MOTU Classics Castle Grayskull

MOTU Classics Castle Grayskull box art, by Rudy Obrero

Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull, released in December of 2013, was quite an achievement in an era when big playsets are becoming rarer and rarer. Larger, more complex and more detailed than the original, Classics Castle Grayskull was offered for a preorder price of $250 – more than three times the inflation-adjusted cost of the original, but still not bad given the size, complexity, and lower number of units produced.

Source Material

MOTU Classics Castle Grayskull’s biggest single influence is the original prototype playset sculpted by Mark Taylor in 1981, although the Classics version is somewhat tamer and less decrepit looking.  Some of this influence is no doubt filtered through the cross sell artwork and minicomic depictions by Alfredo Alcala (both based on the prototype).  Other influences include some invented details from Alfredo Alcala’s artwork, the original, vintage Castle Grayskull playset, the original Rudy Obero box art, and a concept Dungeon playset designed by Ted Mayer.

The large weapons rack on the right was sold separately from the castle. The manhole cover and the triangular weapons rack are third party customs, by BadVermin and Barbarossa, respectively

Throne room. The purple banner on the left was invented for this castle – the one on the right based on the vintage castle’s banner.

Concept-inspired computer and jet pack

Dungeon  section of the castle, with manacles and vintage toy inspired sticker

Classics Grayskull came with this orb stand (but not the marble sitting in it). It hides away in the secret orb room, inset behind the helmet of the castle

The Spirit of Grayskull haunts the throne room.

Castle Grayskullman guards the dungeon.

Secret door above the ledge

Into the throne room

Scare Glow, produced several years before MOTU Classics Castle Grayskull, came with a secret key to Castle Grayskull.

Scare Glow’s key fits into a keyhole on the secret side door, providing enough leverage to open the door.
He-Man stands on the open jaw bridge. The jaw bridge opens by inserting the power sword into the small opening to the right – a nod to the vintage minicomics.

The evil warriors sneak around the back.

Clawful climbs the scaling ladder

Here’s a more detailed breakout of the influences that went into creating the Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull:

Material taken from the vintage prototype or vintage concept art includes:

  • Ledge on the left tower
  • “Pawn” piece on top of the helmet
  • Taller helmet and battlements
  • Eye shape
  • Removable handle in the side allows for concept Castle’s side battlements
  • Throne design
  • Computer design
  • Skull motif at top of elevator
  • Hidden side door
  • Battle Tester
  • Jetpack
  • Manacles
Original 1981 prototype Castle Grayskull, by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
Original 1981 prototype Castle Grayskull, by Mark Taylor. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation
Another copy of the vintage prototype. Photo courtesy of Andy Youssi.
Mark Taylor’s concept for the “Battle Tester”. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

Material taken from the vintage playset:

  • Elevator design
  • Flag design
  • Ladder and laser blaster design
  • Banner, trap door and dungeon grate decals
  • Drawbridge design, front and back
  • Handle on the side piece (removable)
Image source: Transformerland

Vintage box art material:

  • Nose shape
  • Elongated fangs
  • Enlarged lower teeth
Vintage Castle Grayskull box art by Rudy Obrero

Minicomics material:

  • Third floor
  • Dungeon walls (window and skull designs from Ted Mayer’s dungeon playset)
  • Secret slot to gain entrance to Castle located to the side of the jaw bridge
From King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala
From King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala
From King of Castle Grayskull, illustrated by Alfredo Alcala
Ted Mayer’s dungeon playset. Image source: The Power and the Honor Foundation

There are several unique touches to the playset as well, including an additional secret door off the side of the throne room, a secret orb room in the back side of the helmet, and extended floor with plug for Wind Raider stand, and an “evil” throne room banner to match the original “good” one.

