My memory of getting Rattlor is quite vivid. It was our last summer in our Eastern Washington house, before our big move across the mountains to a rainier, more temperate part of the Pacific Northwest, and we were taking a road trip vacation to California before the move. I remember gravely weighing my options at a store along the way. I could get two toys, and I was determined that they be Snake Men.
I was looking at getting Kobra Khan, or perhaps the newly released King Hiss or Rattlor. I don’t remember seeing Tung Lashor at the time. After studying all three toys and their packaging intently, I concluded that King Hiss was a cool idea, but his hidden snake body wasn’t all that great looking, so I went with the other two figures instead.
Design & Development
Rattlor started life as a Roger Sweet concept, although in this very early concept drawing he’s barely recognizable. As is evident in the artwork, he was to have a yellow and green color scheme and would have reused Buzz-Off’s legs and Skeletor’s arms, just like Whiplash. If you look carefully you can see the rattle at the end of his tail, without which we would have no visual cues to assume this character was based on a rattle snake. There are no obvious signs that his head was to have the pop-out action feature. This design came about sometime around 1983, at the same time Whiplash and other third wave characters were being developed, per Aidan in the comment section.
Ted Mayer’s Basher concept illustrates the general idea for Rattlor’s action feature. In this illustration the character’s head is being used as a blunt weapon, but of course for Rattlor the idea was that he could quickly strike his head forward and deliver a bite.
As for the snake Men, Rattlor and Tung Lashor were designed ahead of King Hiss (and included as Horde Villains based on their earliest designs). By the time King Hiss was completed and the Snake Men as a faction had been created, She-Ra was already in full swing.James Eatock
Depictions of Rattlor in the minicomics give us a glimpse of an intermediate design. He is usually depicted with the dragon-like spines from the prototype, but with the updated scaly limbs and two-toed feet that were used in the final toy. This represents a mid-point in Rattlor’s design evolution. Most of these appearances feature the character with his final rust, cream and blue color scheme, but in his first appearance he is yellowish orange.
The actual toy has an elongated neck and a tail with a sculpted rattle at the end of it, but otherwise it has little in common with Sweet’s initial design, and the final toy was redesigned by John Hollis, who also worked on Extendar and Turbodactyl. The toy’s head certainly looks much more rattle snake-like than the concept artwork. Rattlor lost the spines along his back, and the final figure featured all new limbs. He came with a staff borrowed from King Hiss, but molded in brick red plastic.
In order to accommodate Rattlor’s long neck when it was recessed, his torso had to be quite large compared to most He-Man figures. His legs are relatively short, however – they’re about the size of Beast Man’s legs, but look even more undersized because of his large torso. His arms look like they were based on the He-Man’s arms (with a similar open left hand) with added scales and gloves, and slightly different musculature. Curiously, the staff is omitted in the cross sell artwork below:
Rattlor’s quick-strike action feature was activated by pushing a button on the back of his belt, revealing a long yellow (or sometimes red) neck. There were also some loose bits of plastic in the figure, so that when you shake him you hear a rattling sound.
The artwork on the back of Rattlor’s packaging was done by an unknown artist (Jukka Issakainen pointed out that it’s not Dave Stevens, as I originally thought – it’s signed either MT or TM). The name Rattlor was trademarked by Mattel on June 17, 1985, a year before the toy’s release.
As mentioned earlier, Rattlor’s design in most of his minicomics appearances represents an intermediate stage in his development, particularly in his first appearance in King of the Snake Men. His appearances in the last couple of minicomics of the toyline are much closer to his toy look. Throughout, he is described as a fairly typical muscle-headed henchman who rarely says much. In Snake Attack! Tung Lashor seems to be the brains, while Rattlor is the brawn. Rattlor also appears in The Ultimate Battle Ground, Revenge of the Snake Men, Energy Zoids, and The Powers of Grayskull.
When Rattlor and Tung Lashor are introduced in King of the Snake Men, it’s mentioned that they had been serving Hordak before King Hiss summoned them. This is a reference to their appearances on the She-Ra cartoon series (they came out too late to appear in the original He-Man series, which ended in 1985).
In the She-Ra series, Rattlor is usually mute, although that’s not the case in the Christmas Special, where Rattlor gets a brief line. (There are other She-Ra episodes where he is given lines as well – see the comment from SpineBear at the end of this article.) Design-wise, Filmation’s Rattlor lacks the colored strips on his arms and legs, and he’s given purple trunks and a blue belt:
Before Filmation settled on the toy-like design for Rattlor, they were using a model sheet based on Roger Sweet’s original design:
Stories, Comics & Magazines
In the 1986 Kid Stuff story book/record, Battle Under Snake Mountain, Rattlor seems to be more intelligent and talks more frequently than in other media, although he seems constantly terrified of King Hiss:
Both Rattlor and Tung Lashor are wildly off model in the 1987 UK MOTU Magazine story, “Attack of the Snakemen.” Tung Lashor especially looks unrecognizable and bizarre (I first learned about this issue from James Eatock’s excellent He-Man and She-Ra Blog).
