Previous Article - X-Entertainment - Next Article --- By Matt - 7/26/'02
Today, we take a look at Hordak's master bedroom and summer home, The Fright Zone, and the infamous Horde Slime Pit. I spent enough time playing with these toys as a kid that it's a real shame there were no mini-rays available to shrink me down proportionately enough to live inside 'em. I would've loved it. I'd even be willing to put up with being that loser in the front of all those size-ordered lines in elementary school gym class if it meant I could share coffee with Hordak in the morning and watch reruns of M*A*S*H* with Grizzlor at night.
In their heyday, these toys fell prey to a line who's popularity was already on it's way down. He-Man's last hurrah was simply a vehicle to introduce the She-Ra cartoon and figures to the masses, and even though Hordak and his cronies were the villains on that show, their accompanying toys were marketed alongside the man with the most powerful tan in the universe. Unfortunately, kids had already been exposed to years and years of He-Man crap, and their attention was focused on other things, namely candy. Mmm candy. Sucks too, since these Horde figures and playsets were probably the best junk Masters of the Universe had to offer.
Let's start off with the Slime Pit, Hordak's ultimate weapon against all who'd seek to annoy him. If we're talking about boys toys, there's just nothing more prototypical than a playset that lets kids not just play with action figures, but cover them in gooey green sludge that smells like cat vomit. While the thrill and intrigue of handling cat vomit slime sorta loses it's effect once you hit a certain age, no child could resist the stuff.
The set was simple enough - just a weird 'throne' with a skull-hand seat to keep Hordak's victims captive. Atop the unholy construction was a dinosaur skull. Evidently, the first creatures on Earth never became extinct - they just moved to Eternia where the grass was greener and everyone was half-naked anyway so they didn't have to feel uneasy about having no clothes. Hordak would trap his enemies in the bony claw, and proceed to pour slime all over their heads. They actually explained why Hordak would do something like this in the mini-comic that came with the set, but anyone who didn't read it could only assume that his idea of total revenge was making his adversaries feel extremely dirty.
Today's victim? Spikor, one of Skeletor's most useless henchman. And that's really saying something. I guess you could argue that a guy covered in spikes would be beneficial in battle, but all of these people carried around guns roughly half the length of their bodies. Nobody except He-Man was into that whole hand-to-hand combat gig, and spikes can't hurt He-Man. Nothing can. Well, I guess you could hurt him by dropping boulders on his face, but even then he'd probably pow-pow-punch out of the thing and tell the kids at home to do well in school.
If you're wondering why Spikor's in there - Hordak and Skeletor used to be friends, but they don't like each other much anymore. I think it has something to do with a chick they both dated in high school.
You could purchase little jars of the slime at any toy store during this period, and it quickly became a hotter seller than any of the actual figures. Slime = ratings. Why do you think people still talk about Double Dare, because Marc Summers wore great sportjackets? No. Slime. It's always about the slime.
Once you filled the dinosaur skull with goop, it'd slowly cascade down the pit, making it's way to the figure below. Depending on the slime's temperature, this could take anywhere between a minute and six weeks. You had to adopt the watched-pot-never-boils way of thinking with this playset. If you kept your eyes glued on the sludge, it'd never move. It was like some really shy alien life form Mattel secretly imported to cut the costs of making more expensive fake slime.
By the way - you can probably remember a few toys from other lines that utilized some kinda slime. Trust me, He-Man's batch was the best. It smelled horrible, glowed slightly, and the forbidden feeling a child would get after sticking his tongue on it was a hundred times better than what you felt after sticking your tongue on a 9-V battery. This crap had all the tools, and it was only like two bucks.
The mini-comic claimed that the slime turned whomever it touched into Hordak's slave. So, in this case, Spikor's about to live a life full of fetching Hordak's newspaper and massaging his feet. I wonder if Spikor's great-great-grandsons will try to sue the Eternian government over various lingering oppressions years from now?
While the toy worked great with most of the figures, don't ever make the mistake of putting one of your 'fuzzy' ones in there. I ruined countless He-Man figures that way. Okay just two. It still pissed me off, though.
