Tag Archives: toys

Boss Fight Studio Storm Toad Trooper (Bucky O’Hare)

IMG_3148In case you haven’t noticed or do not frequent this blog, I have quite a passion for Christmas. As a kid, my enthusiasm was directed at the holiday thanks in large part to the toys and such. As an adult, that enthusiasm has been transferred more towards the season and the build-up to Christmas. I like to indulge in it, but once Christmas comes and goes it leaves me feeling rather blue. This year though, December 26 had a bright spot when a package from Boss Fight Studio arrived at my doorstep containing the latest from the toy maker’s Bucky O’Hare line – the Storm Toad Trooper.

Boss Fight Studio has designated the Storm Toad Trooper as figure number 7 of its Bucky O’Hare line, but due to the presence of variants in the line, it’s actually sculpt number 4. This gives BFS a release schedule of a tidy 2 new sculpts per year so far. For what is essentially a niche line that’s pretty reasonable. This isn’t Hasbro with a Marvel license, after all. Plus these suckers aren’t exactly cheap, so having time to save up is not a bad thing, especially for an army builder like this one. This figure represents the first villain of the wave, and as it is of the lowly trooper (described as “Laser Fodder” on the card) there is a temptation to buy more than one. Like the more popular Storm Troopers from the Star Wars universe, these bad boys are all bark and no bite. They couldn’t hit a moving target to save their life and are constantly brushed aside by the good guys of the series. And while they strike a mean pose, our heroes are likely only shaking in their boots when encountering a horde of them as opposed to one.

The Storm Toad Trooper stands a tick under 4.5″ and is about as tall as Jenny. He’s noticeably taller than Dead-Eye and Bucky (when ignoring his ears). As far as the source material goes, it’s a bit hard to say as the toads of the cartoon are often hunched over, but it looks about right. These figures, as far as I know, are done to the specifications laid out by series creator Larry Hama who had figures in mind when he originally designed them. The cartoon may have possibly used a slightly different scale, of that I don’t know, but it passes the eyeball test. Because these are to Hama’s designs, the Trooper is different in the area of color scheme with his animated counterpart. Those characters wore a blue suit, but these guys sport a black one like the blister card picture. They’re also more detailed as the show simplified some of the designs a bit for animation, a common practice. Just comparing him with the blister art and he looks pretty damn exact with the only difference I see being a tank on his rifle that isn’t present on the toy’s version.

As the principal grunt of the Toad army, the Storm Toad Trooper has a Hasbro equivalent from the old line. Despite his lowly status, it was one of my favorite toys from that line because of how much I enjoy the design of this character. He’s very expressive and has a fun, toon, look to his mouth and eyes. The dark green helmet that sits flush along the pale green skin of the head is just so pleasing to me. The green and black also works well together, and the gold and pink accents in the belt and eye lens really pop. I love the hot pink of the weapons too as it’s such an of its era touch and I’m happy no one decided to try and update the look with something more real world, or opt for the light blue occasionally used by the cartoon. Speaking purely on aesthetics, he might be my favorite of this line so far and that’s no small praise given the rest.

Moving beyond just the look of the figure reveals so much more. Boss Fight Studio made the helmet removable, which feels like a brave move given how flush it’s supposed to sit on the character, but it looks fantastic. You would have no idea it’s removable just by looking at it, but it’s relatively easy to pop off and it snaps back on in a very satisfying manner. Underneath the helmet is a detailed headsculpt with camouflage-like green spots. There’s a gap in the head for the helmet to snap into, so this isn’t a toy you would display without headgear, but given how well the helmet works I’m not sure if it would have made sense to try and accomplish this in another fashion. He comes with three additional hands to go along with the stock weapon-holding hands. Two open palms and a pointing finger, which feels fairly standard. His weapon outlay is a bit more robust as he comes with a rifle, pistol, and sickle-shaped bayonet. He can hold the bayonet like a weapon, or it can be attached to the rifle by removing a piece of the rifle’s stock, which I suppose could then double as a grenade. The weapons click into his belt nicely, and his hands are all easily removable which is an aspect of these figures that seems to be improving with each new figure. In addition to all of that, he also has a second head, which is a first for this line as the previous figures just had swappable face plates. The second head sports a different expression, though both could be described as angry and aggressive. There’s also a hat he can wear instead of the helmet.

The articulation and build quality is what consumers have come to expect from this line and Boss Fight Studio in general. All of the joints are affixed to plastic ball joints which make posing easy. The ball joints also practically ensure you won’t accidentally break your figure when posing, as they’ll simply pop off if too much force is placed upon them. I found this figure to be pretty free and easy right out of the box, which was nice as both Bucky and the standard version of Dead-Eye were not for me and required a breaking-in period. The odd shape of the shoulder “pads” this figure sports make his arm movements a bit more restricted than the other figures, but I haven’t found it really inhibitive. The legs have a bit less motion at the hips when compared with the others, but this guy’s gigantic feet still allow for some different posing options in spite of that as he’s so easy to stand.

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The second head didn’t like the helmet.

Nothing is perfect though, and I did find a few shortcomings with the Storm Toad Trooper, though nothing that would cause me to reconsider my purchasing decision for even a moment. For one, his rifle is oddly shaped and difficult to pose. I wish it had a handle behind the trigger, but this is how the gun was also supposed to look. I had to work at it a bit to get it to look okay, but I think the figure actually looks better with the pistol in hand instead and the rifle affixed to his back. The second head also gave me some trouble. I was never able to get the helmet to seat on it properly. It’s possible if I hit it with a hairdryer I’d have more success, but it wasn’t something I tried. The hat is also tough to get on as it doesn’t really click-in nicely like the helmet. With some effort though, I did get it to sit properly on the second head. As long as it fits on one I’m happy.

