Heroic Beasts, Powers of Grayskull

Gigantisaur: Heroic Dinosaur & Battle Station (1987)

Image source: Nathalie NHT

Gigantisaur, had it been produced, would have been by far the largest non-playset toy in Masters of the Universe, dwarfing even Tytus and Megator. Although it appeared in Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog, it was never released in stores. There are a small number of unreleased MOTU prototypes that Mattel actually showed in catalogs – Eldor, He-Ro, Gyrattacker, Evil Robot and Gigantisaur. I’ve written about three of those so far, and I decided it was Gigantisaur’s time in the spotlight.

David Wolfram, the final designer for the toy, actually went over some of the history of Gigantisaur during a panel at Power-Con 2012:

Toward the end of the segment he talked about one of the toy’s action features and the fate of the prototype:

“It had a piano string, and when you pressed the button it would shoot up and stand up. It was very cool but by the time we made it to Toy Fair, people weren’t even going to the He-Man gallery anymore, it came so late. Unfortunately I threw away the prototype at some point… it was too big to keep around the office. It ended up being a much better toy and it did make the catalog in ’87.”

In my interview with Wolfram, he was kind enough to go over the design history of the toy with me in detail, and shared images of his concept art to boot!

Battle Ram: I’ve heard that [Gigantisaur] has something of a storied history. Were you the main designer on that? That one showed up in the 1987 Mattel Catalog, but of course was never released. Could you share some of the background on that?

David Wolfram: Yes, I was the designer on the many iterations. When it was first shown to me, there was a beautiful, but totally unrealistic painting by Ed Watts, and a white prototype model that was submitted by a well known outside toy invention company.

Turbosaurus, by Ed Watts. This would eventually evolve into Gigantisaur. Image source: The Art of He-Man/The Power and the Honor Foundation. July 13, 1984

DW: My first boards (especially the side view) show the reality of what I had to work with. One of the big visual issues is that the feet had to be huge to extend past the center of gravity. Ed’s (a great guy by the way, who went way too soon, and not in a way I would want to go) drawing hinted at this voluminous interior, when in fact, because of the cockpit, could only hold one figure.

Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. Image courtesy of DW. November 27, 1985

DW: There was also a figure that was supposed to hide in the tail section, but in the model it looked like the dinosaur was taking a dump! There were lots of meetings when marketing and management were forced to confront the reality of this turkey-like bastardization rather than the seductive drawing. I was given the go ahead to take some of the elements of the old model, and another provision was that it had to swallow a figure.

I did a lot of work with foam and clay to work out a better proportioned creature, and the engineer that I worked with, Ben Guerrero (Tony the sculptor’s brother) came up with the idea of marrying the tail with the part of the body with the rear legs to create a tripod which eliminated the need for gigantic feet to let it stand up. It not only stood up, it shot up, because Ben used a very strong spring. Of course, after all that it went to pre-Toy Fair, where the line was for all intents and purposes dead domestically.

Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. December 16, 1985.
Turbosaurus revision by David Wolfram. December 18, 1985.
Gigantisaur final concept art, November 5, 1986. “I actually got a spray can to create the misty mountains in the background. I used markers and wash for the highlights.”

Unfortunately we don’t have any packaging art for Gigantisaur, but there was a fair amount of information about the toy included in that 1987 catalog picture.

Image source: Nathalie NHT

The first thing that stands out, other than his enormous size, is that unlike the other three dinosaurs that were released in the line (Tyrantisaurus, Bionatops and Turbodactyl) Gigantisaur apparently has no exposed circuitry or mechanical parts on his exterior, despite the fact that he has a gun that pops out of his chest:

Pop-out chest gun, with Thunder Punch He-Man

One of his major features was his ability to swallow a figure. Given the width of the typical muscular MOTU action figure, this feature meant that Gigantisaur had to have a very thick neck:

Chomping on Tung Lashor

Once figures were swallowed, they could be retrieved via a door on the side of the figure’s belly:

Heroic Warriors chilling out in the “belly door

Aside from the articulated jaw, it would have had articulated legs as well:

As mentioned by Wolfram, a lever on the figure when activated would cause the figure to rear up on its hind legs:

As mentioned previously, no packaging artwork for Gigantisaur has ever surfaced, but Joe Manzo created a nice kind of mashup mockup of what the packaging might have looked like, roughly, had it been made.

