Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Muppets Action Figures

Date Published: 2016-10-12
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Palisades Muppets Pigs in Space play set

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Tonight I'm back to picking my Top Ten from a very specific line of action figures, and it's one of the greatest action figure lines of all time: the Muppets by Palisades. Yes, I know other companies have done Muppets figures before and after Palisades, but this series of nine waves, several play sets, and innumerable exclusives and variants is the one and only for most fans.

I think the love this line garnered was the result of the perfect storm of plastic goodness. They started with an adorable, cute license, oozing with nostalgic love. They created terrific sculpts in the perfect scale. They found a way to add useful articulation, and they included a great quantity of character and show specific accessories. It wasn't all perfect (they created a disproportionate number of variants, exclusives, and limited editions), but it was about as close as you can get without bursting into a ball of pure light.

I'll mention this more than once below, but my list tends to involve my favorite characters, and I suspect yours will too, creating a potential for very different selections from every fan.

Here we go!

10 - Johnny Fiama
Pretty much every list has at least one 'huh?' selection, and Johnny is mine here. I'm not a huge fan of the character. I found it annoying that they did multiple paint variations of him. And at the time, I don't recall being any more excited about his release than any other C list Muppet the line provided. And yet, here he is.

Over time, he grew on me, and that's due to a combination of really useful articulation and a fantastic expression. There's something about that tilted eyebrow, that open mouth, those half lidded eyes, that just screams "MUPPET" to me. He wasn't a favorite to start, but he managed to croon his way into my heart over time.

Palisades Muppets Johnny Fiama action figure

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9 - Super Beaker
While I might have some odd balls on my lists at times, they have generally all been figures that have gotten very high marks from me on their original reviews. Makes sense, doesn't it? But not this time. Poor Super Beaker, another of the special exclusives in the line, was NOT well scored. Not at all. And yet, here he is squeaking into the list all these years later. 

Originally I hated the wobbly legs and tacky paint - tacky feeling, not looking. Eventually the paint hardened, and while the legs are still wobbly, the sheer coolness factor of the funky costume has won me over. I like the quirky and odd, and it doesn't get much more quirky and odd than this.

Palisades Muppets Super Beaker action figure

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8 - Pepe
One of the really nice things about the Muppets series is that there were NO bad figures. Every character was given the treatment they deserved, so rather than a list where the 'best' figures are highlighted, a Top Ten Palisades Muppets list tends to merely highlight your favorite characters.

That's the case with this pick. I love Pepe. He's a hilarious character, and has been well written every time he's been featured.  He was a key part of the newest Muppet show, a show that was ended far too soon. While Palisades tended to overdo it with him, producing quite a few variants, he was still a great representation of a favorite Muppet.

Palisades Muppets Pepe action figure

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7 - Kermit & Miss Piggy Wedding Set - Wedding of the Century
There was a ton of heart and love in the Muppets series, which was a huge contributing factor in its success. The product manager was Ken Lilly, and Palisades, the Henson Company, and Muppet fans have him to thank for the overall quality of the entire run. While Muppet fans might not have always realized it at the time, Palisades and Henson certainly did. When Ken got married, Henson agreed to allow Palisades to produce 300 special action figure sets of Kermit and Miss Piggy as bride and groom. These were given away as party favors at the reception, and this pair remains a Holy Grail for many collectors.

Palisades Muppets Wedding Kermit Miss Piggy action figures

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6 - Uncle Deadly
Remember what I said about Pepe being a favorite of mine? Another is Uncle Deadly, a weird looking, creepy Muppet that could give a kid nightmares in the right situation.  He was a difficult design to get right, but Palisades did a fantastic job, and every variant was actually quite nice. 

Palisades Muppets Uncle Deadly action figure

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5 - Rizzo
If you haven't noticed a pattern of favorites yet, you should by now. Of course Rizzo the Rat is another of my favorite characters, and his plastic representation is another of my favorite figures. Like I said, there were no bad figures in this line, so any character you loved was probably going to be a figure you loved.

Rizzo saw his fair share of variants as well - the small size made him all the more cost effective to use as a repainted giveaway or special exclusive - but the main releases has some of the best accessories in the overall series. And that's saying a lot, because great accessories was another hallmark of the line.

Palisades Muppets Rizzo action figure

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4 - Statler and Waldorf 
Some of the best characters on the shows and in the movies were the ones with the smallest amount of screen time.  Statler and Waldorf, the curmudgeonly old hecklers, were never heavily used, but found a place in my heart nonetheless. Palisades captured them perfectly, and while it's a bit of a cheat to put both on here as one pick (unlike the two other choices on this list that are 'pairs', the standard S&W were sold individually), I can't imagine having one without the other.

Palisades Muppets Statler and Waldorf action figures

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3 - Rainbow Connection Kermit
Tragedy struck the Perry family when their 4 year old son, Cooper, died from complications due to meningitis. The Perry's were close friends with Michael Horn, the CEO and President of Palisades Toys. He created a foundation to raise funds to aid research into brain trauma caused by meningitis, and Palisades created a special set of Kermit and Robin to aid this foundation. All proceeds from the sale of this set went to the Cooper Perry fund, and this set was the last figures produced in the overall series.

One of the aspects of the series that made it so great was the obvious love, devotion, and dedication that the people involved had with the Muppets, with each other, and with their customers. This set best epitomizes everything physical and emotional that was great about this series.

Palisades Rainbow Connection Kermit action figure

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2 - Sweetums
While the Muppets started out in 1955, it wasn't until 1969 and their appearance on Sesame Street that they really took off into the cultural phenomenon they are today. But in 1969 I was eight years old, too old for a 'baby' show like Sesame Street, and I paid little attention.  In 1971, that changed with the airing of "The Frog Prince" narrated by the beloved Kermit and starring Robin. There wasn't really anything all that exciting about the show, although the writing and dialog was certainly entertaining to a ten year old like me.  But it was the big ogre Sweetums that hooked me, and pulled me into to a life long love of the Muppets overall.

Seems pretty obvious then that the excellent Sweetums release by Palisades would be extremely high on my list.  This guy was pretty expensive when he first shipped, and an exclusive as well, which means a lot of collectors skipped him.  Here's the shock - he goes for just slightly over original retail even today. If you're a fan, I highly recommend picking him up.

Palisades Muppets Sweetums action figure

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1 - Adventure Kermit
Number one was a really easy choice. Adventure Kermit combines two of my favorite licenses, and does it in a creative, appealing way. Like all great 'favorites', I loved it the first time I saw it, and I love it every time I look at it now all these years later. While it might not be 'canon', or even apropos of anything, it remains my favorite release of one of my all time favorite lines.

Muppets Adventure Kermit action figure

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In Closing...
Going through this exercise reminded me of what makes a specific line of collectibles stand out from the historical crowd - how much the company producing it cares about the license. When a company puts people in charge of a license that truly love that license, great things happen.

So what's your list look like?

If you're enjoying this concept of Captain Toy Picks, drop me a line and let me know!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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