Like the other figures in this line, the Storm Toad Trooper retails for about $35. Knowing fans were likely going to want more, Boss Fight Studio offered an “army builder” two-pack for $65. It doesn’t feature any different packaging or anything (which I should add, the default packaging is awesome and resealable, a strong point for this line), it’s just an order for two figures, but the 5 dollar savings is a nice gesture on their part and it prompted me to buy two for myself. The inclusion of the hat and second head made it an easy call as it’s possible to display both figures I acquired while having them look different. I’ll stay at two for now, but I expect re-paints to come along eventually which could tempt me further. An obvious re-paint would be to make the figure blue and yellow to better reflect the cartoon while the Bucky O’Hare arcade game contained different color variations that would be more drastic and possibly more eye-catching. The animated series also featured the characters Frix and Frax, a pair of twins that wore Storm Toad Trooper uniforms but with an admiral-styled hat instead of a helmet. Such a variant would be more costly for BFS as it would require new heads, but it would be another opportunity for a two-pack as fans would want a figure for Frix and one for Frax. It’s likely something they’ve considered or will consider, though I don’t know if I would go so far as to say it’s likely.

The Storm Toad Trooper is an excellent addition to Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line. He looks great among the other figures and the addition of the hat and second head make buying two feel like a necessity. The build quality is excellent, and just like the other three figures it’s easy to make a case for this being the best one yet. I look forward to seeing what’s to follow for this figure in the form of variants and re-paints, as you know there’s at least one to follow. As for the line itself, Boss Fight Studio has already announced that the next figure will be Bruiser and he’ll be going up for pre-order in January. He’ll be the first figure to really bust the mold on this line as far as size goes as he’s much larger than the other characters. As such, Boss Fight Studio has already announced he’ll retail for more than the others, but the prototype they’ve shown off is something special to behold. They also teased another sculpt is pending approval by Continuity Comics so it looks like the company is on-track to maintain its output of two new sculpts per year and I can’t wait to see what’s next. In the meantime though, I’m quite happy with what I have and I’ll be looking to come up with some fun displays between now and then.


SH Figuarts Kid Goku

IMG_2167I was so happy with my Super Saiyan Vegeta from SH Figuarts that the very next day I purchased a second figure:  Kid Goku. Now I’ve mentioned more than once here that I prefer Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. It’s just a tighter and more fun series with better action sequences. The characters become so overpowered in Dragon Ball Z that the fight scenes became a series of dashing lines as characters move faster than sight and lots and lots of posturing. Dragon Ball has some of that too, but not nearly as much. And shining like a beacon through out it is young Goku. His ignorance of virtually all of society is what drives much of the show’s humor (as well as the perversions of one Master Roshi) and it’s a personality trait that suits the youthful version of our hero better than the adult version. This isn’t to say the adult Goku of DBZ isn’t charming, he’s just less believable.

I initially bought Vegeta instead of Goku for the simple fact that he was five dollars cheaper. I assume he runs a little less because Goku comes with more accessories. His little box is packed to the gills with extra hands, face plates, and power poles and even boasts a Flying Nimbus with an extravagant action stand. A stand is what’s really missing from the Vegeta figure and seems like something that should be included for all of the flying characters so I’m happy to see it here. So while Goku is certainly smaller than Vegeta, I’d wager this set has more plastic in it (and that Nimbus is quite dense) than most of the SHF figures.

For this figure, Kid Goku comes depicted in his orange gi that he first started wearing following his training with Master Roshi. Prior to that he sported a blue attire, and while I would have probably preferred that to the orange one, it’s not really a big deal to me. Goku is about 4″ tall from head to toe and nearly 5″ when you factor in his hair. Height-wise, he seems to be pretty much in scale with Vegeta, though the proportions aren’t quite perfect with Goku being a little chunky. Like most of the kids in Dragon Ball, he has an oversized head which also looks a little funny next to Vegeta, though in all honesty Vegeta’s head could probably have been a little bigger upon reflection. Either way, Goku feels like he’s at about the right size and I’m more curious to see how he compares with the upcoming Master Roshi when that drops.

Young Goku has tremendous articulation, which is to be expected of any toy in this line. The giant melon atop his shoulders doesn’t appear to hinder his ability to stand much too, which is nice. If anything, the smallness of his feet can make it a bit of a challenge to get him to stand in more dynamic poses, but you always have the stand if need be. His articulation is good enough to that he can handle a Kamehameha pose or event sit slightly cross-legged upon the Nimbus. I’ve had a lot of fun moving him around and seeing what I could get out of the stand. The stand has to be partially assembled and it has movable grabbing parts so it’s really easy to fit it onto Goku. I was initially skeptical that it would do the trick, but it’s plenty sturdy and even the additional legs for the Nimbus have no trouble supporting both the weight of the Nimbus and Goku. The stand also isn’t necessarily needed to position Goku on his trusty flying cloud, but it helps and provides peace of mind for standing poses while a seated Goku probably doesn’t need it.

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Look at all this stuff!

