Eternia-Playset-Vintage-Masters-of-the-Universe-Pre-Production-Concept-Sketches
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Eternia Playset Vintage Masters of the Universe Pre-Production Concept Sketches

Take a step back in time and check out the Masters of the Universe vintage Eternia Playset Pre-Production Sketches by John Hollis

Thanks again to yo_tengo_el_poder for posting these amazing concept sketches and illustrations he found on Heritage Auctions. This is a major part of MOTU history that details the sketches, illustrations, and blueprints to one of the most sought after grail playsets for Masters of the Universe collectors. Taking a look at the concept sketches and early pre-production illustrations is literally like using a time machine to go back in history. We all know how Eternia turned out but it’s great to see how it started!

Masters of the Universe Vinatge Eternia Playset

With Mattel remaking the Eternia playset as a crowdfunding project, this part of history is very attainable but nothing beats the original playset as designed and spec’d out by John Hollis.

Eternia Playset MOTU Origins Mattel Creations 1

About John Hollis

John-Hollis-Eternia-Playset-Designer

John Hollis is an artist, designer and inventor that has worked in the toy industry since 1978. He has been employed by major toy manufacturers such as Mattel, Hasbro, Galoob, and Spin Master and consulted for many others through his own design firm. One of his popular inventions was the line of Computer Warriors toys that was produced in the late 1980’s. The items in this article are from his personal collection of pre-production artwork, photographs, and related papers originating from the time he worked on the original Masters of the Universe line.

Eternia Near-Final Copy with Color Marker (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork shows a near final Eternia playset on a piece of white paper measuring 8.5 by 11 inches with a tear at the top center. The image is a photocopy which is hand colored with marker featuring blue and pink shading. The blue was meant to be an overspray across the front of the tower to accentuate the details. The lettering on the page is marked “Premium Playset” and bears John Hollis’ name which is dated 6/19/85. The original drawing as well as coloring were done by John.

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Blueprint of Parts Layout (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production blueprint shows the parts layout for the entire Eternia set on one sheet measuring 22 by 34 inches. Many of the parts have been colored with marker and the blueprint shows the breakdown of how the parts would be split for production and later assembled. The bottom right designates the drawing as “Premium Playset” and shows that it was drawn by “McKittrick” on 5/3/85. Above, a second date of 5/10/85 is written. At the bottom edge are several pencil and pen sketches that seem to be working out how some pieces of the set will clip together. These are not part of the original blueprint and were drawn on afterward. The bottom left of the blueprint has a disclaimer regarding the confidentiality of the document and the right bottom corner is printed “Confidential – Do not disclose to unauthorized persons”. There is a 3.5 inch tear between the 1 and 2 at the top right of the blueprint.

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Early Dragon Horn Monorail Concepts (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork is black pen over pencil on white paper measuring 9 by 12 inches. John was introduced to the project by Charlie McHose, a former automotive designer for Ford Motor Company, and was shown preliminary drawings by Martin Arriola who worked on the Masters of the Universe line for the entire original run and beyond. John was asked to design a large playset with a monorail and 3 main parts and the engineering department had already come up with the concept of some type of sweeping arms at the gate. He took this information and came up with a few initial concepts including this amazing piece that displays the very beginning of the Eternia Playset. This drawing uses a horned dragon head as the entrance to the center tower with the left and right sides to the jaw as the moving arms. The gun at the top has a flip-over action that allows it to fold into the castle top. Wooden windows open on the front and side of the tower while the right side was rocks and stairs, eventually becoming the large snake tower. This artwork demonstrates how early concepts are used to bring a playset of this magnitude to life. By itself, this drawing is a fantastic piece of art. But as part of the creative process that resulted in the Eternia playset, it is a one-of-a-kind piece of toy history.

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Eternia Playset Tower Back Sketches and Detail Concept (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production drawing by John Hollis is a rough sketch of the back of the towers for the Eternia playset drawn in pen and pencil on thin white paper measuring 9 by 12 inches. The sketch shows the bases of the towers connecting and both backs open with a thinly sketched monorail around them. Four additional sheets are photocopies of some details for the left and center towers, each on 8.5 by 11 white paper. These show alternate monorail strut designs including winged creatures under or above the center tower struts. Also seen are different flag design concepts and the flip-over gun turret that is seen in other concept pieces. The left tower concept also has ivy climbing the tower as an additional detail.

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Early Center Tower Concepts – (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork lot contains 7 sheets of paper measuring 8.5 by 11 inches. The white sheet with no tower drawn is the master pencil sheet that is hand drawn by John Hollis. The 6 remaining sheets are photocopies that use that as the base image so that different tower concepts can be drawn in. On the 4 sheets with the upper tower, each tower top is drawn in pencil. While none of these was ultimately chosen for the final design, they represent the development process in great detail.

