Hands-On with He-Man and the MOTU Origins collection

He-Man and his pals are back in the way they were intended: As a fantastic 5.5” action figure line!

There are already plenty of reviews from collectors floating around on YouTube and elsewhere. I’m going to take a different approach and review these from a parent’s perspective. We’ll see how these action figures hold up as real toys, whether they’re good for kids, and what kind of abuse they can take.

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Note: Bashasaurus is not part of the Origins line.

If you were a fan of the original Filmation show (as I was), or of the original line of action figures (as I was), you’ll feel right at home with Mattel’s latest iteration of Masters of the Universe, MOTU Origins, which reflects back on the old-school cartoon and toy line, where this whole thing began.

As of this writing, Masters of the Universe Origins is still a Walmart exclusive. And Walmart has not been doing a great job of keeping the toys on the shelf.

…of course, if you live in rural Missouri like my parents, these things are much easier to find.

Mattel’s presenters at Power Con 2020 urged patience, but couldn’t keep the frustration out of their voices when answering questions about availability. Fans have had great difficulty getting a hold of some of the figures. And the Skysled is almost impossible to find.

The day after writing this, 5 new Skysleds appeared on Walmart’s site, being sold by a 3rd party. Not cool.

By stocking poorly, Wally World is aiding and abetting scalpers who are still re-selling the Origins line for double their retail cost on eBay. It’s pathetic.

But on January 1, 2021 every Masters of the Universe Origins toy currently produced will become available for all retailers that want to carry them, including Amazon. Scalpers will all be rich by then, of course, having made tens of dollars by ripping off fans.

He-Man, Skeletor, Teela and Evil Lyn have been fairly easy to find. I ordered mine on Walmart’s website. But wave 2 and wave 3 toys like Orko, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Trapjaw, and a handful of others have been all but impossible to get at retail online. They appear on shelves from time to time, but not enough for fans to reliably get them in-hand. And Walmart charges extra for Beast Man on their website.

What really irks me about this is that Mattel’s intention with Origins is to avoid the mistake Nintendo can’t stop making, and actually produce enough product for anybody that wants them. But when Walmart and scalpers team up, that just ain’t happening.

Once Walmart loses exclusivity (January 1!), Origins should be much easier to find at MSRP.

Milo creating a short film with his trusty blue camcorder.

He-Man Toys You Can Actually Play With!

Until the Masters of the Universe Origins line, modern MOTU figures have been targeted at grown-up fans and vintage collectors. In other words, they’ve been prohibitively expensive. Mattel intends to change that with Origins. 

By making these figures available everywhere, and in quantities that make them available to the masses, they hope to keep prices low. Which means they aren’t just collectors’ items anymore. These toys can be removed from their packages and actually played with. By children!

A big part of Origins’ appeal is that lifelong fans have a new way to introduce He-Man and MOTU to their kids. Taken in combo with the new Netflix MOTU show (currently slated for March 2021), this is the perfect time to introduce a whole new young generation of fans to the greatness that is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!

So here’s the deal. I know I’ve been pretty long-winded for an article that’s supposed to be a review, but I wanted to speak to what makes Origins special, and to preface the nature of this review. Yes, the toys are definitely cool. But are the Masters Origins toys they good for kids?

To answer this definitively, I gently forced my five-year-old son Milo to play with and adopt these figures for his own playtime shenanigans.

I’ll get more into the details of this review further down, but by now it should be pretty clear that Milo took to these toys just like I did back in the 80s. Yes, the new line is improved, but all of what made the originals so fun and engaging is still there!

You can’t fake the sheer pleasure of bashing He-Man.

Masters of the Universe Origins Review – A Parents’ Review

The Masters of the Universe Origins figures are a nod and a big throwback to Mattel’s original toy line, with influences from the Filmation cartoon. The sculptors and designers did a great job of finding the ideal balance between different versions from the past, along with new-school design influences.

The colors are bright and bold. They feature very little paint, preferring to have solid colors. I imagine this helps lower the price, but also gives them a distinct simpleness that defines this entire line. They remind me of modern video games with their strong color palettes. They have almost a cel-shaded quality, if that makes any sense.

Not totally sold on this head sculpt, but it’s still a good figure.

Each figure seems to be designed for durability, too. Unlike the original vintage line, which used rubber bands to connect the legs and torso, and inevitably rotted and broke over time, these toys use far simpler and sturdier ball-in-socket joints. This gives them three distinct advantages over the original design.

  1. They will be far less prone to rotting and breaking over time.
  2. They have flexibility to post in any direction
  3. Most of the poseable body parts are interchangeable!

That last one is particularly interesting. You can pull the heads, limbs, hands, and other parts, off of any particular figure, and replace them with another’s. You can put Teela’s head on He-Man’s torso. With Man-At-Arms’ legs, just for fun.

Evil-Lyn dgaf.

This feature does have an added danger though. When children are playing and modding their figures, there’s an additional risk of parts getting lost. Personally, I haven’t even told Milo about this feature yet. Maybe later.

So, Are MOTU Origins Toys Good For Kids?

With their bright colors and sturdy builds, the Masters of the Universe Origins line is perfect for kids. But because you can remove their body parts, including hands and feet, they aren’t intended for little kids.

We have a system in our house when it comes to “owning” and “playing” with toys and games. It’s sort of like a library. All the things belong to me. When Milo wants to play with anything, he totally can, aside from a few particularly valuable collectibles. And when he’s done, they go back on my shelves. And when he eventually gets bored and stays bored with them, they retire to my shelves for display.

