Heroic Warriors

Gwildor: Heroic Creator of the Cosmic Key (1987)

I didn’t see the 1987 Masters of the Universe Movie (or really know anything about it, other than one was made) until probably the early 90s, when I saw it on TV. Even though I considered myself too old for toys at the time, I still felt a little affronted that the designs of the main characters had been changed so much, particularly Skeletor. Despite myself, I stayed for it and watched the whole movie. It was actually a pretty fun little film. As an adult I can appreciate the beauty of the movie designs.

Design & Development

Gwildor was designed for the movie by Claudio Mazzoli. He seems to function as an Orko-type character, but with penchant for inventions rather than wizardry. We can see a glimpse of early concept art in The Power of Grayskull documentary, where we see an older looking character with white hair:

Image via Dušan M.

A more developed design appears in the background of the image below, which also shows a maquette created in pre-production. You can read more about it at the excellent MOTU Movie site. The images come from Theresa Cardinali, a crew member on the film:

With colors added to costume.

The final design for Gwildor as a movie character of course appears in the actual costume used by actor Billy Barty. The costume was somewhat changed compared to previous designs:

Claudio Mazzoli in eternian soldier costume, with partially costumed Billy Barty. Image source: John T. Atkin
Finalized costume. Image source: Fiction Machine

On Mattel’s side, Alan Tyler used Mazzoli’s concept (specifically the maquette version) to create the designs for the action figure:

Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation. Date: June 20, 1986

Gwildor’s action figure was given a blue rather than a brown jacket, which recalls the color scheme of the concept illustration from the Power of Grayskull documentary. The glasses were removed from the final figure, as represented in the cross sell artwork below:

Production Figure

Gwildor was minimally articulated – he has no waist joint, although his feet do swivel, along with his arms and head. His Cosmic Key accessory swivels at the top. He features a great deal of sculpted detail compared to most other Masters of the Universe figures, particularly around his costume.

Gwildor was trademarked on October 7, 1986. He appeared in a number of catalog and advertisement pictures in 1987:

Gwildor alongside unproduced Cosmic Key roleplay toy, from 1987 Mattel catalog. Image source: Nathalie NHT
Image via Aaron Voorhees
Swedish ad. Title translates to “The Magical Key” – thanks to Petteri Höglund for the information. Image via He-Man.org


Gwildor came on the typical 1987 MOTU card, featuring artwork on the front by Bruce Timm. Errol McCarthy did the scene on the reverse. The example below features a sticker on the blister referencing the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, although it’s not present on every release.

Artwork by Bruce Timm
Artwork by Errol McCarthy Image via He-Man.org

Minicomic Appearance

Saurod, Gwildor and Blade were all packaged with the same minicomic: The Cosmic Key. The story doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, however. A cosmic force called the Evil Cloud gives Skeletor evil powers, including the ability to summon Saurod and Blade, and He-Man must call on Gwildor to stop the power of the entity.

Image via Dark Horse

Some versions of the minicomic actually had the Powers of Grayskull artwork on the back, which would have been the artwork on the front of the cards for He-Ro and Eldor, had they been produced:

Other comics

Gwildor appears in the Summer 1987 issue of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine, where he sends a group of Tyrantisaurs Rex creatures back in time:

Image source: He-Man.org

The same issue includes and some production shots of Gwildor in the movie:

Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor also appears in the Winter 1988 issues of MOTU Magazine, where he plays a decidedly Orko-like role in the royal palace:

Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor appears in several issues of the UK Masters of the Universe Adventure magazine:

Gwildor also appears in the November 1987 Star Comics story, The Motion Picture, based on the plot from the film. The artwork replicates the movie designs (or prototype designs) for the newly introduced characters and for Beast Man. Established characters like He-Man, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn are drawn with their classic toy looks:

Thanks to Dušan M. for the gentle reminder: Gwildor appeared frequently in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe newspaper comic strip series and served as the royal scientist. As in his minicomic appearance, he is depicted with pink skin, although it’s much more extreme here. It’s mentioned that he comes from the Thenurian race, which is also established in the 1987 MOTU movie. Images below come from Danielle Gelehrter:

Other Artwork

Earl Norem included Gwildor in a couple pieces for Masters of the Universe Magazine:

Image source: He-Man.org
Image source: He-Man.org

Gwildor also appears in William George’s 1987 Preternia poster (above)

Gwildor in Action

Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly contributed the following images and video of Gwildor in action:

11 thoughts on “Gwildor: Heroic Creator of the Cosmic Key (1987)

  1. Aside from coming from the movie, I think that the problem with Gwildor as toy is that he looks like something slipped in the MOTU by mistake from the Bravestarr toyline (he looks like one of the little aliens from Bravestarr, like his Deputy….Fuzz? sorry, I don’t remember the names; even the clothes looks more fitting in the Bravestarr universe) and his Cosmic Key is pretty boring and does nothing. In short, boring and out of place.

