Muppets Mini-busts Series 3
Link, Janice, Scooter and Chef

Sideshow Toy has just released the third series in their Muppet Show mini-busts. Series 1 included Bunsen, Beaker, Kermit and Rowlf, and series 2 included Sam Eagle, Gonzo, Statler and Waldorf. This latest series brings us Scooter, the Swedish Chef, Janice and Link Hogthrob. Series 4, scheduled for a late summer/early fall release, will include Zoot, Fozzie, Lew Zealand and Beauregard.

Like all Sideshow products, these busts are a limited edition, but with a fairly decent run size of 5000 each. You can still pick up any of series 1 or 2 right from the Sideshow site, and you can pre-order series 4. Busts run from $50 to $60 each depending on the size of the mini-bust. A large one like Link (about 10" tall) is $60, while a smaller one like Scooter (about 8" tall) is $50.

Pre-orders for any series past 4 are not yet up, and I'm hoping we'll see further announcements at the San Diego Comic Con later this month.  There have been prototype shots of several other characters, including Crazy Harry.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging is reminiscent of the television show, The Muppet Show. The license isn't a general Muppets one, so they went with the very specific red and gold colors. This is not a bad thing - the graphics and style of the artwork is excellent. One of the big advantages of these boxes is the window so that you can see the actual mini-bust before buying. Many other companies skip this feature, showing only pictures of the bust on the outside of their box. Being able to see the real deal before you buy is a big selling point.

One negative however is that the edition number is not printed on the outside of the box. You won't know what number you got until you open it up.

Sculpting - Janice, Chef ***1/2; Scooter, Link ***
Of the three series produced to date, this one is my least favorite. That's not to say they are terrible, but the sculpts on more than one of the figures seemed a bit off.

Janice is my favorite sculpt, and her appearance and pose are extremely well done. There's lots of detail in her hair, sweater, and jewelry, and the texturing is consistent and looks great. Her eyes, lips and overall shape of her head look exactly as I'd expect.

Chef's sculpt is also solid, and the overall positioning of the arms and facial expression work well. The eyebrows, hair and moustache are nice and wild, and there's plenty of detail in the clothing and hands. I'm particularly fond of the cleaver, although it could have been a squidge bigger.

Scooter and Link don't fair quite as well. At first glance they look good, but close examination left me a bit disappointed. Link's head sculpt is off - the eyes are too far apart, the nose and chin a bit too broad, and the hair style not quite right. Even the set of the eyebrows seems off slightly. There's a choppiness to the head, especially along either side, that makes the sculpt look rougher than some of the previous ones, and poor Link has sort of a zombiefied appearance. It's not enough to turn him into the Elephant Man, but he doesn't look quite like Link either.

Scooter's issues are a little less pronounced, but still there. The eyes and the shape of the head are good, but the hands and wrists really bothered me. The wrists are quite a bit thinner than the hands, making them more pronounced than I expected, and giving the hands a goofy look. Since they are out there in front of the body, they take a pretty predominate place visually, and my eye keeps drifting back to them, noticing them far more than I should.

Paint - Janice ***1/2; Chef, Link ***; Scooter **1/2
The paint operations on the previous seris have been top notch, so this was an area where I was slightly disappointed this time around.

Janice looks great, and follows in the tradition of the previous series'. Her colors are clean and consistent, with only a little slop around some of the smaller pieces of jewelry. Her skin tone seems a little dark to me, but I'm not enough of a Janice fan to really be able to tell if it's correct or not. You may notice that her guitar strap looks a little rough, but the slightly sloppy hand painting
here actually works with the 'hippie' theme.

Chef and Link are both decent, but have more issues than previous series. The skin ton on Link seems too pink, and the shading doesn't work quite as well on his face as you'd expect. Chef's nose is too light, blending in too closely with his skin and clothing, but both have clean paint applications, and the colors, while not perfectly on tone are at least consistent.

Scooter was the big disappointment. While the majority of the colors are consistent, and there's very little slop, his mouth is not thick enough to completely cover the underlying color. This inconsistency is pretty obvious since his mouth is open wide and takes up a large percentage of his head. Compare him to previous busts with similar mouths like Kermit, and you will see that this wasn't an issue in the past. At this price point, these types of color inconsistencies are bad news.  Had it not been for the mouth paint problems, he would have scored much better, as I really like the glossy appearance of his jacket, and the Muppet Show insignia on the back was straight and even.

Design - Chef ****; Scooter, Janice ***1/2; Link ***
The general design on all the figures is good, with special props going to Chef for the cool metallic looking cleaver. All four characters were given appropriate poses, and kept in character. Some of the designs can make it tough to stand the busts close together - both Chef and Janice (with her bass) tend to take up lots of space - but that's something I can certainly live with, and I'm happy to see the level of creativity in designing the poses.

Link gets a slightly lower score than the rest because of his lack of one arm. He's really the only character out of the 12 who hasn't had both arms (okay, so there was technically part of Sam's right wing missing), and it breaks the consistency across the series. It's not a major issue, but it is one that's worth mentioning.

Quality - ****
I'm obviously not talking about the quality of the paint, sculpt or style here, since I've already covered those topics. Instead I'm talking about the physical quality of the materials and construction itself. These busts are nice and hefty, with very few weak points. The bases are sturdy and well designed, so that it's unlikely the bust will topple over without real effort. I wouldn't drop them on a tile floor, and there are still areas you should be extra careful with, but it's unlikely that general handling will cause any problems.

Value - **1/2
Fifty to sixty bucks is a hefty chunk of change. The polystone bust market does tend high, but these are a little higher than usual. My value score was better with previous waves, but that's because the overall design and quality of the previous waves was a little higher. It might seem like I'm being overly picky, but at this kind of price point, pickiness is to be expected.

Overall - Janice ***1/2; Chef, Link, Scooter ***
While this third series isn't quite as nice as the previous two, it still is damn good. The problem is the price point - when you spend $50 or more, your expectations are certainly going to rise. It also doesn't help that series 1, and even series 2, were so well done. Having those to compare against makes it tough to compete.

Janice is my surprise favorite out of this set. I'm not a huge fan, but the sculpt, paint and design work extremely well for her. The others are well done, and certainly look good with the rest of the line, but each had minor issues here and there that kept it from a top score.

Where to Buy - 
I bought mine directly from Sideshow, where you get 15% off if you buy all four. That brings the price down to about $50 each including shipping. Other on-line options include:

- Aisle Sniper has all four, and you can buy them individually for about $5 each cheaper than the Sideshow site.  That's good if you're only looking for one or two instead of the full set.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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