Saturday, June 26, 2021

Action Figure Review: Castle Grayskull from Masters of the Universe by Mattel

   There are lots of Masters of the Universe toylines out there but not all of them get a Castle Grayskull. Masters of the Universe Origins might not be my favorite Masters of the Universe toyline ever but I do think it's radically improving in 2021 and the fact that we already have a Castle Grayskull for it is a pretty big deal. Castle Grayskull is one of the most iconic playsets of all time (perhaps the most iconic action figure playset of all time?) and it's very cool to see Mattel revisit it in the MOTU Origins style. I found it on the shelf at my local Walmart a couple weeks ago and was thrilled. I own every Castle Grayskull released except for the amazing Icon Heroes statue but this was the first time I ever got the opportunity to parade one through a store. Success! While I like most of the figures in the line the vehicles and such are where this line really excels and Castle Grayskull is pretty impressive. It's certainly a item marketed with the intention of invoking nostalgic memories but it's also just a darn fine toy on it's own. This is the first Castle Grayskull since the 200x version that seems to truly be designed with kids in mind and while I'm not sure that many kids will actually get to play with this thing (though I hope they do!) it would certainly hold up to lots of adventures. Mattel even included an exclusive Temple of Darkness Sorceress figure with this set which is pretty cool. Let's take a look at the Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull after the break...

The Facts: Castle Grayskull

Dimensions: 18 inches tall, 26 inches long (open)

Accessories: Halberd, mace, sword, rifle, two weapon racks, 2 banners, battle trainer, laser cannon w/ mount, 2 computers, throne, ladder, flag, and 5 floor pieces.

Non-Scalper Price: $75 dollars

The Facts: Temple of Darkness Sorceress

Height: 5 1/2th inches

Articulation: Swivel/ hinge ankles, boot swivels, swivel/hinge knees, ball jointed hips, swivel waist, swivel wings, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, and a barbell jointed head.

Accessories: Staff

The Positives:

* Castle Grayskull is a pretty impressive piece and I had to use a different background than my usual backdrop to photograph it. It's about the same size as the vintage Grayskull and while it looks quite similar there are clearly some differences. The overall design is the same but the Origins Grayskull looks less "organic" and haphazard than the vintage toy. I'd argue there's just a tad more Filmation influence here, particularly on the color. The splotches of brighter green, possibly representing moss, are pretty cool and add a bit more flare to the piece. The dome on top of the skull is wider and the skull's features are more even.


* The door is given brown paint apps for the wooden planks while the "metal" parts are all painted with a great, shiny silver paint. It looks really good and is one of the first places where you can clearly see the improvements on this new version. Also notice that the door is raised off of the ground a bit here whereas the vintage toy's door sat right above the ground.


* Here's a close up of the face of the skull. The paint apps still look natural but they're cleaner and less haphazard than on the vintage toy. I like how the vintage toy has varying paint apps but some of them really vary in quality. This is pretty good look that captures a very iconic portrayal of Castle Grayskull.



* When you look closely you can see that the details on the bricks are quite sharp. The sculpting is really good all around here, much nicer than on most of the figures. There's also some sort of colored flecks added into the plastic that gives off just the slightest bit of...sparkle? I don't know but it's kind of a cool effect that definitely seems more inspired than just plain green.



* The back of the castle is also quite similar to vintage toy although the main turret now goes all the way around on the top (on the vintage toy you can see the floor panel when Grayskull is closed.



* There are also paint applications here including a brighter greenish coloring on the turret and some brown paint applications on the roofs that are visible jutting out from the castle walls. 



* Castle Grayskull folds up just like the vintage you and it locks securely in place. It has the swinging hasps, kind of like the MOTUC Grayskull, and the front and back halves connect together nicely. There are even some very durable pegs that connect in the front and back to help keep it closed. The quality on this set is really nice. The plastic feels very sturdy and durable, not brittle in the least.


* You can display Grayskull closed, open with the halves at a right angle, or fully open like shown here. The MOTUC Castle Grayskull was limited to only being displayed open at an angle but I've always liked having the castle fully open with both front pieces on display. It's a simpler toy than the MOTUC but more versatile in some ways.


* To enter Castle Grayskull you can use one of the Power Swords (or slightly point object, really) to pull open the lock. The lock actually has a spring on it so once you open the door the lock pops back into place, meaning you won't have to manually reset it.


