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Thread: Interview - Bob Nall - creator of MOTU logo and package designer

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    2002/DC He-Man Video guy Jukka's Avatar
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    Interview - Bob Nall - creator of MOTU logo and package designer

    Hi Mr. Nall.
    My name is Jukka Issakainen and I recently discovered your name via Power-Con that you were the person behind "Masters of the Universe" logo, packaging etc.


    Hello Jukka,

    Yes, it's true - I did design the Masters logo and was instrumental behind the entire package design line look and am proud to this day.



    BOB NALL



    What was your involvement with Mattel?

    I started at Mattel in 1976 as a Sr. Art Director.

    I designed logos and packages for many brands and settled on Boys items (mostly Hot Wheels).
    When the product designers developed He-Man (largely designed by Mark Taylor - who worked in the same group) I had the opportunity to look at the retail face of the brand. We looked at many names before coming up with MOTU - it was almost called 'Lords of Power' but many thought that was too religious in nature.

    Anyway, my career there took me through most of Mattel Brands including Barbie for a while and eventually I ended up as Vice President of Package Design for all Boys Toys and allowed me to influence all packages for Boys.



    Can you tell more about the work you did. Like with packaging.

    I worked for Mattel for 31 glorious years of creativity and during that time I worked on most of Mattel's product lines. I left in 2007. The last 15-18 years I mostly worked on Boy's Toy's ( Action figures, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Games etc.). I was the primary Designer for the origination of the Masters Packaging Line Look.
    I designed the original logo and the first blister cards and commissioned the final artwork. I was promoted to Manager around this time ('81/'82) and subsequently had a significant hand in directing the art through the designers that worked for me.



    Do you remember (or have in your possession) earlier concepts that didn't make it into production.

    I did have the original sketches and concepts for the MOTU logo and other candidates titles (Lords of Power) but unfortunately they are long gone I'm afraid.



    ​If you can't find any (or they are long gone) old sketches or ideas for the logo or alternative versions. Can you try describing them?

    I can say that they were all very dramatic and heroic looking. I created maybe a dozen or so before settling on the ONE. Normally I would do many more but I got to a solution quickly that everyone loved. My final draft was very tight and was done in prisma colored pencils. The final art was done by John Hamagami and was air brushed. He matched my art exactly and even improved on it a bit.


    Do you recall more about the process for the logo? What paper you used? How big?

    I don't recall the paper but my original was approximately 9x12. The final art by Hamagami was approximately 18x24 which included the blue background and exploding rocks.




    ​Were there inspiration from logos such as STAR WARS with the perspective-use on the logo?

    This technique has been well established for many years - it inspires 'bigger than life' drama. Do you remember Ben-Hur? A 1959 drama. Check it out.


    Haha. Alright.

    Also it was emanating from the exploding rocks.
    Seriously - just going for drama.


    Were you ever approached again to work on the MotU logo & packaging after your original work was done?

    All packaging that went through the Mattel Product Line was overseen by me and Marketing. I did not participate in licensed items or entertainment - that was handled by the Licensing group but they did follow Packagings guidelines. There were other vesions of the logo that showed up but they were all based on my original design.


    I found a pic of the alternative logo of MOTU on the minicomic cover.
    Can you tell me more about this logo version?




    As you can see, the logos on the left are the original and the one on the right is someones (probably a licensor) version.

    It mimics the original but is not too good as far as logos go (my opinion). Back in the day, MOTU was taking off and making tons of money so many Mattel entities and others outside of Mattel wanted a piece. These types of anomalies popped up all the time.
    But, I will say this - the logo you are questioning definitely followed the original MOTU logo which I created. It may have been rendered that way for a variety of reasons (who knows) but none of which came through my office for approval. As I said, there were many hands in the pot once the Brand became successful.

    If you may recall my earlier comment - Lords of Power was a runner-up contender for the brand name but MOTU was chosen instead.




    Did Mattel give you a direction/outline to work from, or were able to come up with the design on your own completely?