Goku has a vast assortment of hands and extra little bits, enough so that it was easier to just take a picture. In addition to his smiling, but determined expression he also has a happy open mouthed face and a giddy, squinty-eyed face. All are very appropriate for Goku and they are all easy to swap in and out. Goku’s bangs pop off and from there the face plate can be removed which does a great job of hiding the seams and keeping things nice and neat. His head pops off as well to allow his power pole sling to be worn (otherwise you won’t get it over his dome) which features the handle of the infamous pole sticking out. For when you want Goku to hold his weapon he has a separate extended pole he can wield, and to make sure everything is consistent, the handle on the holstered pole is removable preserving the illusion of an empty sling. His hands pop off and on just like Vegeta’s, though here I’m a little more concerned about eventual damage. Goku has some skinny arms, and the pegs his hands snap onto are even skinnier. Thus far, I’ve had no issues, but I probably won’t be switching poses too often with this one, at least with hand placement. Goku also has a pair of swappable tails, one that’s more natural and another that’s running up his back for when he’s seated. Rounding things out is Goku’s prized “Grandpa,” the 4 star Dragon Ball, which appears to be in perfect scale with the character and apparently can be fitted onto a base for the Shenlong/Eternal Dragon action figure.

IMG_2180Kid Goku is a damn fine piece of plastic. I think I like him more than the Vegeta figure, but that’s mostly due to my fondness for the IP. He looks great, moves great, and has enough accessories to keep you entertained if you’re the sort that likes to re-pose your display constantly. If you’ve been aching for a good Dragon Ball accurate Goku, it’s hard to imagine a better one than this will come along anytime soon (unless there’s a blue gi repaint, then maybe).


Disney gets the Lego Treatment

maxresdefault-3Lego is one of the most popular toy manufacturers on the planet. They’ve become known for their building block style toys that come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and can be combined to form castles, pirate ships, space crafts, and other fantastic designs. They also have struck gold with their mini figures, simplistic action figures that embody the Lego design and make great pilots, captains, and heroes to pair with the various sets. It used to be you had to buy a construction set to get a figure or two, but for several years now Lego has capitalized on the appeal of its mini figures by releasing them individually in blind bag assortments. Even more recently, Lego has decided to apply a popular license for these blind bag releases. For the past two years, that license was The Simpsons. I was rather fond of this decision and really it got me back into Lego after not buying a set since I was a kid. The Simpsons I feel still had legs and a series three would have been welcomed by me, but Lego has apparently killed that line and decided to go with a new license:  Disney.

Theming a line of figures on the Disney license is almost as broad as creating a line of “People” figures. The Walt Disney Company has been putting out animated and live action films for nearly a century. The company has its own television station full of original programming, plus it owns Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and ABC to name a few. And since Lego already makes Star Wars and Marvel sets, it stands to reason that their Disney themed wave of mini figures could include those franchises if it wanted to. What it really means for Lego is that its first wave of Disney mini figures is an amalgamation of a few popular Disney properties. The first set of 18 Disney figures contains popular Disney creations like Mickey Mouse and Donald, characters from classic animated films like Aladdin and Peter Pan, and also a few Pixar figures to round things out. There are likely fans out there who would have preferred it if Lego stuck to the classic animated films, or maybe even just the Mickey and friends line, but Lego opted to try to please a wide consumer base.

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A motley crew of Disney plastic.

As someone who likes Disney and is married to a woman who LOVES Disney, it meant i had to collect this line with the same vigor as I did with The Simpsons. The wave hit retail on May 1st, though a few lucky individuals probably found them earlier. Like other mini figure waves, this series is released in blind bags so the consumer doesn’t know what they’re buying, unless they’re willing to sit and prod at each bag to feel the figure out. As Lego did with The Simpsons, they’ve chosen to make custom head sculpts for a lot of the Disney characters, basically all of the non-humanoid ones. That means finding Mickey and Minnie when groping a plastic bag is actually pretty easy, same for Sticth as well as the ducks, Donald and Daisy. I actually found the entire wave pretty easy to feel out and went a perfect 18 for 18 with my purchases. Now, if only I had better luck at finding the figures at big box retailers. Stores like Target and Toys R Us sell each figure for 3.99 a piece, but I got stuck hitting up specialty shops that charged 6.99. The things I do for love.

 

Unlike The Simpsons, these Disney figures are not released alongside any standard Lego sets, which is a bummer. Lego does have a line of Disney centric Lego Friends sets which focus on the various princess characters. The Friends line is Lego’s girl line, because apparently girls can’t handle traditional mini figures and bricks, and it’s clear Lego avoided duplicating characters it had already released as part of that line. The set of 18 is mostly free of the princess characters, with the exception of a mermaid Ariel. Alice from Alice in Wonderland is also included, but I don’t think she’s ever been considered a “princess.” From the Mickey and Friends collection, we have Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. Any Disney fan immediately sees that list and says “Where’s Goofy?!” He’s missing in action here. The four who are included look pretty good though. Donald and Daisy even have a little duck “butt” piece which is pretty funny but also pragmatic. Mickey is kind of dull though as he comes with no unique pieces or accessories. He doesn’t even have a tail! That’s a problem I’ll address later as it’s a recurring problem. Not the tail, but the lack of accessories to go along with these figures.

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Ursula’s got it going on.

From the Disney animated classics group of films, there’s the following:  Alice, Cheshire Cat, Maleficent, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Stitch, Ursula, Ariel, Aladdin, and the Genie. All are done fairly well, though characters like Aladdin and Pan suffer from being a bit too conventional and kind of boring in appearance. Genie suffers a little in that he’s fairly unique, but the efforts made to convey that don’t work so well. Instead of getting a more unique sculpt, he’s actually a standard mini figure with add-on pieces to round out his look. He does have a “ghost” lower body which is kind of neat, but he still doesn’t really look all that much like the Genie from Aladdin. Plus Lego got really cheap with his gold cuffs and only painted half of his wrist. Maleficent is unique in that she doesn’t have legs, but a triangular block for a base to simulate her robes. It works pretty well as a visual, though it’s probably not fun for kids to play with. Ursula is definitely the cream of the crop as she gets a uniquely sculpted lower body that looks great. Ariel does as well, but her tail is rather blocky and unappealing to look at. I get that Lego is supposed to be blocky, but there’s just something off with Ariel’s look.

