Family Guy Series 1
Peter, Lois, Brian, YS Stewie, PJs Stewie and Chris

Family Guy debuted on network television back in 2000.  It managed to last three years, although ratings were never particularly high.  But then came its cable debut.

Actually two things came together to transform the show into a cult hit.  First, it moved over in syndication to the Cartoon Network.  As part of their Adult Swim lineup (along with cartoons like Futurama, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law), a new audience was introduced to Peter Griffin and his family.

Not long after, the first of two DVD boxed sets were released.  The first two seasons were released together, with the second DVD set covering the third season.  Not only was there a never before aired episode, there were plenty of nifty commentaries.  Suddenly a show that was never considered a hit was all the rage with that hugely attractive demographic, 18 - 30.

With the DVD sales booming, and the show getting solid ratings on the late night CN lineup, talks started to bring the show back to FOX.  While the show is scheduled to be back in May of 2005, I wouldn't get too excited.  As part of the build up, FOX recently showed a block of old episodes - blurring out Peter's nekkid butt, and dropping some lines entirely.  

If the show that's a hit is still more than they can handle (and this is a show with no concern for the ridiculous drivel called reality TV that they spew into our homes nightly), I doubt any new episodes will retain the barbed wit of the original.

Fans were thrilled to hear that Mezco had picked up the license to do action figures though.  Hmmmm - I recall a certain good looking, witty, and yet humble toy reviewer making that very suggestion to them at SDCC a couple years ago...

The first series is now hitting stores, and includes Peter, Lois, Chris, two versions of Stewie and Brian.  Yes, there's no Meg in the first assortment, but they have to have SOMEONE in the second assortment.  They've shown Meg, along with Quagmire, S&M Peter and Lois, nekkid Peter, and a few others at recent shows.

BTW, Family Guy creator (and voice of Peter, Stewie and Brian) Seth Macfarlane has a new show coming to FOX, debuting after the Super Bowl - American Dad.

Packaging - **1/2
Mezco does some of the most attractive and creative card art around - just look at what they did with the Gangstas Inc. line.  That's not what we got this time though.  The card backs show the six characters in the main line, with some pretty basic colors and designs.  All the card backs are identical, with relatively unexciting graphics.

Sculpting - Peter ***1/2; Chris, Lois ***; Brian **1/2; YS Stewie, PJ Stewie **
We often talk about how complex it can be capturing the likeness of a real person. Seeing and then translating the nuances that make that person recognizable and unique, without caricaturizing them is an art. But we often ignore how difficult it can be to translate the overly simplistic 2 dimensional world of cartoons into the more complex 3 dimensional world of toys.

Look at a line like the World of Springfield. This is a line that all other cartoon lines aspire to emulate, with tremendous success over multiple years. And yet the sculpts were always hit and miss - sometimes, the characters look absolutely perfect in plastic form, while others looked more like a Rorschach interpretation.

Mezco decided to do this line rotocast, although the figures are not a particularly large scale. Peter is the tallest (and fattest of course) at about 6 inches, and little Stewie is just under 3 inches tall. The scale is pretty consistent with other 6" - 7" lines, so going rotocast (something more often done in 10" - 18" scales) was certainly a unique decision.

It's not unheard of though, and both the Playing Mantis Peanuts line and the Toycom South Park line went that route. As a matter of fact, while playing around these I was constantly reminded of the Peanuts line. The feel, style, and even shortcomings are very similar.

Peter has the overall best sculpt of the group. His proportions seem to be about right, or at least fairly close. Both hands are sculpted to hold various accessories and work pretty well, and there's about the right amount of detail for the style.

Chris and Lois fall slightly behind. The sculpts certainly aren't terrible, and Lois is really much better than I had expected from the pictures I'd seen. Lois has one hand sculpted to hold a couple of the accessories, but the other hand is molded flat. Chris has both his hands sculpted in his trademark head banger "throwing the goat" signal, indicating he's ready to rock on, dude.  Ozzy would be proud.  Christian parents would be shocked. Unfortunately, since his arms have no cut joints and his palms face inward, so you can never get it to look just right.  Chris does have both his earrings though, a nice but important addition.

Brian is just slightly below average. He's my favorite character on the show, and I had high hopes, but something is just not quite's one that's tough to put your finger on though. I think alot of it has to do with the mouth, which seems off to me, and clashes with the sleepy eyes. Again, only one hand is sculpted to work with accessories.

Stewie is pulling up the rear, both in his Yellow Shirt (YS) version, and in his pajamas (PJ) version. His scale to the rest of the line is good (much better than the childern to adult scale of WOS), but his own proportions are off. The head is much fatter, top to bottom, and isn't as oval as it should be. This makes the features seem smaller on his face, and throws off his appearance quite a bit.

Another problem for Stewie is his lack of a neck. I think the most recent time I discussed the problem was with the second series of South Park figures. Many cartoon characters lack necks, given large round heads that block any view you might have of their throat. Stewie is one of those characters, and on the show, his large head is drawn with his chin down lower than the front of his shirt and shoulders. That works fine in two dimensions.

