The 1980s He-Man cartoon, produced by a company called Filmation, had no shortage of monsters throughout its run–many monsters of various sizes and shapes. But as much as there could be said to have been a signature monster in Filmation’s Eternia, it would be the Shadow Beast.
First appearing in “Teela’s Quest,” an episode penned by Paul Dini and easily one of the series’ best, the Shadow Beasts would later show up in three more episodes: “A Beastly Sideshow,” “Prince Adam No More” (also a famous Dini episode) and “The Rarest Gift of All.” Their distinctiveness would even get them their own episode of the 2003 Mike Young Productions (MYP) He-Man cartoon, “Night of the Shadow Beasts” (written by Michael Reaves, who, like Dini, worked on the original He-Man cartoon as well as Batman: The Animated Series).
The Shadow Beasts of the MYP cartoon were different than the Filmation version: they were larger and more gorilla-like, had two horns on their forehead instead of one, and five fingers rather than three.
It’s clear the subject of this review, the newÂ Masters of the Universe Classics (MOTUC) figure, is based firmly on the Filmation look, rather than the 200X look. Given that Mattel has told us time and again they don’t have the rights to the Filmation cartoon or anything created by it, I’m not sure how this is possible. Here’s what Mattel had to say when asked about it:
The Shadow Beasts rights were aquired at the time of the MYP 2002 series, and as they’re based off the original Shadow Beast concept, there was always going to be a similarity, after all – they’re giant hairy ape like creatures with red eyes and a horn on the head – there’s only so much difference you can do!
The Four Horsemen are dedicated to giving the fans the most iconic images of the characters they can, and push boundaries as far as they can within the limits. Remember, all the characters in the Classics line are presented as if they’d been put into a machine.
You put the character in, and on the one side it comes out 200X style, on the other the character comes out in the classics style, which is what we’re getting. So if you put a shadow beast in the machine and turned the dial to ‘Classics Style’ this is what you’d get.
So what Mattel is saying is that if you take a 200X-style version of a character that originated in the vintage line and put them through the “Classics-izer,” they’ll come out like their vintage depiction–even said depiction was in the Filmation cartoon? Count Marzo would beg to differ. Those three little cheek-folds and the “chin spines” are unique to the Filmation Shadow Beast, and they’re not at all evident in the 200X version.
So, this seems like a long way of saying “We just went ahead and did it anyway and we’ve got our fingers crossed Classic Media doesn’t press the issue.”
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(Thanks to Abuddah for the scan of the bio–I lost my Shadow Beast’s packaging in the apartment flood a few weeks back.)
The Shadow Beast arrives in a nice window box that gives you a good view of the figure. However, my figure’s club wasn’t very well secured and was rattling around the bottom of the package. No big deal to an opener like me, but it would no doubt annoy a mint-on-card collector.
Design & Sculpt
The Shadow Beast shares many of its pieces with Gygor, as you’d expect–in fact, my hunch is that the idea for a Shadow Beast came first and Gygor was the second figure they realized they could get out of the sculpt.
Dispute about the rights aside, sculpting-wise the Four Horseman did a great job on making a slightly-more-ferocious Filmation Shadow Beast. There’s not a whole lot to discuss here, though–the Shadow Beast is mostly a gorilla with new hands and feet and a new head.
Plastic & Paint
The Shadow Beast feels a bit more hollow and rubbery than Gygor. Some have said he’s too rubbery, but that hasn’t been my impression; that said, my SB has been sitting on a window ledge and it’s been pretty cold lately, so my figure may be more solid than one sitting on a shelf in a non-air-conditioned home in Florida.
The plastic used for the hands feels more rubbery than that used for Gygor. That and the broad, wide fingers give him problems when holding his club. And because he’s hollow (and the club solid plastic), he doesn’t have a very strong center of mass, so if you pose him with the club held too far out in front of or behind him, he’s going to topple over.
Then there are the paint applications. The Shadow Beasts of the Filmation era had a distinctive purple-brown color, while the Shadow Beasts of the MYP were blue-black. So naturally, MOTUC Shadow Beast is solid brown. Huh?
Given Mattel’s willingness to go all out with Gygor’s screaming-yell0w-and-green color scheme, it puzzles me they’d go for such a drab look with the Shadow Beast. The dark brown fur and beige hands and feet would be fitting for a real-life animal, I suppose, but they’re not very exotic or exciting for a MOTU toy.
But I imagine there are plenty of you who are pleased with his “realistic” coloring and are glad he’s not a goofy purple-ish color, and I can understand that.
Color choices aside, the paint work on the fur is good, with a nice drybrush to bring out the details. But the black on the claws and horn is a bit too thick and sloppy, and while the wash on the snout area looks nice, the uneven edges around the snout and nose hurt the overall effect.