 

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The piece Lego fanatics have been waiting years for:  duck butt.

Pixar is also featured, albeit in a minor way. There aren’t many Pixar characters that would work as Lego mini figures, but Lego did pick some suitable ones. From Toy Story, there’s Buzz Lightyear and the Alien, and from The Incredibles we have Mr. Incredible and his foe Syndrome. Buzz is the star of the four. While he doesn’t quite look like the Buzz we know and love, the unique pieces included give him a lot of personality. The Alien gets a unique head sculpt and looks fine, while Mr. Incredible and Syndrome look about as good as they can, though they’re a little boring. I don’t dislike any of the four, and actually really like Buzz, but I am left wishing Lego had stuck with more conventional Disney properties and gave Pixar its own wave.

 

With any release like this, it’s easy to zero in on what’s missing. Properties like Pinnochio, Snow White, and The Lion King are synonymous with Disney but not represented here. There’s also a lack of quality accessories that’s kind of disappointing. Mickey comes with none, when he should come with Pluto. He could have come with some clothing type accessories like his sorcerer’s hat, something which is better than nothing. Ursula comes with King Triton’s trident but not his crown, and Ariel comes with an oyster shell with a pink jewel in it. Maybe I need to watch The Little Mermaid again because I don’t remember that amongst her many treasures. I’d rather she come with a fork, I mean, dinglehopper, though a Flounder would have been better. Stitch, Cheshire Cat, and the Alien all come with no accessories, and Aladdin and the Genie both come with the same lamp. Couldn’t Aladdin at least have come with a black Jafar’s lamp? These figures aren’t really all that cheap, the least Lego could do is make sure each character has at least one appropriate accessory to round them out.

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Pan looks kind of bloodthirsty, not that Hook looks like any less of a maniac.

Criticisms aside, I do think this is a pretty solid wave of mini figures and a nice start for the Disney line. I assume there will at least be a wave two and I’m hopeful Lego will explore some Disney sets, especially if they’re based on Disney World or Disneyland. As far as a potential wave 2 is concerned, I would assume some characters are no-brainers. Goofy, Woody, and Jessie seem like locks. Near locks would include Mrs. Incredible, Frozone, and Jafar. If Lego really wants to stick with the films its already touched upon, then characters like King Triton and the Queen of Hearts certainly have a shot as well. I’m hopeful that Pinnochio and Jiminy Cricket get a look, and a Beast and Gaston would be pretty awesome. It’ll probably be nearly a year before we know what’s to come, but until then it will be fun to speculate.

UPDATE:  Well it took Lego a few months to unveil it, they did indeed confirm a Lego version of Disney World’s iconic Cinderella Castle is coming this September. It will retail for $350 (ouch!) and total over 4,000 pieces and come bundled with 5 mini figures. Making her traditional Lego debut will be Tinker Belle and she’s joined by a tuxedo-clad Mickey, a red polka-dot version of Minnie, a pink version of Daisy, and Donald, who appears to be identical to his previously released figure. It looks pretty slick, and it’s hard to argue with the character choices. The castle interior looks like it will be full of easter eggs, and possibly hints for future mini figures, and the only initial piece of criticism I could offer is the depth of the castle looks shallow. It likely would have benefitted from a hinged design to make the base at least appear bigger. Aside from that, it’s a nice piece of eye candy and something I’m going to have to buy for my Disney-obsessed wife.LEGO_71040_fi

 


Revisiting The Simpsons as Lego

Lego-The-Simpsons-episodeLast July, I made a post about 2014’s newest addition to the Lego family:  The Simpsons. Two of the world’s most popular brands teamed-up not just for a Lego-themed episode of the iconic television show, but also to bring several of the show’s many characters to life as little three inch plastic toys. The big addition was also the release of The Simpsons’ house in Lego form which covered the bulk of my post.

Well now it’s 2015, and if this Lego fan-blog can be believed, we’ve got a new round of Simpsons Lego merchandise to look forward to in the spring. And considering the snow is piled high outside my home right now, spring can’t come soon enough. I ended that post from last summer wondering about what was to come as it pertained to Lego and The Simpsons. There was the possibility that The Simpsons would be one and done, and had they been, it wouldn’t have been a slight. An entire wave of mini figures was devoted to the brand and The Simpsons house is positively massive by Lego standards. It’s questionable how well a brand that is mostly aimed at older individuals would sell as a toy, especially considering that the show is no longer as popular as it used to be. Truth be told, I have no idea if kids today watch The Simpsons as I did when I was young enough to be interested in Lego as a plaything. Still, I hoped we would see more from Lego concerning The Simpsons because there is so much left untouched as it stands now, and my Simpsons’ house could use some company.

Maggie doesn't have many looks on the show, but this is her most popular aside from her traditional blue onesie.

Maggie doesn’t have many looks on the show, but this is her most popular aside from her traditional blue onesie.