The sad thing was, every kid who had it only got to use The Slime Pit once. No child could be bothered cleaning all this shit up afterwards. The next time you wanted to use it, you'd return to find Evil-Lyn encrusted to the Slime Pit by dried ooze that was impossible to remove. Somehow, the slime smelled even worse when it dried out, sort of like a mixture of bleach and a decaying raccoon. Plus, now the thing just looked like somebody sneezed all over it when you weren't looking. You knew that wasn't the case, but you couldn't get past the idea that one of your friend's snot was all over the toy. Your Slime Pit was ruined. Fortunately, you were still young enough to score a new toy just by pulling some quick tears. Now you've gotta pick which one.
How about The Fright Zone?
Say what you will about Hordak -- at least he had no qualms letting people know he was evil. Why else would you christen your home 'The Fright Zone'? Skeletor was pretty ambiguous with his house; 'Snake Mountain' doesn't necessarily denote villainous intent. Hordak didn't mind letting the world know he was a big scheming asshole, but then again, I doubt anyone would believe he was a good guy. After all, he's got red eyes, fangs, and bones stapled onto his shirt collar. No mysteries there.
Compared to the other He-Man playsets, The Fright Zone was a bargain. It was around a third of the price of the others, and while smaller, still had a bunch of cool features to keep kids occupied. It wasn't priced much higher than two action figures, so this wasn't the type of toy you could only land on Christmas or your birthday. That made it even more special - you didn't have to waste one of the big guaranteed presents on it. It was sort of like a midyear tax return, only made of plastic and a little harder to spend on dinner at a Red Lobster. (the restaurant, not Clawful)
I love how these commercials make the playsets appear large enough for three kids to play with 'em at once. Unless I was some giant freakish mutant as a child, I seem to recall this thing being pretty modest. Obviously, Mattel's taken to growing in-house gnomes shaped like real people to star in their advertisements on top of importing those alien slime creatures. Small as it may be, The Fright Zone boasted some cool stuff...
Ah, my age old nemesis, Man-At-Arms. If you've been reading this site long enough, you know what I think of Man-At-Arms. I share similar opinions on terrorism and stepping in puddles of bear piss. I guess this is my lucky day, they've chosen the idiot to play the foil to all of the Fright Zone's many traps. First up - the haunted tree. Using a lever, you could make the tree's branches clasp onto a He-Man figure, shake it around, and throw it to the ground below. Only Man-At-Arms would be stupid enough to casually wander around Hordak's boobytrapped castle and lean against trees that have little demonic owls sitting on branches that look suspiciously alive.
It gets better -- once Man-At-Arms hits the ground, he tries to shake off the aftereffects one feels when a tree manhandles them. In the midst of that, a big giant green dragon comes out of a cave and eats him. Yes! Talk about your crowd-pleasers, they should've put this ad spot in theaters. Woulda made millions.
The Big Giant Green Dragon was really just a rubber puppet. Not a very good one either, mine ripped to shreds the second I put it on. For years I thought I had ape hands because of it. But, it was kinda nice. The puppet wasn't attached to the playset, so you were free to take it around town with you. Everyone would think you were a moron of course, but at least you were a moron with a puppet. I'm pretty sure that train of thought is how Dave Coulier got through the days.
Additionally, there was a little jail with a wooden door, in case Hordak didn't feel like rushing to pour slave slime on his prisoners. He usually likes to wait for the weekends for that. It makes dateless Saturday nights pass by a whole lot less dishearteningly.
He-Man's faced with a problem. Save Man-At-Arms and risk doom, or go watch television and let his friend be digested by a puppet? It's times like these that make He-Man really hate his 'hero' title - it forces him to do all this stupid crap when all he really wants to do is sleep in and eat pretzels.
Fortunately, the dragon already swallowed Man-At-Arms, so there's no reason for He-Man to get his hands dirty. He'll consider this battle a 'draw' and be content enough with that to just go home. Besides, nobody liked Man-At-Arms. It's not like they'll scorn He-Man for failing in the rescue attempt. If anything, it'll be the cause for Eternia's first ticker-tape parade.
I'm amazed that with all the new Masters of the Universe toys coming out now, nobody thought to revamp Hordak. It's just criminal - Hordak was superior to everyone else in every way possible. He looked cool, he liked bats, he snorted, had a cape - the damn guy could transform into comical phallic rockets. Why the lack of respect? That's why I'm happy to have done this small tribute to Hordak's houses. He deserves all the attention in the world. Or at least half the attention on days when they show Twilight Zone marathons. Gotta keep an eye out for Caesar, the Meanspirited Marionette.
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