The Shadow Beast has the same articulation to Gygor. I think the head is intended to be a ball joint, but the range of motion is severely restricted–for all intents and purposes, it’s a swivel joint.
He also has ball-and-hinge articulation at the shoulders and ankles. The ankles have only a slight forward-and-back range and are very tight, so you might not even notice the hinge is there. The shoulders appear to have a slight ratcheting effect to them, which is an improvement over Gygor (however, after messing with both figures, it’s so slight I can’t say so for sure). He has hinges at the elbows and cut joints at the biceps, wrists, and hips.
The restricted neck articulation is disappointing, but what I really would have liked to see would be some good ball-and-hinge wrists. It would have given the figure the touch of character it really needs, and allowed for some great monstrous posing.
The Shadow Beast comes with a giant club…a somewhat puzzling giant club.
The Shadow Beasts in both cartoon incarnations were a bit too stupid to use tools. They certainly didn’t seem capable of hammering spikes into a club, much less spikes that are actually nailed in themselves.
Furthermore, the club is obviously made from a tree that was cut down with a saw, and the handle is taped up–are we to assume Shadow Beasts are smart enough to use power tools (or at least two-handed saws) and adhesives?Â Finally, the whole of the outside of the club appears to be made of bark, but what sort of tree tapers from that thick a trunk to a tiny nub?
I’m mostly kidding here, but it is kind of an odd accessory. I suppose a regular old club, sans sawed end, tape and spikes, would have been less interesting. I’ll just pretend he got it from his boss (Beast Man or Count Marzo, depending on your preferred cartoon era) or kiped it from Tytus.
However much you like the club, it’s still disappointing as the lone accessory. For the same price, Gygor came with a ton of removable armor as well as an axe. It just doesn’t compare, and Mattel should have included some sort of fun little extra accessory. (A Widget would have been neat, but they’re owned by Filmation.)
I had no QC issues with my Shadow Beast–at least not that I noticed. Please tell me his shoulders aren’t reversed…
The Shadow Beast is a very average entry into the Classics line. While his sculpt is accurate to the Filmation cartoon, it’s also the best part of the figure. The colors are uninspiring and the accessory is well-sculpted but boring. Of course, he’s a big monster, and that’s always fun…but he could have been so much more.
I'm down with the brown and I think he's Gy-Gorgeous!!
And the club is three kinds of awesome!!
Didn't get the Shadow Beast and never will. It's a really cool figure, don't misunderstand me. I just have no place for it in my MOTU.
I prefer Shadow Beasts that are more man-sized. Not only would that make it way easier to have a small tribe of them attacking the Heroic Warriors, but I just think it looks better. Gygor is the only giant ape I need in MOTU. I feel the Shadow Beast being so large takes away from Gygor's uniqueness in my display.
Still, like I said, the SB is an awesome figure. And I may one day change my mind or get it to display with a different line. Who knows.
I like him. Honestly, the only negative thing I can say is I wish he'd come with an extra head with a different facial expression. I wanted to army build him (or at least get two) but I didn't want them to have the same head.
I like the Shadow Beast, he is a little underwhelming though. I think the mold is more flattering on him than Gygor.
I agree about the giant club accessory, so much so that I never even bothered to take it out of the box when I opened the SB. Maybe I can eventually donate it to Megator.
They're coming! We don't know when, but they're coming–that's been confirmed.
I love the Shadow Beast. I have three of them. He really needs a waist cut but other than that I love the design and sculpt.
I was one of those that wasn't crazy about the color at first, but once in hand I love the dark brown. It's very cool and intimidating looking.
I also agree that the Classicizer Machine is stupid for exactly the reason MegaGearX mentioned:
Buzz-Off has his vintage and 200x weapons. If you put his 200x weapon in the machine you get the vintage weapon, which means we shouldn't have gotten the awesome 200x axe.
Same with Panthor. He comes with a newly sculpted helmet. But if you put his helmet in the Classicizer Machine you get a green repainted Battle Cat helmet. That's what he should have come with.
In light of that stupid, patronizing, and contradictory logic, I only have one thing to say: WHERE THE HELL ARE MY 200X SKELETOR SWORDS MATTEL?!
Huh? Where are they? They are cool weapons and I want them. They should have come with the Keldor figure and should come with every Skeletor release from here on out.
Get it together Mattel.
Glad to see others find the Classicizer Machine™ as ridiculous as the 200X fans do. When Mattel can't come out and give the fans an honest answer, due to continual change (Something is outlawed one month, it's back in the next month), they come up with stuff like this.
