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Custom figures and dioramas

Discussion in 'Action Figures' started by Dearth, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    Hi all,

    New to these forums, wanted to say howdy.

    I loved the Palisades toys, but when the line went under and I moved to a new house shortly after, I just never unboxed them.

    A couple of months ago, I lucked into a great deal on some harder-to-find figures which I'd never owned, and when I uncreated the others to put the new ones in, I rediscovered how great this line was.

    When they were on shelves, I was hesitant to create customs for fear an actual version would come out. I did make a custom Dearth Nadir figure using a Gonzo and a Darth Vader PEZ dispenser head, after an email exchange with Palisades' Mike Horn convinced me they were unable to secure the license(s), but not for lack of trying.

    But now that there's no fear of having real versions offered, I've begun making several other custom figures, like "Princess Loina", Scooter-as-Simon-Smith, Link Hogthrob as the desk sergeant from Bear on Patrol, etc.

    (I even used my customising skills to perform miniature hip replacement surgery on a broken Vaudeville Statler.)

    And of course, from custom figures it's only a short hop to creating custom environments. I've been having fun watching my DVD's of the Muppet Show with an eye toward grabbing frames and cutting and pasting empty versions of the backdrops, then printing them.

    Now my diorama is growing even larger, as I've begun fabricating a Muppet stage to go with my backstage playset. I found some perfectly-scaled hardwood flooring and vinyl brick wall pieces at Hobby Lobby, and a company called Mayberry Street makes some great little accessories...

    I bought a candelabra for Rowlf's baby grand, a potted plant to serve as Statler's African berry bush, and a brass hatrack virtually identical to the fragile plastic one that came with the Backstage playset.

    I even found a miniature cheesecake, and since Dr. Teeth's "Cheesecake Munching on a Cheesecake" song is a personal favorite of both mine and my youngest son's, that was a no-brainer.

    Luckily, I already had an upright piano, an antique dollhouse piece which I won in an auction to use for Rowlf. (To my delight, when it arrived I discovered it was also a music box that plays "The Entertainer"!)

    Anyway, I've been posting pics of all these projects on a Star Wars collecting forum's miscellaneous categories, but the reaction (though favorable) is pretty quiet. So I thought I'd share them with folks who would really appreciate them... and who better but the Muppet fans here?

  2. GonzoLover85

    GonzoLover85 Well-Known Member

    If you do have any pics.
    By all means, post em! :)

    I would love to see what you've come up with.
  3. hoopless

    hoopless Well-Known Member

    I concur. Please post pictures.

    I've only just begun collecting the palisades line (shame on me) but I'd love to see what you've done with them.
  4. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    I LOVE seeing customs of the Muppet figures that people have made! I myself am trying to work on a Stepping Out Scooter. As of right now though, my figures are boxed up as the house we moved into wasn't big enough for my toyshelves. Soon enough though, they'll be out in full glory!
  5. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    I considered a Stepping Out Scooter the other day, when I was watching the Rudolph Nureyev episode. I looked over the figures in my collection, and thought that the Movie Usher Scooter's body would work best, with a regular Scooter head.

    By the way, I learned a valuable lesson when making my "Simon Smith" Scooter.


    To make the top-hat fit on the head, I cut away the existing hair (except for two curls) and made replacement hair from Super Sculpey, then mashed the hat down on that.

    But to cure the Sculpey, I used the old reliable boiling method, which unfortunately slightly warped Scooter's glasses, giving him a vaguely wall-eyed kind of Marty Feldman appearance.

    If I ever revisit that custom, I will know to remove the glasses first, then do the work on the head, then glue the specs back on as the very last step.

  6. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    Here are some more links to pics of my Muppet customs:

    Princess Loina and Dearth Nadir (from the Mark Hamill episode)

    Sgt. Link (companion piece for the production Patrol Bear)

    custom "Kerzie the Bog" and GMC Kermit (with regular Fozzie)

    wooden replacement hip for broken Vaudeville Statler

    I'm not 100% sure I'm doing the links correctly, so I'll just do these to start with.

    Promo Parrot likes this.
  7. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    And now for some of my dioramas and backdrops...

