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Muppet Action Figures Series 4

Boo, get off the stage!

Chad Garner (June 20, 2003) - Palisades series four is pure fun and I am including the overly dramatic, overly serious and very overly dressed Sam the Eagle in that description. All the figures make a first-rate impression proving again that each Palisades series of Muppets always leaves me waiting "patiently" for the next wave.

The new blue package produces a calming effect and provides a blank canvas for the figures to show off their wares. The only detraction I have about the new packaging is that it does not feature actual photos of the puppets. I also would like to have seen scenes from the episodes or movies on the back of the packages to show the average Joe just how dead-on Palisades captures the characters’ likenesses. With the new packaging, you will quickly notice the change to a clamshell, rather than a card back with the figure in a plastic bubble.

Before a review of each figure, let's find out more about Palisades series 4 from product developer, Ken Lilly.

Beginning with series 4, Palisades wanted to move the line from "The Muppet Show" to a more general "Muppets" so that the movies and Muppets Tonight could be integrated into each series. Tell us a little about that process.

LILLY: Basically, it is just like you said. Around the time of the San Diego show last year we acquired more in the way of licensing from Henson, so we decided that once the 25th Anniversary was over we would change over to a full-on Muppets line. Series 4 is the beginning of that. The transition occurred very smoothly, and the only thing that we had to do that was different was have Greg Leeuwen, Palisades Graphics Manager, create the packaging template that would be used from here on out. That took a bit longer as we had to go through several rounds since this was the first time we were doing it. But now it is set and the process is like it used to be.

Along with the new name, series 4 ushers in a radical change in packaging from the traditional Muppet Show red curtains to a modern aqua theme. What are your thoughts on the new packaging now that you can see it on the shelf?

LILLY: I love the new packaging. It is very vibrant and truthfully the product stands out a lot better against the background than it did on the red cards. What I will miss most are the puppet pictures in the corner. Because we are now doing characters that are much more obscure, it has been difficult to get high resolution pictures that match each other in quality. We can use the low-res on the backs of the cards in the little circles, but increasing them in size results in a bad front image. I also like the new clamshell. Anything that gives the figures better protection between the time they leave China and the time they get into the consumer hands is always a good thing. It costs a little more, but it is worth it.

"I think this is undoubtedly my favorite Kermit figure...so far. There is one for next year that will blow this one away for me."

- Ken Lilly

Beginning with series 4, more than 500 Target stores nationwide are carrying the regular figures, Mega figures and playsets. Since Toys R Us stores dropped the line as of series 2, describe what it has meant to have such a huge retailer as Target come on board a year into the line.

LILLY: From a product development perspective it doesn't change a lot for me. The product designs and production levels are still going to remain the same, although deadlines are a little tighter. But overall for the company it gets exposure for the line and gets the product in front of people who may not even know it exists.

Who was the hardest character of series four to capture and why?

LILLY: I would say Rizzo. When you are dealing with a character that is so small, a lot of design concessions have to be made in order to make a functional figure that still has many of the puppet characteristics.

Who is your most favorite from series 4? Why?

LILLY: Rizzo is my favorite because of the fact that he was the most difficult to do. The compromises between puppet-to-figure were done very well. Phil Ramirez, who sculpted Rizzo, did a phenomenal job on the sculpture so we were ahead of the game right there. Then the factory really did a phenomenal job in making sure that the key joints and details translated like they needed to for the figure. Bill Mancuso, who did the accessories, did an amazing job on the extra pieces. That was critical to the success of the SKU since he is so small and we had to add value to the package.

Who is your least favorite from series 4? What would you do different next time?

LILLY: Sam the Eagle isn't as fun to play with as the other ones. Not as posable, and that means a lot to me. It is also difficult to get him to hold stuff because of the design of his hands. He is a great looking piece, don't get me wrong, but as an action figure he is the weakest of the assortment in my opinion.

The Target exclusive Koozebane Kermit will be one of the most anticipated figures to date. What are your personal opinions on this figure, how it developed and how the final product turned out?

LILLY: Koozebane Kermit happened because of several things. First, Target wanted a really high profile Muppet in their assortment. Second, we no longer had access to any of the Series 1-2 characters because of some issues with the factory who produced the goods and so our original intent to do a repackaged Naked Kermit with Banjo and Swamp stuff was out the window. Third, the playsets were cut back to two a year and the planned Koozebane playset had been canceled.

Those three things combined resulted in us coming up with an alternative to the playset in the form of the "mini-environment" and the production of the Koozebane Kermit, which turns out to be the coolest exclusive we could have done for Target.

I think this is undoubtedly my favorite Kermit figure...so far. There is one for next year that will blow this one away for me. And I like the fact that we were able to get such a unique exclusive into Target for the opening line at the store. It is really a figure that will get people into the store and that's great. The figure itself exceeded my expectations and when you set it up on the shelf it really looks great.

Beginning later this summer, Palisades first two sets of Muppet PVC's will arrive. Of particular note to fans are the first recreations of Thog, Mahna Mahna and the Two Snowths. What challenges have the PVC line presented? What is your favorite PVC so far?

LILLY: The biggest challenge of the PVC line has been how to cheat the scale in such a way that the figures still feel like they are in scale and still make it affordable. I think the other has been in convincing people that these are worth 15 dollars a set. It's another one of those "pictures not doing them justice" kind of thing. I mean, Thog is bigger than the Kermit figure! These things are bigger than you expect and way more detailed up close than what most people think of when they think "PVC figure".

