Friday, October 10, 2008

Castle Grayskull

I got to thinking about He-Man after Wednesday's commercials. Specifically, I got to thinking about the 'Action Playsets.' Action figures were one thing, but if you were hardcore, there was always a big toy to bug your parents for. In our house, these were really only going to be the kind of thing you got for Christmas, not even for your birthday, so you had to think carefully and plan the campaign well, in order to get the action playset you really wanted.

I was lucky. I had two younger brothers, and most years it was a pretty good bet that we'd each get one playset, so it was pretty easy to stage some elaborate afternoons reenacting He-Man scenes from TV, or, failing that, from commercials on TV. Or Star Wars, or Voltron, or whatever. We seemed to have a lot of He-Man, and his playsets were usually pretty big.

I just found out recently that apparently there was an 'Eternia' playset, which from this commercial looks pretty big, but I can't really see what all its features are. We never had that; never even knew it existed until this year. But here's the beginning of a rundown of what we did have:

Castle Grayskull
This was an important part of the collection, even if other sets had better accessories. As I recall, Castle Grayskull worked like this. The 'jawbridge' opened when He-Man stuck his sword into a little slot and drew back the latch. When He-Man and his friends got in, the first thing they could do was hang up their weapons on a tidy little rack inside. If they had lost their weapons (when your little brother chewed on them or dropped them behind the couch) the set came with an assortment of generic beige weapons, so no one had to feel left out.

Having put their weapons away, the next thing they'd want to do is go upstairs. There were two ways to get there. Lazy action figures, like Man-at-Arms could take the garish orange elevator (which always seemed a bit high-tech for a castle shaped like a skull). However, if this particular Castle Grayskull was new, the elevator was pretty stiff and wouldn't move. If it had seen a few months' play, it would slide so easily that no one could stand on it; their weight would just drag it back down again. He-Man would usually leave his lazy friends cursing on the elevator, and climb up the ladder. It would buckle under his weight, but as long as he moved fast, he'd get there.

Soon enough, Man-at-Arms would give up on the elevator, and someone would have to shove him up through the hole to the second floor by hand. But by the time he'd gotten there, there was only one thing left to do -- visit the second half of the upper level, cross the ornate rug to the throne, and...

Surprise! That's why He-Man wanted to take the quick way up! So he could swivel around on the throne, triggering the trap door, and letting Man-at-Arms fall on his ass back down to the first floor. Usually, he'd land on the rack of weapons, scattering them all over the place, so he'd have to pick them all up again and hang them on their fiddly little hooks.

There was also some kind of freestanding pivoty club thing. I never really understood what that was supposed to do. You hit one end, and the other end came flying around to knock you over. Good times and practical jokes in Castle Grayskull.

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