Skeletor Character Bio
Mortally wounded in a battle with his half brother Captain Randor, Keldor turned to his dark arts master Hordak to save his life. Hordak merged Keldor with an extra dimensional being, changing him forever into Skeletor Overlord of Evil. He gathered together many of Eternia’s greatest outcasts and evil warriors in his quest to gain entry into Castle Grayskull and obtain what he believes is the universe’s ultimate power.
Designing the Eternians
The He-Man Eternians paper toys are an interesting mix of the original MOTU toy line figures, the Filmation cartoon and original elements. The original intent was to base the Eternians line solely on the original figures, giving them a more stylized top-heavy look and blocky paper craft aesthetic. However as the original twelve figures were being developed it became clear people struggled to recognize the characters without some of the changes that were made by Filmation to the character designs. For example Man-At-Arms original figure didn’t have a moustache, Filmation added this to the character to make him appear more fatherly and senior and it’s now an essential part of the character design, so this was adopted into the Eternians figures. The results are figures primarily based on the original toy line and accessories, which included Filmation elements where necessary, to make the character recognizable. Original elements were added to fill awkward gaps or empty sections that were often left by the armour of the original figures, as well as adding small details to flesh out the outfits of the figures. Taking Man-At-Arms as an example again, the final toy features a body based on the original MOTU figure, however the back of the original figure’s armour was mostly absent to make room for the strap that connected it to the figure, which looked odd so I’ve added my own back and sides, to be a little more filled out. Details that were sculpted onto the figure but not painted such as the wrist band, have been made the same colour as Man-At-Arms armour and his face is primarily based on the Filmation cartoon, with an original take that is unavoidable when designing something in your own style.
I really wanted the Eternians figures to scream ‘muscle’, just like the inspiration for the He-Man line. This can be a challenge, as shown by the many other paper toy designers that have designed He-Man figures. The usual design choices such as flat arms can make it hard to convey muscular biceps, and flat line-art texturing often leads to paper toys looking two dimensional (which is ironic given the medium.) To avoid this I decided to give the Eternians a focus on shading, specifically extreme highlights (these would later be reduced before the final release but are still clearly visible.) This helped the muscles ‘pop’ on the built models, and coupled with the line art which overlaid whatever colour was underneath it, gave a wonderfully rounded and chunky look to the toys.
Other than my love for the franchise as a whole, one of the reasons I focused so heavily on the He-Man MOTU line was Mattel’s re-use of parts in the original toy line (and arguable their MOTU classics line.) Time limits are always a factor when it comes to design projects, (even fan-art projects like Eternians) and the ability to re-use elements and parts I’d already designed would make it much quicker to produce new MOTU characters later on in the Eternians line. This meant that the shading, line art, armour, and colours all had to be easily changed and react to the colours below them. For example, He-Man and Man-At-Arms both use the same left arm, but one is the standard flesh colour and the other is green. Instead of having to re-work all the shading and line art to work with this new colour, it had to be flexible enough so that I could just change the skin layers colour and everything else would just work and still look nice. This also meant that the basic buck of the figures – the muscular body shape, would have to be a separate set of layers from the amour used on top, as many of the figures re-used armour pieces.
He-Man and Skeletor, as you might imagine, were two of the first Eternians to be designed. Many toy lines fall victim to what I call ‘non-practiced primary characters’. This is where toy lines create the main characters first because they’re essential to the aesthetic of the line and will also likely sell the best, then work on secondary characters later. The problem with this is that as the designers, sculptors and design team work as a whole on a toy line or series for longer, they learn from their mistakes and improve. This leaves you with characters that were designed later being better in different ways than the main characters, making the main characters the worse in the line.
In an attempt to avoid this I designed a set of twelve characters simultaneously, and each time I ran into an issue or had to change the overall style to accommodate a specific character, I would go back and make similar practical or style changes to all twelve in the line. The plan being that I would iron out any issues with the style or shape of the Eternians figures without the main characters suffering from being the first designed. The choice to make the weapons removable came later on in the production of these twelve figures, and required a re-work of the arm shape as well as a complete change to how the weapons would attach to the figures, this meant going back over all twelve figures, re-designing each of their arms and weapons all over again, all to improve the final functionality of the figures. The final weapon attachment system allowed me to add small sections to the back of the weapon that could lock the arm at different angles. If I needed to I could lock the figure’s arms facing forwards, leaving the weapon at 90 degrees to the floor (which would be a great way for them to fold a staff instead of at an angle.)
Skeletor proved to be vital to the development process of the Eternians, as the proportions of the face were changed many times at this stage, each time making the proportions more versatile and allow characters with very different faces still work in the style. Skeletors face, being just a skull would act as a template on top of which each characters face would be placed to give me an idea of what the bones below would look like and keep the proportions similar.
Skeletor was also the first character to receive 3D shoulder pads as they were essential to his design. From the earliest stages of the Eternians development, having the ability to add to the shoulders and have them extend outwards was an essential part of the arm design.
The decision to make the Skeletor figure hood removable had always been an aim, I didn’t want to just draw a hood onto the texture of the figure, I always wanted it to be a removable accessory, I think this greatly improved the final result rounding out the head and making it a very distinct shape compared to other figures in the line. This would also allow me to re-use the hood design on future characters if needed. The hood itself went through four different designs, all very similar, but each time the character body was altered. I would have to go back and design a new hood so that it would sit perfectly on the head of the toy, as well as on the chest section. In a perfect world the inside of the hood would be printed too – the white sections being visible is a real let-down, but an unfortunate limitation when it comes to free downloadable paper toys. Perhaps one day there will be a professionally printed edition of the toy that I can design double-sided to add colour to this part of the hood.
+ 27/05/2017 – New version of Fold Up Toys website launched, with the aim of providing better loading times and better categorization. Website fixed with help from Smart-hosting team as well as Google Garage team. New version of the toy features cleaner tabs, redefined colours and new more clean layout style. The new toy page also features “in context file preview”. Now all downloads for toys are ZIP documents with multiple files inside to make downloads faster and less storage intensive.
+ 27/05/2017 – Added an in-depth behind the scenes section under “Designers Notes” to Skeletor, it includes an overall section about Eternians and it will probably be re-used for other Eternians figures in the future.