He-Man 40th Birthday Reveals and News: Snake Mountain, Eternia, More

Tomorrow, according to Mattel, marks the 40th anniversary of the Masters of the Universe toy line. Initially a stand-alone space barbarian-themed action figure property that introduced He-Man, Skeletor, and Castle Grayskull, it spawned a popular cartoon, a live-action movie, and many revivals since. To celebrate He-Man‘s special day. Superhero Hype was among several outlets invited to Mattel HQ for some special 40th birthday reveals. Along the way, we got some up-close looks at archival materials, saw design process breakdowns, and even got to ask a few questions.

For the 40th anniversary, the biggest deal will be the revived Eternia playset, for the Origins line. Set to launch tomorrow, this revamp of one of the largest toys of the ’80s will need 5,000 preorders to get made, and cost $550. (That’ll be a bigger run than the original, estimated at about 4,000 units.) Anyone preordering in the first week will score a bonus Origins King Grayskull (Revelation) figure. At 8,000 backers, Mattel adds a Moat creature figure with 7 points of articulation. At 10,000, they’ll add Keclar the Elder, a never-before-made figure.

New features include actual floors inside the Grayskull and Viper towers, and new ways to display the gun turrets. Foot pegs allow for more deluxe display options, and the lion arms will feature a wider range of motion, with ball joints controlled by an “orb of power.”

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To conserve display space, the towers can separate, with the monorail able to take on a circular configuration around the central tower only, should collectors need to showcase it individually.

That’s not the only Origins playset on the way. Coming to major retailers next fall will be Snake Mountain. The prototype on display included a snake — with two points of articulation! — that will be smaller on the final product.

New details include a removable dungeon cage that can go underneath trap doors on either side. Skeletor gets his bone throne, and an acid pit base features pegs that can either attach included monsters, or Origins figures torsos to make it look like they’re half-submerged. There won’t be an electronic microphone, but the exterior manacles will now be soft and flexible to fit around figure wrists without breaking. They’re still working on how to recreate the bridge-split feature. Foot pegs and wider walkways allow for more figure display options.

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Other Origins reveals included Frog Monger, inspired by one of the appendages on the original Castle Grayskull dungeon sticker; Moss Man, flocked and with alternate armor and Lords of Power Beast Man bonus head; He-Skeletor, the Anti-Eternia Keldor from DC’s Masters of the Multiverse comic, and Mekaneck with Ground (formerly “Road”) Ripper. He-Skeletor and Frog Monger will sell exclusively at Mattel Creations, with Moss Man a Walmart exclusive. All in Fall 2023.

For Masterverse, we get to see final packaged versions of movie He-Man and Skeletor, due everywhere in spring. Mattel hinted that due to issues with tracking down older contracts, there are sometimes likeness issues, depending on who still owns what, which may explain the not-very Dolph Lundgren head on He-Man. However, they’ve been chasing down the movie figure rights for years, and hope to be able to do more in the future.

Also en route for next fall, New Adventures Skeletor joins He-Man exclusively at Target. Joining him, we’ll see a deluxe Duncan from Revelation, in a new sculpt with fabric cloak. Display him in peasant clothing, or armor him up to look like the Man-at-Arms he used to be.

As a bonus part of the presentation, Mattel showed everyone breakdowns of the design-to-production pipeline, using Origins Snout Spout and Masterverse Two Bad as examples. They also had vintage package artwork by William George on display.

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A few more tidbits learned from conversations with the team:

Safety restrictions are the same for mass retail kid toys and collector-skewed figures. This keeps weapons form being too sharp. They’re trying to find a way to do vehicles for Masterverse figures if they can make some small enough for shelves but still big enough for figures.

Mattel has impressive digital scanning equipment, so would they ever consider a “Selfie Series” like Hasbro? They’re definitely interested in exploring the idea. — at least one of the designers wants a figure of himself. Classics figures, like the kind now made by Super7, could conceivably resurface as special anniversary items. As with many fan suggestions, including more concept figures, they said it’s a case of “right time, right place.” They always read sites and forums to see what fans want, but they won’t add modern touches like QR codes to Origins packaging, as it kills the retro aesthetic.

The wider 40th anniversary figure chest will be used going forward, but not exclusively — it works better for figures who don’t have to wear a lot of armor.

We have many, MANY more pictures to show in the gallery below. Let us know what you think in comments.

Recommended Reading: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

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