The Muppets: Animal by Diamond Select

I last visited with Diamond Select’s Muppets line back in May of last year when I reviewed the entire first wave. I liked what I got, but after that, I got cold feet and assumed a watch and wait posture toward this line. There were some delays and whispered rumors that the line might not be doing well, especially in light of the unending comparisons to the Palisades line. I was nervous about tossing more money at a second wave only to see it be the last. Yeah, I know, that’s backward logic. I should have supported it, but that didn’t go so well for me with the DC Icons line. Either way, we’re now several waves in, the line seems to be going strong and I’m paying for my procrastination by having to hunt down figures like Statler and Waldorf at scalper prices. Meanwhile, let’s check out another of my favorite Muppets and drummer for Electric Mayhem… Animal!

I’m still torn on the packaging for this line. In typical Diamond Select fashion, the package is absolutely huge and absolutely not collector friendly. It makes quite a statement in terms of presentation, it has some great character art on the side panel, and it shows off everything you’re getting in the package perfectly. On the other hand, it’s crazy to see how much trash it creates after you’ve opened it and how long it takes to take off all those twisty-ties.  And if you are a MOSC collector (or retail store, for that matter), these take up a lot of space on the shelf. But these figures have been so much fun, I couldn’t imagine not opening them, so let me get a fresh garbage bag and get Animal free of his plastic and cardboard prison.

When it comes down to sculpt, DST seems to really know their way around The Muppets, and Animal here is no exception. All his crazy personality is beautifully captured here in plastic. His outfit consists of a hip and trendy red and yellow half-jacket with a pair of ragged cut pants tied at the waist. Call it Muppet Chic. The ensemble is topped off with his spiked collar and a real chain leash hanging down off it, long enough to touch the ground when he’s standing. The lanky proportions of the arms and legs are spot on, and it’s surprising how well he can stand on his own.

The coloring is really good and the quality of paint is fairly solid. His skin tone is just the right shade of orange, and while he doesn’t quite sport the same level of foam texture that the other company was able to achieve, it’s still impressive for this smaller scale. I really like the glossy finish used for his jacket that gives it a vinyl sheen. The paint application for his rope belt could have been a little cleaner, but I’m not going to make a fuss over it.

The head sculpt is definitely a winner. From the bushy eyebrows and crazy eyes to the sculpted fur that covers his face, this is undoubtedly the Animal that I know and love. The hinged jaw was a particularly nice treat, complete with painted tongue and adorable underbite. There’s a little slop of white paint around the teeth, but overall the paintwork on the portrait is respectable and clean.

The articulation in this line has had its ups and downs, depending on the shape of the individual character. Ironically, the characters with the lankier arms and legs seem to do better and so Animal feels like he has more posing options than say Fozzie Bear. The points basically consist of a passel of rotating hinges. You get them in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. There are hinges in the ankles, and the hips and neck are ball jointed. A modicum of care is recommended when posing these figures, although Animal isn’t anywhere near as delicate feeling as Kermit. Animal’s hands feature holes in the grips designed expressly for holding his drumsticks.

And that brings us to the drums! As great as Animal is, it’s the nine piece drum set that really makes this set shine. You get a bass drum, a tom tom, floor tom, snare, three cymbals, a bass pedal, and a drum throne for animal to sit on. The detail in the set is great, and I really dig the gradient yellow-orange-red deco on the drums. The bass drum also features the artwork for Dr. Teeth’s Electric Mayhem. There have been quite a few different pieces of art to grace Animal’s bass throughout the years, but I think this one was a fine choice for the set. I imagine it would be pretty easy to print off the other Electric Mayhem logos so you could swap them out on your display.

The only downside of the drum set is that the posts are rather frail and some of the pieces easily topple over. It would have been nice if DST could have used metal for the bases to help them stand, but we’re already getting quite a lot of stuff in this package, so I can understand why that might be cost prohibitive. Eventually, I’m going to just cut a piece of poster board and use blue tack to secure the pieces down.

