Masters of the Universe Classics: Castle Grayskull by Mattel, Part 2

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m spending this morning on the living room floor, under the tree, in my footie pajamas with a cup of cocoa! Not really. I don’t have a Christmas tree, I’m actually wearing sweatpants and an old T-shirt from a Journey concert, and I’m having an Irish Coffee with extra Jameson to infuse myself with good cheer for the day ahead. But, I might as well be a kid again, because it’s Christmas morning and I’m opening up one of the coolest playsets ever. OK, technically I opened the box a few days ago and checked out the exterior yesterday, but Christmas Eve is all about peaking, right? And today’s the day I get to open up Castle Grayskull and really start playing with it.

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When you first open this sucker up, you’re met with a massive interior and a lot of parts. Parts in bags, parts in cardboard, parts in other bags stuffed in cardboard. There’s a lot here to process, and a giant sheet of instructions to tell you where everything goes and how everything works. The first thing to do is put the three floor pieces down, which locks the playset in this open position and gives you a place for figures to stand, and maybe even a place to park a vehicle, but I’ll come back to that later. There’s so many things to look at here, I’m just going to start on the ground floor and work my way up. But first…

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These are pieces that I’m not using. One is a decorative point for the top of the castle and the other is a carry handle, just like the original playset had. I like these, but word is once you put them on, they can be really hard to get off again and I don’t want to risk breaking anything trying to take them off. Why would I want to take them off again? Because Grayskull won’t fit back in the box with these in place and I want to hang onto that option at least until I can find some place to actually display this thing. That may be never, so for now these pieces are being set aside. Now, back to the ground floor…

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Naturally, you have the inside of the jawbridge, which can be opened by sticking a sword in a slot and triggering the mechanism. Next to it, there are a couple of places where you can clip shields to hang them on the wall. The set even comes with one to get you started. There’s another, similar set up on the other wall. This one has a sword behind it. The shields look really good on the wall, but if you’ve had them clipped onto your figures’ wrists for a while, it may stretch them out too much for them to stay put here. Also, to the right here you can see that backdoor we saw yesterday from the outside. It’s sculpted to look like it’s reinforced on the inside with a plate of steel.

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Also down here is this horrible little dungeon with a sticker showing more horrible things locked away under it. For a bunch of good guys, the Masters don’t seem to be very humane to their prisoners. Sure, you can argue that they’re all monsters down there. But let’s face it, this is Eternia, and that sticker might as well be a picture of any Eternian’s family album. The cell door opens and closes and you also get some chains for the prisoners. One of these sets of chains is designed to peg into somewhere… anyone happen to know where that might be, cause I sure don’t!

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Also down here is this nifty training device. I love the sculpted detail on this thing, especially the ornamental head and the giant hand that’s designed to smack you when you’re trying to hit it. Also check out some of those hack marks in the wood. This is such a beautiful piece!

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You also get a handful of weapons, including an axe, a mace, and two laser pistols. Now would be a good time to dig out that weapons rack, because it looks fantastic in the corner, and you shouldn’t just leave weapons lying around.

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You can climb to the second floor via the ladder or just take the elevator. The lift features pegs for a figures’ feet and it holds strong enough to carry the weight of a figure without sliding back down. At least for now. The second level features more of those lovely sculpted floors.

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A little further on is this spiffy computer bank with a scanner screen. One of my favorite things about MOTU has always been the melding of fantasy and science fiction, so there’s just something about seeing high tech stuff like this in a medieval style castle really does it for me.

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Speaking of which, the next point of interest on our tour is this crazy space armor. It’s a static piece that just pegs into the floor and makes for quite the conversation piece. It’s also positioned next to another hi-tech computer bank. Or that might be Grayskull’s central AC unit. Moving on…

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Behold… The Throne of Grayskull. This is a regal chair, indeed. I love the gold paint used on it and the two blue orbs. The starburst on the back looks great too. There’s a lot going on in this picture, so let me break it all down. First off, that sword on the wall up there is removable and you can replace it with most other swords. There are two battle standards that hang down on either side of the throne, and if you look to the right you can see the secret door that leads out to the ledge on the exterior. That’s clearly the “Oh, shit!” door, used to bugger off when the rest of Grayskull’s defenses fail. Oh, yeah… and speaking of defenses, you see that horribly garish rug beside the throne?

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Turn the throne and it activates the trap door. I used Tri-Klops to demonstrate, but only now am I realizing that I should have put Trap Jaw down the Trap Door. It would have been poetic. Anyway, I love this thing! It’s very design counts on your enemy besting all your defenses, finding his way into an impenetrable fortress, fighting his way through all your Men-At-Arms, confronting you as you sit on the throne, and then standing there and monologueing like an idiot for long enough for you to activate the trap. How unlikely is that to work? Oh, wait, we’re talking about Skeletor here. Never mind, it’ll work. Unfortunately, when it does work all it does is drop him down a floor and makes him ride the elevator back up again. That’s probably what the “Oh, shit!” door is for.

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The rooftop level is accessible by the elevator. Here you can admire the flag or open up that little door to reveal whatever the hell this thing is. Seriously, what is it? Anyone know? The instructions are failing me on this one.

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Finally, our last stop on the tour is a mounted laser gun for fending off attacks from Snake Mountain. And if all that isn’t cool enough, back on the ground floor, there’s room to park the Wind Raider!

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Well, sort of. The circular slot is designed to take the Wind Raider’s stand. And while this beautiful craft does technically fit, it’s a tight squeeze and it eats up a lot of real estate. It also kind of looks like a big albatross and probably cooks anyone locked in the dungeon when it takes off. To be honest, I’d probably be more likely to park it a little further out and off the floor pieces.

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The Sky Sled, on the other hand, is compatible with the same stand and it fits a lot better. hell, even if you want to do away with the stand, there’s plenty of room to tuck this vehicle in here without compromising all your play room. And speaking of playing… this set really starts to shine when you load it up with figures.

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In case you haven’t guessed by now, I am absolutely in love with Castle Grayskull. In fact, I love it so much that I almost feel bad that I waited until it was on clearance to buy it. Grayskull originally debuted at $300, which in itself is a huge chunk of change, but that sum inflated even more when you added tax and Matty’s crazy idea of a reasonable shipping rate. When all was said and done, I think it cost around $360 to get this thing shipped out. Back then I couldn’t fit it into the budget, and I cried myself to sleep many a nights (when I was drinking) over the fact that I would never own it. Then last year, Matty blew this beauty out at $150 with free shipping and that made it practically an impulse buy. No regrets!

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And thus ends the chronicling of my magical Christmas morning with Castle Grayskull. I really did feel like a kid again while I was setting this up and getting out all my figures to put in it, and hopefully I was able to convey some of that in my ramblings. To me, this is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Remembering happy times of Christmas Past and feeling young at heart again. As to the other part, I’m about to head out to spend the rest of Christmas with my family, eat a lot of great food, come home get drunk and watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special. And that, my friends, is my formula for a perfect Christmas.

Whatever constitutes your Perfect Christmas, I hope you all get it. Have a happy and safe holiday and I’ll see you on tomorrow for Marvel Monday!

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Masters of the Universe Classics: Castle Grayskull by Mattel, Part 1

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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Eh, nothing really. Just a hinge.

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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.

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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!