MOTUC Director’s Commentary – Hordak

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#10 Hordak originally posted 03.28.2012

[box style=”doc”]We got to choose one more figure.
After the sale of the first few figures, we had the green light to do two more figures. Mer-Man was sculpted early, but due to some logistical issues he was slipping schedule so Man-At-Arms had to be developed first (although if memory serves he was actually sold after Mer-Man – honestly, doing all of this from memory is not as easy as it looks!)
At any rate, we had one final slot available to us and as far as we knew at the time, this was going to be it. One final figure. (Obviously things changes and the line really took off but at the time, this was going to be it!)

So who to pick? Who would be a great final figure if we were truly only going to get to eight? Well, for starters we had some conditions. We knew this figure had to use shared parts. So that meant Ram Man and Teela were out as both would need to be 100% sculpts. The next obvious choice might have been Trap Jaw but he also had a ton of new tooling needing new legs, arms and crotch pieces. And although all of those pieces would have been reusable for other figures, at the time this was going to be our very last figure so that wouldn’t have mattered. Which all meant we had to choose a figure that used minimal new parts.

We tossed around a few ideas. Tri-Klops might have been cool. He fit the bill in terms of minimum new parts and he was an early(er) vintage figure and had a big part in both the Filmation and Mike Young animated series. Or we could also go for a figure like Scareglow or Spikor who never had a figure or Staction in the 200X line. In the end, quite a few ideas were tossed around.

Then we thought about Hordak. Hmmm. Interesting. He actually wasn’t that much new tooling (relatively speaking) and was as “A” list as you got now that Skeletor and He-Man were out. Plus, he was a nice nod to POP which had no representation thus far and to say he is a fan favorite is an understatement.

With all of these considerations reviewed, we finally settled on the Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde as what (at the time) was going to be our eighth and final figure (well, ninth, counting our cheap-out repaint of He-Man called “Faker”).

The Horde came out in 1985 at the height of the vintage line’s popularity. They were designed to add a new villain faction to the line that would be a threat to both He-Man and Skeletor. Although Filmation absconded with them as villains for the POP animated series, they were originally created first and foremost as villains in the He-Man MOTU line. I actually talked to some old time Mattel folks who were around in the day who confirmed this much debated topic. Hordak was actually influenced originally by a Tiki mask a designer had in his cube. The whole “bat” thing came later when Mattel marketing asked for a unified symbol for this new team of bad guys. But the original concept of Hordak was an evil Tiki deity run amok. Mattel even commissioned Bruce Timm (in his early freelance days) to draw a mini kids’ book explaining the intro of these new villains well before Filmation got their hands on him and his team. (We even used an image from this book in his shield art on the back of the new figure!)

When I was a kid I just loved the Horde. I had all of the original members; Hordak, Grizzlor, Leech, Modulok and Mantenna. By the time the ranks were boosted with additional members like Dragstor and Mosquitor I had moved on to other things (sorry, Pixel Dan) but the original 5 members will always hold a special place in my heart. I really remember that original TV spot introducing the Horde as the figures moved into the light from blackness and fog. That TV commercial really hit me hard. Wow. Skeletor was bad but these guys were even worse! Truly my MOTU adventures were going to take off!

So needless to say, I was thrilled with the idea of adding Hordak to the MOTUC line, even if it meant he would be the last figure. If we truly were only going to get to nine figures, this felt like a nice way to go out. Hordak was also the very first Staction figure in the 200X line and I remember paying big bucks for one at SDCC a few years back. He was cool, but I just hated the fact that the Staction figure could not be posed. Yes, I know that was the point, but, man, as an action figure collector, the idea of a statue in scale with my figures did not fly. Now was payback and a chance to get out a new fully articulated, highly detailed Hordak action figure.

In the beginning of MOTUC there was still a lot of confusion among the fan base as to whether there would be “200X” variants of figures. We tried to use Hordak to settle this by including both his vintage crossbow and his 200X staff with the figure. Even after doing this, fans still asked for a 200X version. We finally had to settle this (and I know disappoint some fans) by explaining that no, this was the one and only version of original vintage Hordak in the Classics line.

Classics was an all new interpretation of the vintage line, much as 200X was an interpretation of the vintage line. Both lines took the original vintage toys and reimagined them in a new style. For 200X, this style included elements such as some characters being larger (i.e. Beast Man, Whiplash and Grayskull), as well as what I had been calling “hyper anime detail” (you know those elongated spikes and extra details McFarland had been known for). The idea behind Classics was an all new style and all new interpretation of the vintage line. We would do characters or weapons (i.e. Hordak’s staff) that were first introduced in the 200X line, but all would be in the Classics style.

While the news that the 200X style was “retired” did not go over well with all our fans, it seems that most have now gotten aboard this train. We had a few early slips with Marzo’s hair and Whiplash’s second head, but otherwise we have stuck to this direction very well. Sure, it won’t please everyone and as a fan myself I totally get it, but as a marketing manager, I 100% understand management’s desire to retire the old 200X interpretation and start up an all new interpretation/style, if for no other reason than to sell more toys (again, are you really shocked that this is what it is all about?)

Okay, I am on a tangent again. Back to Hordak.