I really dig the importance that DST is placing in the accessories and set pieces for their Muppets line, and I think Animal and his drum ensemble is a great example of this line at its best. There probably aren’t going to be a lot of times where I call out DST over Palisades when it comes to The Muppets, but honestly DST’s drum set outshines what was included with Palisade’s version even if it is done at a smaller scale.

If I was wavering a bit after the first Series of figures, Animal here has put me back on track to believing in this line. I’m absolutely delighted with the way this set came out, and as importantly, I’m thrilled to see that DST is committed to getting all of Electric Mayhem out within the next couple of waves. My dedication to collecting The Muppets has been rekindled, so don’t be surprised to see a bunch more Muppet Mayhem in the coming weeks!

The Muppets (Wave 1) by Diamond Select, Part III: Fozzie and Scooter

Alrighty, folks, here we are at the final stop in this Midweek Mini Muppet Marathon. You might even say, “we’re moving right along!” Time to open up the last figures of the first wave: Fozzie and Scooter!

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Here’s a quick look at the package. This time around we get two fully realized figures in one pack. I’ve said all I have to say, so let me just sympathize with how hard character selection for this wave must have been. With basically just four main characters, I think they did pretty well, although I’m still surprised that Ms Piggy didn’t make the cut. I was even more surprised that she didn’t make the cut for wave two. Again, here’s hoping this line has some staying power! Let’s start off with Fozzie…

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Ahhhhhhahhhh. Waka Waka! I love Fozzie Bear, he was easily my most anticipated figure in this wave, and I’m happy to say he turned out fantastic. Approaching 4-inches tall, he’s easily the biggest figure of the wave, not only in height, but also in girth. Since his costume consists entirely of his poka-dotted neckerchief (a separate piece) his bare bear body is supplied with some nice sculpted fur and a brownish-orange coat of paint. The head sculpt is as spot on as you can get. This is without a doubt the Fozzie Bear that I know and love. Apart from some scratches on his nose, the paint on the face is solid. Articulation consists of rotating hinges all around: The shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and ankles. He’s capped off with a ball jointed neck. The sculpt does restrict some range of motion and the way his hips are designed, he can’t really sit down. But why would he? He’s a stand-up comedian. Eh? Waka Waka!

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Scooter weighs in a little closer to Kermit in height, putting him around 3 1/2-inches. He’s one of the most complex designs in this wave, both because of his costume and the nature of his peepers. His eyes are appropriately part of his glasses, but there’s very little holding his glasses on. In fact, thanks to the warning from Scott’s review on the Action Figure Blues podcast, I was careful to keep the transparent rubberband that holds them on. It’s a temporary (and not ideal) thing for now, as I might get the courage to dab a little glue on them.

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Considering this is the most intricate paint job on any figures in this wave, I’d say it’s fair but not exceptional. There’s some slop to the striping on his sneakers and some of the yellow piping on the jacket could be sharper. Again, these closeup shots don’t do these figures any favors and all in all he looks good in hand. I do really dig the metallic green they used for his jacket and The Muppet Show logo on the back looks great. Scooter’s articulation again consists of rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, and neck. The hips have rotate and have lateral hinges.

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With both Fozzie and Scooter taking up most of the plastic real estate in this package, it’s understandable that the accessories are a lot smaller, but what we get here is still plenty good and fairly character specific. Fozzie comes with his hat, which is only an accessory because it’s removable. No clever magnets here like with the Palisades figures, and while it does sit on his head fairly well, I used a blob of blue tack to keep it there. You also get a rubber chicken and his Groucho Marx glasses, both of which are perfect accessories for him, but no telephone pole for the infamous Telephone Pole Bit.

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Scooter’s accessories are a little less personal. He comes with a clap board and a bullhorn. Considering Scooter was more of a stage hand most of the time, I’m not sure that these Director’s tools fit him, but I’ll go with it. Besides, they’re more of those great universe building accessories that will be nice to have as the pot grows bigger with subsequent waves.

