When I started writing reviews for this web site, there were two lines that were dominating my toy buying budget, both from Playmates
Toys. The first was obviously the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The second was their World of Springfield Simpsons line. I
bought every figure, except for the occasional reissue that I already owned. And to this day, the line still holds a prominent
place of display in my home. And even now, almost nine years after the last of the World of Springfield toys left retail and after
more than twenty years of the show, I'm still a fan. So I should have been more excited when NECA announced last year that they would
be producing a new line of Simpsons figures. But Since I couldn't imagine that they would surpass Playmates' line, I paid it little
mind, until I walked into Toys R Us today and found the first series sitting on the shelf and saw that they were almost the same
size as the WOS figures. And to make things even better, this line is focused on guest stars, so there should be very little overlap
between this line and the figures I already have. Whoo Hoo! It looks like the World of Springfield is about to get its first
additions after almost a decade.
Packaging - 5/10From the looks of it, designing the packaging may have been a complete afterthought for NECA. The Greatest Guest figures are packaged on a traditional blister card. The packaging is smaller than average, just over five inches wide. That does help in that the figures fill up most of the space in the blister even without accessories or other pack-ins. The graphic design work is a bit strange. The cards have a large image of Homer in a tuxedo along the right side and the line's logo on the left side at the top all on an orange background. Then they added an insert in each blister with the character info. But the inserts are white with outlines of other Simpsons characters for the background and an image of the cartoon likeness of the celebrity. So they really don't match the card art at all. And this has to be the worst designed logo I have ever seen. Even now, I don't actually know what the full name of this toy line is. And even if I new how it was suppose to be read, it still is too plain to stand out as the line's logo. Things improve on the back of the card. The other five figures are pictured at the bottom while most of the card is used to describe each celebrity's appearance on the show along with a couple of images from the episode. Aside from not liking the appearance of the front of the packaging, I would also have a great deal of concern for how well these cards are going to hold up over time. The card material is some of the thinnest I have ever seen used outside of bootlegs and dollar store trash. The figures are not that heavy so as to require more support. But this is one line where you can appreciate most of what the figures have to offer without having to open them. So it would be a shame if the packaging didn't hold up over time.
Sculpting - Homer 4/10, Tom Hanks 7/10, others 6/10Sculpting a Simpsons character is not easy. They are 2D designs that don't necessarily translate well to the third dimension. But after almost a quarter of a century, there have been plenty of examples of how to do it well. So it is a bit sad that the worst figure in this first series of figures from NECA is the one that should be the easiest to get right, Homer. His head and upper torso are about one size too small to match his limbs while his stomach is two sizes too large. Most of the celebrities have similar issues to a lesser extent. James Brown's shoulders are too wide. Yao Ming's neck is too long. Hugh Hefner's face is a bit flat. And Kid Rock's legs are quite thin. But overall the likenesses are quite good. The best of the series is Tom Hanks. His head may be just a hair too large and his nose is a bit sharper than it was drawn in the movie. But otherwise it is fairly spot on.
Paint - 8/10NECA claimed on their web site that these figures would all be hand painted, and it appears that that may actually be the case. the quality of the paint work is top notch. But that paint work also has a draw back. The paint has frozen many of the joints. While I was able to free most of them without incident, there are a couple that I have not been able to break free for fear of the plastic breaking before the paint does.
Articulation - Kid Rock 2/10, others 3/10Each of these figures has Marvel Legends style articulation... Yeah RIGHT! Each figure is suppose to have four points of articulation: rotating joints at the neck, shoulders and waist. The waist articulation is pretty much pointless. And on Tom Hanks and Kid Rock, it doesn't work at all due to the sculpt. Simpsons style figures don't really need much more than those four points of articulation. If not for the issue with stuck joints, I would probably score most of the figures as a four out of five. Kid Rock fairs a bit worse than the others since the sculpt doesn't allow the hip joint to move and his hair limits the neck joint to just a few degrees of movement. Plus, he is the only figure permanently sculpted in an action pose. So he really could use some more articulation. At the very least, it would be nice if he could at least face towards his microphone to sing.
Accessories - Homer 4/10, James Brown 3/10, others 0/10Coach Homer and James Brown are the only figures in the series to have a true accessory. Homer has a removable cap and James Brown has a microphone and mic stand. Unfortunately, all of the other items that the figures are holding such as Homer's football and Yao's basketball are permanently attached to their hands. That's a shame and completely unnecessary. (Though in the case of Hefner's pipe, it may be for the best.) As for the two accessories that are included, the cap is really well made. I didn't even realize it was removable for quite a while. James Brown microphone is a nice idea. And it is nice that there is a tab on his hand to actually hold it. But the mic stand is a bit too tall. So when he does hold it, the figure has to be tilted back slightly. And he cannot hold it unless his hand is raised all the way up to his mouth because in any other position, the stand hits the figure's legs.
Value - 4/10I paid $12 each for these figures. That is a hefty price for figures with limited articulation and few to no accessories. I do appreciate that with the exception of Homer, each of these is a celebrity which means NECA likely had to deal with not only paying for the Simpsons license, but also get the approval of each celebrity as well. Add to that the fact that these are not going to be sold widely like the World of Springfield line was, and the high price is not all that surprising. But judged solely on their own merits, I don't think that these would have been worth the price. Who really needs a figure of a character that showed up for just a minute or two in a single episode of a series that has sun for 25 years? The important thing, at least to me, is how these figures fit in with the figures from Playmates' World of Springfield toy line. They are not a perfect fit. NECA's figures are a hair taller and the difference in the bold color of the hand painting verses the more muted tones of the WOS figures will set these figures apart. But they are close enough that they will blend into a crowd of Playmates' figures fairly well. And as a limited expansion of one of my favorite lines of all times, I can accept paying a bit more per figure.
Happy Hunting:I found my set of figures at Toys R Us in Madison, WI. They are also listed on Toys R Us' web site as well, though they are still listed as a preorder. I'm assuming that they will also show up in other specialty stores eventually as well. But given that NECA does not enjoy the kind of distribution that larger toy companies have, Toys R Us will likely be your best option for finding these.