  2. well, I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again ^_^, the Movie designs, which noticeable different, aren’t as difference from the source as people think.. The main problem from people coming at it from ‘Filmations Masters of the Universe’ and not ‘Mattels Masters of the Universe’ He-man’s outfit, while darker and with a cape, is that soo different then compared to the toys going from Original, Battle Armour, Thunder Punch? all out at this time.. But in the cartoon, he was always in a version based on the original. So to many, it would be more of a shock.

    For the toy.. never saw any of the movie based toys in the UK where I was. While it does look slightly out of place compared to some of the figures, as you point out with the Orko reference, it’s not like He-man hadn’t had a wide range of styles by this point. The main difference being that he didn’t have an action feature. The Cosmic key was more in line with weapons like Man-at-arms mace, but with the rotating top, but that wasn’t an action feature, and while toys like Ram-man who didn’t have the standard body (and again Orko) had a feature build in because of that (Ram-man had his.. ram/jump mode, Orko had the rip-cord), Gwildor had none of that. Wouldn’t have been fantastic but.. maybe they could have done something like, a button which when you press, he lifts up the Cosmic key… that would have been possible and simple.. mm.. 87.. give it a couple of years into the early 90s (about 91 would do it) and a simple electronic bit could easily be added for the price range so his arm will raise and play a little tune.. mm.. I wonder how cheap these figures are to get a second hand one..

  3. Great article, as always! You’ll be running out of Vintage stuff to cover, soon!

    If I recall correctly, Gwildor was also one of the few Vintage figures to have wrist-swivels.

  4. The Customising is a Go. I’m still trying to work on my restoring guides but having a minor problem with the leg band.. short of getting repro bands .. which I’m stating as an option BUT looking for other ways too.. I got some ideas but trying to get the right one that works well enough on a budget..

    Anyway.. Got an Gwildor (missing the Cosmic key though but never mind), doing a few things.. First is adding the electronics so it makes the cosmic key sound from the film.

    Notes so far: The rubber like head appears to be attached to a solid plastic clip. Mine uses a transparent plastic which.. is a little weird choice..
    Also.. he isn’t wearing Boots.. they are painted like boots, and those concept arts show they look like boots.. but they are sandals.. there is a band around the top of the feet, then goes kinda down the centre to the soles, with a bit more. but the sides of the feet, and some of the ankles are flesh designed, but the boots are given the limited paint/ coloured plastic making them solid brown.. even that better painted mock up doesn’t appear to show that. Hopefully photos to come (my camera went missing.. in less then a foot space.. ¬_¬; but I can use another.

    1. Interesting, looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

      Re: boots. I hadn’t noticed that! You’re right, they’re sandles but painted brown so you don’t notice that you can see parts of his feet!

      1. Since the work I’ve gotta do, I might see able some ‘improvements’ to the paint job like the feet.. the figure was already damaged and needs a bit more repair work now, so it’s not a major-major thing, and why not.. normally I would try to avoid adding ‘extras’ but this is a extra job ^_^

        1. annoying but.. I’m gonna have to make a base for it.. the battery issue is kinda defeating me.. It’s not that CAN’T fit the battery in there, but in order to make the batteries replaceable, I would need to make a battery lid but the plastic has gotten SOOO brittle, that there is no way I’m gonna be able to safety cut (and reuse the cut bit) of plastic for the cover.. So I’m having to do a slightly different method which… is kinda a bit more modern, so the figure has a base. The Base has the battery pack. the wires will run down one foot into a flush connector under the foot, which will plug into the base supplying power.. while this WAS done at the time.. I was tying to make a more 87 ‘how they COULD have made it’ job.. on the plus side, since I’m doing a base, I might as well go a bit fancier with that and put in some effects to that base.. something Kenner might have done at the time more then Mattel.

  5. Poor ol’ Gwildor does seem to have come in for some stick from fans over the years! Unusually for me as a boy (who could sometimes find such characters a bit grating), I loved him! To the extent that, when allowed to choose a new MOTU figure whilst on a shopping trip (which was quite possibly the last MOTU figure I originally bought as a child), I amazingly chose him over Blade or Saurad, who were also gracing the shelves next to him!!

    The character was most obviously added to the film as creating Orko on-screen in those days, both in the pre-CGI days and on such a limited-budget movie, would have been too complex and costly. I can even remember my dad – who had been dragged along to the cinema with me to watch the film – saying as we came out “They put him in it instead of that Orko character”. I was kinda impressed my Dad even remembered Orko’s name!

    The figure certainly does look a bit out of place in the look of the line, though it does mostly represent the character well, and in fairness the line had got rather “anything goes” by that stage so maybe he doesn’t stick out severely as he might have done if it were a couple of waves earlier. (And heck, even as far back as Ram Man, there were figure constructions that broke the norm of the line).
    The construction, and overall feel of the figure, feels very bog standard (although does have some nice so-so detailed sculpting) – I feel they could have done much more with him, maybe make the Cosmic Key, such an key(!) part of the movie, light or or spin, to give things some kinda “special feature”, but it does feel like Mattel didn’t expect too much from Gwildor so didn’t bother – despite giving Blade spring-arms and Saurod shooting sparks! (By the way, ManicMan’s Gwildor project sounds interesting and I look forward to seeing it).

