You're an All Star, Charlie Brown!

Playing Mantis has released their third major set of Peanuts figures - You're An All Star, Charlie Brown. The previous sets were based on the Good Ole Charlie Brown, and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. And yes, there were tons and tons of figure variations in all these, but I'm counting the major themes here.

This time the kids are dressed in their baseball duds, and the set includes Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder and Snoopy. I've only seen them single carded (and the rumor is that is the only way we'll see this set) and the play set pictured on the back of the cards of Peppermint Patty, Marcie and the backstop/scoreboard has been cancelled. Too bad, as getting a whole new figure with Marcie would have really helped the line.

I found these at a local Meijers, and according to the Playing Mantis website, they are the first retailer to release it. They were a steep eight bucks each, but let's hope Target picks them up for a buck or two cheaper. Both Sally and Linus appeared to be short packs, with only one of each present.

UPDATE - Playing Mantis' official word is that the play set isn't cancelled - just delayed until 2004.  I wouldn't bet the farm on getting this one.

Also, the only retailers to pick up the All Stars at this point are Meijers and the Musicland family (probably why the play set was 'rescheduled').

Packaging - ***
Of the three cardbacks we've seen so far, I like this one the best. Maybe it's just the baseball theme, but the graphics are great. The pictures on the back of the rest of the line look good, although seeing the cancelled play set is such a tease.

The only negative is the lack of the boxed sets this time around. For those buying all the figures it was a  great way to a) save a little cash and even more importantly b) save serious space if you were keeping them boxed.

Sculpting - Snoopy ***, Others ***1/2
I complained a little (but not too much) in past reviews on the hollow plastic heads. I've gotten over that, and the figures style has really grown on me. The head sculpts, while extremely basic, capture every character perfectly.

The bodies are all sculpted in a similar style to the first series, although poor Schroeder is once again the guy with the weird body pose. Previously, he was the only one sitting, designed that way to accommodate the piano. Now he's sculpted with one knee down in his catcher's pose. With the limited articulation these have, there really wasn't any other way for them to do it though. You have to face the fact that the style of body and design from the cartoon really doesn't allow for too much fancy articulation and posing possibilities.

I bumped their sculpting score a half star this time, because they really did listen to fans. The first couple series did not allow for any of the characters to hold their many accessories in any meaningful way. That's changed this time around, and Playing Mantis deserves some credit for listening to the Peanuts fan's critiques.

Most of the figures have one basic hand that is the same as the previous sculpts. On this hand the baseball gloves fit nicely. The other hands are sculpted to hold an accessory like the bat or Linus' blanket. Sally, Schroeder and Snoopy are exceptions - both of Schroeder's hands are new sculpts, to hold the catcher's position, both of Sally's hands are sculpted to hold accessories, and neither of Snoopy's hands are new sculpts.

These newly sculpted hands really work well with only one odd exception. Chuck comes with this 'bat holding' hand, although he is the only figure to come with the baseball. As the pitcher, it makes sense that he has the ball, but not being able to hold it is a serious misstep. Oddly enough, only one player can actually use the ball - Linus, who has his blanket sculpted to hold the ball at one end in the folds.

I'm still disappointed in Snoopy though - the sculpt is the same, and is extremely basic. I suppose that's due to the character's general appearance, but he still is the weakest of the bunch.

Paint - ***
The best way to describe the paint operations on these figures careful picking yours out. I looked at the whole case, and had no trouble finding one of each character that had excellent paint applications. But I also noticed that some were weaker than others, particularly with the red and white colors. Be as picky as you can when you see them on the pegs.

One other thing I thought I'd mention here is the lack of any facial variations - yet. I suspect that we'll see plenty of different smiles, groans and squints on the faces as the new line continues to ship, just like the previous two series. But at least for the start, every character had a smile on their face.

Articulation - Snoopy ***, Others **1/2
There's not much knew here, with all the figures sporting neck, waist, shoulders and elbow cut joints. Snoopy still leads the pack with his additional funky waist joint which allows him to both sit and stand, and that's why he gets an extra half star.

Accessories - ***1/2
Once again, they did a fantastic job with sensible accessories. Every player comes with a piece of the field except for Sally, so we get 1st, 2nd, 3rd, (all are exactly alike), home plate, and the pitcher's mound. Even though the three bases are identical, it's still terrific to get the whole diamond like this, and the sculpting and paint ops on all of the field pieces is great.

Every figure, again except Sally, also comes with a baseball hat. Each one is designed to fit the unique hair and head contours of the particular figure. Every one of them fits well, although some of the brims might seem a tad large. That's due to the style of the figures though - those large melons mean large hats. Schroeder's hat fits on backwards of course, to allow for his catcher's mask to fit on over both his hat and face.

Every figure, again with the exception of poor Sally, also comes with a baseball glove. The gloves fit on the left hand of each figure, and I had no trouble getting them to fit well except on Snoopy. His hands are a bit too big to work as easily with the glove. Or maybe the hole for the hand is just too small. Either way, his was the only glove that had any issues.

Speaking of Snoopy, other than the glove, hat and base, he also comes with three birds, one with a smile and the other two with stony expressions. The sculpts on the birds - and they aren't all Woodstock, since they showed all birds on the show looking the same way - are great. They all stand fine on their own, and have hats and gloves sculpted on as well.

Along with the glove, hat, home plate, and face mask that I already mentioned, Schroeder also has his chest protector.  Everything fits on him nicely, but I wish I had someone to put up to the plate in a batting stance. One of the little yellow birds sculpted in that pose would have set the entire series up another notch.

Chuck has the hat, glove and pitcher's mound, plus the only baseball of all the figures. It's not a particularly detailed baseball, and poor Charles can't even hold it.

Lucy comes with her hat, glove and a base, along with a bat. She gets the only bat of the bunch, and although she can't really take a 'batting' stance, it does fit perfectly in her right hand.

Linus has the coolest accessory of all. Along with the hat, base and glove, he has his amazing blanket. This one is a hard plastic, sculpted to either be throwing or catching the baseball. It's all in how you want to look at it I suppose, since he could manage either with his unique blanky. The ball fits nicely into the depression designed for it.

Sally is the odd man, or odd girl, out. Since she's the cheerleader, she's in a completely different outfit and has completely different accessories than the rest of the figures. She has a red pompom, a white pompom, a bullhorn (the kind cheerleaders use) and a sign that is urging her sweet baboo on to victory. She also is the only one with both new hands sculpted to hold accessories, and you can put the horn or either pompom in her clutches.

Value - **1/2
I paid eight bucks each for these, which is probably harder to swallow after all the sales Target has had with them. Six bucks would be great, $7 tolerable, but $8 is too much. I have no idea how expensive the license was though, so I'm cutting them some slack.

Overall - ***
These are better figures than the first releases, and the improvements in the paint application and hand sculpts are big steps in the right direction. If I had paid $7, and Chuck could hold his own baseball, these would have been ***1/2 star figures.

I'm very disappointed that we're losing the Marcie play set, since that would have been such a terrific figure. Hopefully the figures will continue to do well enough to get the other series out later this year.

Where to Buy - 
I picked them up at a local Meijers. On-line:

- Entertainment Earth has a case listed for $90 plus shipping, which is about what I paid on a per figure basis. You'll have
to find someone to share with though.

- Beans Toys carried the previous sets, but I don't know if they'll have these as well.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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