Hot water would have been a safer option.....terminal melt-down isn't a good thing when modelling
Yeah, I remember that from my days of 'Airfix' modelling with my uncle when I was an almost teen. He was just 3 years older than me so we were quite close in terms of interest and hobbies and the like... though he continued to make models well into his 20's and beyond, while I stopped around 14 or so to work with my father on non-school days, as well as be somewhat more adventurous in the great outdoors.
Anyway, we would always place the parts in a bowl of hot water after unpacking them from the box. This served two main purposes: one, to remove the parts from the parts tree more easliy without damaging them; two, any excess plastic was more easily removed and sometimes would just fall off in the water, thus reducing the risk of damage with a craft knife. Ah, they were the good old days... a Lancaster Bomber for 2 shillings and sixpence, and a cold Winter's weekend indoors was catered for. Mind you, 2 & 6 was a lot of money in those days.
Speaking of the cost, I saw an Airfix Lancaster Bomber model in a Toys r Us shop window just recently and was staggered/completely gobsmacked at the price... $105.95. Being that I quite enjoyed model making as a kid, it could be something that could get me off the PC more and doing something a little more constructive with my spare time, but I don't know that I'd pay out 106 bucks for one.