The Classicizer™ was thought up in response to constant questioning on the subjects of 200X He-Man's longer hair and pouch and Keldor's Swords (Mattel came up with half-assed answers that did nothing but incite fans to find instances where Mattel failed to follow it's own protocols. The Classicizer™ was said to turn Keldor's Swords into two purple Skeletor Swords and turns 200X He-Man into Classic He-Man.
The Classicizer Machine™ lost all relevance when Buzz-Off came with both is 200X weapon AND his vintage weapon.
I agree with Poe's review. I wish I could love this like I do with Gygor, but the lack of accessories and bland color doesn't do a whole lot. I wish they would have taken more artistic license or at least used the 200X colors. I am glad Poe brought up the fact that a "mindless" beast is using such a wonky tool. Interesting element that Count Marzo created SBs as well.
Great photos on this guy. Makes me want him.
I must be one of the few people that was really happy and pleased with how the Shadow Beast turned out.
Without stirring up the Matty madness too much, I will chime in that the "Classics machine" is just ridiculous. I understand the intention of the illustration, but it just seems to cause more problems. My favorite comeback to the illustration that I have heard (don't remember who mentioned it) involves Vikor. If Vikor were put through the classics machine wouldn't he just come out as a classic styled He-Man? 😉
Regarding the SB itself, I like it, but it definitely is what it is. Unlike most other figures, there aren't too many cool accessories, little unique details, or multiple ways to display the character. Like Tytus and Prince Adam, it just seems to be missing that extra coolness. For me, the high point of the figure might be the club. I imagine that Marzo has a group of lackeys who make these for him (possibly orcs) out of tree branches (this solves the bark and girth issues). They hammer in the metal spikes, wrap the handles, and then leave them laying around when Marzo summons the Shadow Beasts. Do I get a No-prize now? (Or perhaps a Po-prize?)
Regarding the Filmation-esque appearance of the Shadow Beast, I have a theory. It is a wild, conspiracy theory, mostly thought up just for fun, but a theory none-the-less. I think Mattel in someway has the Filmation rights. Because Classic Media still has them listed in their portfolio, it seems Mattel doesn't have full ownership, but perhaps they have worked out some kind of arrangement.
Think about it: It seems to me from looking at Classic Media that they operate by buying up as many properties and entertainment catalogs as they can, and then resell them or license them. That seems to be how they make money, so why wouldn't they be willing to work with Mattel on a property that probably gets little other attention.
By playing along with Mattel, Classic Media helps to further the brand they own some stock in (having the cartoon rights) and is in a great position if and when the MOTU film gets made.
Now why, you might ask, does Mattel not just announce that they have some kind of deal worked out? Simple: Once the line begins to lose some steam, which will happen inevitably at some point in the future, Mattel can make the announcement that they can now produce Filmation characters. With the dedicated following that the Filmation cartoons have, Mattel could once again release the same characters and figures, but simply with some minor changes. More money for Mattel and longevity. Right now, it wouldn't be of much benefit to announce this, but it certainly does allow for things like Orko and SB to make their way out. Honestly, with as legally cautious as Mattel appears to be, does anyone believe that they would risk trying to explain the "Classics machine" in a courtroom? 🙂
Part of me wonders what the heck Mattel would do if CM notices that.
Also I agree on needing some "non-vintage" elements to be more obvious.
Great review as always Poe. I really like the Shadow Beast here, but you bring up some good points. Mattel's definition of the "Classics-izer" type machine is ridiculous. I do prefer the Filmation look over MYP for the Shadow Beast but it makes no sense how they were able to do it. Both color schemes are cool and either one would've been better than the boring brown.
I don't really have any other complaints for this guy. I like the club weapon and his overall design, but he could've used that purple paint job to stand out more.
um… is it mean of me to hope that classic media does press charges? cuz then, we've HAVE to get some obvious millenium elements in future designs.
I too wish that the SB was purple.
Someone asked ToyGuru about the color last year, and the official stance from TG was that the Filmation SBs were brown. They were just shaded purple because it was night, and that on-screen coloring was how brown is depicted at night.
Which makes no sense whatsoever, but hey, Mattel's not known for logical explanations…
Totally agree with the review here.
I would have loved if they added a backpack-saddle so a regular figure could ride on it. That also could've been repainted for a red heroic "Gygor".
They are WAY too rubbery. I tried to flex the "hinges" in the ankles and the soft plastic holding the pin on the other end pulls out of the ankle like rubber. I emailed mattel about it, and they acted like they were going to send a replacement, but they never did. I don't care too much though, because the replacement would have had the same problem. I agree with your final analysis though, Poe. Especially because I bought 3 of these guys.
Love the convenience of how the Classicizer Machine works erratically. One day it gives 200X looking characters the other it gives Filmation looking characters… Hopefully this allows for a bi-horned MYP inspired Shadow Beasts in the Future.