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

Packaging

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:

Image source: Jukka Issakainen

Gwildor in Action

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

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Interviews

David Wolfram answers fan questions

After I interviewed retired Mattel designer David Wolfram a few weeks ago, he graciously agreed to answer some fan questions. Many thanks to David and to all the readers who submitted questions!

Blaine H.:  I have a general question for Mr. Wolfram. If he can give us any details or secrets in the Eternia Playset. Like why did Mattel produce such a large playset at the end of the line when interest was waning. Also does he remember any parts or ideas that were scrapped during production? Why did they use such brittle plastic for the original tracks that break all the time? I have the repro tracks, but sometimes my support arms pop off the towers when the tram is traveling on them and it falls off. No toy is perfect I guess.

David Wolfram: Eternia was already well in the works, so I guess they decided to go ahead with it. It was actually produced in very low numbers, so I am pretty sure that Mattel lost a bundle on it; mostly because of the huge tooling bill, but also because of the extensive D&D (design and development) on it. One of the best engineers, Mike McKittrick, was the engineer on it. He was also the engineer that made Spydor work. Regarding the brittle plastic, all plastic will break down with age, which might account for some of your issues. I’m also guessing the vehicle ended up being heavier than originally planned for as well, after having to pass drop tests, etc.

Eternia playset

John A: [David] mentioned that he worked on the movie toys. Could you ask him sometime if he worked on any movie toys beyond Blade, Saurod and Gwildor? I know they went and took photos of Karg in costume. Would be nice to know what else was planned with the movie.

DW: Thanks, the only other movie toy that I can recall was a child-size role play Cosmic Key. I can’t remember if it was actually produced, or not. Martin Arriola worked on it. My recollections are very vague, but I think it had some electronics in it.

Unproduced Cosmic Key role play toy, from Mattel’s 1987 dealer catalog. Image source: Orange Slime.

Mark L: Awesome read. A great insight into the thought & design process. How proud you must feel to see your design on the shelves as a toy! I’d just like to thank David for his amazing creativity that led to awesome toys. I am truly inspired.

DW: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. It’s a funny thing, but at least for me, there was so much time as a designer between when the toy is out of your hands, and when it finally hits the shelves, that it feels like ancient history. I do remember on the T-Rex and Bionatops that by the time they hit the shelves they were at Pick & Save (a discount store), priced at less than the original “A” price. I think I bought four T-Rex’s and gave three of them away to my family. The fourth I sold a few years ago on eBay in a slightly damaged package, when I was trying to make some room in my garage and storage areas, for over $900. Made me wish in retrospect that I had bought all that I could find!

When I left Mattel, I had a pile of toys in boxes that was at least six feet tall, six feet wide, and eight feet long. The need for space in my garage quickly overtook my sentimentality, except for a few rare exceptions.

Bionatops, Tyrantisaurus Rex, Turbodactyl

Dejan D: What was inspiration for Clamp Champ?

DW: I think that there were calls for a little more diversity in Eternia. As I mentioned in the interview, the concepts on the four re-themed figures had already been sold in before I started working on them, but that would be a logical conclusion. On the girl’s side they had done black Barbies, and other dolls for years. I don’t remember the background story very well, but I seem to recall he was some kind of guard or soldier.

Clamp Champ cross sell art. Image courtesy of Axel Giménez.

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