It’s finally Christmas… well, almost! As a kid, this was always the one chance of getting that huge playset from my favorite toy line. The one that I had no chance of coaxing out of my parents any other time of the year. Asking for such a grail would always elicit the same response, “Put it on your Christmas list!” It was a good strategy on my parents’ part, because if it was still on my list six or seven months later, chances are I really wanted it! I can remember a lot of examples of these from Christmases past. Whether it was the Micronauts Mega-City, the Star Wars Death Star Playset, the GI JOE HQ Command Center, or The AD&D Fortress of Fangs. These were the big guns that I begged for all year, and I was a lucky little shit, because Santa always delivered. This Christmas, I wanted to relive some of that glory from my youth by opening up and featuring something comparable. Something special. I wanted to feel like a kid on Christmas again. And so I’ve been saving Grayskull all year for just this occasion.
And here it is. The ginormous box that’s been sitting in the corner of my closet since last December, building my anticipation to the bursting point. Gosh, has it really been that long? Yes, I’ve been gazing longingly at this glorious artwork and anticipating the day that I would finally slice that tape and open her up. While a lot of those old playsets from my youth would probably seem pretty small to me now as a grown up, MOTUC’s Grayskull is appropriately inflated to account for my adulthood. This has quite simply got to be the largest boxed toy I have ever owned. And that’s saying something, because I have owned a shit ton of toys. Hell, the box dwarfs He-Man so much, he looks like a 3 3/4-inch figure in this shot. All I have to say about the artwork on the front is that if I ever do get rid of this box, I’m going to frame that panel and hang it over my fireplace. Oh wait, I live in Florida… I don’t have a fireplace. DAMMIT! What am I going to do with all these chestnuts I bought?
But besides just being a huge playset, this Castle Grayskull is kind of special to me. Masters of the Universe was one of those few major 80’s toy-lines that I wanted to get into as a kid, but I never owned any of the toys. Oooh, poor me! Don’t feel bad… I had plenty, and my parents had to draw the line somewhere! Well, for the past few years, I’ve been living that missed opportunity of my youth through the Masters Classics line. The feeling of getting to open up a gigantic updated Grayskull like this when I already have a huge collection of figures to go with it is as close as I can get to going back in time and experiencing Christmas again as a child as I’m ever likely to get. Plus, now I’m drinking a lovely Jameson when I open it, so even better. Grayskull comes packed in the box surrounded with some cardboard padding and wrapped in a huge plastic bag. Surprisingly, it comes out all in one piece and that’s it! There’s nothing else rattling around in that huge box. All the extra pieces are conveniently stowed inside it’s green plastic walls.
Look at the sculpting and color on this thing! The jagged, unfinished rocky base gives way to the smoother, worked stones of the massive castle walls. It’s so goddamn iconic. I love the subtle variations of gray and green and the wash that picks out all the details. Just taking this massive playset in from the front suggests it may very well be toy perfection. I am literally in awe of this thing and I simply can’t compliment the guys who worked on this enough.
The massive fanged skull that dominates the front facade is just amazing. It’s also one of the things that confused me the most about the He-Man continuity. I mean, let’s say I was a third party arbiter brought in to mediate the ownership dispute between He-Man and Skeletor over Castle Grayskull. All I would need to do is meet those two and I’m going to have a pretty good idea who’s castle it really is. I mean, am I going to give it to the tanned dude with the Prince Valiant haircut, or side with THE GUY WHO’S FACE BEARS A PRETTY STRONG RESEMBLANCE TO THE DESIGN OF THE CASTLE?
The drawbridge door is one of my favorite aspects of the exterior. The coloring and ancient wood texturing on the planks looks incredibly realistic, as does the hammered finish on the “iron” hinges, the cross bar, and handle. The whole thing is topped off with a beautifully sculpted coat of arms. I could picture Skeletor battering on this thing forever and it never giving way to his attempts to gain entry. It looks virtually impenetrable.
As we turn the mighty fortress to the right, we can see the two catches that hold the castle together on its left side. There’s a ledge that winds its way around the left tower and toward the front. It also looks like there’s some kind of hidden panel above it. What could that be?
Coming around to the back shows more of that amazing stone detailing, as well as some truly spectacular coloring, as well as what appears to be a hidden back door, complete with a tiny keyhole in the stone.
The little details here, like the wooden ledges under the windows, really give the castle an authentic medieval feel. I particularly love the sculpted thatch roofing and the wooden support beams on the turret. All the windows here are actual windows, teasing me with the dark and mysterious interior of this structure. What amazing features await us, as we flip over to the castle’s right side?
Eh, nothing really. Just a hinge.
Finally, I love how the top of the castle offers this walkway to put figures on even when the castle is all closed up. While the inside of the tower is just the unfinished reverse of the sculpted stone, I can let that slide because look at the sculpted detail in the wood floor on the battlements. You also get a smaller, sculpted wood door leading into the depths of the castle. I have to be honest, wherever I wind up displaying this beauty, space limitations will probably demand it remain closed up. So, it’s nice to know I’ll still be able to put some figures on the battlements.
And did I mention it was big? Yeah, I did. Probably several times. But it is! I seem to remember a big controversy when the prototype was shown about how He-Man could barely fit through the front door. Well, they sure changed that. He looks properly scaled standing right in front of the mystical fortress. Even if this thing didn’t open up, it would be worth owning just to be able to stand He-Man in front of it, looking all majestic. It reminds me of just how much I adore this toy line and how, even despite the bumps along the way, I’m very grateful to Matty for delivering it to us these past few years. You see, opening up this beautiful castle on Christmas, wasn’t just about getting to experience being a kid on Christmas again, but it was also an opportunity to celebrate the ending of Matty’s run on this fantastic line of toys.
And unfortunately, that’s all I can show you today. Because it’s only Christmas Eve and I can’t open my present until Christmas morning. So come on back tomorrow and we’ll open her up check out all the amazing goodies on the inside of this marvelous playset!