Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fright Zone and the Slime Pit

Finally! Here was an evil lair worth attacking. Hordak was a later addition to the He-Man villain lineup. As I recall, he was really only there for a tie-in with the She-Ra series. But unlike Skeletor, who, as we have seen, wasted all his money on a big impressive-looking mountain that didn't actually do anything, Hordak invested in quality. Witness the Fright Zone and the Slime Pit. They were much smaller than Castle Grayskull or Snake Mountain, and so actually cheap enough that you could conceivably get both without needing little brothers to share with.

So far as we could tell, Hordak didn't actually live in the Fright Zone, or if he did, there was never any attempt to pretend he was doing anything more than just hunkering down in the dankness. But the place just looked so creepy that you could excuse that. He-Man is coming to rescue one of his friends. Let's say it's the beautiful Teela. She's locked up in a cage that is remarkably sturdy, unlike Skeletor's cheap clip-on shackles. The back of the cage is rock wall, and the door is latched shut with a sturdy lock. The only way to get her out, without just chopping open the wooden bars is to climb up and pull a wooden lever above the door.

But that's really just setting yourself up for more trouble. In the middle of the Fright Zone grows some kind of haunted demonic tree. Hordak has been thinking ahead! He knows that the latch release is pretty obvious. It's wooden-brown against the greenish-grey rock, so it will be an early target for any raiders. So he planted an evil tree to protect it. As soon as He-Man gets near it, the tree grabs him and gives him a good shaking, dropping him down to the ground, too dazed to do battle with...
As an adult, I realize that that's not what it was called. However, having seen the above commercial, my brothers and I were convinced that the voice yelling 'The Fright Zone! The Fright Zone!! The FRIGHT ZONE!!!' was actually warning He-Man about the giant monster named the 'Frasto' that lived inside. This was the best part -- a big green monster puppet that you could put on your arm and reach out through the tunnel to attack He-Man and friends. Or, when you got tired of that, you could just put it on, and chase my little brother Matthew, yelling 'The Frasto! The Frasto!' He cried. Then my parents took away 'the Frasto' and we had to grab action figures through the tunnel with our bare arms. Somehow it was never as satisfying...

So assume that He-Man was not able to defeat the big green Frasto, or the skinny child arm that reached out to attack him. Then he was up against the worst part of Hordak's lair. The second part.

The Slime Pit

The first time I saw this commercial, I knew we had to have this playset. Who cares that the only thing it does is pour slime on an action figure? It had slime! Mattel was playing the genius card there. At that point in time, just about every toy line was coming up with some reason to sell kids a can of sticky goo. Silly-putty was a thing of the past. Someone was selling something much runnier called GAK! The Real Ghostbusters would sell you a can of purple Ecto-plasm and He-Man had to face up against the Slime Pit.

When we opened this on Christmas morning, it was a bigger deal than the year we got the Fright Zone. Everything was forgotten, and we had to play with it right away. It snapped together in no time. The point of the toy was this: a giant reptilian claw held the action figure in place, while the skull filled with slime tipped forward. The jaw swung open, and your action figure got slimed. The best part was that since Hordak was He-Man's enemy and Skeletor's enemy as well, you could slime just about any of your figures!

The adult part of me is hard pressed to come up with a reason why any of Hordak's enemies would be stupid enough to just stand there over the claw, while Hordak waited until they were lined up just right, before springing the trap. The kid in me still yells 'Who cares? It's got slime!' Funny thing was, that Christmas morning, both of my parents looked up in slight concern, and said 'Wait a minute. It's got slime?'

See, this is why parents need to watch toy commercials as well. I can't imagine a single scenario where I would ever get any toy for my child without first knowing what it did, and whether there was any oozing mucus that came with it, which she could use to ruin the living room carpet. My parents took one look at the slime, and decided that it was too messy, and would be taken away (presumably, to share a shallow grave with the Frasto). So whenever we slimed anyone, we had to use water, or, if that seemed too wussy, our imaginations.

So out of all the He-Man action playsets, Hordak had the best hangout. In fact, he had two--the Fright Zone and the Slime Pit. However, the one thing he never took into account when designing them was a more powerful enemy than He-Man and Skeletor put together. The awesome might of parents.

1 comment:

  1. How can you help but not fall in love with toys like these. Besides, you really can't beat hand puppets, slime, tunnels, and evil trees.

    The instructions said not to expose to moss man, but I did it anyway. Completely ruined him. It was great.

    Great article!