* The jawbridge looks great and it's nicely sized for the Origins figures. No stooping needed to get through the door! The cracked and worn teeth of the bridge look pretty cool, too, definitely adding to the atmosphere of the set.

* The interior right bottom of the set is mostly empty. That's not really any different from the vintage Grayskull, though. The set does come with a ladder (again, made of a very durable plastic like everything else in this set) which actually has some designated places to attach to the castle in this set. There are two slots where the rails of the ladder can set here which keeps it from moving around during play.

* Here's the dungeon sticker. Yeah, it's just a sticker (although one of the upcoming PowerCon 2021 exclusives is a sculpted dungeon) but it's colorful and kind of different than the original sticker. I love the various creatures peeking up through the floor! Spooky!

* Here's the bottom left of the set which features the elevator base. I should note that the floor does have sculpted tiles and the interior of the castle walls looks really cool. It's very organic looking rather than just seeming to be made out of brick. 

* Here's a close-up of the elevator. It's not much different than the elevators we've seen before but it's solid, has some sharp detail, and has a foot peg to hold a figure more securely in place.

* It even holds Ram Man! Seriously, it's a pretty smooth elevator and it feels solid and secure. It also descends fairly smoothly on its own, too.

* It operates with a simple pully system and there's a stone bird/ gargoyle that you use to pull the string. This little guy was missing in the MOTUC Grayskull so it's cool to see him back again.

* Here's the second floor on the left side which is where the elevator takes you. The flooring pieces slide in to place and seem sturdy and durable. I love how nothing feels brittle or breakable in the least! This floor is mostly taken up by the elevator space but there are a few cool little features to point out. The floors also have a nice wood pattern to them which really helps them to stand out.

* This massive computer takes up most of the space on the wall here. It's quite similar to the computer system from the MOTUC Grayskull though it's all in one place where that one had the terminal spread about. This was just a cardboard element on the vintage playset so this is absolutely a huge improvement. It's quite colorful with a cool sticker showing the cosmos!

* I love the banners on this set! There are two (I'll show the second in a moment) and they're actually made from fabric with a great print on them. This one is hanging from the floor of the turret into the second floor computer room but if you don't like it there you can move it. The banner is attached to a plastic rod that pops out easily and can be moved underneath most floor plates.

* The ladder can also be moved to this floor to provide access to the turret. There are slots for the ladder on the second floor and in the sides of the turret floor.

* The throne room is on the right side of the second floor and houses the throne, the trap door carpet, another banner, and another smaller computer terminal. The armored space suit/ robot is missing from the set but is being sold as a PowerCon 2021 exclusive along with the previously mentioned dungeon grate.

* Here's the second banner! It's like the first though it with a different color scheme and a different print. 

* Here's the computer terminal where the space suit/ robot is usually standing. It's also a sculpted piece with lots of colorful paint applications.

* The throne is quite nice and holds most figure really well. The Sorceress can't actually fit in it due to her wings, nor can larger figures like Ram Man, but most figures can pop on up here with ease. There are even foot pegs on the bottom to keep the figures on securely.

* The trap door works really well. Rotate the throne all the way to the right and trap door drops. It's a decent sized trap door (not undersized like the MOTUC Castle Grayskull's trap door) and the figures easily fall through the hole.

* On the top of the castle there is a peg where you can place the flag. It's a sturdy plastic piece that has a sticker on each side of the flag. One side shows the castle is under the control of the Evil Warriors...

* While the other side shows that things are under the control of the Heroic Warriors! You can move the flag stand around if you want but the peg to keep it standing securely is a nice touch.

* To help defend Castle Grayskull you of course get a turret mounted double barreled laser cannon. This is a pretty sweet piece and while it's not too different than what we've seen if feels sturdier than any other releases. i still wish it sat on a balljoint, though, but the hinged work here and you can rotate the weapon at the base.




* As far as I'm aware this second weapons rack is a new piece. There was a smaller weapons rack available with the vintage Grayskull as a cardboard piece but it didn't look like this. I love the bird motif of this piece!



* The weapons can lay right across the slats on the rack and are available for easy storage and quick accessibility!


* Last up is the combat training device. The idea seems to be that you strike the boars head and then have to dodge the giant fist on the other side. It spins, just like the original, but the sculpt is improved and the pieces are just sturdier.