Eternia-Playset-Masters-of-the-Universe-Vintage-Concept-Illustrations-7

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork is black pen over pencil on white paper measuring 9 by 12 inches. John was introduced to the project by Charlie McHose, a former automotive designer for Ford Motor Company, and was shown preliminary drawings by Martin Arriola who worked on the Masters of the Universe line for the entire original run and beyond. John was asked to design a large playset with a monorail and 3 main parts and the engineering department had already come up with the concept of some type of sweeping arms at the gate. He took this information and came up with a few initial concepts including this amazing piece that displays the very beginning of the Eternia Playset. This drawing uses a horned dragon head as the entrance to the center tower with the left and right sides to the jaw as the moving arms. The gun at the top has a flip-over action that allows it to fold into the castle top. Wooden windows open on the front and side of the tower while the right side was rocks and stairs, eventually becoming the large snake tower. This artwork demonstrates how early concepts are used to bring a playset of this magnitude to life. By itself, this drawing is a fantastic piece of art. But as part of the creative process that resulted in the Eternia playset, it is a one-of-a-kind piece of toy history.

Eternia-Playset-Masters-of-the-Universe-Vintage-Concept-Illustrations-5

This Masters of the Universe pre-production drawing by John Hollis is an early center tower concept for the Eternia playset drawn in black and blue pen and marker on thin white paper measuring 15 by 24 inches. The artwork shows the center tower with the early wolf head and jaw which forms the door to the tower. The clawed arms rest on the sides and the separation from the wall where they would move inward is visible. The top of the tower is slightly longer than other versions and this tower has the vertically lined top that matches the final production tower. The base also shows compartments for weapon storage that are not part of the final design. The sheet has some wrinkles along the edges, primarily across the top.

Eternia-Playset-Masters-of-the-Universe-Vintage-Concept-Illustrations-22

The gun at the top has a flip-over action that allows it to fold into the castle top. Wooden windows open on the front and side of the tower while the right side was rocks and stairs, eventually becoming the large snake tower. This artwork demonstrates how early concepts are used to bring a playset of this magnitude to life. By itself, this drawing is a fantastic piece of art. But as part of the creative process that resulted in the Eternia playset, it is a one-of-a-kind piece of toy history.

Eternia-Playset-Masters-of-the-Universe-Vintage-Concept-Illustrations-8

This Masters of the Universe pre-production drawing by John Hollis is in pencil on tissue paper measuring 14 by 17 inches. The drawing shows a horizontal strut with a vertical arm at the end while the production struts had larger clips and were rounded at a 45 degree angle upward. The drawing shows 3 different angles of the strut as well as a cross section. Across the bottom the text reads: “TB79 M.O.U. Eternia – Center Tower Struts Mattel Toys, Inc. 8/2/85 J. Hollis”

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Snake Tower Sepia Print Detail Concept (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork is a sepia print of the Eternia snake tower. Measuring 17 by 22 inches, this shows a near-final Snake Tower base with details built in. The top of the tower is not yet final as the struts and chains do not have full detail and the snake head is an earlier thin version. A smaller model of the tower on the right shows the split down the side of the tower where the molds would create the tower in 2 parts which would be assembled later. This may have acted as a control drawing for the tower base for sculpting and marketing purposes. The print is on tissue paper which has a folds at the left bottom corner, a piece of tape at the top and some light discoloration at the edges.

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This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork is a collection of 30 thumbnails in paper and pen on a white sheet of paper measuring 8.5 by 11 inches. The paper is separated into 30 boxes with pencil and each box contains a separate concept of how the struts that hold the monorail on Snake Tower would look. At this point in the design, the center of the tower was still in development as can bee seen by some of the concept notes which include “Medusa”, “fire / alter” and “claw”. Each of those is intriguing to imagine as the center for the eventual Snake Tower. Also seen are long struts that rise from the base and even a large creature skeleton for the right side of Eternia. This very early strut configuration concept sheet was sketched by John Hollis and is the type of development art that rarely makes it out of the studio.

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This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork by John Hollis is a pencil drawing on tissue paper and a photocopy of the Eternia snake tower strut concept details. Measuring 9 by 12 inches, the original drawing shows a strut similar to the final version in general design but with some differences. The drawn version has a ‘V’ shaped connection at the bottom as well a a more pronounced snake head and neck collar for connecting to the chain with a ring rather than the hook design in the production version. Cross sections of the strut are also shown with corresponding letters to identify them. The drawing is marked “Snake Tower Struts – to M.O.U. Eternia TB79 – C Mattel Toys Inc. 7/29/85 – Drawn by John Hollis.” The photocopied paper is a 1 to 1 scale copy of the original printed on 11 by 16 inch white paper. On this paper, the cross sections of each area is highlighted with corresponding color markers.