In the MOTU newspaper story, Vengeance of the Viper King, Rattlor is also wildly off model, albeit based on line art from the Filmation She-Ra series. He appears here with green skin and no tail:
Rattlor appears in issue 7 of the US Masters of the Universe Magazine in The Armies of King Hiss:
The same issue features one of Earl Norem’s most iconic MOTU paintings, featuring all of the snake men (including Kobra Khan, who had been retconned into that faction starting in 1986) that existed up to that point:
William George illustrated the character in both his Eternia playset boxart and in his Eternia poster:
Artist Errol McCarthy drew Rattlor in a number of contexts, including in an illustration for the 1987 Style Guide:
The Style Guide characterizes Rattlor this way:
Power: Can sneak up on enemies and strike with lightning speed and precision.
Character Profile: Rattlor never says much: he’d rather just hiss. He sticks close by Tung Lashor, keeping a low profile so his attacks are that much more surprising. Just before he is about to strike, Rattlor will sound his ominous battle rattle, giving his quarry the merest fraction of a second to realize his horrible fate.
Note: Filmation has positioned Rattlor as a member of The Evil Horde. For story purposes, he and Tung Lashor joined The Evil Horde when King Hiss was banished eons ago. Now that King Hiss has returned, however, Rattlor and Tung Lashor have rejoined him.
There was also a fact file on Rattlor in the 1989 UK MOTU Annual, which also says that Rattlor preferrs hissing to speaking:
Rattlor is my favorite of the snake men. I love his Southwestern-looking color scheme, his detailed scaly skin, and of course his action features. I would have preferred a unique weapon for him, but otherwise he’s one of my favorite figures to come out in the last years of the line.
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12 thoughts on “Rattlor: Evil SNAKE MEN creature with the quick-strike head (1986)”
“The Locket” and “Shades of Orko” are the two episodes where Rattlor is given a decent amount of dialogue. I believe in “The Locket”, he has around 6 lines. I think the same can be said for “Shades of Orko”.
Thank you SpineBear!
Awesome!!! So much I had never seen before. Thanks for a great post, as usual!
I know Rattlor spoke in “Enchanted Castle” as well, and had one line in “Jungle Fever” though he was mute in “The Prisoners of Beast Island” and “Book Burning”.
Interesting factor in Rattlor’s development is that the original green and yellow toy design was made around the same time the characters from the 1984 wave of MOTU toys were being developed (Clawful, Whiplash, Jitsu, Fisto etc.) and he was presented to Filmation as early as 1983 for potential inclusion in the cartoon series. Seems he was scrapped or left by the wayside and Mattel later returned to the character in 1985 as they began plans for the Snake Men sub-line.
Thank you Aiden, I’m grateful to know the dates in Rattlor’s development!
Great article! Inalso liked how they depicted him ij the most recent tv show where he is the General of the snake army. There is one episode where he escapes from the jail defeating easily Roboto…there you see his tremendous fighting skills!
Small note, but while you point out briefly that the Ad artwork shows Skeletor’s Havoc staff with him, It also shows a non-snake men Logo on his belt. and the other image of course, shows a shield which he never came with.. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen that Cross-swords belt design on someone else… and the shield too.. but can’t put my finger on either right now
Thank you sir, I didn’t notice those details. I’ll make an update 🙂
Such a great site about MOTU.
Thanks so much!
Rattlor and Tung Lashor were among my Xmas presents the year they were released. Tung Lashor had my favorite design of all the Snake Men, but I liked Rattlor’s action feature best. I loved lining up various figures, then having him “strike” and knock them down one by one. His stubby legs bothered me a little, so I rationalized them by his being an evolved serpent, so naturally, he’d have stubby limbs. (I didn’t bother coming up with a reason why his arms were perfectly proportional!)
Another great article. Although I collected the vintage line throughout (with a preference for the earlier waves), I never had any of the Snake Men (bar Kobra Khan, who I had in my collection before the Snake Men were released). As I’ve said like a record, much about the later waves just never appealed to me so deeply.
Either way, when I collected my complete vintage set in the late 1990s/early 2000s, even though the Snake Men weren’t what I liked about MOTU, I did come to really like Rattlor as a great ‘stand alone’ toy. Slightly goofy looking face, ridiculously short legs, but somehow he worked. (During collecting this set I acquired several standard Rattlors, as well as the harder to find ‘red neck’ variant).
It’s interesting in that the line art shows him holding Skeletor’s staff. Following the progress of the character’s creation, it seems they never could fully decide in a weapon for him, eventually going for cost-cutting and giving him King Hiss’s staff in a different colour (as did Tung Lashor). I wonder how long Skeletor’s staff was considered as a potential weapon for him – I’d think/hope ts idea was dropped due to the ram’s head staff simply being so synonymous with Skeletor.
With due respect to the artist, the back-of-box artwork for Rattlor ranks among my least favourite for the line. Rattlor looks SO out of proportion, while He-Man looks more like “Junior He-Man”. His face and backpack make him look like he’s be more at home in The Goonies or something! A definite rush job this piece, a far cry from some of the more rich and detail back-of-box artworks from earlier waves.
One other thing I’ll mention – whilst I wasn’t a particular fan of much of the 200x redesigns (warped, out-of-scale, et al), I did really like what they did with their redesign of Rattlor – Called “The General” for that line (for copyright reasons I believe). A huge, hulking, bulk of a figure. Intimidating, and wearing his 200x armor, a real sense of authority, too. Okay, maybe his head looked a little dog-like, but a wonderful new interpretation, one of my favourites of the 200x line. It also helped in my view, that 200x Rattlor was very much the ‘leader’ of the Snake Men, with King Hssss interpreted more as a god/icon in that cannon. Considering I’ve never been a particular fan of King Hssss (his design has just never really done it for me), I was very down with this notion.