My favorite of the line is, and you are not going to believe this, Miss Piggy. It is the first time I think we have really finally captured a likeness of her that expresses an emotion that is really appropriate to the character. I like it a lot. Thog is almost right up there though...been itching to tackle the character since the line started. This PVC is really a great likeness.

Now that Ken Lilly has shared his thoughts on series 4, here are some of the highlights that you can expect from each crafted piece in this series.

Captain Link Hogthrob
Accessories: Starhog Magazine, Swinetrek Model and Ray Gun

Both Link and Julius Strangepork benefit greatly from the "flocked pig texture", a defining detail that takes them dimensions beyond both Miss Piggy figures from series 1. The “Pigs In Space” emblems on their chests is crisp and full of personality. Though different colors, the uniforms of both pigs are covered in a glittery wash. They have a 1970’s space-age sparkle to them and their silver gloves have a light wash on them that emphasizes detail.

Link's cape fits perfectly with little detraction from its elastic and plastic attachments. He also comes with a great replica of the Swinetrek complete with logo display base and a Starhog magazine featuring Link on the cover. The magazine is a great idea, but mine was a little mangled by the factory giving it that well-read look.

Dr. Julius Strangepork
Accessories: MAMMA Robot and Dissolvitron

The ears and snout of Dr. Strangepork are perfectly sculpted down to the curve of his ears. They even have made the snout wider at the end just like the puppet. The glasses are positioned so that his eyes are centered. I am amazed at the love and care Palisades puts into the hair on these action figures. Starting in series 2 with Crazy Harry and Animal and series 3 with Lew Zealand, Palisades has mastered Muppet hair with each character. Dr. Strangepork has separately attached white hair and eyebrow pieces made out of a rubbery plastic covered in a gray wash. The hair adds so much to the crazed porcine intellectual.

Dr. Strangepork comes with a space gun and a MAMMA Robot (from the Dudley Moore episode of The Muppet Show). MAMMA is as detailed as the Rabbit Robot that came with Bunsen in series 1. Not having a photo of the real MAMMA I could not initially figure out which ends of her antennas to insert in the holes on the top. The ends that are notched are too big to fit in the holes, but the end that looks like the top does fit and the red wires are not glued in so they pop out. These details do fit in with the fact that nothing on “Pigs In Space” ever worked as it was intended. The guns with both Link and Strangepork are perfect and should serve them greatly in their mostly failed efforts to subdue First Mate Piggy.

Sam the Eagle as Mr. Samuel Arrow
Accessories: Key, Bible, Treasure Map, Telescope and Hat

The first two figures from Muppet movies, Sam and Rizzo, are given the same care as the classic images of the Muppet Show characters. Sam is just as impressive as the best likeness of him to date which is Sideshow Toys series 2 bust. His eyebrows, eyes and the circles under his eyes are perfect in alignment and coloring. Every inch of him is completed with excellent paints and texturing. His attachable tail does not always stay attached, but this is very minor and forgivable because of the great detail on all of Sam's feathers.

The accessories: Bible, telescope, treasure map, key, and hat, are just as detailed as Sam. Sometimes accessories will look like they don't go with a figure because they are not as detailed. That is not the case with any of the series four accessories. Sam's Bible is hollow for the map to go inside and is textured to look like genuine Corinthian leather. Light can pass through the workable telescope. And finally, true to Muppet Treasure Island, Sam's key fits on his belt.

Rizzo the Rat
Accessories: Pizza Box, Experiment Table, Boxing Glove Apparatus, Poison Drink, Cheese, 2 Display Plates, Headset and Baseball Cap

The figure of Rizzo is great and full of the life that Steve Whitmire brings to the puppet. Though much smaller than the other action figures in the line, Rizzo is perfectly colored and complete with painted tongue and nylon whiskers. Palisades didn't have to add whiskers to make this figure of Rizzo a great likeness, but by doing so they definitely have captured all the spunky victim personality of the rat. Purple tux Gonzo in series five will perfectly compliment Rizzo. Even his little hands are articulated and his hat is removable and fits snuggly on his rat head.

Since Rizzo is a smaller figure he comes with a truckload of wonderful accessories that make the set a joy to have. My favorite is the Swedish Chef Bork Bork Pizza Box with the pizza attached to the roof of the box. The lid opens and the cheese hangs there in all its tangled glory. Don't close the box too tight or you may have to use something to carefully pry it open again.

  Rizzo the Rat Repaint in Blue Jacket (Chase Variant)
Accessories: Pizza Box, Experiment Table, Boxing Glove Apparatus, Poison Drink, Cheese, 2 Display Plates, Headset and Baseball Cap
  Mega Animal Figure
Accessories: None
 

PVC Set 1: Piggy with Towel, Gonzo with balloons and Two Snowths
Accessories: Each PVC comes with a black base

  PVC Set 2: Sam the Eagle, Mahna Mahna and Thog
Accessories: Each PVC comes with a black base
Koozebane Reporter Kermit (Target)
Accessories: Male Koozebane, Female Koozebane, Baby Koozebane, and a base with non-removable Merdlidops
  Wizard World East: Bunsen and Beaker in Tuxedoes [Collector's Club]
Accessories: None
  Wizard World East Industry Giveaway: Rizzo in Black Jacket
Accessories: None
  San Diego Comic Con: Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef with Lobster Banditos [Collector's Club]
Accessories: None
  Wizard World Chicago: Vaudeville Statler and Waldorf 2-pack [Collector's Club]
Accessories: None
 
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