Gigantisaur appears in Playthings Magazine’s coverage of 1987 Toy Fair. The image below was shared in the Vintage Toys MOTU Facebook group. A small image of Gigantisaur is shown.

The relevant text in the article reads:

The Masters of the Universe collection now includes Preternia, a new dimension to the fantasy world of He-Man that sends him back into time to a prehistoric Eternia, where dinosaurs roam the land and many new magical forces abound. There is He-Ro, the most powerful wizard in the universe, who leads the Powers of Grayskull warriors against the evil dinoreptilian kingdom. Eldor, his mentor and teacher, and Turbodactyl and Bionatops, his mighty dinosaur allies battle against the evil kingdom and the dreaded Tyrantisaurus Rex, which is able to release a wind-up creature from its chest called a “mecha-drone.” Tytus, Gigantisaur and Megator, each standing 16″ tall, are also inhabitants of the new fantasy land of Preternia.

Returning to the Futuristic world of Eternia, the Masters of the Universe collection introduces many new heroic warriors, including King Randor, Sorceress and Klamp Champ. who battle against new enemies like Snake Face, Sssqueeze, Nin-Jor, Scare Glow and Faker, the evil robotic imposter of He-Man. A host of new vehicles, accessories and playsets will also be available.

Gigantisaur doesn’t appear directly in any of the original 1980s MOTU media, other than a design by Errol McCarthy for a T-shirt featuring He-Ro and He-Man. The version of the dinosaur here is the earlier “Turbosaurus,” featuring sharp teeth and a smaller mouth and neck.

There is a similar-looking sauropod dinosaur in The Powers of Grayskull minicomic, but my guess is that it was just created by the artist to fill out the scene, along with the various other bio-mechanical creatures on the splash page:

Thank you to the following individuals who are current Patreon supporters!

  • Allison T.
  • Ben M.
  • Eric H.
  • Jon E.
  • Max I.
  • MotuOriginsCork
  • Orion W.
  • Øyvind M.
  • Philip O.
  • Robert B.
  • That Clyde Guy

Want to support the blog? Consider becoming a Patreon supporter. You’ll also gain access to exclusive content and early access to posts on the blog. Alternatively, you can do your toy shopping through my Entertainment Earth affiliate link, below. Thank you!

5 thoughts on “Gigantisaur: Heroic Dinosaur & Battle Station (1987)

  1. Very cool article! Thank you! I wonder if now that Mattel has made a huge Dreadnoughtus for their Jurassic World lines, they might consider a Gigantisaur for the Origins line . . . .

    Funny thing about the Dave Wolfram Turbosaurus — considering the large horned head with sharp teeth, and prominent vertebral processes (two of which are handles), it looks like the living form of Battle Bones.

    And conversely, Battle Bones looks like Skeletor misassembled a Turbosaurus skeleton, much in the same way that scientists hundreds of years ago hilariously reconstructed dinosaurs so wrongly.

    1. Yeah, that’s a good point, Turbosaurus does look a bit Battle Bones-ish. I think there is a lot of fan demand for some version of this beast – I see posts about it making the rounds in social media pretty frequently

  2. I may be in the minority, but I think there’s just not enough here to get an official version. If somehow this wound up in Origins, they would need to completely overhaul the concept.

    Ultimately, it’s a plain dinosaur. Not much was done to “MOTU” up the design. And something that size is going to need a lot more play features to justify the cost. The dinosaurs may have seemed like a good idea at the time when the line was winding down, but I’m OK with this one being left on the drawing table. If Mattel wanted to go in a similar direction, I think dragons would have made a lot more sense.

    1. Personally I think the earlier Turbosaurus concept would make a better toy, and it doesn’t have that plain dinosaur look.

      1. I agree.

        I would have been 5 years old when this would have hit retail. Dinosaurs were a hot thing at that time, and I remmeber having generic dinos from 3 or 4 different lines (Dino Riders!). This would have been a tough sell, competing against some of the other dinosaur product.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.