Here’s how 2015 is currently looking: We’ve got another wave of mini-figures on the way and at least one more building set. The lineup for mini-figure wave two is quite appropriate given what came out last year and what would be expected of a second wave. First off, there’s a new version for each member of The Simpsons family. Collectors and fans of the show are probably disappointed by that as we already have two versions for each as it is, but anyone who has ever followed a toyline as a kid or adult knows this is par for the course. Just like every wave of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures needs another version of each turtle, expect future waves of Simpsons figures to contain Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie. I was kind of hoping maybe Lego would just include another Homer and Bart, given that they’re the two most popular, but oh well. At least we’re getting Bart as Bartman, a pretty popular version of the character, and while we don’t know what Lisa and Maggie will look like, both are being bundled with one of the family pets, Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II, who really should have been included with the house last year. Homer and Marge are both in their “Sunday best” so I take that to mean Homer’s blue suit and Marge’s long, green dress that the duo often wear to church. It wouldn’t surprise me if Lisa and Maggie are similarly dressed, though I’m kind of hoping we get Maggie in her starfish-like snow suit.

The remaining supporting characters rumored to be a part of wave two are a mix of popular characters and those that pair well with other figures. Martin naturally fits in with Bart, Milhouse and the other kids while Smithers can finally be placed alongside Mr. Burns. Groundskeeper Willie and Comic Book Guy are fan favorites and it’s nice to see the retired Edna Krabappel included as well. Some notable omissions though are still present. It’s nice to have Edna, but it would be better if we had a Principal Skinner to pair her with. Milhouse as Fall Out Boy is likely included to pair with Bartman, even though it doesn’t make much sense from the perspective of the show and it just makes me want a Radioactive Man (Rainier Wolfcastle) as well. Dr. Hibbert and Professor Frink have been around awhile, so I’m not disappointed to see them included but I personally would prefer Lenny and Carl. There are images of a head mold for the infamous criminal Snake floating around the internet and he is noticeably absent from the list for wave two. My guess is he is being bundled with the Kwik-E-Mart set which will probably also contain another version of Apu, or better yet, Sanjay or Manjula. I’m curious if they’ll sneak another version of one of the Simpsons into the set as well, maybe a version of Homer as a Kwik-E-Mart clerk.

Which brings me to the second part of this post: what I want going forward! We know we’re getting a Kwik-E-Mart which is both logical and welcomed, but we don’t have confirmation for anything else. So here’s a small list of ways Lego could bring Springfield to life (as lifeless plastic):

That's a pretty extreme reaction to Lego's choice to bypass you, Moe.

That’s a pretty extreme reaction to Lego’s choice to bypass you, Moe.

1. Moe’s Tavern: Let’s get this one out of the way upfront. I want it. You want it. Anyone who has any interest in Lego versions of Springfield wants it, but isn’t going to get it. Lego has a pretty strict policy against alcohol and certain forms of violence, and a Lego version of Springfield’s most famous dive is probably out of the question. I’m hopeful that Lego could compromise and give us mini-figures of Moe and his number one patron, Barney, even if they’re in less memorable versions. Moe could be in his casual attire he sometimes wears on the show while Barney could be depicted as either the Plow King or as he was when he got sober. If Lego really wanted to give us Moe’s Tavern while saving face they could always do Moe’s Family Restaurant, which is just Moe’s Tavern from when he decided to try to be more like TGI Friday’s. It’s better than no Moe’s at all!

2. The Android’s Dungeon:  I mentioned this one last year, mostly because it just makes so much sense given the market Lego is courting with The Simpsons. The Android’s Dungeon is the infamous comic book shop run by Jeff, aka: Comic Book Guy. It played a prominent role in the Lego episode of the show and would be a natural set to include a Radioactive Man to pair with Fall Out Boy. Lego could also bundle it with Homer as Angry Dad when he came to resemble the Incredible Hulk or versions of Bart and Lisa from the Halloween special where they became superheroes. I’m actually surprised this set hasn’t already been announced.

These are definitely going to be on display in my house come Christmas time. If I can wait that long.

These are definitely going to be on display in my house come Christmas time. If I can wait that long.

3. Springfield Elementary:  When Department 56, a company known for crafting ceramic Christmas Villages, partnered with The Simpsons last year to do a series of Simpsons inspired ceramics it selected The Simpsons house, the Kwik-E-Mart, and Springfield Elementary to focus on. Lego should do the same. The school would probably end up out of scale when placed beside 742 Evergreen Terrace, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. As long as it includes a classroom (complete with chalkboard gag), cafeteria, and Principal’s office I’ll be happy. It would pair extremely well with the children of Springfield already released as well as Groundskeeper Willie and Edna. Skinner could also be included along with Lunch Lady Doris and Superintendent Chalmers. Willie’s tractor and shed could be a part of the package and Lego could even include some of the students who have yet to be released. There could be a school bus with Otto. There are so many possibilities! Like the already released home for The Simpsons, this would be an expensive set but one I’d be willing to invest in.

4. Krusty Burger:  We already have a Krusty, so why not the fast food restaurant that bares his image? Krusty Burger would be an attractive piece and would fit in with the Kwik-E-Mart as a smallish-scaled release. It could include another version of Krusty, maybe Sideshow Mel, as well as Mr. Teeny and everyone’s favorite local teenager, Jeremy, the squeaky-voiced teen! If we need to toss-in another member of The Simpsons family, how about an obese Homer?

It sells itself.

It sells itself.