    In the early eighties Directional Outlines were rare. In the case of MOTU I invented the concept from my imagination and my work was positively received by upper management - so we went with it. I did collaborate with Mark Taylor ( primary product designer for the line) on synchronizing package with product.
    I was passionate about MOTU. Whenever I design something it means a lot to me. I believe that all designers feel that way. All work that I was involved with at Mattel was an opportunity to improve my surroundings.


    Do you remember why you decided to go with what you did?
    F.e., using a blue background instead of a black "universe" background?


    Mark Taylor and I agreed to capture the feeling that Frank Frazetta's fine art posters conveyed. That was the inspiration of the overall look of the art. I chose to present the logo in the blue background so that the packaging would have more presence in the retail environment. Blue is known to have 'shelf appeal' for Boy's products. Black can bring strong emotional appeal but it can tend to recede.


    Did you make the MOTU packaging designs with the actual figures in mind? (the red and blue)

    Red and Blue are both popular colors for Boy's products and in my mind they convey strength and vitality. As a basic color palette Blue did a good job of conveying 'Good' and Red conveyed 'Evil' - you can see this in the cross-sell of the items throughout the line.


    How did you experience the rise (and fall) of the original line?

    Large company's like Mattel often jump on a success and over produce to the point at which they kill it. Happens every day around the world. It seems that there is a propensity to get more and more until there is no more left. I think we simply over produced the line until our consumers lost interest. Won't be the last time.


    Do you know how the idea for the mini-comics came about?

    The mini comics came about in an attempt to 'authenticate' He-Man as a comic action hero. We interviewed many comic artists and started with Alfredo P. Alcala, again in an attempt to hold costs down and get great art.

    Alfredo didn't speak great english and was a bit of a loose canon at that time - we had to struggle to get the work on deadline but we needed to hold budgets so we put up with his idiosyncrasies - I remember one time he came to our offices to present his work and he was without shoes. A true artist.
    He did the whole thing - we provided a storyline and Alfredo laid out the panels, did the pencils, line art and color. It was great for a while but eventually his lack of reliability made us look elsewhere for the comic art.
    We next hired Lee Nordling to coordinate the work. Lee managed a few artists that did the various stages of the comic development. The entire process was very time consuming and getting too expensive.


    Did you decide which artists to use for the painted boxarts? Were there artists that you would have wanted to do illustrations but were not available or didn't happen for other reasons?

    We were trying to emulate the style of Frank Frazetta as we could not afford him. The first item that required an oil painting was He-Man and Battle Cat. That artist was Rudy Obrero.
    Rudy ended up doing many pieces for the line over time. Another artist that was used very often was William George. Once we established a style and a working relationship we could then proceed efficiently saving Mattel from paying exorbitant fees. In a company like Mattel where tons of work is outsourced finding value is a top priority.

    Bill George became a favorite in the early eighties because of our long standing relationship with him and his ability to quickly meet our needs with great art and a fair price. Bill did most of the box art oil paintings on the accessory items during those prime years. Mattel still has most of those original oil paintings.
    Some of the designers that created the box layouts and commissioned the final art were: Harry Garo, Jiro Tomiyama, Joe Mendez and Jim Wolfe. There were others but those guys were the main designers.


    Did you for example design MODULOK package?

    At the time of Modulok I was the Manager of the Package Design Group that was handling MOTU items. I was instrumental in the design direction along with the Marketing Manager (whose name escapes me) and the Package Designer himself.


    Were there specific requirements given to artists about the packaging painting? For instance if there was art about Fisto riding the mechanical horse Stridor, was it dictated that which evil warriors would also be in the image. Or did the artists have freedom in choosing?

    William George did most of these and sometimes we would tell him specifically who we wanted in the frame and sometimes he would just add them. At times he had to remove and replace a figure so we usually caught this at the pencil stage.


    B&W sketch image courtesy of Musclor.fr.st website

    Do you have any recollection which artworks the others (Garo, Mendez, etc) did?

    These designers worked in my group - they laid out the packages, they did not do final paintings.