    By the way, I’ve always considered ‘The Cosmic Key’ mini-comic to be my least favourite mini of the entire line – it’s extremely short (and weak), feels extremely rushed into production, and – whilst we had long seen differences in various MOTU canon – and nothing to do with, and indeed totally contradicted, events from the movie! If Mattel hadn’t known then what the movie would feature, couldn’t they have come up with something else? Considering the figures were promoting the film, it just feels very awkward.

    One very trivial thing I did notice – In the first pictured catalogued advertisement in the blog, the figure (prototype?) has a small extra silver paint detail, in the middle of his item(?) below-right of his shoulder-bag-thing. This extra paint detailing seems to also be reflected in the character’s boxart illustration, but was dropped from the standard production figure… so I wonder if any very early releases have this minor extra detailing?

    1. I’m having a minor issue with the base for my project, I was gonna cheat and 3D print it but, I just need to get a decent model made.. one problem was the plastic is very brittle. So cutting a space for a battery cover in the figure appears to be something that isn’t gonna happen.. So I decided to kinda cheat but also (I doubled checked by looking at toys of the time to try and make this as ‘possible’ as I can) do what had been done at the time and put a little connector in the foot, which when he is clipped onto a base, that base stores the batteries and powers the circuit. I also need to re-record the sound effect for a slightly higher volume but it might be fine. Not the best quality but again, very much the quality you would get at the time. Sadly I don’t have the Cosmic key but oh well. I have allowed myself a couple of extra paint apps, but again, tried to get around what would have been done at the time. With the basic electrics, it probably would have been a slightly higher price range for the figure, so that would have allowed the extra paint apps, mostly means he has feet which were molded now.

      the extra silver detail.. I’m gonna call that his Spoon cause.. well, it’s as much a spoon as anything else I can think of ^_^, I might a splash of paint for that but i’m not sure, and yeah, it does seam to be on early prototypes but nothing much else.

      really, when the film came out, CGI was used (the film was 1987, The Last starfighter, for which about Half of the film is CGI (created on a Cray X-MP with custom software, good film, great machine) had been out since 1984. And while that was probably the first film to have So much CGI in it, it was hardly the first. Since Orko had no mouth for lipsync, he would have been fairly easy to do. The sequel to the great film ‘Westworld’ (not to be confused with the insulting TV series was the first film, Futureworld (not as good a film as they kinda forget the idea of the virus) I believe, to have 3D CGI in a movie, and that was in 1976. Westworld itself had 2D CGI in 1973. People think CGI in movies (and CGI movies) are a modern thing.. they aren’t.. The first ‘photorealistic’ CGI was credited to about 1989 which would have made them unlikely to use at the time. The problem was, filmed that used good CGI like Starfighter and Tron, had only used it for stuff that LOOKED CGI and was basic (like the Gunstar or the Computer World) and the films flopped quite badly. It wasn’t till the start of the 90s that companies decided to use CGI for marketable reason, and now it’s used for companies that want to ‘maximise profit’ as it’s a fair cheaper method then doing something that looks hundreds of times better. Also, rendering times has decreased. For Starfighter, The ‘work print’ version of the CGI was basic and small so could be rendered fairly quickly, but the final film stuff took some time to render each frame.. in fact, could go up to a few hours per frame even on and X-MP.

      Come to think of it.. I think there is CGI used in Masters of the Universe, though the really nice stuff was model work of course, cause that always looks far better. (I personally have given up with some modern movies which when there is a fight screen, all the characters seem to swap into 3D for clearly fake movements despite everyone appearing to say how great the effects are ¬_¬ Reminds me of the old Mortal combat animated movie.. and if you remember that, it’s not a good thing.. though better then the American live action stuff cause at least there is fun in how bad it is.. it’s not just painful.

      Okay, sorry, went on too long and got a bit side tracked. Anyway, Orko was possible.. Very easy in fact, I think they just decided there was a better way to go since the film was more on the tech side then the magic side. The toys were a fusion, the cartoon was too much the magic side, the film was probably too much the tech side. I think using Orko, who was created FOR the cartoon (when the film used the toys more then the cartoon, which annoyed a lot of people who only seamed to know the cartoon) would have made no sense.. That said, the nothing outside of the film did Gwildor any favours that mini-comic.. it’s just “Buy my toy, I have this great key which can save the world in a second, aren’t I great and you want my toy!” when some of the others.. well, they were made to SELL toys, but often had the characters show a form of weakness which they had to overcome, or stuff (of course, pretty much all the villain’s toys had them lose anyway)

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