Castle Grayskull’s Lock

In previous articles, I gave a general overview of Castle Grayskull as well as a closer look at how an early prototype made its way into minicomics and other stories. In this article, I’d like to briefly focus Castle Grayskull’s locking mechanism.

The earliest Castle Grayskull prototype for which we have extant images is the one sculpted by Mark Taylor, with some assistance from Ted Mayer. Earlier models had been made by Mattel’s in-house team, but they kept making it too “architectural” and squared off, so Mark set out to do it himself.

If you look closely at the mouth area, you can see there is apparently no locking mechanism built in. That doesn’t mean that one wasn’t intended to be there. Mark might have wanted to leave details like that to Mattel’s engineers.

And indeed, this early minicomic (King of Castle Grayskull) shows Skeletor unlocking the castle jaw bridge using the combined halves of the Power Sword. As I understand it, the Power Sword (designed by Mark Taylor) got its distinctive shape specifically because it was supposed to be a kind of key. In this comic and in the Golden Books stories The Trap and The Sword of Skeletor, the lock is located to the right of the jaw bridge:

Artwork by Alfredo Alcala

However, Mark Taylor’s prototype was modified for mass production, and the side-mounted keyhole was never implemented as far as we know. In this image of an updated (nearly final) prototype, you can see that the door itself was fitted with a latch-type locking mechanism. However, there is no place to insert the sword. Instead, the door was locked and unlocked using a simple sliding handle:

Image Source: Grayskull Museum

This may have been a simple oversight. In the final mass-produced toy, the mechanism was changed so that the Power Sword (or, indeed, a pencil, a crayon, or a pinky finger) could be used to unlock the door. Note there is a sculpted, simulated locking mechanism where the real one used to be:

Strangely, this play feature is never mentioned on the Castle Grayskull box, and I don’t believe it’s ever mentioned in any of the television commercials. It is, at least, explained in the instruction sheet that came with the castle:

6 thoughts on “Castle Grayskull’s Lock

  1. I was disappointed that this feature wasn’t revived in 200X, since that sword’s design makes it an even more unique ‘key’. (Yes, I know the Horsemen didn’t even intend it to be the ‘real’ Power Sword, but I still like it and the idea of using it as the key to the castle.)

    1. Yes, it’s seems like a strange oversight. But that 200x castle seems to have been such a departure in so many ways from the vintage castle. Wasn’t most of it designed in-house at Mattel?

  2. What a great idea to cover this topic in a blog post! I loved the lock function on the vintage castle. I remember saying “By the Power…” when I had entered the little sword in the mechanism because that was needed to open the door in the German Europa audioplays…

  3. I never knew this, great post, I was born too late to get a castle but hope to track one down soon.

    I really want that mat for underneath it, was that ever released?

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