Catalogs

1982 Mattel Wish List, plus a look at early MOTU product photography

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Mattel’s 1982 Wish List is a pamphlet-sized little advertisement for the latest and greatest Mattel had to offer at the time. It was distributed as an insert in the November 16, 1982 issue of Family Circle magazine.

Barbie gets the most print space in the Wish List, but there is a page and a half devoted to the brand new (at the time) Masters of the Universe toyline.

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All of the toys released that year are represented, including Castle Grayskull, Battle Ram, Wind Raider, Battle Cat, He-Man, Skeletor, Beast Man, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Mer-Man, Zodac, and Stratos. The photographer attempted to spice things up with some clear plastic rods, although I’m not really sure what they’re supposed to be in this context.

Quite often catalog photography can be a good source for images of prototype or at least hand-painted pre-production versions of these toys. In fact, you generally tell how early or late these images were taken by the number of prototypes in them. The more prototypes, the earlier the photo was taken.

In this case, almost everything in the Wish List is a standard (first release) version of the mass produced toys. Skeletor is the first run “orange cheeks” and half boots version. Unlike earlier catalog photos, both Battle Ram and Wind Raider are the final, mass-produced versions. Stratos in this picture is not a prototype, but he is the ultra-rare, early “blue beard” version.

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Notice that He-Man is captioned “Strongest man in the universe!” Some early sources refer to him that way, but it was quickly changed to “Most powerful man in the universe!”
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The rare “blue beard” Stratos.

The Battle Cat in this catalog isn’t technically a prototype, but it’s rare enough that it might as well be. A small number of factory Battle Cats were made with striped tails and orange lines around the mouth, based on pattern of the original hand-painted prototype. Unlike “blue beard” Stratos, this version does not appear to have ever been sold in stores. They may have been early samples that were intended to be use for product photography.

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Teela on stripe-tailed Battle Cat

Castle Grayskull is a little unusual here as well. I’ve never seen an example in the wild with so little black paint around the eye and nose region. This is probably another early factory sample intended  for product photography.

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Zodac, Wind Raider, and Mer-Man

The Man-At-Arms in the photo is a prototype version – you can tell by the wrist extension on his armor that was removed on the mass-produced toy:

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Prototype Man-At-Arms riding Battle Ram

The earliest known example of Mattel photography of the first wave of MOTU toys comes from the 1981 licensing kit, called Fast Male Action For Licensees. The kit contains some amazing Errol McCarthy artwork, but it also has some great toy photography featuring quite a few of early prototypes. Early prototypes include: Teela, Battle Cat, Zodac, Stratos, Man-At-Arms, Wind Raider, and Battle Ram. Castle Grayskull here is a finely painted pre-production model. In fact, just about everything here, with the apparent exception of He-Man, appears to be hand-painted, at the very least. I would guess that many of these that appear to be final sculpts were cast at Mattel, and hadn’t gone to the factory yet.

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Image via He-Man.org
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Prototype Teela, recreating a scene depicted in He-Man and the Power Sword (or vice versa)
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Prototype Battle Cat with orange mouth
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Prototype Battle Ram and Man-At-Arms
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Hand-painted Skeletor model
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Notice that the prototype Wind Raider is missing its figure head.

You can follow the development of these photos as you see prototypes start to disappear. The photos from 1982 Mattel Dealer Catalog show the same prototypes and models as the license kit photos, with two exceptions; Battle Ram, which appears in its final (albeit hand-painted) form, and Stratos, who now sports a hairy chest:

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He-Man is again referred to as the “Strongest man in the universe”

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A similar photo used in the 1982 dealer catalog shows up in a 1983 Dutch catalog. This one features smoke in the background, and it’s cropped and arranged slightly differently.

