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Muppet Action Figures Series 5

Boo, get off the stage!

Quinn Rollins (September 27, 2003) - For those of us who have been collecting Palisades Toys' Muppet action figures since the beginning, series 5 is a milestone.

With Janice making her appearance, it completes the Electric Mayhem. Series 5 gives us a Gonzo/Camilla two-pack that we’ve been anticipating since the line was launched. It's our first “new” character from Muppets Tonight in Pepe, and continues Palisades inclusion of obscure characters with the Muppet Newsman. Each figure surpasses the quality of earlier waves, and this is my favorite series to date. This isn’t to say series 5 is perfect. There are a few issues that take these outstanding figures down a notch. More on that later.

Before a review of each figure, let's find out more about Palisades series 5 from product developer, Ken Lilly.

Purple Tux Gonzo had a particularly unique development process. Tell us how he went from the series 2 stunt figure with cape to the finished series 5 figure we have today.

LILLY: I was never very happy with Daredevil Gonzo. Really in every way I disliked it. Body type, shape, and especially the head sculpt and the paint. Basically, when we decided to move forward on a new Gonzo, there were two major things to be fought for...color and head sculpt.

James Carroll loves Gonzo. And he is a talented PhotoShop artist. This was the first time that he had sent me a sculpt with a lot of re-worked stuff on it and I liked it so much that not only did we change the head sculpt 100% but from this point on he does the same type of thing to most of the Muppet likenesses.

After that, it was a matter of getting the paint corrected. We are almost there, but not quite. We were able to get the Henson Company to agree to a new nose color rather than the traditional blue you see in merchandising, but the factory did not interpret the paints as well as hoped. It's complex.

My hope is that the Black Tux Gonzo will have the color I have been hoping for.

Given Janice's extremely slim build did she present any unique challenges especially considering articulation and height? Are you satisfied with the completed Janice repaint figure?

LILLY: Certainly we had to limit the articulation, because not only does she have thin limbs but she also has EXPOSED thin limbs. So that was a challenge. She's posable, but much more static than some of the others. The height is still in debate. Some think she is too tall. She may be, but I have reference that supports her height and refutes that argument.

I'm not satisfied with it. Why? Well, the sculpt is over a year and a half old. She got bumped around so much that she is still in the "old school" look that I think we started to come out of in S3 and fully made it out of in S4. I would re-do her a lot if we did her over again.

Who is your most favorite from series 5? Why?

LILLY: The Newsman is my favorite. I am just still so thrilled that we even MADE a Newsman figure. I always loved the bits on the show and never would have dreamed we would make one.

It's those kinds of figures, the obscure characters that I really get into.

Who is your least favorite from series 5? What would you do different next time?

LILLY: Pepe was my favorite in the prototype stage, but for some reason the factory really did a less than expected job on the interpretation. Vacation Pepe is a much better figure in that respect. I also do not like the likeness as much as I hoped. It didn't capture the essence as much as I wanted.

Palisades recently announced plans for a Mega Gonzo figure in early 2004 based off the series 5 figure. What enhancements do you have in-store for the Mega Gonzo?

LILLY: The paint will be a big change. More room to do more subtle things on the nose. The flower on the lapel was resculpted. At this scale it needed to be a little more realistic. Other than that it is virtually the same as the smaller figure. We separated the nose and eyes in production so this guy will have ZERO white eye bleed...I just hate that, but it is nearly impossible to avoid in spray masking. At this size we could separate the parts and paint the whites first and then insert them, thus avoiding any paint bleeding.

Now that Ken Lilly has shared his thoughts on series 5, here are some of the highlights that you can expect from each piece in this series.

Gonzo in Purple Tux and Camilla
Accessories: Bugle, Bouquet of Flowers and Box of Candy

Beginning with my favorite of the series, here is Purple Tux Gonzo with Camilla. We’ve already had one Gonzo as a part of the line of action figures, way back in series 2. That was Daredevil Gonzo, dressed in spandex, a cape, and accompanied by a cannon to launch him. At the time, I really liked him. Now that Purple Tux new-and-improved Gonzo has come home, Daredevil Gonzo looks like a caricature. This is the Gonzo I’ve been waiting for. This Gonzo truly is “Great.” He’s dressed in his trademark purple tuxedo he wore so often on The Muppet Show. By dressing him in this outfit and bulking the figure up a bit, Palisades was able to work more articulation into him. He moves at neck, waist, hips, knees, shoulders, biceps, elbows and wrists, meaning he can get into just about any position his freaky little heart desires.

