Saturday, November 7, 2020

Vintage Castle Grayskull: Restored & Customized

Priced at $19.99, Castle Grayskull was released as the flagship playset of the original Masters of the Universe line in 1982 and was marketed as being "The Fortress of Mystery and Power for He-Man and his Foes."

Yes, you read that right. The castle, as originally envisioned, could be occupied by either side. It most certainly was not the good guys' clubhouse. Heck, even the original box art features an assault by the good guys on a castle controlled by Skeletor! Not the mention, Beast Man is over there helping the heroes...

Originally the play pattern was supposed to go something along these lines: Both halves of the Power Sword are needed in order to form a key that grants access to the castle. Therefore, whoever possesses both halves of the sword also gains control of the castle and all of its secrets. Both halves of the Power Sword have been hidden in order to keep the castle safe from both sides! All manor of traps and perils await the unsuspecting entrant, however there is also great magical and technological power to be had! Control of Castle Grayskull gives one the ability rule over not only all of Eternia, but also the entire universe; to become Master of the Universe! A two-sided flag is also included with the set to be used in order to indicate which side has possession of the fortress; the good guys or the bad guys.

Recently a Castle Grayskull playset for the new Masters of the Universe Origins collection was revealed. I wasn't impressed. First of all the design is far too symetrical, Castle Grayskull is supposed look much more organic. Also, it appears to be much smaller and thinner than the original, the accessories look kind of dinky, and where is that famous spacesuit/armor. Yes, it includes an exclusive Sorceress figure and features a much improved paint job, but thats just not enough to get me to shell out $75 for it.

Besides, I already have a vintage Castle Grayskull! With a little renovation and a bit of customization, it has the potential to be way better...

Lets get started... first the set must be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. This is accomplished by washing it with mild dishwashing detergent and a toothbrush. Once dry, it's time to prep it for the new paint job!

First a spray coat of gray primer is applied the two halves of the outer shell, followed by a base coat of flat black. Once it is all dry, it's time to get to work. Using a dry brush technique several coats of different shades of grays and greens are applied to the outer shell. The wooden bits are highlighted in brown with a light tan dry brushed on to bring out the wood grains.

The greenish hue of the orginal model, as seen in the promotial artwork, is retained, but the bedrock the castle is built upon needs to look more natural, so this part is dry brushed with gray and highlighted in white. The whole thing is given a black wash and finally a light dry brush of yellow is added to bring out the highlights on skull facade and the masonry.

Moving on to the back section, it is painted pretty much the same way the front section is, however it has two tile roof parts to it. These are painted to look like red slate. Finally there is a brass ring molded near the handle at the top that mustn't be overlooked. It is painted with gun metal gray and dry brushed with silver and brass.

Next it'ss time to tackle the exterior of the jaw bridge. First, it is primed and a flat black base coat is applied, the wood grain is brought out with a dry brush of several shades of brown & tan, finally it is hightlighed with a bit of yellow.

The hinges and other metal bits are painted gun metal gray and highlighted with a dry brush of silver. The same thing is done with the crest, however some it is touched up with a light dry brush of brass.

Finally, everything is carefully gone over and after a few minor touch ups are made, the entire model is given a coat of matte finish spray sealant to protect it.

One of the things desired, but left off the the retail version of this playset, which was on the prototype and also featured in the promotional artwork and the mini-comics, illustrated so beautifully by Alfredo Alcala, was that little decoration at the top of the castle which resembles a chess pawn piece. One was fashioned out of sculpy for this castle. It just sits atop the castle and isn't actually attached. Thought was given about attaching it with a dowel, but that would have required an undesirable hole to be drilled into the model.

Although the original flag and pole included with this set is still here, it was never long enough to be properly seen from the tall tower. It also features a little clip at the bottom which allows it to be attached to either turret platform, meaning those are the only places it can be displayed. The decision was made to fashion a new longer flag pole along with a base, similar to the one included in the Classics Grayskull, allowing it to be both properly seen and also displayed in places other than the towers.

The flag pole is just a wooden dowel with some wooden beads to make a topper. The base was sculpted from sculpy and painted with an undercoat of flat black and drybrushed with brass. The flag itself is an image printed out on sticker paper.

Once the outer shell was completed, it was time to reassemble and fix up the insides. The decision was made not to paint the interior or change it up too much from the original, however I did like the idea of there being two banners in the throne room, one for evil and one for good. So an evil banner was fashioned to go along with the good one. An inventive way to display them was rigged up with some toothpicks and popcicle sticks. I'm kind of proud of that little thing, it attaches very neatly and unobtrusively to the underside of the gun tower platform.

All the stickers and cardboard inserts were replaced with new ones. scans of the originals were printed out on sticker paper. Even the cardboard inserts were made into stickers, these were stuck onto comic book backing boards!

The string on the elevator had to be replaced and a broken peg on the weapons rack was fixed, but everything else was intact. Even the trap door works properly! However, the elevator is bit stiff and tricky.

The original intent was to paint both the weapons rack and the combat trainer, but this idea was discarded in favor keeping all the accessories in ther vintage condition. Someday, perhaps, replacements might be found and painted up...

Ok, I know everyone is itching to see what it all looks like, so here it is --


There is an amazing amount of detail on this playset that was revealed by the new paint job! These details were lost in the original sloppy paint job. It arrived out of the box painted pea green with several shades of green and black haphazardly applied by hand. At first an overlay was used for conformity, but this was quickly abandoned for taking long, holding production.
And now, a special treat for those of you who have made it this far!

This is the Vintage Castle Grayskull Instruction booklet for you to download as a PDF file, just follow the link on the left.

Now you can follow along as He-Man guides you through the assembly of Castle Grayskull!

Did you enjoy this adventure? What do you think of the custom Castle Grayskull playset? Do you have a vintage Castle Grayskull? How about a MOTU Classics one? Will you spring for the new Origins version? Please drop a line in the comments section below!

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  1. Wow, that paint job is incredible! If only I had half your talent...

    I've got an original Grayskull, and Snake Mountain, both incomplete, but still loved a whole bunch nonetheless.

    1. Thanks! Do you think I should paint the inside of the Jaw Bridge or leave it as is so I blends with the unpainted interior?

    2. You should paint the entire inside.

    3. I did up painting the inside of the Jaw Bridge, but I really don't know what I should do with the interior...

  2. looks really amazing. I still have mine from childhood, didn't sell it along with all my he-man figures (which I regret a bit, but I never liked the figures since they were incredibly unrealistic) when this new line came out I was honestly excited since the figures actually look like the cartoon characters and have articulation!!! my first thought was doing exactly what you did in "restoring" the castle, but I never had any of the parts/accessories since I got mine second hand. Its nice to see the scale is not too wonky to the original toys! would love to copy your direction.

    1. You don't need the accessories to make a really cool display. I'd love to see what you do with your castle!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! I have thought about painting up the insides, but I'm really afraid the paint will mess up the functional trap door and elevator.


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