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It also shows up in this 1985 Mattel France catalog:

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Image source: Super Shogun

The same photo also shows up in this 1982 store display:

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Very similar-looking photos with identical models appear on the sides of the original Castle Grayskull box. They appear to have been taken during the same session as the photos used in the 1982 Dealer Catalog:

Some higher quality versions of a few of these photos (and an alternate version of the Beast Man picture) come to us via Grayskull Museum (who in turn got them from Mark Taylor):

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I suspect several of the images from the 1984 UK Masters of the Universe Annual were also taken at about the same time. These images also give us an interior view of the hand-painted Castle Grayskull model (although the image is reversed):

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The photo in this MOTU advertisement seems to have been taken a bit later than the dealer catalog photos. Every figure here seems to be hand-painted. We still have the prototype Man-At-Arms (evidenced by the wrist extension on his armor). We also see a new prototype version of Teela, different from previous versions, with Barbie-like leg articulation.

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The photo that appeared in an early French mini comic appears to come from a slightly later session still. Stratos’ colors have now been reversed (this is the “blue beard” version that we saw in the Mattel Wish Book). He appears to be a production sample rather than a hand-painted model. We have final, production versions of Man-At-Arms, Skeletor and He-Man. We see the striped tail Battle Cat (like the 1982 Wish List, this one does not appear to be hand-painted). We still have the finely painted Castle Grayskull model. We see the same Teela prototype that appeared in the previous advertisement.

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The 1982 Sears and JC Penny Catalog pictures (below) were probably taken sometime after the photo from the French mini comic. We can again see the striped tail factory sample Battle Cat, and a later, almost final Teela prototype. Her sculpt is finalized, but her paint applications are more in keeping with earlier prototypes and design drawings. Everything else looks pretty “off the shelf”.

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The photo used for the Masters of the Universe Poster (below) was probably taken last of all the product photos in this series (I would place the 1982 Wish List photo second or third to last). Just about every toy here is a mass-produced example. This is the only photo in the series to feature a standard Battle Cat. The Castle Grayskull in this photo is likely another early factory sample, similar to the 1982 Wish Book photo.

Again we see the “blue beard” Stratos. I believe that while the hand-painted prototypes for Stratos had red wings, blue armor and a gray beard, the very first-factory produced versions had the blue beard, blue wings and red armor (which is consistent with Mark Taylor’s original B-sheet drawing). Then at some point the factories started producing figures using the prototype color scheme. It sounds a bit convoluted, but that seems to be what the photographic evidence is saying.

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Finally, this photo from the reverse side of the 1982 store display (discussed earlier) shows finalized and typical examples of the 1982 Masters of the Universe action figure lineup:

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Catalogs

1981 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog

Here is the 1981 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog (or at least the sections focusing on action figures). Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing merchandise. Several pages are devoted to the Clash of the Titans toyline, which debuted to correspond with the movie released the same year.

Clash of the Titans

  • Calibos
  • Charon
  • Perseus
  • Thallo
  • Kraken
  • Pegasus
  • Lair Playset
  • Bubo
  • Sword, Shield & Helmet

Flash Gordon

  • Flash Gordon
  • Dr. Zarkov
  • Ming
  • Lizard Woman
  • Beastman (mislabeled as Thun)
  • Thun, The Lion Man (mislabeled as Beastman)
  • Voltan
  • The Captain

Other toys:

  • Gre-Gory
  • Krusher
  • Rodan
  • Ralph

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Source: Orange Slime

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Catalogs

1986 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog

Here is the 1986 Mattel Toys Dealer Catalog. Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing products within its various current (at the time) toy lines. New releases included:

  • Flying Fists He-Man
  • Terror Claws Skeletor
  • Hurricane Hordak
  • Rokkon
  • Stonedar
  • Rio Blast
  • Snout Spout
  • Extendar
  • King Hiss
  • Rattlor
  • Tung Lashor
  • Dragstor
  • Horde Trooper
  • Multi-Bot
  • Slime Pit
  • Horde Slime
  • Monstroid
  • Mantisaur
  • Laser Bolt
  • Blasterhawk
  • Fright Fighter
  • Stilt Stalkers
  • Megalaser
  • Jet Sled
  • Eternia
  • Masters of the Universe VCR Game (apparently never produced)
  • Snake Mountain Rescue Game
  • Battle For Eternia Game

1986 saw quite an ambitious line-up of vehicles, figures, playsets and games. Not every item was an instant classic (I think the heroic warriors lineup for 1986 was particularly weak), but the scope of the line by this year was impressive.

(Source: Orange Slime)

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