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 1983 that had (at the time) all new parts:
One of the best things about getting new He-Man toys as a kid was the box art. The toys were of course amazing and fun, but personally I spent almost as much time staring at the boxes as playing with the toys. I remember being pretty heartbroken when my mother made me throw away my Castle Grayskull and Battle Ram boxes. She saw them as clutter, but for me they were almost stories in and of themselves. You could see whole adventures unfolding in a single painted scene.
Unfortunately, good photographs or scans of the original art are not available for every piece. If you happen to have a nicer images than I do (higher resolution, better composition, etc), please do feel free to share, and I’ll make an update! For pictures of the packaging itself, a neutral (white or black) background is preferred. High resolution scans of the artwork, where it appears without logos, would be ideal. Bottom line – if you have better images than I do, please share them!
One final note: I’m defining box art as the front-facing painted artwork that appeared on boxed Masters of the Universe toys. The illustrations on blister card packaging, then, are outside the scope of this series.
Part Two: 1983
Name: Attak Trak Year: 1983 Artist: Rudy Obrero Description: He-Man pilots the Attak Trak over rough terrain. Skeletor and Mer-Man are ready to attack, while Man-At-Arms and Teela stand in defense of Castle Grayskull.
Name: Battle for Eternia Year: 1983 Artist: William Garland Description: Panthor swipes his claws at Man-E-Faces, as Man-E-Faces takes aim with his blaster at Skeletor, who is riding atop the savage cat. Twin moons hang in the smokey sky.
Name: Panthor Year: 1983 Artist: William Garland Description: Skeletor and Panthor navigate alien terrain. A pterodactyl-like creature swoops in the air and two alien moons set on the smokey horizon. Castle Grayskull stands in the background, shrouded by mists and blowing sand.
Name: Point Dread & Talon Fighter Year: 1983 Artist: William Garland* Description: He-Man and Teela sit inside the Talon Fighter’s cockpit, as its jet engines flair. Skeletor, Tri-Klops and Mer-Man race toward Point Dread, which is defended by Man-At-Arms. Twin alien moons hang in the night sky. Castle Grayskull looms in the foggy distance. (*Artist name not confirmed for this particular piece, but the art seems to match the style of the Panthor illustrations.)
Name: Screeech Year: 1983 Artist: Rudy Obrero Description: Screeech is depicted both soaring through the smokey skies of Eternia and standing on his perch, which sits on top of a castle turret.
Name: Skeletor and Panthor Year: 1983 Artist: William Garland Description: He-Man clashes swords with Skeletor, who sits astride the savage Panthor. A tiny gargoyle-like creature leaps from harm’s way. Man-At-Arms swings his club at Beast Man in front of the ominous Castle Grayskull.
Name: Skeletor and Screeech Year: 1983 Artist: Rudy Obrero Description: Skeletor stands at the edge of a lava-filled crevasse with Screeech perched on his arm. Two rodents run away in terror.
Name: Teela and Zoar Year: 1983 Artist: Unknown Description: Teela stands atop a rocky mountain peak as Zoar swoops through the skies at sunset. A snowy mountain range is visible in the distance.
Name: Zoar Year: 1983 Artist: Rudy Obrero Description: Zoar swoops through the skies as He-Man and Skeletor do battle on a rocky, volcanic landscape. Castle Grayskull looms in the distance.
Continuing from last week when I covered all of the US toy commercials released in 1982, let’s take a look at what came out the following year. In 1983, Mattel released commercials that technically featured every new product, although there were no ads that I know of solely dedicated to Evil-Lyn, Tri-Klops, Panthor, Zoar or Screeech.
Probably my favorite of the commercials released in 1983 is this ad featuring all of the MOTU product available to date. Note that Zodac is grouped with the Evil Warriors:
The little kid at the end I think perfectly captures my reaction to these toys when I was that age.
The Man-E-Faces commercial has one of my favorite lines of dialogue:
Dad: “He-Man, he’s your friend?”
Boy (speaking as He-Man): “Friend and ally. He’s just kind of weird sometimes.”
The Ram Man commercial shows off Ram Man’s action feature quite well, but also highlights the original play pattern behind the Castle Grayskull playset – that it could be controlled by either the heroes or the villains at any time.
The Trap Jaw commercial uses a stand-off with He-Man to showcase all of Trap Jaw’s unique gimmicks and action features, with the curious exception of the figure’s articulated jaw:
I included the following commercial in my post for 1982 US He-Man commercials, as there seems to be a chance that it was released in 1982. However, as Faker is generally grouped with the 1983 wave, I’ll include it here as well:
I don’t remember seeing this Attak Track commercial as a kid, but if I had I would have been begging my mom for one. This thing looks unstoppable (or at least, it can’t be stopped by cardboard props):
There were actually two slightly different versions of the Point Dread and Talon Fighter commercial. One was narrated by Peter Cullen (best known as the voice of Optimus Prime), and the other by an unknown voice actor (hat tip to Grimbot2).
The facial expressions of the kid holding Skeletor are pretty priceless.