Games

MOTU Pop-Up Game (1982)

Masters of the Universe Pop-Up Game is the first board game released during the original run of the He-Man series of toys. The game was advertised in the early minicomics included with the first run of figures:

Western Publishing produced quite a few Masters of the Universe-related items, including coloring and sticker books, as well as the Golden Book series of He-Man stories. The ad describes the Pop-Up Game this way:

Based on the Mattel jungle man. Pop-up sections are two volcanoes and the graphics of He-Man and other characters. Object of play is to cross the treacherous terrain of jungle, climbing the volcanoes which open, causing a man to fall through.

In terms of game play, the MOTU Pop-Up Game is a pretty basic “roll and move” type board game, not too dissimilar to Sorry! or Candyland. A flick of the spinner tells each player how many spaces to move forward. Certain spaces have instructions, like “Go Back 1,” or “Move Beastman 1.” Beast Man and Skeletor function as the “Volcano Keepers.” Their likenesses can spin around the volcano, revealing pits that players can fall into. Falling into a pit is more dramatic than consequential – you’ll only have to move back a few places on the board if it happens to you. The first to reach Castle Grayskull wins the game.

Rules:

The most interesting thing about the MOTU Pop-Up Game isn’t so much the game-play as it is the artwork. The artwork is very closely based on early MOTU prototypes, specifically a set of prototypes shared last year by Andy Youssi. I wrote about that extensively here.

Lots of early MOTU artwork is based on early concepts and prototypes. However this particular game is based specifically on the “Lords of Power” collection (an early working name for the line that was later abandoned). That is evident by some of the specific details in the drawings:

Skeletor:

Skeletor is based on the above prototype. There is another photograph of a version of this prototype, but only this version has the yellow detail on the chest, which is also represented in the game.

Beast Man:

The Beast Man illustration is very explicitly taken from the above prototype design (sculpted by Tony Guerrero). The prototype is somewhat less detailed than the concept art by Mark Taylor, so we can determine that the reference here was in fact the sculpture. It has quite a different costume and overall look compared to the mass-produced toy.

He-Man:

He-Man again seems to be derived from the above prototype (most evident in the boot tops), although it is somewhat more detailed in the coloration of the boots.

Incidentally, the bird here might possibly represent an early Zoar concept. More on that here.

Castle Grayskull:

Castle Grayskull again seems to be derived directly from the above prototype, complete with green over gray/blue color scheme.

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11 thoughts on “MOTU Pop-Up Game (1982)

  1. I used to look for this game in stores after seeing the ad for it in the early minis, but never saw it anywhere. It’s nice to get a more detailed look than that blurry photo in the old ad! Another clear sign that this art is based on the LoP protos is Skeletor’s Havoc Staff; It’s a very thin rod that broadens just below the ram skull. Might this be the only piece of merchandise that features the rotting face version of Skeletor, rather than a full-on skull? With so much merchandise out there, it’s certainly possible there’s more, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything featuring that version.

    As a side note, I also coveted the poster book that was advertised on the same page in the early minis. Never saw it either, unfortunately. I’ll come across one at a price I’m comfortable with one of these days!

    1. I can’t think of any other merchandise off hand with the rotting skull face. This was a store display banner thing that John Youssi did. You can’t clearly see the face but it was based on the prototypes (Youssi had the prototypes and the Lords of Power slide show shipped to him for reference). But, there are also some updates to Beast Man’s design, so he probably had access to the revised designs as well. Wish Skeletor’s face was more visible

      https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1900/43662958235_603af2f2e0_o.jpg

  2. I’ve long seen this game advertised in the very early mini-comics but have never actually seen one.
    The closest I had as a child was ‘Eternia’s Deadly Maze’ (which I’ve never seen anywhere else either), in which the player has to guide either a He-Man or a Skeletor head (straight from the figure mold) on a ball-bearing base on a tray full of holes (each with an enemy character on the illusration) to retrieve the other half of the Power Sword and then get safely to Castle Grayskull*. By chance it’s sitting by me on the table right now as I looked up on-line about it the other day as it seems quite uncommon in my experience.
    * – Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s very hard to explain in text, so well done if you remotely managed to follow that! 😀

    1. I wasn’t aware of that one. I just looked it up. Interesting game. The artwork seems largely taken from both early Alcala minis as well as the 1983 Alcala and Texeira minis. Really cool!

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