So sculpting and tooling-wise, he really wasn’t too many new parts. New head, new collar, new cape, weapons, boots and gloves. The gloves and boots (and removable arm band) actually worked out great and wound up being pieces we could reuse over and over for a lot of characters. Getting new parts tooled is much easier to get approved when we know they are not one-time use (which is what has held up characters like Ram Man for so long). Other 100% tooled figures like Teela have given us reusable parts so it is easier to get approval on those.

One of the most controversial new parts on Hordak was his lower torso. The original direction I asked from the Horsemen was to do Hordak’s armor as one snap-on piece like the vintage figure. But (and in retrospect, I 100% agree with their change) they felt strongly that this would limit his articulation and they wanted to develop a new “armor” lower torso that could be used on armored figures purely to preserve and maintain full articulation.

A lot of fans looked at this “flat tummy” piece and the “half upper armor” and felt Hordak was wearing a sports bra for armor. I totally get where this is coming from, but honestly, I think for this you have to change the way you look at him. It is kinda like that old optical illusion pic that is both an old lady and a young woman wearing a hat, depending on your perspective. Obi Wan was right when he said it all depends on “a certain point of view.”

If you look at Hordak’s armor as only being the top piece of his chest, then, yes, he looks like he has a sports bra on. BUT, if you change your perspective and look at the flat tummy part as PART of the armor and what allows the armor to be articulated, you’ll see him as the Horsemen envisioned. The flat lower torso piece is not his skin; it is part of the armor. Yes, the top part of the armor is removable and the bottom part is his actual body. But what the Horsemen intended (and in hindsight I totally agree with them on) is that the top of the armor and the lower part aren’t separate — together they make up the armor as one which is sculpted in a brilliant way to allow for articulation. If it had been done in any other way, the articulation would have been lost.

So yes, from one POV he does look like he has a sports bra half armor, but from another he is in full armor that is articulated. We could have gone either way and while I was against this at first, the Horsemen won me over and I think they were right.

There have been many times throughout the line where we really thought we were going the extra mile for fans (like making She-Ra’s mask attachable in both right side up and upside down modes) and sometimes that vision backfired completely. For Hordak however, despite some fans being against this artistic choice, maintaining the articulation level really won me over. Had the armor been done as one piece, we would have lost the ab crunch and not had a fully articulated figure.

Another controversy on Hordak was the color of the crossbow. On the vintage figure it was white, for Classics the Horsemen went with black. Basically, 100% a deco call on their end, but also one that I really think worked. We wound up releasing a silver version of the cross bow in a weapon pak, but even still, fans have asked for an all-white version and I see no reason we can’t get to this one day. Perhaps with a future variant.

Hordak’s bat pet (from the vintage toy) was also reimagined as much more of a creature. At the time we did not have access to Filmation, which meant Imp was out of the question. So we tend to think of this little red bat as the Preternia version of Imp. Perhaps it gets killed off in battle and centuries later Etheria Hordak replaces his long lost red bat with Imp or something like that. I guess that story has yet to be told. But it was really cool to get this little extra accessory for Hordak that snaps (with what I always felt was too much difficulty) onto his arm.

A final little anecdote on Hordak is an error on packaging that was 100% my fault. When we were writing the bios, I was hand typing all of the vintage licensor kits and the single “bio” line from the vintage toys by hand into a master sheet to use for the bios. I also copied the “title” line from the front of package (which often differed from the line on the cross-sell) so we could use that. To say this was a labor of love is an understatement. It took hours and hours to type all this out. When I got to Hordak, I clearly messed up as I wrote his title line down as “The Evil Leader of the Evil Horde” vs. the correct line of “Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde.”.

I really hate when mistakes show up in the line, especially when they are MY fault and this was one of the more obvious ones. We were able to correct this on Hordak’s second release and on the online bio, but man, what a dumb mistake. You think I would have noticed that. But with all the other balls in the air, and at the time assuming this was the final figure in MOTUC ever, it completely slipped my net. Not a life-changing mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, and it wouldn’t be my only one (Roboto’s shoulders anyone?). Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all!

But it was really cool to get Hordak out. And since the previous six (seven) figures were all chosen based on being part of the original 1982 releases, getting to help decide on the eight figure was a huge thrill. This really was the first figure I got to help choose.
One last subject to hit on Hordak is his “real name.” Ah, this would cause controversy for every figure in the line that we added a new name to. Hordak was no exception.

When deciding on who would get real names vs. who has their real name as their figure name (i.e. Stratos), Hordak definitely stood out as needing a real name. The standard we tried to use was “what would this character’s mother use?” Did Hordak’s mother name him Hordak? Likely not. This felt more like a war name for the field commander of the Horde Empire.
The standard being applied (much as Mer-Man’s mom did not name him “Mer-Man” or Buzz Off’s mom name him “Buzz Off”), we needed to come up with a real name for him. Hordak being one of the only A-list characters that fell into this “needing a real name category,” we knew we had a challenge.
In the end we went with Hec-tor Kur.

Many of the characters in MOTU (and locations) use Greek and Latin roots. Hector in Greek means “cowardly bully” and Kur is a dog. So really the name means he is a Cowardly Bully Dog. This really worked for Hordak. Oh, and totally unofficially, he was also named after Captain Barbosa from POTC. We thought it was really funny for a mean badass character to be named Hector! Ha. Somehow it just worked.

Until next time![/box]

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