Masters of the Universe, for all its diversity and creativity, was quite an economical toyline, creatively (and sometimes uncreatively) using and reusing the same molds over and over again throughout its run. Sometimes this was done fairly invisibly, and other times it was as plain as the nose on Faker’s face.
In this series I’ll be cataloging the reuse of existing molds, in context of what is known and what is likely about which figures were created in what order. For example, He-Man’s prototype was almost certainly finished before Man-At-Arms, so Man-At-Arms reused He-Man’s legs, rather than vice versa. I’ll also include parts that were reused from other toylines.
Sometimes existing parts were modified for use in new toys. For example, Beast Man’s chest seems to have been based on He-Man’s chest sculpt, albeit with a great deal of hair added to it. This didn’t save money on tooling, but it did save some time and effort for the sculptor. I’ll point this out whenever I see it. Whenever a modified part is used again, however, I’ll refer to it as belonging to the toy that used it first (for example, Stratos and Zodac reuse Beast Man’s chest).
I won’t comment on “invisible” parts, such as neck pegs or waist springs that are normally not seen.
First, the toys from 1986 that had (at the time) all new parts:
These toys from 1986 reused some existing parts – some of those parts were first created in the same year, however:
Flying Fists He-Man
Terror Claws Skeletor
As you can see, there is a great deal more new tooling and much less reuse of existing parts in 1986 than in previous years. Ironically, for all the money pumped into the brand, as I understand it 1986 was the first year that sales for the line started to slip. It is true that stylistically the 1986 lineup was much different than anything that had come before, especially in the heroic warriors lineup. I have to wonder if that had anything to do with faltering sales. It may have had nothing to do with it, but I know that the 1986 toyline did little to catch my eye as a kid, outside of the Snake Men.
There are a lot of limbs in the 1986 lineup that look awfully close to the original He-Man’s arms and legs. However, if you look very closely you’ll see that the musculature is subtly different. The sculptors may have used He-Man as a model, but I don’t see that existing parts have been modified in the same way that was frequently done from 1983-1985.
Update: Øyvind has informed me that only the front half of the armor was reused for the Stilt Stalkers. Thanks Øyvind!
Lastly, there were the Meteorbs- a frequently overlooked bunch of transforming egg toys produced by Bandai under the name Tamagoras in 1984, and rebranded for the MOTU toyline as Meteorbs. Not having held these in my own hands since the 80s, I’ve done my best to catch parts reuse, but I trust that if I’ve misrepresented anything here someone will correct me (images below are from www.he-man.org):
Over the years Mattel filed for patents on a number of Masters of the Universe-related ideas. The language employed is rather difficult to get through, but the illustrations are a lot of fun. I’ve collected some of them here. Special thanks to Manic Man for locating several of these patents, including Blast Attak, Rotar/Twistoid and Gyrattacker!