It’s a good system. Most of the time.

Except that Milo gets exasperated with me because I’m always reluctant to remove toys from their packaging at all. Let alone allow him to play with them. Let alone to play with them outside!

Collectors are probably cringing right now. But MOTU Origins, assuming you can find them at retail price, are cheap enough that they can be properly enjoyed by a kid out in the dirt. And if he really messes them up, I can re-purchase them and let them stay in the package! But I probably won’t.

A great, unsupervised battle has taken place here.

So yes! Origins is not only suitable for kids over the age of five, but the Mattel actually intended them for kiddos! They are sturdy enough for rough play, there will be enough of them to ensure they aren’t overly inexpensive or difficult to replace, and they are bright and fun: the way toys were meant to be made.

These guys are imprisoned on my shelf.

Is MOTU Origins compatible with vintage He-Man toys and vehicles?

While the new figures seem to work with most of the vintage toys, it might be hard to seat some figures in certain vehicles. The newer, hard-plastic hip joints may be sturdier than the old rubber-band style joints, but they aren’t quite as flexible. So consider it a compromise.

Milo and I have tested these figures in a couple of vintage vehicles: the Dragon Walker and Bashasaurus!

As we started getting into (or in my case, back into) He-Man, I absolutely had to pick up a Dragon Wallker (they’re cheap) on eBay and give it a try.

I never had a Dragon Walker as a kid, and never saw one actually functioning. But the way the seat is shaped, I could not fit any of my male figures into it. Fortunately, Teela is a fine Dragon Walker operator.

Looking cool, Teela.

Bashasaurus is a different, much happier story. Each character I’ve tried in Bashy has fit just fine. Except Battle Cat, of course. I mean, come on!

While we’re on the topic of vehicles, I have to wonder…

Will there be a He-Man Origins Dragon Walker release? 

Based on the reveals we’ve already seen, I think it’s unlikely. So far none of the new vehicles we’ve seen have been battery operated. Mattel has already released the Sky Sled, and Land Shark is slated for release next year. Neither of those have motorized features.

I don’t know about other epic vintage battery-op vehicles (looking at you, Spydor!), but Dragon Walker uses C batteries. Nothing screams retro toy like a big ol’ honking pair of C’s. Those batteries were unwieldy and clunky. And how many battery-op toys did you leave the batteries in for years? A few, I’m guessing.

I doubt that Mattel will release any of their big motorized toys with Origins. Sure, they could make them USB rechargeable instead of gobbling down C batteries, but I have to believe the cost of producing motorized toys in 2021 will put their price point beyond what Mattel wants to achieve with the cost-effective Origins line.

Good ol’ Bashy!

But once again, Bashasaurus is a different story. That bad boy used no batteries, just the power of pushing and the mashing of thumbs to bring that boulder down and bash evil away!

Modern Posing, Retro Play!

The original Masters of the Universe toy line consisted of 5.5-inch figures. And while MOTU Origins is still billed as 5.5”, they tend to stand a bit taller than the vintage line due to their poseable knees. The oldies all tended to stand in a deep squat, ready to either battle an enemy, or take a dump. The Origins figures are able to stand up tall, with a great many more points of articulation.

For a barbarian, He-Man is surprisingly articulate.

In fact, where the original He-Man and his friends typically had only six points of articulation—neck, shoulders, waist and hips—most of the new figures can be articulated in 16 different joints, including their feet (so they can actually stand up) and their wrists.

Most of the articulating joints use that ball n’ socket mechanism I mentioned earlier. So the posing possibilities are pretty much limitless.

The downsides to “Modern Posing”

While it’s very cool to be able to pose your MOTU figures like never before, there are some drawbacks to the new style.

They take a beating.

We already talked about the removable limbs, which allow for some pretty interesting modifications. And who knows? In the decades to come, collectors might really love being able to swap out the parts in better condition for their highest-quality figures.

But if those swappable parts fall into the wrong hands… Children’s hands, specifically… There’s a nonzero risk that individual, very small, highly lose-able body parts will go missing. So there’s that.

I’ve also found a few of my figures have joints that fit together loosely. Skeletor’s right hand—the one intended to hold a hand or his Havoc Staff—is quite floppy, making a strong-looking pose difficult to achieve. 

Wave 1 all come with the same mini-comic.

And while Battle Cat may have 12 points of articulation, I’ve found a few of his leg joints to be quite loosey-goosey. Which means he has a tendency to fall flat onto his face and can be especially difficult to pose with the added weight of a mounted rider.

Besides that, most of Battle Cat’s joints are worthless because of his shape. His legs look dumb in any position except extended down, paws flat on the ground. His tail can be swiveled and raised, so you can make him look like he’s marking territory. Which is cool? The most notable articulations are in his neck and face, with his jaw being able to open wide in a Battle Cat roar! And his neck actually has two joints, allowing him to roar at an enemy, or dramatically into the sky.   

Conclusion

Despite a few not-as-awesome points, the Masters of the Universe Origins collection is fantastic. Especially at their MSRP. 

If you’re an old fan, you should pick them up when they’re available. If you want to introduce your kids to the Masters of the Universe, these toys are a great way to start. But don’t feed the scalpers. Just wait and pick these up in 2021 and you should be able to get the real prices.

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