But when you move to three, getting that to look right without a neck in back is pretty much impossible. You end up with two options - plop the head right on top of the shoulders and torso, or put an indent in the torso to rest the head down inside. South Park tried the latter, and Stewie goes with the former. Neither really works, and it's another reason the overall appearance doesn't translate.

I'm not particularly thrilled with the mouth sculpt on either Stewie, but the PJ version is particularly bad. Stewie, along with Peter, is one of the most expressive characters on the show, and there were some far better mouth styles to choose from.

Paint - ***
The paint ops are surprisingly clean. It's not that Mezco doesn't usually do a nice job with the paint ops, but generally cartoon lines seem to have the most issues in this department.

The overall quality is good, with very little bleed. Of course, there's not a ton of paint detail due to the style and design of the show, but the colors are clean and consistent.

There is one aspect of the paint application that I'm not sure if I like or dislike at this point. It seems to depend on the phase of the moon at the time I'm holding the figure, and I wish I could see what they looked like without the blue wash.

The blue wash I'm referring to is on Peter's white shirt, and pretty much all of Brian's white body. If you bought (or have even seen) the NECA Staypuft Marshmallow Man, you'll know what I'm talking about. They used a blue wash to bring out the detail, and add a shadowing effect, to the otherwise bright white surfaces. On the one hand, this is very good, because with bright white plastic, there's a sort of snow blindness effect that takes away much of the detail. On the other hand, it does tend to make the figures slightly dirty or dusty looking. Mezco didn't overdo the wash, but the jury is still out for me on whether it's a great idea, or merely a reasonable one.

Mezco has actually produced a number of variations on Peter, using the paint ops, again very similar to what Playing Mantis did with the Peanuts characters. Each of the Peter's has a slightly different look to the eyes, which are actually painted on the glasses. I've heard of at least five variations being reported so far, including the usual wide eyed look, and several closed lids/shifty eyed expressions.

Like Peter, both Stewies come with multiple eye expressions. I've heard of at least four versions of both Stewies, with more possible. This multiple eye thing isn't a bad idea though, as it gives the buyer - if he or she is lucky enough to find these in a bricks and mortar store - the chance to pick which expression they really like. Sure, it's a pain in the ass for the completist, but most completist collectors should be accustomed to such things by now.

I bought two sets, both on-line and blind.  I got two versions of both Peter and YS Stewie, but both of my PJ Stewies were identical.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Mezco posted a thread on this subject today, including a photo of all six heads for Peter and the YS Stewie.  PJ Stewie doesn't have eye variants.

ANOTHER UPDATE!  A reader sent along this photo, proving that yes Virginia, there are PJ Stewie eye variations as well...

Articulation - **1/2
Thinks Simpsons and you'll know what level of articulation we're talking. Neck, shoulders and waist. For poor Stewie, you can drop that to just neck and shoulders. I didn't deduct any more points for Stewie though, since at his scale I'm not sure there's really any more useful articulation you could add.

However, there are other useful points that could have been added to the others, and again the comparison to Playing Mantis is obvious. The first series of Peanuts only had neck, shoulders and waist, but by the second and third series, we saw them getting creative with the legs, and adding the all important wrists. Here, wrist joints would have gone a LONG way to improving the posing possibilities, particularly with Chris, Peter and Lois.

Accessories - PS Stewie; YS Stewie ***1/2; Peter, Chris, Lois, Brian ***
One of the best things about this series of figures - and certainly the best thing about both Stewies - are the large number of cool, show specific accessories. Mezco did a great job putting some thought into what would come with each figure, and they are clearly fans of the show.

Peter has a remote control, a lamp shade for when he's been drinking, a can of Patriot Ale, and the classic Mr. Zuchinni, the vibrating toy (and yes, there's a switch sculpted on the back) that Peter came up with that has a rather unfortunate resemblance to another, very different, kind of toy. The can and vegetable both fit in Peter's hands.

Brian has his trademark coffee cup and martini glass (with olive), both of which fit nicely in his hand. He also has a fire hydrant and newspaper, seen in more than one episode, and a copy of Doggy Style magazine. It's not what you think, being more of a style magazine for canines.

The magazine has a rather weird sticker on the back, with just three boxes. It's lack of detail is so striking, that I think they would have been better off not spending the extra money on it. His final accessory is a rolled up newspaper, and I was surprised by the lack of any detail here as well.

Chris also comes with a magazine - Playpen. We saw him get these magazines from Peter in the episode in which Peter and Lois ran against each other for school board. The sticker on the front is done in the same style that was on the show, although I don't think this exact cover was on the episode. Chris also has a box to hide his magazines under his bed, including a sticker inside showing more Playpens. Why they felt the need to include another exact version of this same magazine cover, I don't know. Also, the magazine has a sticker on the back, but this one is a little better, clearly a FG version of an alcohol ad.

Chris has more goodies, including his walkman with headphones that he's always wearing, and the evil monkey that leaves in his room. The evil monkey is a pretty hilarious, if weird, running site gag on the show, and was a great inclusion. I'm not thrilled with the sculpted position, and although the arm is articulated, he's pretty much stuck pointing in a generally downward direction, so you'll need to display him someplace above Chris.