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Left Tower Concepts and Details (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production artwork by John Hollis shows left tower tower concepts for the Eternia playset. All of the 4 papers are photocopies and one of them has additional pencil drawing at the top. In the top left drawing, the conical roof, gun, and struts for the monorail were added in pencil by John. Next to the roof it says: “Sprue: Conical roof on turrit gives height to tower (both physically & visually).” This shows an attempt to enlarge that tower as part of the ‘giant playset’ directive he was given when designing Eternia. While 3 of the pages have the same base image of the tower, the other page shows a character cutting the rope to drop the tower gate. The 3 larger pages measure 11 by 17 inches while the smaller page is 8.5 by 11 inches. The paper has some wrinkles and there is tape on the edges of the sheet with the additional drawing.

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Moat Creature Rough Concepts (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production sheet contains several concept drawings of the Moat Creature from the Eternia playset. These sketches were the precursor to the gold stingray accessory that eventually ended up as part of the set, however, the stingrays pictured here are more detailed and have tentacles. Measuring 9 by 12 inches, this sheet shows 8 different rough sketches created by John Hollis.

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Flag Crest Drawings – (Mattel, 1985)

This Masters of the Universe pre-production drawings by John Hollis are the flag crests for the Eternia playset drawn on tissue paper. Two additional photocopies of the bird crest are on white paper measuring 8.5 by 11 inches. The large tissue paper sheet measures 13 by 19 inches and has pencil drawings of the panther crest on the left side of the page and the Pterodactyl on the right side. Both look to be the final versions that made it to the flags. The bird crests are pen and marker on thin white paper measuring 8.5 by 14 inches with one edge showing that it was torn from a larger sheet. The crests are 2 different bird styles and are both round. The more centered drawing appears to be the final version although that is more oval on the flag. The two photocopies show an oval version so it seems that it was intentionally distorted for the copies.

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The largest Masters of the Universe playsets to ever be made and one of the second largest playsets to come out of the 1980’s second only to the G.I. Joe U.S.S Flagg. Those 3 grand towers connected by that awesome monorail we all wish we had as kids! Was Mattel hinting at something when they debuted Eterina in all its glory in one of the main scenes on the Netflix Revelation cartoon? Presented to the audience as Preternia, it looked like something straight out of Eden, with flowing green grasses, beautiful trees, and majestic mountains in the background that lead to the Acropolis… yes that mystical location of Eternia!

Preternia Masters of the Universe Revelation Netflix
Preternia as seen on the Masters of the Universe Revelation Netflix Show

Used as the ultimate battle ground, Eternia was featured in prominent MOTU artwork posters like the vintage one shown below for Mattel to proudly display the vast universe of products available for kids to spend their not so hard earned allowance on, or beg their parents to buy them for their for birthday or Christmas!

Masters of the Universe Eternia Poster Art crocco net
Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Poster Art

In the 1986 mini comic; the Ultimate Battle Ground, Eternia arose on the land that used to separate Castle Grayskull from Snake Mountain. The Sorceress explained that eons ago, before Castle Grayskull, there stood Grayskull Tower, symbol of goodness. But then there stood another tower, a tower of evil known as Viper Tower. And between these two towers was Central Tower, which held the power of both good and evil, but all 3 towers were forever connected. The towers were buried by the ancients to keep them from falling into the hands of King Hiss, only to return from deep within Eternia, and so begins this epic battle for the towers!

MOTU mini comic the Ultimate Battle Ground

The Mattel Eternia playset debuted in 1986, with its 3 large towers connected by a monorail system. The Central tower, was the largest of the 3 measuring over 30″, representing the power of good and evil. It had 4 floors inside, a command console, red laser cannon, and a working elevator to take you to the top. The base had stickers on it to represent a moat with some amazing artwork. The main entrance of the Central Tower was shaped like the face of a lion with working arms and claws that could reach out and grab unsuspecting visitors. The working mouth on the lion opened and closed the drawbridge feature.

Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Playset box front
Masters of the Universe Vintage
Eternia Playset box front
Source: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Playset box rear
Masters of the Universe Vintage
Eternia Playset box rear
Source: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

The other two towers were representations of Grayskull Tower and Viper Tower. Grayskull Tower was made of the same green colored craggily stone looking plastic as Castle Grayskull, forming a tall turret. It had a long winding staircase leading to a dungeon below. Viper Tower on the other hand had a cool red snake wrapping around it and a neat landing platform perched on a rock. All connected by a freaking real working monorail!!! It came with countless accessories and provided hours and hours of fun for kids of all ages! I mean this thing was screamy cool all over the place! If you owned one of these as a kid, you were king of the neighborhood!

Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Playset figures
Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Playset
Source: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Masters of the Universe Vintage Eternia Playset lions claws
Vintage Eternia Playset Lion’s Claws close up
Source: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Masters of the Universe Vinatge Eternia Playset interior
Vintage Eternia Playset interior view
Source: The Toys of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Complete Your MOTU Collection

Be sure to check out our Masters of the Universe shop pages where we’ve curated figures from MOTU Origins, Masterverse, Classics, Vintage and more so you can find the figures you need easier!

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