Mattel Photography

All MMM collectors love the beautiful photographs that Mattel put in their catalogues and on their packaging. Often however, these were made while the toys themselves were apparently still in development. Reasons for this might be practical (to have everything finished at the same time) or commercial (to generate orders for the toys before starting production).  At any rate, Mattel quite often resorted to mockups and/or retouched photographs to show what they intended to sell later - and Mattel weren't the only ones to do this either, then or now. In some cases, these older photographs can still appear in a document together with newer pictures of the real production item...

Gray Instead of Red

Up to around 1969, all the red parts of the Space Station (image left) and the Firebolt Space Cannon were coloured grey in MMM catalogues, while to the best of our knowledge, no items with these grey parts were ever produced.  

Why Mattel did this is a mystery at present. One possible explanation is that MMM was initially intended to be a serious toy based on the US space programme, but got recoloured during development to be more attractive to young children (but that's just speculation on our part).

Recoloured Astronauts

When Sgt Storm was introduced, and later Doug Davis (image left) and Jeff Long, these were at first represented by repainted Matt figures and/or recoloured photographs of Matt with various items of equipment. Matt's head can clearly be seen on some of these figures, while it was probably repainted for the Jeff Long prototype.

The Doug Davis and Jeff Long prototypes can also be distinguished by the silver cuffs and white collar area of their suits and silver zippers on their boots, none of which were featured on the subsequent production figures.

Prototype Alien Friends

Some pictures of Captain Lazer show him wearing a white helmet of a more angular design than the silver-grey helmet eventually produced for him. This helmet is clearly painted onto the photographs, while other retouching was done to simulate Captain Lazer's lighted eyes and other features.  

Another picture, from the 68 Sears Wishbook, shows a different Captain Lazer prototype which features an open right hand, while the production version has a gun moulded in the right hand for the three gun attachments.

Pictures of the Callisto prototype were extensively used in catalogues well into 1970. This prototype can be readily identified by the four 'knobs' on Callisto's chest badge and the somewhat crude sculpting of the figure. The chest 'knobs' were replaced by the familiar squiggly marks for the production item, but not before the illustrations for the instructions were made.    

The space sensor carried by the Callisto prototype looks very much like a painted mockup, probably made of wood. This is equipped with a metal wire painted yellow, to allow action pictures to be taken. It can be identified by not having a knot tied in the end of it, since there is of course no danger of it being sucked back into the barrel...

Scorpio is pictured in 1970 dealer catalogues as a moulded figure (the mould lines being visible on his fingers). However, his feet, body armour and the bellows to his chest gun are shown in a dark blue colour, while the chest gun itself is pictured in white.


Quite a few pictures exist of the prototype Cat Trac, with Matt (or Matt masquerading as Sgt Storm) riding it. This vehicle looks like it was made out of cardboard, and most photographs of it have clearly been retouched to bring out the detail. Since Matt was eventually sold with a red Cat Track, the pictures of the prototype vehicle were retouched to reflect this, but not before being sent abroad. The German edition of the 1968 dealer catalogue has Matt riding the original white prototype, while the US edition has the recoloured version of the same picture.

(please note that these pictures are from colour copies, hence the general difference in colour and contrast.)

Pictures of other equipment can also show differences in detail.

Examples of this are:

The shovel tip on the Power Suit (above) which has only one central rib as opposed to the fully ribbed (and larger) item shown in the photograph on the card. There are also differences in detail on the Power Suit claw, notably the wide parts near the rear which are much shorter on the prototype and do not taper. 

Early catalogue pictures of the Moon Suit cards (above), showing the Moon Suit equipped with bellows in transparent plastic instead of yellow, and supplied with differently shaped tools having black grips. 

The Firebolt space cannon, photographed with obvious prototype stickers (above), different to those subsequently supplied with this vehicle. 

A number of carded accessories, shown with their stickers already applied (above) before packaging. In a few of these cases, Matt's helmet has the number 2 on it instead of the regular number 3. Also, some of these pictures show the contents in place on the card, but without the plastic blister.

Space Station solar panels (above), pictured as being colourless instead of transparent blue. In fact, the Station has been photographed with no panels attached at all. The panels in the foreground have been represented by some white highlights painted on the picture, while the background panels appear to have been replaced with a mirror surface to catch the reflection of the interior.

Also shown on the Space Station box are different legs on the command console (they are pierced instead of solid (note also the odd haircut that the Major has!)). 

The sides of the Satellite Locker (above), which appear entirely blue without any coloured detail. Inside, there is also a real Matt figure shown instead of the printed insert.

There were also several box mockups (photocopies (above) of box labels applied to plain white boxes or drawings (below)) shown in the Mattel Catalogs.

Items Never Produced

One item shown (left) in an early publicity photograph (and ultimately printed in Starlog's Guide to SF Toys & Models) was apparently made from an Astrotrac body equipped with red flywheels, and travelled along a string.  There is no evidence of it ever having gone into production. (Hard to see in the background, the Satellite Launcher has a red satellite instead of the usual blue, white, green or yellow.  There is also one on the Space Station box.)

John personally thinks that the "Space Rover" (as it's called in the text of the Starlog book) was a precursor of the Reconojet.  It was probably too heavy to successfully transverse a string suspended from two points, even with the "mechanized flywheel."  The only known "Space Rover" was built from scratch by collector Frank May. (See under Eager Beavers & Saviour Saints)

Early photographs of the Space Station (including those on the Space Station box) show three Matt figures wearing a handgun in a holster belt (image above). Although similar in appearance, this holster looks to be larger than the knife sheath produced for MMM. The handgun itself also looks different from those that were actually produced.

Christian de Grandpre, a long-time MMM collector from Canada, has a laser gun prototype which he states was obtained from a retired Mattel designer. He has also reproduced this item  (See under Eager Beavers & Saviour Saints)

On the Space Station box pictures is another item never produced: a handheld flashlight (image above) on the Control Console table top. These are now available as a "new" reproduction by Don Thompson of the Big Red Toy Box  (See under Eager Beavers & Saviour Saints)

Also note that Matt's name appears on his spacesuit in this picture,  together with a small circular marking. These markings were not featured on production figures.

Although advertised in the 1970 Mattel dealer catalogue, there is no evidence of the Orbitor ever having been developed beyond the mockup stage. Or, the alien figure traveling in this craft, has only been found as a unmarketed sample. A reproduction based on product images has been built from scratch by collector Frank May, the Or figure being almost entirely based on imagination. (See under Eager Beavers & Saviour Saints)

Or and his spacecraft would have been included with other MMM items in the 'Voyage to Galaxy III' playset, but this was also never completed.

To the best of our knowledge, Mattel never actually produced helmets in any colour other than white. However, they did on occasion illustrate Sergeant Storm wearing a red helmet, which has given rise to some speculation on this subject. Storm is shown with a red helmet on the back of the Satellite Locker, but this image is reproduced from an original artwork painting, not a photograph.  Some small catalogue pictures (image above) include a red helmet, but these are in fact recoloured Matt figures. A plausible explanation would be that Mattel may indeed have planned to sell Storm with a red helmet, but dropped the idea for reasons of economy. (Red helmets *are* currently available as reproduction items, see under Eager Beavers & Saviour Saints)

Finally, should anybody reading this have any similar information, additions or corrections, then we would very much appreciate hearing about them.

All Mattel images and captions are copyright Mattel and used without permission. All other content, including images and editorial, is Copyright © 1997-2024 John Eaton and/or contributors unless otherwise stated. If there are any comments or objections, please contact John Eaton or Paul Vreede.

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