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If I had to pick a favorite pack in this first wave, I’d probably go with this one. Besides my love of Fozzie and general fondness for Scooter, the mix of two figures and a handful of decent accessories feels right. But when you put all three releases together, then everything feels right, so I’m not going to quibble over what came in which pack. DST seems to be working well with the challenges that the different shapes and sizes of these characters offer and the accessories are diverse and fun. If I had one thing I’d like to see improved in future waves it would be a little more polish on the paint. I think this series is off to a strong start and the next wave, due out sometime this Summer, looks like it’ll be fantastic. Animal with his drums? Beaker and Professor Bunsen Honeydew? And Waldorf and Statler? Oh, yes, please. Give me some of that!

The Muppets (Wave 1) by Diamond Select, Part II: Kermit with Robin and Bean Bunny

In case you missed yesterday, I’m smack in the middle of a Muppets Trifecta as I look through the first wave of Diamond Select’s new Muppets figures. I went really long yesterday, which often happens when I introduced myself to a brand new line, so let’s jump right in and check out Kermit and friends!

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I had a lot to say about the packaging yesterday, so let’s just take a quick look and move on. It looks great and it gives you a clear look at the figures and accessories inside. The large character portrait on the side panel is nice to be able to identify who is in the package if you have them all lined up on a shelf. But, great presentation aside, it’s not at all collector friendly and takes up way too much room for my taste. It’s also really wasteful. When I was all done opening this set it was crazy how big the pile of cardboard and plastic was in relation to the actual toys that came in it. But enough said about that, let’s start off with Kermit…

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At about 3 1/2-inches tall, Kermit is just a smidgen taller than Gonzo. And like Gonzo, DST did a really nice job with this sculpt. Granted, there isn’t as much to work with here. There’s no outfit, no elaborate coloring. Just a green frog and as we all know, it ain’t easy being green. The head sculpt is spot on, with the mouth open to show the painted tongue and throat inside. The best detail for me here are the little creases that appear at the sides of his mouth that showed on the real life Muppet when he opened his mouth. There’s a little bit of slop around the eyes where the white meets the body. It stands out a bit on close up photos, but it’s not too bad when viewed with the figure in hand.

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I was really curious to see how they were going to make him work with his spindly arms and legs while still maintaining articulation and not being ridiculously fragile. As it turns out, they did a really nice job. Kermit sports rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. He also has a rotating hinge in the neck, which allows him to look up and down, where Gonzo really couldn’t. I was honestly terrified when I first got the figure out and started to work his joints. They are certainly fragile and the left hip joint on mine wouldn’t move until I gave it some prolonged gentile coaxing. I think the most amazing thing about this figure is that while the joints are tiny and some feel loose in hand, he can still stand surprisingly well on his own. Seriously, just look up there at the balance on this guy. Half the time, I didn’t even have to put any effort into it at all.

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Robin, Kermit’s nephew, measures in at only 2-inches tall. He’s a very simple figure with the only articulation being the swivels in his elbows and hips. He’s a lot tougher to stand than Kermit is, but he will stand. I’m not sure, but I might have preferred him sculpted in a seated position. That was the way he was almost always seen on the show and I think he would have made a more stable display piece that way. Still, all in all, he’s not bad.

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And that brings us to Bean Bunny. I had absolutely no idea who he was until I did a little research to discover the character premiered in 1986 and was a little after my time. I won’t hold that against him as he is a cool little guy, even if his black, soulless eyes give me the creeps. At about 2-inches tall, this is a really impressive little sculpt and features quite a lot of paintwork for such a tiny piece. He also sports an impressive about of articulation, especially considering I expected him to be a static piece like Camilla. With ball joints in the shoulders, swivels at the hips, and a head that turns, he made out a lot better than Robin. With Kermit and his two chums, this pack really feels like a better action figure value than Gonzo and Camilla… let’s see how it stacks up with the accessories…

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My guess is that DST had their doubts about Kermit’s uncanny ability to stand because a lot of what you get in this pack are things for Kermit to sit on. The largest one is the director’s chair and it’s a great piece to give him a little height if you want to display him alongside any 5 or 6-inch scale special guest star figures. Additionally, you get a little stool and a log for Kermit to plant his green ass on, especially when he feels like plucking away at a string instrument.