    Kermit in the O...
    The center of the O is actually hinged, and shuts flush with a magnet.

    Poster Recreation...
    Not really a diorama, just a photo, but thought I'd throw it in for fun.

    Dr. Teeth sings "Cheesecake"...
    The upright piano is an antique that I bought for Rowlf... it's the one that plays 'The Entertainer'. Alas, it's an inch too short for Rowlf so I have to cheat it in photos with him, but it's a perfect height for Dr. Teeth. The cheesecake was found earlier this week at Hobby Lobby, I think it's made by a company called Mayberry Street.

    Rowlf at the baby grand...
    The brick wall, hardwood floor, and candelabra all came from the dollhouse section at Hobby Lobby.

    Perfect replacement hatrack for Backstage Playset...
    The hatrack accessory to the Backstage was very easy to break. Even after gluing, it lists to the side. Imagine my delight at finding this near-identical BRASS version for only $3 at Hobby Lobby.

    Statler's African Berry Bush...
    This was another impulse purchase on the dollhouse aisle. Made me think of the Valerie Harper episode subplot... but man, that little potted plant by Mayberry Street *stinks* when you take it out of the cellophane.

    A 'Culinary Catastrophe' Kitchen...
    Just a repainted Palisades playset.

    Newsman backdrop...
    I never liked the wall that came with the figure, so I captured and modified actual episode frames to create my own printed backdrop.

    Marvin Suggs' All-Food Glee Club...
    From the Steve Martin episode. The backdrop at rear is also the drop used for the UK spot 'Any Old Iron'. I still need to sculpt the ten singing foods.

    Varsity Rag (Vaudeville Statler and Waldorf)...
    Also from the Steve Martin episode. This one was fairly simple... a black felt backdrop to simulate the black background on the episode which hid the black-clad puppeteers for a rare full-body number. The miniature hardwood floor is what sells it, though.

    More to come!

  8. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    More printed backdrops using modified frame-grabs. (Thank heaven for how often the Muppet Show used a locked camera!)

    Gonzo's Tire-eating Act...
    From the first episode, I believe.

    Fozzie and Chuckie Time!
    From the Edgar Bergen episode.

    Muppet Labs: Gorilla Detector...
    I don't recall the episode, but I'm sure someone here knows it off the top of their head.

    Scene Change at the Muppet Show...
    You can see several familiar Muppet Show backdrops in this one, stacked against the rear wall. Okay, so in reality, a theatre like theirs probably would've used a fly system, but I've played plenty of local theatres converted from movie-houses which don't have adequate fly-space or wing-space, and simply shove the backdrops to the back wall.

    From the Muppet Movie...
    I rather like how that one came out. The top part of the billboard (the neck of the Pop Off soda bottle) is hinged so I can store it easier.

    From Muppets Treasure Island...
    I actually bought this Jolly Roger toy for a song off eBay to display my wife's Peter Pan collection, but it was commandeered by the Muppets on this day.

    Adventure Kermit...
    The sarcophagus came with a McFarlane Mummy set.

    Can you tell me how to get... ?
    Palisades Reporter Kermit joined by some vinyl Sesame Street figurines which I painted while my wife was expecting our first child. The backdrop is my lovingly-battered Fisher-Price SST playset from my own childhood.

    Dance your cares away...
    Fraggle Rock restaurant premiums, with a Palisades Kermit for scale. They're actually displayed in a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cave playset.

    "Dr. Kermit... my dear Dr. Janice... WELCOME to Jurasick Pork!"
    This one was inspired by finding a broken red jeep among my kids' toys. The front bumper was broken, the spare tire was missing. I threw it in the garbage, then the idea for this shot popped into my head, and I fished it back out of the trash and customized it with a hood decal modified from a calendar image as well as a hole in the floorboard for Janice's long legs to extend below the jeep. The hardest part was locating my old Jurassic Park playset for the fence sections.

    And one final pic...
    "Just for the halibut."

  9. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    hahaha That's awesome! I love it!

    Yeah I bought a Movie Theater Usher Scooter just to make the Stepping Out one. It's still in the package. Where did you get the top hat?
  10. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    It's the top hat with the peg on the bottom, from the tuxedo Kermit figure. (I am SO glad they later went over to the magnetic hat system!)

