Like most of the 1987 line of MOTU figures, Turbodactyl escaped my notice as a child. He seems to be perhaps the least popular of the three dinosaurs released in the Powers of Grayskull series, but he does have an interesting history.
Design & Development
One piece of concept art sometimes grouped with the Turbodactyl idea is a drawing by Roger Sweet showing Skeletor riding something that looks a bit like a pterodactyl. However, upon closer examination it looks more like Mattel’s late 1970s Rodan toy. While this would have been a neat way to reuse the tool, I’m sure it wouldn’t have worked out given that Mattel was not the owner of the Rodan design.
The first true Turbodactyl concept art comes from Mark Jones, dating to September 4, 1985. In this drawing the beast features a mechanical back and tail, similar to a fighter jet, as well as mechanically-enhanced legs. He-Man is being carried in flight.
The concept was passed to John Hollis, who took another pass at it in this January 17, 1986 illustration. Mark Jones is listed as the originator, while John Hollis is listed as the designer/artist. It’s given the name of “Terror-Dactyl,” and we see Skeletor riding it while it grasps Moss Man in its claws. Other than the purple coloring and the name, the design is pretty close to the actual toy.
Here is a shot of the hard copy/prototype toy, which appears with a light colored body and dark colored jet engines.
We can see the finalized colors in the cross sell artwork, shown below. We can see it has returned to its original brown color scheme, and is once again aligned with the good guys:
The toy was advertised, along with the other two dinosaurs, in the 1987 Mattel catalog (image via Nathalie NHT):
Figure & Packaging
Turbodactyl’s US packaging featured the Powers of Grayskull logo and design style:
The artwork on the front of the packaging was done by Warren Hile, who also did the box art for Bionatops and Tyrantisaurus Rex:
The back of the packaging features some backstory on the Powers of Grayskull line and about Bionatops. I’ll reproduce all of the text here:
PROFILE: Heroic Reptile with “Jet” Wings
SPECIAL WEAPON: Powerful talons for grabbing Evil Warriors!
ORIGIN: Distant Relative of the Pterodactyl pterosaur from Pre-Historic Earth!
Travel back in time through a secret time portal-and discover the ORIGIN of THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL! Learn how He-Man became so strong! And explore the magical world of Preternia – home of HE-RO, the Most Powerful WIZARD in the Universe!
Monstrous dinosaurs and fierce giants – both good and evil – struggle violently for control of this strange & hostile land!
The dinosaurs in the time of HE-RO – Tyrantisaurus Rex, Bionatops and Turbodactyl – each posess a fantastic mechanical power!
Can HE-RO master all the good magic of the Ancient Wizards and protect future Eternia from forever falling into the claws of evil?
Look for He-Ro and the Powers of Grayskull coming your way in 1987!
TURBODACTYL has 2 wing-mounted “jets” at its command!
Whoever pilots TURBODACTYL can control his mighty beak by pulling back on its horned head. Few escape its turbo-tooth grip!
Squeeze its legs — and make Turbodactyl grab evil warriors with its claw-like talons!
Turbodactyl has limited articulation, having the ability to open his beak and squeeze his legs together. His wings don’t flap, but they are removable. Images below come from some old eBay auctions, as I don’t own one myself:
The above photos represent the US release (manufactured in Mexico). The European release, made in Italy, had an upturned nose, and his mouth does not close completely:
Like the other two dinosaurs in the line, this figure is relatively rare and expensive on the secondary market.
Turbodactyl appears in the 1987 style guide, with a bare-bones description of the figure, focusing on its abilities and affiliation. The artwork is rather stylized and doesn’t strictly follow the look of the toy.
Here’s the text of the style guide written out:
GROUP AFFILIATION: Heroic Animals. Powers of Grayskull segment.
ROLE: Heroic flying dinosaur
POWER: It can swoop down out of the sky and grab enemies of He-Ro with its claws.
YEAR OF TOY INTRO: 1987
Turbodactyl was featured in the background of the cover of The Powers of Grayskull: The Legend Begins. The comic was intended to introduce the new Powers of Grayskull line, and was the first in a three part story. However only part one was released, and the entire MOTU line was cancelled due to flagging sales.
In the story, He-Man and Sorceress travel back in time to Preternia, initially to teach He-Man about Eternia’s past. But when Skeletor follows them back in time and teams up with King Hiss to destroy the Elders, He-Man is allowed to intervene once he is given a disguise. In the story, Turbodactyl (called Pterodactyl) actually belongs to King Hiss, who allows Skeletor to ride it. It’s colored blue like John Hollis’ concept art.
In Journey To Preternia, in the 1987 Spring issue of MOTU Magazine, Skeletor and He-Man accidentally travel through a time portal. Upon arriving, He-Man rescues Turbodactyl (who incidentally can talk) from some living quicksand. Later in the story he returns the favor by allowing He-Man to ride him into battle against Skeletor. In the end Turbodactyl flies He-Man and Skeletor to the same time portal that brought them to Preternia, which returns them to Eternia.
Turbodactly appears very briefly in the 1987 UK comic story, A Rip In Time. He is again colored blue, like the John Hollis concept design.
Turbodactlys (plural) appear in the MOTU newspaper comic story called Terror Takes Time. One of the people enslaved by Hordak manages to summon and take command of a few of them, which they use to drive off Horde Troopers. They are colored green in this story. Thanks to Øyvind Meisfjord for pointing this appearance out to me.
Turbodactyl is featured on the cover of the 1987 Spring issue of He-Man and the Masters of the Magazine in an illustration by Earl Norem. In the illustration he’s ridden by He-Man, facing off against Tyrantisaurus Rex.
He also appears in the 1988 Winter issue of the same magazine, again illustrated by Earl Norem. He has grabbed hold of Mosquitor in this illustration.
Update: Dušan Mitrović also notes that a reworked version of Turbodactyl was slated to appear in the unproduced 1987 Filmation pitch for He-Ro and the Land of Legend.
Turbodactly, being ridden by King Randor, is featured in William George’s Preternia painting:
Turbodactlyappears in some Errol McCarthy artwork done for a line of T-Shirts. This version is again colored blue, like John Hollis’ artwork, although he is heroic in this image.
Turbodactly appeared in ads around the world as well:
Turbodactyl in Action
Øyvind Meisfjord has kindly shared the following videos and action shots of Turbodactly!
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