5. Vehicle sets:  New buildings are nice, and probably preferred, but if Lego wanted to do cheaper sets they could always turn to vehicles. One fans would be sure to eat up is Homer as Mr. Plow, one of the show’s most famous episodes. Naturally, that would pair well with Barney’s Plow King. A police cruiser for Wiggum that includes Eddie and Lou seems plausible. The Homer, with Herb Powell, would certainly be an interesting vehicle to behold. Any of Burns’ vehicles or the family’s station wagon would also make sense. If it can’t be included with Springfield Elementary, then Otto’s bus would also be a good one and would be another way to introduce more children of Springfield. Sadly, we probably would never get a Duff Blimp given the previously mentioned alcohol policy, but a man can dream!

There are countless other sets that would be welcomed but didn’t crack my top five. Ned’s house would make sense given it sits right next to The Simpsons’ and we’ve seen the interior of it many times on the the show. Something incorporating the Nuclear Power Plant would make sense, even if it’s just Homer’s control deck or Burns’ office. Burns’ mansion would also be interesting, complete with hounds, and a version of Lard Lad Donuts would fit in nicely with the other smaller builders I proposed. It’s probably unlikely that Lego supports The Simpsons line long enough for even half of these to get produced, but as long as it continues to sell well, Lego will likely keep putting out stuff. If you liked last year’s offerings and if the Kwik-E-Mart turns out well, let Lego know with your dollar that you want to see more of the many locations around Springfield!


The Ghostbusters Get the Lego Treatment

IMG_0052It’s been thirty years since Ghostbusters first hit the big screen ushering in a new era of special effects-laden blockbusters.The film made unlikely heroes out of middle-aged comedians Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis while lesser known Ernie Hudson got a taste of stardom. The film was immensely successful and soon a cartoon was spun-off from its success which lead to even more opportunities for merchandise. Lots and lots of merchandise.
Ghostbusters is one of those rare franchises that has a lot of appeal for both kids and adults. Many have tried to achieve the same thing, but aside from those that can lean heavily on nostalgia, most fail to achieve the same level of success. The adults had the films, which kids enjoyed as well, while the cartoon was aimed directly at adolescents. The personalities of the main characters were unique to whatever version was being watched with only the broader traits (such as Egon being the brainy Ghostbuster) carrying over.
I was introduced to the Ghostbusters via the cartoon, and as a child, probably assumed it came first. When Ghostbusters 2 arrived in theaters it was a pretty big deal. I liked the films, though my assortment of toys were obviously born from the cartoon. I can recall having at least three of the Ecto vehicles, the firehouse, and numerous action figures. I also remember a Transformers-inspired Volkswagon Beetle that turned into a grasshopper. Sadly, once the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arrived the Ghostbusters began to lose the battle for my attention, and my parents’ money. Most, if not all, of those old toys have been either sold, given away, or tossed, though my love for the original film (and to a lesser extant, its sequel) still exists.

The finished product.

The finished product.

This weekend, Ghostbusters is back in theaters for those who wish to see it on the big screen. If the lure of the theater isn’t your cup of tea, then might I suggest celebrating 30 years of ghost-busting goodness with Lego?
Earlier this year, as part of the 30 year anniversary celebration, Lego released the infamous Ecto-1 in Lego form along with mini figures of the four Ghostbusters: Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston. The set was the result of a fan vote on sets created by avid Lego builders. A firehouse was part of the original fan-set, but sadly Lego passed (with no indication the franchise would be revisited, but who knows?). The Ecto-1 is a solid overall set for Lego collectors and Ghostbusters fans. Its external likeness is nearly spot-on and likely only the most avid Ghostbusters fans can spot any shortcomings. This set is obviously of the Ecto-1 vehicle from the first film, and not the more flashy edition from Ghostbusters 2. It took me a full evening to assemble, and once completed I was more than satisfied with the end result.
The fours figures feature a reasonable likeness to the characters they’re meant to resemble. Lego figures are rather limited in what they can do, but little touches such as the lines on Venkman’s face and Egon’s hair do a solid job of giving these figures some character. I would have preferred to see Lego attempt a receding hairline on Pete, and Winston looks more like Billy Dee Williams than Ernie Hudson, but oh well. Their proton packs are a combination of several Lego pieces and have to be assembled. The end result looks pretty good and Lego’s approach proved accurate. The trap, on the other hand, is just so-so but clearly Lego didn’t want to spend extra cash on creating a unique piece of plastic for one lone set. There’s also a build-able stand to display the figures which is a nice touch considering the majority of those who purchase this will likely be adult collectors.

The fab four ready for some bustin'!

The fab four ready for some bustin’!

When it comes to the actual vehicle in the set, Lego surprises with numerous unique pieces. This means no stickers, which is always a welcomed trait for a Lego set. The doors for the Ecto-1 all have printed Ghostbuster logos on them and even the license plates are sticker-free. The general shape of the Ecto-1 is captured quite well, and the mass of junk on top seems accurate enough. There’s a hose piece that’s a little odd, but it was on the original so it’s here as well! There’s really very little to nitpick here as even the rear wheels are covered by the frame of the vehicle. The only real issue with the car is the scale. It’s slightly under scale to the figures and can only hold three figures, seated single file, at a time. Since most are likely to display the characters on their stand, this isn’t that big of an issue and probably the right move. A vehicle that could actually hold all four figures may have ended up being out of scale for the opposite reason.
All in all, this is a great little set. It will set you back around fifty bucks which is pretty much on par for similar Lego collections, though may be just a tad too pricey for impulse buyers. For those that want to see their beloved Ghostbusters in Lego form, this is damn near perfect. Hopefully Lego reconsiders and comes thru with a firehouse (that’s to scale with the Ecto-1) so I can finally replace the toy one I sold at a yard sale so long ago.