    Mark Taylor did the original He-Man and Battle Cat package and found and hired Rudy. Harry Garo designed the Skeletor/Panthor pkg; and William Garland painted final.
    As the line kept growing there was A LOT of artwork going on with 5 or 6 designers within my group.
    Jiro Tomiyama did a lot of them and Jim Wolfe managed quite a few projects.


    Do you remember how the artists who worked on the cardback-arts?

    The main guy that did the cardback art was Errol McCarthy - he did the comic style art and believe me it was beautiful! The cross-sell images were little gouache paintings and I think Bill George did the illustrations.





    Wanted to ask, who illustrated the 1987 spin-off THE POWERS OF GRAYSKULL -logo?
    ​ ​
    And who did the art on that metallic skull?


    As I recall, Jim Wolfe designed the Grayskull logo to stylistically live with the Masters logo. He did not illustrate final art - can't remember who did. Probably the same artist did both the logo and skull - Jim Wolfe would know.



    Jumping to the 2002 toyline and its packaging. In them, the back-side had a photo of the figure and its functions. Do you know why they didn't create art instead?

    Money and time.

    Every fan would like to believe that MOTU was a work of complete passion and only passion - that simply is not true. Mattel is a business. And like every business it survives on costs vs profits. We had to do our best to keep costs down and the quality very high. We were all passionate about that.


    What's your opinion on the later logo and packaging designs? I mean MotU Commemorative, 200X and MotU Classics.

    The Commemorative logo (black on black) did come from my group and we believed that it skewed higher-end for the Adult Collector.

    Other logo applications were executed to deliver a version of the original and not to be confused with the original. I think they each serve their purpose - so it is not so much a design call but more a strategic application. They are all good. Mine however was the best (of course).


    If you were to do a new MotU logo and packaging, what would/might you change? Or would you leave it all as it was back then?

    If I were to design it for today's market (30 years later) it would no doubt be different. I would be influenced by today's trends. It would probably be more 'tech related' but not necessarily better. Designers are all highly influence by what is going on around them. They all want to be part of what's happening and they try to put their influence on what is popular. Enhance the current.


    ​Thank you very much!​



    ___________________________________
    Interview by Jukka Issakainen - April 2015

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    Jukka, thanks again for this awesome interview. These interviews are pure gold! One thing that i would like to comment from this interview, is that confirms, beyond any doubt, that MOTU was fruit of the Barbarian or Sword and Sorcery's early 80's cult. Bob confirmed that the artists that worked with Mattel for the MOTU project, during this period, were searching inspiration from Frank Frazzetta's art (since Mattel couldn't afford him as was stated). For this reason the first mini comic has this classic Sword and Sorcery feeling, combined of course with the Sci/Fi post apocalyptic scenario. And certainly it makes more painful, the thought of how a departure the Filmation cartoon was from the original concept (which turned He-Man to a generic super hero kind of guy, just one of the hundreds, instead of the unique Fantasy character and its world that he lived in, that Mattel's artists originally have envisioned). But trying to deny the barbarian roots of He-Man, is equivalent of denying someone's past, compromising its future in the process.
    Last edited by granamyr80; April 22, 2015 at 09:24am.

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    Council Elder Tallstar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jukka View Post
    Alfredo didn't speak great english and was a bit of a loose canon at that time - we had to struggle to get the work on deadline but we needed to hold budgets so we put up with his idiosyncrasies - I remember one time he came to our offices to present his work and he was without shoes. A true artist.
    I love it! Thank you for this most excellent interview, Jukka.
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    Heroic Warrior Lich Leech's Avatar
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    This is really amazing stuff, thank you!
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    Loves/Hates ♠ DO4M's Avatar
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    Wowee! That's a lot of cool info. MOTU has a better ring to it than TLOP.
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    Shezar in MOTUC please! The All American's Avatar
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    Fantastic interview, Jukka! I love hearing how the art came about. Interesting about Alcala being a bit of a loose cannon.