* The giant fist on the other side has a slit in its grip which you can place some weapons in. That way your figures can practice dodging and parrying actual weapons. Pretty cool, right?


* Castle Grayskull also comes with Temple of Darkness Sorceress, and exclusive figure based on the vintage minicomic of the same name. While I'm sure we'll get a regular Sorceress in her classic colors this is a pretty cool figure and a welcome addition to the set. She has a pretty nice sculpt, especially around her torso. the feathers on her costume are sculpted on unlike the painted on feathers of the vintage figure.


* The headsculpt is really good too. Yeah, it's intentionally vintage looking, but the features are good and Mattel did a nice job on the Sorceress' hood.

* The MOTU Origins figures are built like the vintage toys but with modern articulation. Imagine what you would get if you mixed a vintage figure with a MOTUC figure. They're quite fun to play with and they feel very sturdy.

* They're also modular and can be easily separated to make your own lazy boy customs!


* I love the translucent wings here. Even better is that they can rotate out so she can have them posed behind her or spread for more dramatic poses. They're definitely an improvement over the wings of the MOTUC Sorceress.




* The Sorceress comes with her classic white staff. It kind of looks like the staff Indiana Jones uses to find the location of the Well of Souls, doesn't it?

The Negatives:

* Be careful where you set your castle! The bottom of the metal rod that makes up the lower hinge was sticking out from the bottom a bit and scratched up our dining room table when my daughter and I first opened this up and put it together. Make sure it's all the way in or file it down a bit.


* OK, so back when I reviewed Teela and Evil-Lyn I said I didn't mind these knee joints. For some reason, I now do. They're kind of an eyesore, aren't they? Just add a regular joint like everyone else as trying to hide the hinge just makes it more noticeable.

   Listen! For $75 bucks you're getting a figure (usually around $15 bucks alone) and a pretty impressive playset. The MOTU Origins Castle Grayskull is sturdy, well accessorized, and designed for play. It's incredible! While it's not superior to the MOTUC Castle Grayskull, for under $100 bucks this is one of the best playsets I've seen. Mattel did a really nice job capturing most all of the details of the original set and improving on them. If you bought this for a kid who loved toys I think they would have one heck of a time with it. This is a pretty impressive piece and the price feels right, something I don't say often these days when most collector targeted toys are wildly marked up. It's an Epic purchase and even if you're not a fan of the aesthetics of the Origins line there's lots of potential here to please a MOTU fan. While I'm very much looking forward to Mastersverse (Mattel's new 7 inch scaled MOTU line) I really hope that Origins keeps going. The vehicles, playsets, and character selection are quite good and I think it at least deserves another year or two to make its mark in the long and stories history of MOTU toys.


 Are you in the market for a Castle Grayskull of your own? I've also checked out the M.U.S.C.L.E. green Castle Grayskull, the Masters of the Universe Minis Castle Grayskull, the series 1 Eternia Minis Buzz-OffHorde Zombie He-ManJitsu, Man-At-Arms, Ram Man, Skeletor, Trap Jaw, and He-Man, who each come packaged in a mini plastic Castle Grayskull, the Mega Construx Castle Grayskull, the Colorforms Deluxe Play Set which has a Castle Grayskull background, and the Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull

For more of the Sorceress I've also reviewed the NECA Stactions Sorceress (Classic Colors), the green Series 2 M.U.S.C.L.E. figure, the VYNL Sorceress, the Funko POP! Sorceress #993, the Action Vinyls Sorceress (Pink) and the standard Sorceress, the Pint Size Heroes Sorceress, and the Mega Construx Sorceress included with Castle Grayskull and Sorceress included with the Panthor at Point Dread set.

For more Masters of the Universe Origins reviews check out the following:


  1. So awesome. Need to get one of these.

    1. In Walmart they seem to be on the shelves with the Mega Construx and Playmobil stuff, next to Lego. Not with the regular action figures. I've seen Grayskull twice since I picked up mine.

  2. I always get a thrill when I google something and my site pops up as well!

    And I totally ruined some carpet with the Slime Pit as a kid. The slime was very "watery" if I remember, not like the Ghostbusters ectoplasm, and I spilled some right near the carpet by the Christmas tree on Christmas morning of... probably 1987 or 1988?

  3. Yup, they're TJ Maxx here. And yeah, they did make a running change on most of the female figures. It's always nice to find MOTU stuff (and cool stuff in general) on clearance.


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