Lego Simpsons

lego-simpsons-minifigs-01When I was a kid, the coolest and most colossal Lego sets were often pirate ships or castles. These things required hours upon hours to assemble and cost a lot of money. My parents, when looking to spend money on me at Christmas or for a birthday, opted for video games or a bicycle as a “big” present, not massive Lego sets. I had a cousin who was rather fortunate when it came to gifts. He usually had all of the best stuff before anyone else, be they new Ghostbusters vehicles, gaming consoles, and so on. He also had some of these massive Lego sets but anytime I would visit his home they were always just partially assembled, as if construction was started one day and then forgotten. I always wanted to get my hands on such a set (the commercials made them seem like they contained endless amounts of fun) but the closest I ever got was a lone keep that came with a dragon. It was rather small, but I liked it plenty and got many hours of enjoyment out of it. Prior to that, I only ever had a general set of Legos. They were housed in a hard, red, plastic case and I would just build whatever. There was an included book that contained plans for numerous objects but rarely did I ever make use of it. Typically, I would build a pick-up truck or Jeep but then wouldn’t want to disassemble it to create anything else.

Among those bricks was a lone Lego mini figure. This was the 1980’s so the mini figure might have been new, or maybe not. I had other generic Legos before this collection and never had I come across a little figure before. He was rather plain: a black shirt and blue pants with a black baseball cap. I thought he was pretty cool though and started noticing these more and more in toy stores and commercials. I especially liked that I could rip him apart and even take off his head without breaking him. It seemed absurd but was a lot of fun especially when I would later get mini figures dressed as knights and armed with swords to apply a purpose for figure decapitation. Over the years the mini figure has become quite popular and in the last dozen years or so the mini figure is no longer just a generic pirate or knight, it’s Luke Skywalker or Batman. The mini figure is now sold both with sets and separately, and for a brand, having a Lego version of one of your characters is like a new rite of passage. Lego, because of its popularity, is able to strike deals amongst rivals so that consumers are able to pit Lego Superman against Lego Hulk. Lego has spread to video games, and most recently, to film. The brand has never been more popular than it is today which is why we now have The Simpsons in Lego form.

I’m not sure how the agreement started, if those behind The Simpsons reached out first to Lego or vice versa, but The Simpsons entered the Lego universe in 2014 in both television and the material world. An episode of The Simpsons aired this past May featuring the show’s many characters in a Lego setting. Interestingly, these Lego versions of the Springfield residents were more faithful to the Lego brand than the actual Lego product which arrived at retailers a couple of weeks before the episode. The Lego version of The Simpsons characters are unique, though represent a new trend not solely reserved for The Simpsons brand, in that they make use of the standard mini figure body but have unique head pieces. This creates a more aesthetically pleasing mini figure, though it does disappoint the Lego purists out there. In my hunt for these, I encountered one girl who was a Lego fan, not really a Simpsons fan, who wanted a couple of Marge figures thinking her hair would just be a Lego piece that attached to the usuall Lego head piece. She was likely disappointed to find that it wasn’t when she got home.

Nelson doing what Nelson does.

Nelson doing what Nelson does.

Lego put out sixteen figures in May, and they are a collection of usuals and some that may have surprised fans:  Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Grandpa, Ned Flanders, Milhouse, Ralph, Nelson, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Mr. Burns, Krusty, Itchy, and Scratchy. A pretty solid collection, especially when one considers Lego’s policy of no alcohol references which may have played a role in not having a Moe or Barney. Itchy and Scratchy are the sort of oddball choices given that they’re cartoon characters in the show, but few are likely to complain. Because the show’s cast is so massive, there’s going to be characters missing and it would have been impossible to satisfy fans with just one wave (I’m not aware of a planned second wave, but these seemed to sell well so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more). Wiggum could certainly use some help on the force, while Flanders is missing his boys, and what’s a Burns without a Smithers? There’s tons of characters people likely want, so hopefully if a wave two does come around Lego doesn’t waste slots on variants of Homer and Bart.

Each mini figure comes in a plastic pouch that conceals the identity of the figure inside. Retailing for about four dollars, some may be willing to give in to chance and pick them blind but anyone with some extra time and a little determination can prod at the bags and figure out who’s in each one. The head sculpts of the figures make this easy, but also the included accessories. Bart’s skateboard is pretty easy to pick out, as is Nelson’s baseball bat. The hardest ones for me were Ralph and Milhouse as both characters are the same size and their accessory is a flat square Lego piece. This meant finding the head, and being extra certain. I ended up with three Ralphs before I found a Milhouse. The accessories are pretty cool though. The piece that comes with Ralph and Milhouse is a bit overused, but they’re all printed differently and contain some classic show references such as Ralph’s “I Choo Choo Choose You” valentine and Grandpa comes with his newspaper with the headline “Old Man Yells at Cloud.” Homer comes with a unique donut piece and TV remote and Burns has a transparent Lego head piece with Blinky the fish printed on it. Maggie has Bobo the teddy bear, and Itchy and Scratchy each come with an instrument of violence. All of the figures look really good, the only one that looks off to me is Wiggum because he should be morbidly obese. Instead, he uses the same body as every other figure with no attachments to make him look fatter. Homer, since his shirt is white, has a line printed on him to mark his bulging stomach, but since Wiggum wears dark blue, the same technique doesn’t really work.

If Lego had stopped there with The Simpsons it still would have been cool, but they didn’t. Enter The Simpsons House!