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    80sMasters.com Brian Ozone's Avatar
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    Nice interview Jukka. Was it hard to track him down....
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    Heroic Warrior MOLKROM's Avatar
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    Wow that was very informative . Thank you Jukka . I always loved the Blue and Red and exploding rocks packaging

    And certainly it makes more painful, the thought of how a departure the Filmation cartoon was from the original concept (which turned He-Man to a generic super hero kind of guy, just one of the hundreds, instead of the unique Fantasy character and its world that he lived in, that Mattel's artists originally have envisioned)
    As much as i was mezmerized by that amazing box art as a child , it was not age appropriate .

    Those softer/ goofy cartoons were needed to smooth fears and sell the toys .
    MOTU and POP transformed my childhood years to gold

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOLKROM View Post

    As much as i was mezmerized by that amazing box art as a child , it was not age appropriate .

    Those softer/ goofy cartoons were needed to smooth fears and sell the toys .
    That's may be true in part, yet the same goofy cartoons also contributed on making the success of MOTU, which was huge in the beginning, relatively short lived. When more "sophisticated" cartoons made their appearance, like the Thudercats, Transformers etc, MOTU soon declined. Would the franchise had the same fate, if the Filmation cartoon had been remained more faithful to He-Man's mini comics origin story, or the atmosphere of the box art? We will never know.
    Last edited by granamyr80; April 23, 2015 at 08:24am.

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    Most awesome Jukka!! Great read! Thanks for taking the time to do this.
    I had been hoping to touch base with him at some point, and am glad you were able to do it.
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    Heroic Warrior Lich Leech's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MOLKROM View Post
    Wow that was very informative . Thank you Jukka . I always loved the Blue and Red and exploding rocks packaging



    As much as i was mezmerized by that amazing box art as a child , it was not age appropriate .

    Those softer/ goofy cartoons were needed to smooth fears and sell the toys .
    Nah, as a kid the box art was one of the best parts of getting those toys. You say you were mesmerized. So was I. I was 5. I didn't have any nightmares from the Grayskull box or any of the others. It was Frazetta for kids. Which means no blood, no gore, bright colors, with Frazetta styled artwork.
    Last edited by Lich Leech; April 23, 2015 at 08:20am.
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    2002/DC He-Man Video guy Jukka's Avatar
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    Thanks for the comments guys. This interview is one that has been in the making for the longest time, in my experiences of
    doing interviews with vintage creators, 2002 people or the new DC folks.

    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    Fantastic interview, Jukka! I love hearing how the art came about. Interesting about Alcala being a bit of a loose cannon.
    I really liked that part too. Would love to hear more stories about Alfredo, on and off the MOTU stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ozone View Post
    Nice interview Jukka. Was it hard to track him down....
    A funny story... years and years ago a fan said that he had learnt of the name for the person who did the MOTU logo. I can't remember if he said anything more at the time, but I
    distinctively remembered that there was a person who knew the name if I ever needed to ask for it.

    So maybe 4 years ago I sent him a message, asking that what was the name and had there been any contact or did the fan learn about the history regarding the logo. He simply said that he only knew the last name and that it was hard to find the right person.
    In the message to me, he said the name of the artist was Simpson.
    So I used that as my guideline and started tracking any artists who had worked on MOTU, with that name. And asked around from people who might know, but it always went nowhere.
    But then much later I saw that Power-Con 2013 had come and gone and they had listed the guy behind the logo. And that his name was Bob Nall.

    So after getting that info, I managed to get in touch with Mr. Nall and I must say it was a pleasure talking with him and interviewing about MOTU.


    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Dreadful View Post
    Most awesome Jukka!! Great read! Thanks for taking the time to do this.
    I had been hoping to touch base with him at some point, and am glad you were able to do it.
    I guess I have you to thank for your part in all of this, that his name came to light.

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    Heroic Fan ART Mod! JafariStew's Avatar
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    Another super interview Jukka! Makes me wonder if the toy company Revell knew about the "Lords Of Power" name and thus used the variation for "Power Lords."
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