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And hey, speaking of instruments… you just happen to get a couple: A banjo and a guitar. These are great for any time he wants to bust out Rainbow Connection. These are fairly simple sculpts and fairly simply painted, but welcome additions nonetheless and I could see these getting passed around my Muppets figures quite a bit.

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While there were some things about the Gonzo set that left me a little cold, Kermit brings it all back home for me. This is a great set with some thoughtful accessories and combining it with Gonzo and his stuff begins to hint at how much potential this line is going to have as it continues to grow. And while I still can’t quite figure out what sort of black magic DST used to get Kermit to articulate and stand so wonderfully, I’m glad they were able to do it. He’s a fantastic little figure that gives me nothing but high hopes for The Muppets future.

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up this Trilogy with a look at Fozzie Bear and Scooter!

The Muppets (Wave 1) by Diamond Select, Part I: Grover and Camilla

“It’s The Muppet Show, with our very special guest…” Growing up hearing those words meant about 25 minutes of sheer bliss was about to be unleashed on our household. I was about seven years old when The Muppet Show was in full stride, right around 1979 and let me tell you, it was event programming in my house. It truly was great family television, because there was something for everyone. My brother and I watched it for the Muppets craziness and my parents watched it for the guest stars and musical numbers. My father would even pop popcorn. It was a magic time and produced many wonderful family memories. And while I would have killed for some actual Muppet puppets as a kid, the only Muppet toys I ever had were those little figures from Fischer-Price with the big white sticks coming out of their backs. As if to pour salt into the wound, Palisades introduced their epic line just a year or two before I got back into toy collecting and I missed out on that. When Diamond Select announced their new line, I was pretty excited and instantly sold. I’m going to be looking at all of Wave 1 over the next three days and just to warn you, today will get a little long-winded. Let’s start with Gonzo and Camilla…

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Diamond Select has been doing figures for a long time, but apart from one of their Classic Star Trek sets with Kirk and Khan, I’ve never actually bought any. Yeah, that even surprised me. I’ve come close to picking up some of their Marvel Select figures and some Universal Monsters, but never got around to pulling the trigger. As such, this packaging is a new experience to me. It certainly is impressively HUGE for what are in this case some pretty small figures. The figures and accessories come spread out in a tray under a giant bubble, allowing you to see everything you’re getting. Also… Disney? I honestly had no idea that Disney owned The Muppets now, but I guess I should have because they own everything. A folded illustrated cardboard spine offers some great pictures of Gonzo and Camilla, so you could line these up on a shelf and know exactly who is in which package. Of course, none of this amazing presentation makes much sense when you have to destroy it to get to the figures. Nothing here is collector friendly, and all of the packages seemed to be pretty rough just from being on the shelf at the store. All this plastic and cardboard seems rather wasteful for something that I’m betting most people are just going to throw out. And considering all the accessories, keeping these mint-in-package makes even less sense to me than doing it with their Marvel figures. But hey, to each their own.

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As I already mentioned, these are pretty small figures, with Gonzo measuring about 3 1/2-inches tall. If I were buying these without any foreknowledge, I probably would have been surprised when I got them. Diamond Select’s figures are usually sizable and the $21 price tag can cause sticker shock if not for all the extras in the package. Yes, I consider Camilla more of an extra than an actual figure, but more on her in a bit. Now, with all that having been said, I think the scale works for a couple of reasons. One, it does allow for more accessories, especially some of the big stuff coming in the second assortment, like Animal’s drums and Statler and Waldorf’s balcony. And who knows? Is a playset or two too much to hope for? Secondly, it will allow for bigger characters, like Sweetums, without having to break the bank. Finally, and this applies more to DST than us the consumer, it would make no sense for DST to adhere to the Palisades scale because then collectors would just be cherry-picking what Palisades didn’t get around to doing, instead of starting over. With all that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to little Gonzo.