IMG_0153

Consisting of over 2500 pieces, the home of The Simpsons is a large set that is a site to behold. I couldn’t resist the call

The Couch.

The Couch.

of it, even if it was excessive, and purchased my own set. The set contains bricks to construct the house and also Homer’s famous pink car complete with dents. Included with the set is another version of The Simpson family plus another Flanders. Each figure differs slightly from the stand-alone ones; Homer is dressed for work and Marge has an apron, Ned is dressed for grilling while Bart is missing his slingshot from his back pocket. Most also have half-closed eyes while Maggie has a more neutral expression compared with her other figure’s concerned look. The differences are minor, and while some may see this as a missed opportunity to get more figures, Lego pretty much had to include a set of the family in both the house set and the retail figures. Perhaps the addition of Flanders could have been re-evaluated. Lego could have just made him exclusive to the house set and put someone else in the mini figure release. The only thing I feel they really messed up on was not including Lego versions of Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II. Both pets are featured on the box as part of the family but are strangely absent from the set.

The cut-away view of the house.

The cut-away view of the house.

Lego had a somewhat difficult task of creating a three-dimensional set of an animated home. Early in the show’s life, the house didn’t seem to always have a defined layout but over the years the animators and artists have clarified this more. The first floor is pretty standard though: through the front door is a short hallway with a closet at the end and stairs on the right. To the left is the den, to the right the dining room. Up from the den is the living room which has an entryway on the top right which goes into the kitchen which wraps around to connect with the dining room. On a few occasions there’s been a bathroom on the first floor as well as a rumpus room. There’s also a basement entrance somewhere and the door to the garage. Lego, perhaps fearing the set would be much too large, chose not to really adapt the true layout of the house and attempted to just hit on the important stuff.

The other side of the cut-away. The room on top is removable.

The other side of the cut-away. The room on top is removable.

From the outside, the house looks pretty great, almost perfect. There’s the bay windows on the front, the ancient TV antennae on the roof, and even the chimney looks good. Veteran viewers will notice that while the garage is in the right place, the house doesn’t wrap around behind it like on the show. This becomes a bit of an issue when constructing the second floor as it’s pretty cramped. Aside from that though, the house looks great. Inside on the first floor there are just two rooms: the kitchen on the left and living room on the right. The living room is kind of an amalgamation of the den and living room from the show. The famous couch and TV are present (modeled after the old tube TV from the earlier seasons) from the living room, while the rug and piano are there from the den. Missing is the fireplace since the chimney is on the other side of the house and there’s no ceiling fan, as well as other things. There’s a closet of sorts tucked behind the stairs where

Marge can store her vacuum, and the sailboat picture is above the couch where it should be. Breaking from logic though, is the entryway to the garage being right in the living room with no door to separate it. This doesn’t make much sense and is kind of disappointing. Over in the kitchen, the color scheme is pretty faithful to the show between the two-toned floor and the pink and orange cabinets. The included table is kind of odd looking but more odd is the absence of a fridge. How are The Simpsons supposed to live without a refrigerator? Plus that ugly green fridge is kind of iconic, isn’t it? The kitchen is also pretty cramped, especially with the table in it, but space had to be sacrificed in order to make the living room larger.

 

A bird's eye view of Bart's room and part of Lisa's, as well as the garage. Grandpa is apparently over for a visit.

A bird’s eye view of Bart’s room and part of Lisa’s, as well as the garage. Grandpa is apparently over for a visit.

On the second floor, the biggest casualty is Maggie as she doesn’t get her own room. Instead, she gets a crib in Homer and Marge’s bedroom. Bart and Lisa’s rooms are done rather well with Bart’s shining brighter because his personality is captured well. Homer and Marge have a larger room but it’s strangely empty and doesn’t connect to the bathroom. The second floor should have two bathrooms, but there’s only one and it’s too small to even get a bathtub. The roof rests right on top of the house and garage as opposed to snapping on so that users can easily remove it to access the rooms underneath. Bart’s room and the top of the stairs also just rest on top of the second floor so it too can easily be lifted out to access the living room while the whole house can open vertically for a cut-away look at everything. The garage is roomy enough to fit the car in comfortably, and even includes numerous power tools for Homer to neglect. Outside the house is the mailbox as well as Ned’s grill. There’s also two lawn chairs and Bart has a skateboard ramp. The wife and I assembled the entire house over the course of about a week. We didn’t do construction on it daily and took our time though impatient builders could likely put this thing together in a day with some determination. The instructions were easy enough to follow and thankfully only a few stickers are involved (I assume hatred for stickers is pretty much universal amongst Lego builders).

We're all filthy perverts for looking at this.

We’re all filthy perverts for looking at this.

It’s easy to nitpick this set because it’s not all that faithful to the show and the show has been around for over twenty years. Fans of The Simpsons are intimately familiar with how the house is supposed to look so it must have been intimidating for Lego to even tackle it. Inaccuracies and all, this is a set worth investing the time in for Simpsons enthusiasts. Lego did do a good job of getting the smaller details right like Bart’s half-open desk drawer and the “Property of Ned Flanders” sticker adorning the air conditioner hanging off the house. It’s my hope that Lego does not stop here. We already have an Apu mini figure so how about a Kwik-E-Mart? And it would be a shame if The Android’s Dungeon were not created, at the very least, as a Comic Con exclusive or something (I assume Moe’s Tavern is a no-go considering the alcohol policy). Lego could easily milk this franchise for a lot more, so we’ll see what the future holds, but if this is all we get then at least it looks cool and The Simpsons have a place to sleep and watch TV.


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