The original design for the Classics Castle Grayskull (artwork by Nate Baertsch, who is a frequent collaborator with the Four Horsemen) was to include a number of other goodies as well, including a clear “Spirit of Grayskull” display (from Alfredo Alcala’s artwork), a removable dungeon, a triangular weapons rack, a mechanism to open the secret door on the castle’s left tower, a sculpted dungeon grate, and a few other goodies. These seem to have been removed from the final product due to cost.

Image source: The Art of He-Man

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8 thoughts on “MOTU Classics Castle Grayskull

  1. I wasn’t able to get the MOTUC Grayskull, unfortunately, though I’m planning to pick one up with some of my tax refund early next year if I can find one at a decent price. Even with the bits that were cut– I REALLY wish the Alcala-inspired Spirit of Grayskull had been included– it’s a magnificent playset and display piece. It’s as awesome and impressive to me now as the vintage Grayskull was when I was a kid!
    I also really appreciate that they got Rudy Obrero to paint package art for several of the big-ticket MOTUC items. It was a pure fan service decision that they could have easily just not done. The MOTUC team made plenty of mistakes and downright baffling decisions, but they also really knocked it out the park sometimes. Too many people seem to forget that.

    1. Yeah, the Spirit of Grayskull would be my number 1 want as well. Even more than the dungeon grate, which would be hidden anyway. Love that they used and continued to use Rudy’s art!

  2. Well, for an impregnable fortress it sure has a lot of access points XDXD
    Ok, jokes aside I think that is a very cool upgrade over the vintage in many ways but looking at the pictures and to some videos I noted some questionable choices in design.
    The Throne: is very cool and better than the vintage one but is not very “figure friendly” and they looked a bit ankward when seated on. And because the stupid choice to made capes in soft plastic instead of fabric (sorry, but I hate plastic capes XD), caped figures cannot sit at all without removing the cape.
    The prison: totally out of scale with the figures and not even alligned with the trapdoor. I understand that the space within the Castle is limited, but in this case if the prison wasn’t working as well as it should, then it should have been cut out and use that budget for some other feature, like the Spirit of Grayskull or at least one of the two weapon racks.

    However is cool to see finally a three dimensional version of the “Ancient Cosmonaut” suit: it was my favorite decoration of the original Castle (because it was so out of place and thus sparking my imagination about how and why it was there).

  3. Yeah, there were several missteps. They got more right than they got wrong. Unfortunately MOTUC figures don’t really sit as much as they slouch, so the throne doesn’t work well. But I’m still glad it’s there, since it showed up in so much vintage material.

    The prison is definitely a waste of space. I know what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t work out. A 3d dungeon grate would have been a better use of space.

  4. This is the first time I’ve read this excellent (and exhaustive!) exploration of the influences that inform the Classics Grayskull. Many thanks, as it was most illuminating. Being a MOTU fan who limits himself to Alcala material, it was nice to see how much of his work was incorporated into the final playset. 🙂

    I’m probably way out of the loop, but I had no idea a ‘Spirit of Grayskull’ clear cast piece was mooted for inclusion at one point! That is an exceptional idea, and I’m disappointed that (as far as I know) no custom builders have pursued it (akin to the excellent ‘manhole cover’ and triangular weapons rack that were made available). Or have they? Any information would be most appreciated. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jimbo, I appreciate it. I’m not aware of anyone currently making any custom of this display piece for sale, although I think I saw a one-off custom a few years back.

  5. Ten years on, I still smile when I walk past Castle Grayskull in my hobby room. I have it situated on a turntable so I can appreciate both the interior and the exterior whenever I like. There was a cottage industry of 3D printed and resin cast pieces that really livened up the place. Book shelves, weapons racks, artifact displays, treasure stands, covers for the flight stand, there were even a few different reproductions of the dungeon grate.

    In hindsight, and after spending multiples of Grayskull’s price on Snake Mountain, I would have paid more for a larger Grayskull. Looking at Nate Baertsch’s B-Sheet, it looks like it would be much longer and much deeper to accommodate things like the candle stand, stairs in front of the back door, etc.

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