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The sculpt here is pretty spot on, with Gonzo sporting his trademark tuxedo, complete with bow tie and flower on the lapel. Gonzo adopts many different outfits, but this is the one I would call his standard look. I couldn’t have asked for more out of the portrait, at least not in this scale. His mouth is partially open. which I suspect will be the consistent look for all the Muppets throughout this line. The eyes are on point and while the wispy hairs that protrude from the real Muppet’s head are a lot heavier handed here in plastic, they still convey the look just fine for my tastes. What’s also cool is that Gonzo’s tiny body manages to employ a good deal of articulation. Rotating hinges are the running theme here, as they appear in his shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. The hips are ball jointed, the wrists swivel, and there’s even a waist swivel buried under that tuxedo jacket. The neck is ball jointed, but really only allows for rotation, which is easily the most disappointing thing about the figure’s articulation. Yup, as far as the sculpt goes, I’m pretty happy with what we got.

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The paint on my figure is pretty solid, at least to the naked eye. Keep in mind, Gonzo is shorter than your standard Star Wars figure and closeup shots of figures this small don’t usually do the paint any favors. That having been said, my figure only has a couple of nagging issues, like a weird yellow smudge on the back of his head and the fact that the purple along his mouth could be sharper where it meets the blue fur. Yeah, I’m nitpicking, especially when I’ve heard horror stories from some other collectors about horrible paint on some of these figures. Maybe I got lucky. Bottom line: The sculpt is great, the paint is solid. I like this figure a lot and he’s pretty fun to play with.

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Camilla, as I already mentioned feels more like an accessory than a figure.  I was hoping for a little articulation here, like swivels in the feet and a rotating head, but she’s a totally static piece. The sculpt is good, and again the paint looks fine with the figure in hand. Except the eyebrows. I don’t know where they were going with that blue paint. There’s nothing really wrong with her as far as non-poseable plastic chickens go, but despite her name being on the package, she feels more like a piece of window dressing. And that brings us to… accessories!

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Gonzo comes with a rather odd mix of accessories, and by that I mean that only a few feel like they really belong to him. Now, I get the feeling this line is going to treat accessories (as much as the characters) as universe building blocks. You only need look at the packages to realize that. And as such, there’s stuff in this packet that becomes a lot more fun when you heap it all together with the others. For example, you get a coffee mug and a box of popcorn. I don’t remember Gonzo being a coffee afficiando, but that mug will look nice on Kermit’s desk while he’s working out the scheduling for the acts. And the popcorn? Well, it is a theater, so it makes sense, just not so much with Gonzo.

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Well, now we’re talking… It’s Gonzo’s horn! At the end of the opening song and dance before every episode Gonzo would pop out of the sign, blow his horn and some different unexpected hilarity would ensue. To me, no other accessory better characterizes Gonzo, so this one was a great choice. Can he hold it? Mmmm, sort of, but it’s not like it feels the figure was meant to.

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The final mixed pair of accessories are the easel and studio light. The easel comes complete with a cardboard poster showing Gonzo’s Daredevil Stunt Spectacular. This is a cool little display piece and I could see future figures coming with different posters to display with it. And then you have the studio light. A great accessory for that universe building I was talking about earlier, just not something specific to Gonzo. I could easily see DST repacking a couple more of these in with other figures and I don’t know that I would mind it that much. It’s an extremely well done piece and they will look great scattered about a shelf that is gradually being converted into The Muppet’s Theater.

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I have a confession to make… I went with Gonzo first because this pack was the least impressive one to me, so it’s going to be all up hill from here. Not to say that I don’t like this set, I do! Gonzo is the man!!! But of the three releases, it feels like this one has the least amount of value on its own. It feels like you’re really only getting one figure and some of the accessories are a little random. However, taken as a group with the entire wave and the value here goes way up and offers a hint of all the fun stuff that I’ll be amassing for my Muppets, assuming that this line does well. And that’s why I remain a little apprehensive here. On the one hand I’m crazy excited about putting together a huge collection of characters. Hell, just the idea of completing Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem is making me giddy. But for that the line has to succeed and so I’m going to be 100% all in. Which is exactly how pissed I’ll be if this line fizzles after just a few waves.

Come on back tomorrow, and we’ll check out Kermit & Co.!