Animals have been an important part of the Masters Of The Universe story since the beginning of the vintage toy line. Although several creatures were released during the original series and the Princess Of Power series, the first four animals seem to have always been the most popular. Those four were, of course, Battle Cat, Zoar, Panthor and Screeech. With the release of Panthor in April 2011, MOTUC fans now have Classics versions of all four creatures.
In addition to the felines and raptors, we have also seen Gygor and Shadow Beast, and there will almost certainly be several more animals to appear during the life of the Classics line. I thought it was time to dedicate a page on this site to the 'big four', and as I had my camera at the ready, I photographed Gygor and Shadow Beast too. So here you will find some images of the first six Classics animals with some accompanying text.
It is interesting to explore why the animals have been so popular, particularly as the roles of some have changed over the years. In the earliest days of the MOTU world, Battle Cat was the ferocious steed of He-Man, living in the depths of the forests and venturing out only when called by his master. The Filmation cartoons turned Battle Cat into the alter ego of Cringer, Prince Adam's pet who lived in the royal palace. Battle Cat was also given the ability to speak. Battle Cat has therefore always featured prominently in both versions of the MOTU canon.
Zoar's role changed even more dramatically than Battle Cat's. He featured in the best two minicomics (The Power Of... Point Dread! and The Magic Stealer!) and was shown to have the ability to converse, enjoying a pun on the words sing and singe. The Filmation cartoons changed Zoar into a female falcon; the shapeshifting form of Castle Grayskull's Sorceress. They also changed the pronunciation of the name, making it Zo-Ar instead of Zoar (rhyming with soar).
The evil Panthor and Screeech arrived a little later, and did not suffer from the character adjustments that had affected the heroic animals. Panthor was always thought of as Skeletor's steed. Screeech's association with Evil-Lyn is something that has developed in more recent times (during the 2002 era), and is an approximate parallel to the Sorceress / Zoar relationship of the early minicomics rather than the Filmation version. Below I will say a little more about the Classics versions of these creatures.
ZOAR and SCREEECH
The most obvious difference between the Classics and original versions of these birds of prey is their size. Classics Zoar and Screeech are now in proportion to the humanoid figures, which is a change I welcome. Zoar has been painted using the colours shown on the minicomic artwork rather than the original toy colours (seen in the image at the top of this page). Zoar and Screeech were released as Teela and Evil Lyn's accessories respectively. Unlike Screeech, Zoar did not have his armour and stand, which came subsequently in the Great Wars Assortment Weapons Pak.
Classics Battle Cat has lots of articulation (the original had none), which means he can be posed in different ways. That said, there are some limits to his movement which seem rather strange. He can lower his head but not raise it. The rear legs tend to bend too much because of the loose joints. The armour has been positioned too far back, leaving Battle Cat's neck unprotected, and it cannot be pushed forwards. Owners of vintage Battle Cat will remember the two pieces were connected on the original toy. It is also obvious that the humanoid figures were designed before Battle Cat's armour. The saddle is too wide for He-Man! Despite the faults, Classics Battle Cat still looks good and is an important part of the collection.
Panthor uses the same mould as Battle Cat, so the construction and design problems are also the same. I have not shown it here, but Panthor was given a helmet for his Classics release (he had none originally). This is based on the ram's horn design of Skeletor's Havoc Staff and works very well. Panthor was given a helmet in the 2002 era, but the design was simpler. Many fans wanted Panthor to be released with fur (flocked) as he was during the original line, but I support the decision to release him unflocked. The original lost his fur very quickly, and an articulated Classics Panthor would surely suffer the same fate. Without the flocking, we can see the Four Horsemen's sculpting work better too. That said, there is a possibility that a later release of Panthor might be flocked, and I would be interested to see how the two designs compare.
GYGOR and SHADOW BEAST
Gygor and Shadow Beast did not feature in the original toy line, but both have a long
association with the Masters Of The Universe. Gygor was a concept character and the
Shadow Beasts were featured in the Filmation cartoon. Gygor did not resurface until his
Classics release, but the Shadow Beasts were resurrected in the 2002 era cartoon.
These figures use the same torso, arm and leg parts. It will be interesting to see if this
mould is used again for future monsters, or whether new designs will add variety to the line.
Despite their rather simple, cartoon-like appearance, Gygor and Shadow Beast are actually