80’s Toys I Remember (part 1 of a 281 part series)

I remember Castle Greyskull.



Castle Greyskull was part of the 80’s cartoon He Man and the Masters of the Universe, which chronicled the adventures of a bunch of other-worldly characters who were human like yet possessed something of a “super power”. He-Man (played by Prince Adam) had his sword which gave him great strength as well as a deeper voice that was processed with a fair amount of spring reverb. Man-At-Arms (played by Duncan) had some kind of bionic helmet implants that gave him the incredible power to become assistant to the regional He-Man. And who could forget Orko, whom I had forgotten about until right about now? Oh, MOTU (Masters of the Universe) was a FILMATION parade of people who were kind of normal, except for the power sword, bionic helmet and deep reverb.

And that’s just the beginning of the cast from Eternia. We have a protagonist in He-Man, of course, but what about the antagonist? Enter Skeletor — the bad guy who has been blessed with the cheekbones of Christopher Walken. We know this because you can actually see Skeletor’s cheekbones. Then there’s She-Ra (He-Man for girls age 2-11), as well as Triclops (Like a Geordi LaForge with three distinct settings) and even Beast Man (think Robin Williams + protein supplements).

With all of these kind-of-human-but-not-really creatures roaming around, one would think that the sensible thing to do would be to build a castle that looks like a skull. “Call it Castle Greyskull, but paint it green!” might He-Man have shouted at the foreman during the construction phase. Is he going to talk back to He-Man? Not a chance. Had Prince Adam given that kind of guff to a union man, though, he would have woke up in the mystical dumpster.
Good thing Adam shouted that handy phrase “by the power of Greyskull… I have the power!” which, if you ask me is a bit redundant. Yeah. Power. We get it. Now you’ve got it. Good. The foreman wants to know what color you want the castle, so you might want to get over to the office trailer. You have the power to get there before 5, right?

I won’t even ask about the permits they must’ve filed to get Castle Greyskull built. Can you imagine He-Man and his pals at your last City Council meeting? Yeah. Me too. Pretty funny, right? He-Man shouting and brandishing that sword, much to the chagrin of the Mayor: “By the power of Greyskull (which shall be completed sometime this Fall!)…GIVE US THE ZONING VARIANCE!” I guess all that shouting and power-mongering worked, since indeed the castle was built. Not just on TV, but years later at Christmas Eve ’84 in Garden City, Michigan.

I still have the picture. There, under the tree, is Castle Greyskull. Made of plastic that predates the practice of recycling, there it sat in all its glory: brand new and smelling of Beijing. Finally, this kid had a place to reenact all his favorite scenes from He-Man. Mom’s happy too, since there’s plenty of free storage inside for all those action figures. As you might be able to tell from the picture I found online and posted above, the castle was bisected (sounds dirty) and would open on hinges to expose the innards (sounds gross).

I remember Castle Greyskull. Fondly. It represented a phenomenon that was fairly new at the time, thanks in part to injection molding. Manufacturers could recreate cartoon action figures and set pieces for parents like mine to buy for kids like me. It was — and is — a win-win situation. I happen to have a Castle Greyskull today, though it’s not the one I had when I was a kid. Unfortunately I made the decision to smash all my He-Man stuff with a sledge hammer in my driveway one day. It sounds violent until you remember the fact that I was a boy living in a cement suburban jungle. Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot else to do. We couldn’t tip cows, so we decided to smash Mattel products. It seemed sensible at the time.

The Castle Greyskull I now have belonged to a friend of mine back in Toledo. I bought it from him, as well as like 30 action figures, about 5 years ago. Another interesting phenomenon: many of the children of the 80’s now have disposable income to relive their pasts and buy the toys they had in elementary school. I would point fingers and shout “self-indulgent gen x’ers”, but that would be hypocritical since (a) I have done the same and (b) I am writing a lengthy blog post about toys I had when I was a kid, which is farily self-indulgent of this particular gen-x’er.

This afternoon my children will play with Castle Greyskull. To them, it’s nothing more than another cliff to drive Hot Wheels of off or get their heads stuck in (the doorway in particular would allow such behavior). They’ve never seen He-Man and probably never will. “But what about showing them an episode YouTube?” one might ask. Their response would be something like “Daddy, can we watch one of MY shows”, all of which are computer generated and have nothing even remotely similar to Castle Greyskull. But I guess its okay if Handy Manny or Bob the Builder work on Castle Greyskull. In cartoon world, that’s how it would go. “Handy? He-Man. I need an estimate on some siding for Castle Greyskull. No. Green, actually.”

By the power of Greyskull. I remember that old castle.

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