The headphones are sculpted to fit nicely on his ears, and there's a peg on the back of the walkman with an appropriate hole in Chris' stomach to attach it. Interesting trivia - this is the second time that a Seth Green character has been made into plastic (the first was from the Austin Powers line) and has included a headphone and walkman accessory. Now if only Oz had come with one, he'd be batting three for three.

Lois has several episode specific items, including the music award, her sword, and beer bong (referred to as a 'funnel' on the package). She also has the more generic bottle of Patriot Ale, and can hold a couple of her accessories.

Both Stewies have the most show specific stuff. YS Stewie comes with his high chair (which is sculpted to allow him to stand and still look good, a nice touch), his bib (which snaps on nicely), ray gun, weather control machine that he made from a Speak and Spell, and his teddy bear Rupert, made into a hidden gun.

Those are some great choices (although with all the characters there's certainly tons of possibilities for accessories), but I do have one complaint. Rupert's head doesn't fit over the barrel of the gun, at least not for me.

PJ Stewie has a ton of cool items as well. There's his bonnet, a flashlight, a rattle, the grappling hook gun, and the mind control gun. Oh, and let's not forget his stuffed rabbit, hiding a blade inside his neck! Unlike Rupert, the head of the rabbit fits on the body perfectly.

There's a few nits to pick here as well - the bonnet doesn't fit as well as I'd hoped, and while the rattle is huge, the flashlight is quite small - but overall I'm very happy with the quantity and selection of the accessories.

Fun Factor - **
Family Guy isn't really a kid's cartoon. Oh, it's not really one that will destroy their young minds either, as many of the jokes will go past them, but it's not something most kids under the age of at least 14 or so will enjoy or appreciate. Most of the critics of this show (of which there are many) would say anyone over 14 should be unable to enjoy it.

Value - **
I'm rating these at the $12 that seems about average right now.  These are hollow rotocast, with very little articulation.  While the sculpts vary, the accessories are great, but even they aren't enough to pull the value score up.  These are $7 - $8 figures tops, and even with the current shrinking retailer market, there's no way these should be selling for more than $10 each.

I have a suggestion at the end where you can pick up the set at $10 each, and you can add another half star to this score at that price.

Overall - Peter, Brian, Chris, Lois ***; YS Stewie, PJ Stewie **1/2
I enjoy Family Guy. And yes, I also enjoy such classics as the Simpsons, Futurama, Duckman, and South Park. I understand what makes them different, and I have room to find them all funny for their own reasons. If you hate the show, for whatever reason, you obviously should just move along, because there's nothing here you want to see. But if you're a big fan of the show, these are worth checking out.

In general, the high price hurts these quite a bit. While I can see spending eight bucks for something like these, and could easily tolerate ten, the more common price seems to be $12 - $13. While that's not really Mezco's fault, and is a result of the continued shrinking of the toy retailer world, it still means that picking up the first series could cost you eighty bucks and change.

In the case of Stewie (and Brian to some minor extent), the inclusion of that wretched third dimension has proven difficult. Damn you, third dimension - damn you all to Hell!

While this first series didn't blow my socks off, I am looking forward to picking up the second series, and however many more Mezco can manage to get out. I also think they'll sell extremely well, because characters like Stewie, Brian and Peter are such hot visual properties right now, that every geek is going to want one in their cubicle.

And for any other companies looking to listen to that witty, handsome and yet humble toy reviewer, another great property to pick up right now and announce by Toy Fair is Futurama. No, the first line didn't make it, but that was because the cult fan base didn't yet exist, and MAC made some poor marketing decisions. Now that the show is in constant reruns on the Cartoon Network, and the full four seasons of the DVD's are out, (not to mention the ongoing rumors of discussions to bring the show back), the time is prime for hitting the geeks of the world with another Fry, Leela and Bender, and adding in Zoidberg and Farnsworth. What an excellent first series that would be - are you listening out there?

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - Peter ***1/2; Chris, Lois ***; Brian **1/2; YS Stewie, PJ Stewie **
Paint - ***
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - PS Stewie; YS Stewie ***1/2; Peter, Chris, Lois, Brian ***
Fun Factor - **
Value - **
Overall - Peter, Brian, Chris, Lois ***; YS Stewie, PJ Stewie **1/2

Where to Buy - 
I bought mine on-line, but some stores are starting to get them in, most notably Suncoast, Media Play and Musicland.  Tower Records stores are likely to have them as well.  On-line options:

- Qwik Sand Collectibles has the set of 6 for just $60, but are still a pre-order.

- I picked one set up through Killer Toys for $62 for the set of six, but they are going fast.  They are now out of Chris and Lois, and only have singles of the other four available for around $13 each.

- CornerStoreComics has the set of six for $65, or individuals for $11 each.

- has them for $11 each, and they are in stock.  Just search for Family Guy in the toy section.

In other Family Guy merchandise news, Entertainment Earth also has pre-orders up for Family Guy bendables from NJ Croce!  Just search for Family Guy.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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