The real highlight of Gonzo isn’t his tux or how he moves, but the likeness of the figure. Most Gonzo merchandise just paints his nose and face sky blue, even though the puppet has a gradation of colors from pink to purple and yellow and blue…sort of a nicely bruised color. Considering all he goes through, this color is fitting for Gonzo. Palisades recruited some help on this figure to get his likeness just right—and everything from the coloring to the angles of the nose to the eyes and his little sprig of hair is just perfect. It’s as if Palisades threw a full-sized Gonzo into the dryer and shrunk him down to a four-inch figure, and now that figure is on my shelf. This Gonzo is perfect… with one caveat. Evidently there were some paint “issues” at the factory in China, and while most of the Gonzos out there are outstanding, there are some out there that have splotches on the face, eyes, or jacket...so when you’re picking him up, take an extra minute to make sure you’ve got a good one.

Palisades has also finally given us something that Muppet fans have been clamoring for since the line was announced: a Muppet chicken! And not just any chicken, but Gonzo’s sweetheart Camilla. She’s a full-on action figure in her own right, with moveable head and feet. She looks great, and I was impressed by the details of the individual feathers and the softer plastic used on her wattle. Some people have reported problems with Camilla’s feet, and even though the feet on my Camilla figures are a bit askew, if you’re not trying to have her feet facing straight ahead, it’s not an issue. She looks more natural than many action figures. Gonzo also comes with the horn he blew at the beginning of every Muppet Show, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and an action figure stand.

If there’s an example of Palisades’ dedication to their Muppets line, this is it. Most companies would have been fine with the first version of Gonzo and re-used that head sculpt for other Gonzo figures. Palisades really went to bat for the fans and the character to make sure he got done right. It shows.

Janice
Accessories: Guitar, Hat, Tambourine and Amplifier

Janice is a figure that I feared wouldn’t be made—back when the line launched, and Dr. Teeth was part of the first assortment, my first thought was “he’s too obscure, this is terrible—we’ll never get all five members of the Electric Mayhem!” Over a year later, I have all five band members jamming on the toy shelf, and Janice looks great with her friends.

Janice is MUCH taller than I expected her to be. Janice has always been very lanky of course, but the way the Muppet sizes are “cheated” by the performers, Janice has been around the same height as the other Muppets. She towers over Kermit and Gonzo, and with her platform shoes on is even a little taller than her boyfriend Floyd. He doesn’t mind.

Janice is a great figure. She’s wearing her “classic” Muppet Show outfit, which means a pink tanktop, denim miniskirt, platform shoes, bracelets, and her blonde “spaghetti” hair parted down the center. NO SIDE PONYTAIL! She’s got a removable hat molded of soft plastic that completes her look, but she looks great with or without it. I’ve heard complaints about Janice’s likeness, but I think she’s dead-on. The eyelids, the lips, teeth, chin—they even sculpted a tiny little uvula in the back of her mouth; a minor detail, but one that’s essential for the character.

She comes with a white left-handed guitar, an amp (bigger than Floyd’s), and a working tambourine. Working? Yes. The little metal discs inside the tambourine are free and jingle when you shake it. It’s a wonderful unexpected detail that adds to the realism of the accessories. Her guitar is missing the stiff wire that connected Floyd’s bass guitar to his amp, which is fine with me since I busted Floyd’s a long time ago to give him more freedom of movement. Her guitar is also missing the shoulder strap, which is more problematic from a musician’s standpoint, but she holds the guitar so well that it doesn’t bother me any.

There’s also a Janice repaint figure, wearing a silver tanktop and with different-colored accessories, completing the Electric Mayhem Repaint Band. Hopefully someday we’ll see additional Janice figures like a Nurse Janice to hang out with Dr. Bob at Veterinarian’s Hospital.

