The Goddard Group has a rich history and some of that history was made prior to the company’s start, by our CEO, Gary Goddard’s experience in film. With the recent and unfortunate passing of legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, we sat down with Gary to discuss his experiences with Mr. McQuarrie while Gary was directing Masters of the Universe. The following is a never-before-seen look into some of the artwork that came from the artistic mind of an artist, illustrator, and designer that will be missed; and a piece of the puzzle that has made The Goddard Group what it is today:
When I was directing MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE and we were just starting on the conceptual ideas, John DeCuir (CLEOPATRA, KING & I, HELLO DOLLY, GHOSTBUSTERS) was the first person that signed on to initiate conceptual work. I had hoped to involve Ralph but he was signed on to Ron Howard’s production of COCOON at the time and was not available. Then about three weeks into MASTERS, Ralph called and said “Cocoon has been put on hold. Might be a week, might be a month, might not resume at all. Do you still want me to work on Masters as I am available, but if I get called back on Cocoon, I’ll have to honor that contract.” So I said yes, come on board. So Ralph joined us but as it turned out only for about three weeks as Cocoon went back into active pre-production and he had to return. But in these three weeks, Ralph did some interesting design work. With his passing last week, I went and dug into my old MASTERS file and found these. I thought fans might like to see them as they have never appeared anywhere before, at least not to my knowledge.
Ralph generally did thumbnails first, to get a feeling for the world and the characters. These are some initial sketches for the “world” of Eternia and some of the denizens there in. We talked early on about “robotic sentries” because Mattel had stated early on that He-Man “could never harm people” so that drove the idea of creating an army of “robot sentries” that would spark and explode when hit, rather than “die”. The female shown was a first sketch idea of Evil-Lyn. There was an idea early on for a “cute robot” which I killed as there were tons of cute robots in TV and films then and I didn’t want to have yet another one.
In the first version of the script, and per Mattel, they had hoped to see a number of designs with “toyetic” possibilities. Ralph started sketching some ideas based upon some existing Mattel designs for toys, and then started to veer more into an approach that based the flying jets more on bird-like shapes as evidenced in the center of this set of sketches.
These are more thumbnails showing the early ideas for the opening sequence. We were to be on Eternia and I had wanted originally to give the sense of a true “world”. Various shots were going to show different aspects and “lands” within Eternia, all leading ultimately to GRAYSKULL CASTLE. In my mind, the idea of bringing the Eternians to Earth was a given due to budget and this was the script that I had signed on to make. But I had hoped in a sequel that we would go to Eternia, and my thought was that the world of Eternia should be every bit as interesting as anything in LORD OF THE RINGS (meaning the books of course), or in the world of the Star Wars movies. But to be different, I was pushing more towards a Tolkien-esque world for Eternia.
Once the Thumbnails were roughed out, Ralph and I would talk and he would take things to the next level. Here we have a look at Evil-Lyn (and several variations) and one of Skeletor. In this one, I was playing with the idea that SKELETOR might actually have a SKULL MASK that was fashioned to instill fear in people. Underneath, as with The Phantom of the Opera, and with Doctor Doom and later, Darth Vader, is a scarred human being whose face had been severely disfigured and scarred in some long-ago accident or battle. So this was a SKULL MASK with a helmet. Ultimately we decided this was too “Darth Vader” and also Mattel was of the opinion, probably rightly so, that Skeletor had to be SKELETOR –which is to say a SKULL with speaking abilities on an otherwise perfectly healthy male human body.
Early character designs for He-Man, Man At Arms, Teela, and what would become GWILDOR, the character I created to take the place of ORKO. In the days before digital animation, the idea of bringing either ORKO or BATTLE CAT to life in a live action world would have meant stop motion animation, and a great deal of painstaking effects work. As this was being done on a limited budget ($17,000,000) the idea of having BATTLE CAT or ORKO was out of the question. But of course, by bringing them to Earth, we avoided any accusations that we had taken them out of the mythology – they just didn’t make the jump to Earth. In retrospect it would have been very cool to have Battle Cat in that opening confrontation in the Throne Room, and to have brought him back into it for the scene where our Earthling teenagers say goodbye and return home. Ralph was still working on that little cute robot which I kept telling him was a no-go. And these initial studies were based largely on the Toy designs, and I was pushing Ralph to move away from that and to begin inventing our own designs for the movie.
There is more Ralph McQuarrie and Masters of the Universe art to come! To be continued… (CLICK HERE TO SEE POST 2 OF Ralph McQuarrie AND Masters of the Universe!)
Masters of the Universe, He-Man and associated characters are trademarks owned by and under licence from Mattel Inc.©. Masters of the Universe The Motion Picture © Cannon Films Inc. and Cannon International.
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