    The recipe for this custom was one that I saw years ago, maybe on the old Palisades forums? I wish I could recall whose brainchild it was, to give proper credit.

    Anyway, a couple of months ago, I bought a second-hand Backstage playset, and the seller threw in an extra Scooter and an extra Beauregard. Subsequently, while buying a couple of loose figure lots for custom fodder, I wound up with two extra Lew Zealands, and remembered the 'Simon Smith' custom I'd seen long ago.

    After enlarging the Lew neck-hole to accomodate the Scooter neck-post, the rest was just a matter of some tiny Super Sculpey additions: moustache, bowtie, and new hair to replace the original. Then the new parts were painted with acrylic paints.

  11. Fluffets

    Fluffets Well-Known Member

    It's Simon Smith and his DANCING BEAR! :) Great diorama. And interesting story you told aswell.
  12. Telly

    Telly Well-Known Member

    I absouletly LOVE your customs! Was it the Steppin Out Scooter you used in the "Simon Smith" diorama?

    Also, what size is that Muppet Show logo? That's AMAZING!
  13. Nick22

    Nick22 Well-Known Member

    all of those are AWESOME! you did a great job on those. thanks for sharing them with us! i rully enjoyed them.

    i loved the muppet movie one. it came out awesome.
  14. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    Thanks everybody for the compliments. Keep checking back, I've got some even more ambitious things planned!

    Now, to some questions:

    No, I actually used Lew Zealand from the neck down. It's almost the exact same 'ringmaster' costume, and luckily their 'skin' tone kinda matches on the hands.

    I think I saw someone use this recipe a long time ago on the old Palisades forums, but as I didn't yet own the Muppet Show episodes on DVD, it had no real appeal to me at the time.

    A repainted Movie Usher Scooter torso probably would have worked better, but I liked the long tails on Lew's red jacket and the legs with the white jodhpurs and high black boots too.

    Lew's shoulders are way too wide for Scooter, but as I already had a couple of extra Lew Zealand's lying around, I figured what the hey!

    Lew's neck hole had to be dremeled out (a verb used a lot by action figure customizers, referring to an electric or battery-operated rotary tool) to fit the bottom of Scooter's neck.

    And Lew didn't have a white bow tie like Scooter needed, so I hand-sculpted that with a product called Super Sculpey, then painted it. Same stuff I used for the moustache, hair, etc.

    It is about twenty inches wide and sixteen inches high. In other words, the size of four pieces of printer paper. It actually should have been even larger than that, and there should be a lot more artwork, but as I am planning to build a proscenium arch and red curtain to go in front of it, I had to downscale it a bit or risk making the rest of the scene way too big.

    As it was, printing it in four quarter-sections made the O just large enough to snugly fit the Kermit figure, so it seemed like a good compromise.

    The hinged 'door' of the center of the O was printed separately, slightly larger than the cutout of the O in the sign. A brass dollhouse hinge lets it swing open to the right, and I glued on two magnets dug from the heads and hats of some leftover parts from various customs. This lets the door stay shut when not in use.

    The frame, by the way, was captured from the beginning of the Elton John episode, which seemed more complete at the top of the painted flat's artwork.

  15. Fluffets

    Fluffets Well-Known Member

    I LOVED all the other customs, especially the jurassic park parody, maybe a follow-up, hogzilla maybe? Lol all awesome though, very enjoyable to view, pleasure to the eyes.:D
  16. Count von Count

    Count von Count Well-Known Member

    Those are some real nice customs! :)
  17. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

    This is another illustration of how wonderfully designed the Palisades toys were...

    After long years of wondering, I finally added tube lights and Christmas lights to my spare Swinetrek playset.


    Although I had to alter the connector end of the tube lights to thread it through the existing holes of the Swinetrek, the toy itself has not been changed in any way.

    I would like to extend the walls and floors a bit to give the playset a less cramped feel. Searching for some kind of plastic sheeting with a diamond pattern like the toy's floor has.

  18. Dearth

    Dearth Well-Known Member

  19. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

  20. Count von Count

    Count von Count Well-Known Member

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