember being a little frustrated that I could still pick him out deep in my mother’s potted plants. His bright yellow belt gave him away every time.
It’s possible that Moss Man was based on the legendary Florida Moss Man – a creature said to roam Florida’s Withlacoochee State Forest.
Moss Man is very simple action figure. He’s a green Beast Man covered with green and yellow flock (small nylon particles), with a brown version of the mace weapon that came with Castle Grayskull. In fact, the only known prototype for Moss Man is just what you’d expect – he’s literally a Beast Man figure that someone at Mattel painted in green, brown and yellow, with some flock added over top top.
There are a few differences from the prototype to the production Moss Man. The prototype has forward-looking eyes and painted fangs. On the production Moss Man, the eyes are looking off to the side, and the fangs are painted over to give the impression of more human-like teeth. It seems to have been an effort to make the Beast Man face seem a little less angry. It was somewhat successful, although Moss Man still seems pretty intense:
The cross sell art seems to be derived from the vintage toy given his fangless teeth, however his eyes do look forward:
The illustrated scene on the back of his packaging was done by Dave Stevens, who also illustrated Stinkor and Spikor:
An injured Moss Man also appeared on the illustration on the back of Terror Claws Skeletor’s card:
Moss Man was also sold in the following gift sets (second image via Grayskull Museum):
I think it’s likely that both Moss Man and Stinkor were among the first new figures to be released in 1985. Their cross sell artwork shows up first on the back of vehicle packaging, along with the figures released from 1982-1984:
Moss Man is the second and final flocked toy in the vintage MOTU toyline. The first was Panthor. Panthor’s “fur” was much shorter and smoother, however.
The Argentinian Top Toys release of of Moss Man had painted fangs, like the prototype, and his mossy “fur” was quite long and luxurious.
Although Errol McCarthy didn’t illustrate Moss Man’s cardback, he did produce this artwork intended for licensees. It features a very friendly-looking Moss Man with a more human-like face:
Moss Man and Stinkor were sold with the same mini comic – The Stench of Evil! In the story, Stinkor threatens Eternia’s wildlife with his rancid smell. Only Moss Man is able to overpower Stinkor with his pine fresh scent:
In the Filmation cartoon, Moss Man had the ability to talk to plants and transform his body:
Moss Man appears in a couple of great Earl Norem illustrations that were printed as posters for the US Masters of the Universe magazine:
In the UK Masters of the Universe Magazine, Moss Man was colored brown and gave lessons on manners to kids:
I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that the “cheap repaints” of the Masters of the Universe toyline are among the most memorable action figures. Faker, Stinkor and Moss Man were all entirely made from recycled molds, and yet they seem to be among the most memorable figures in the toyline. Maybe it’s because Mattel tried to make up for that fact by giving them audacious colors (Faker), a powerful and funky smell (Stinkor) or prickly “fur” (Moss Man).