Pepe
Accessories: Deck Chair, Umbrella, Flip-flops, Hairdryer and Lunchbox

The Pepe action figure is small—aside from Rizzo and Camilla, he’s the smallest figure in the line. But he’s not quite small enough—the top of his head is about to Kermit’s collar, making him a “cheated” scale. I don’t have a problem with this, since making him larger means more articulation. Compared with other figures of similar size, it’s a great achievement that Palisades was able to work jointed shoulders, elbows, and wrists into all four of Pepe’s arms. His neck and waist swivel, and his hips move so he can sit quite easily.

There are a few issues with Pepe that make him look not as puppet-accurate as some of the other figures in the same line. The Pepe puppet has fine ostrich plume hair and two very fine, long antennae. Palisades has been able to approximate that look with soft PVC plastic, but the effect isn’t quite as realistic as what they’ve achieved for other figures. Not the fault of the company, certainly, but the reality of mass-producing a four-inch plastic toy. The other issue is one that the company has more control over, and that’s the painting of Pepe’s eyes. The pupils on some of the Pepe figures out there are way too small—it looks like Pepe just saw a camera flash go off. It’s not something that keeps me up at night, but when our expectations have been raised so high by the great Palisades standards, we find things to nitpick.

Like the Rizzo figure from the previous series, Pepe makes up for his small stature by bringing along a lot of accessories: he’s got a folding beach chair and attachable umbrella—both include fabric and actually fold up when not in use. He’s also got a pair of binoculars, a Pepe “Muppets Tonight” lunchbox that opens (no thermos, sorry) and a hair dryer. Instead of his hands closing on the accessories, he’s got holes in his two upper hands so he can hold the hair dryer and binoculars by inserting their pegs into his hands. These accessories put this already great figure over the top, and fit the character of the little guy. I wasn’t that excited for the Pepe figure, but after seeing him in person, I can’t wait to get my mitts on Vacation Pepe, an exclusive coming soon from ToyFare and Sam Goody. And if we get a Tutu Pepe and Tuxedo Pepe, I’ll get those too. Can’t get enough of that seafood.

Muppet Newsman
Accessories: Desk, Backdrop, Phone and Glasses

The fourth figure in series 5 is the Muppet Newsman. Continuing in that grandly obscure tradition that brought us Crazy Harry and Lew Zealand, I’m finding that even though these characters aren’t headliners, they’re quickly becoming my favorites in the line. I never thought there would be any Muppet Newsman merchandise, and now here he is, just waiting for a bomb to drop. Crazy Harry will take care of that.

The first thing you notice about the Muppet Newsman is the legs. He’s got two of them. Like many Muppets and many news anchors, I never really thought about the Muppet Newsman having legs. They are disproportionately small, ensuring he’ll be at his desk job forever, and never get that Hawaiian Tropic contract he’s been dreaming about all these years. After you get over his legs, you’ll notice how amazing his likeness is. He’s packaged with his glasses off, even though I think he wore his glasses in every appearance after the first season of The Muppet Show. I remember him with his glasses, so I keep them on, but it’s nice that they’re removable. His face is a perfect likeness to the puppet, with his bags under his eyes, his newscaster hair, and his triangular patrician nose.

His brown plaid suit coat is unapologetically 70’s, with his broad tie completing the look; the body of the suit is a softer plastic than the rest of the figure, much like the softer plastic of Pepe’s hoodie, Janice’s skirt, and Gonzo’s jacket. His accessories are massive, just short of a playset themselves. The wood grain desk has many layers of texturing and paint applications to look like real wood; more minor details, but so much better than what other action figure lines produce. Along with the desk are a red telephone (for those incoming bulletins) with removable receiver and a soft coiled cord, and a backdrop to complement the desk. The backdrop has four “monitor” spots, to be filled by your choice of eight stickers. The stickers include photos of the Muppet action figures, and fans have complained about this and the quality of the printing on the stickers. I agree that they’re a bit cheesy, but I like Beaker’s weather report. I haven’t applied any of the stickers at all yet—I don’t know if I will. The stickers are the only weak part of the figure and accessories.

Editor's Note: Muppet Central's Graphic Designer James Carroll has put together an alternate set of Newsman screens to use with your newsdesk. Click here to download these hi-res screens that you can print on your computer.

Series 5 is a culmination of many things in my eyes—it completes the Electric Mayhem, it gives us the iconic version of Gonzo and Camilla, and breathes new life into the line by including both new and obscure characters. It’s my favorite of the first five series, and will undoubtedly be seen as a high point for this line of figures.

 
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