Simpsons Treehouse of Horror 4
The Collectors Lair

I've been collecting the World of Springfield since the very first figure hit the very first peg. That's 164 figures ago, 13 waves, dozens of playsets, and way more cash than I wish to consider.

The line has had its ups (playsets like Main Street, any Treehouse of Horror set, or the Kwik-E-Mart, along with figures like Stephen Hawking, Frink or Cletus), and its downs (limited articulation, inconsistent paint ops, and no one will ever forget Brad Goodman). But overall it's been one of the most successful and unique long term lines ever produced.

With all that history, it's hard to imagine that perhaps the coolest, most appealing and highest demand item could come so late in the game, but I'm betting that's the case. This year's Treehouse of Horror set is now hitting local Toys R Us stores, where it is an exclusive, and it's easily one of the finest additions to the entire line, if not the best.

This time around it's the Collector's Lair. Every collecting geek remembers this episode fondly, since every one of them sees some aspect of him or herself reflected in the character of the Collector. In this episode, the fan favorite Comic Book Guy emerges as a super villain known as the Collector. He 'collects' real celebrities - but only the kind that would be interesting to a geek. Lucy Lawless is his next target, although he only considers her as Xena. He is eventually thwarted by Bart and Lisa as their superhero alter egos, Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl. This episode parodies the foolish antics of many of the fans of the show, and of toy collectors everywhere. It's no big surprise then that any play set based on this episode will be hugely popular with that same group of fans.

The set is the first two story play set in the line, and includes four unique characters - Lucy Lawless in her Xena outfit, The Collector, Clobber Girl and Stretch Dude. You'll only find it at Toys R Us stores, although they did do pre-orders for this set at during the summer. The smart collector ordered then, but you should still have a decent chance of finding them on the shelf if you get your butt to your local store PRONTO. Ask the helpful sales people to look up SKU# 733655. It's not a cheap set at $40, but if you've bought any of the other recent TRU exclusives, it won't be a surprise. Good luck!

BTW, if you're looking for a great web site for all things World of Springfield, check out the Simpsons Collector Sector.  They're the best on the web, and my being a moderator there doesn't have anything to do with that opinion. *ahem*

Packaging - ***
The box appearance is no surprise, although there's a couple changes to the engineering.  First, there's no screws this time - whee!  Actually, most of the THOH sets may not have had screws, but since we're so used to them with the regular sets it's worth mentioning.

Second, the button can't be reached easily from the front of the package, so they've included a spiffy little green attachment that reaches the button.  You could probably use it for a stool for WOS figures if you were so inclined...

Sculpting - ****
Easily the best part of this entire set - figures and environment - is the sculpting.  Let's start with the environment itself.

There's lots of detail here, at least in terms of sculpt.  The most noticeable difference with this set is the two stories, and you're figures may get a nose bleed standing on the upper walkway.  This set is as taller than the New Year's Eve set, and actually reaches about half way up the pole on top.  The set is wider than a standard set as well!  Actual dimensions are about 11.5" tall, 8.5" wide.  That's pretty impressive, and the two stories are really two stories, not a scaled down version.

Next to notice are the various details.  On the top floor are two icons of geek culture - the robot B-9 from Lost in Space, and Gilligan (in a Simpsons form) from Gilligan's Island.  Both are three dimensional, sculpted in relief style against the back wall.  They are both trapped in their plastic prisons, just like your action figures.

On a side note, I've heard people call this robot 'Robbie'.  That's a completely different robot, one that was black, with separate legs made up of large balls, and a larger clear dome.  He actually was on Lost in Space on at least one occasion, but this robot is B-9, the robot we all loved as kids on LIS.

On the lower floor, there are two details of note.  First is the tank of bubbling liquid, reproduced here in realistic detail.  The liquid oozing out is done in soft translucent plastic, another nice touch.

But the best touch is the back wall, where Bart and Lisa have busted through.  The hole in the wall is shaped to match their heads, and is a fantastic addition to the overall appearance.

On to the characters.  Bart, Lisa, Xena and the Collector all have exceptional sculpts.  The two kids are in scale with the regular kids, and the two adults are in perfect scale with the rest of the line.  From a pure sculpt perspective, Xena is the big winner of this set though.  She has a ton of detail in her costume, something very unusual for most of the basic WOS designs.

Bart's neck and arms are made of soft rubber as well, giving him the ability to stretch!  That's extremely creative and a surprising addition to the figure.  The arms and neck feel a little thin, and you need to be careful with them.  I have a bad feeling that stretching them a little too much or a little too hard will result in lost limbs, but I really appreciate the addition of the feature anyway.

Paint - **1/2
Unfortunately, the paint application doesn't hold up as well as the sculpting.  While most of the primary colors are consistent and clean, there's enough over spray and poor definition at the borders of the colors to be annoying.  The small details are poorly painted, and in some cases a lack of any paint op hurts what could have been the finest play set in the entire series.

For example, the candle sticks on the back wall lack the kind of paint detail you'd expect.  The candles are all yellow, with no difference between the flame and the body, and the candle holder is painted the same color as the wall, blending right in.  B-9 is really just two colors, and there's no detail paint work on the large sections of the play set.  The worst of the paint offenses is Bart's hands - rather than being yellow, as you'd expect (and as we saw on the prototype), they are red just like the arms.

That's too bad, since this is really the biggest issue holding this set back from being an overall perfect job.

Articulation - **1/2
The figures all have neck, shoulders and waist, same as always.  I suppose I could give Bart some extra points here for his stretchiness, but I've already given him extra points in the sculpting category for that same reason, so it won't happen here.

Accessories - ***
There's only one accessory, very surprising for a WOS play set.  Most come with a handful, but at least the accessory makes perfect sense - it's the Collector's blaster gun - and it's obviously a new accessory.

While I'm sure the set was more expensive to produce (two stories have to be more costly than one), at this price point I would expect more than one accessory.  There was also plenty of interesting ideas in the episode that could have been used.

Talking Feature - ****
I'm happier with the talking feature on these episode specific sets, because the value lies in these particular figures and the specific lines from that episode, rather than something general.  There's plenty of lines here too, at least for these four main characters, and some are serious classics:

The Collector:
"I'm not insane - I simply wish to take you bck to my lair and make you my bride."
"Good night Wretch Dude and Slobber Girl.  Sweet Screams!"
"Behold I am the Collector, and I'm here to add you to my collection!"

"All right Collector...Stick this in your tweezers!"
"You removed it from its original packaging!"
and the trademark Xena yell.

Stretch Dude:
"What do you think I've been trying to do!"
"I must only use this power to annoy."
"Wait a minute - I can stretch!  Look at me!"

Clobber Girl:
"Bart, just le me drop and save yourself!"
"Your collecting days are over, Collector."
"Bart, with these powers we can become superheroes!"
"I don't think the real Radioactive Man wears a plastic smock with a picture of himself on it."

There's a negative in this area though.  When this set is in demo mode, as it is in the package, it only plays Bart's lines.  While this might seem to not be a big deal, there are lots of people who prefer to leave the set in demo mode even when it's opened up, so that they don't have to connect the figures to the pegs and yet get to hear all the lines.  That won't be possible with this set, and I'm sure lots of people will be disappointed.

Value - ***
Forty bucks seems to be Toys R Us idea of a good price.  It's really not as bad with this set as some of the previous non-THOH TRU exclusives, particularly since these characters are so unique and in demand.  I'd be happy to say that the figures are worth $20, and the play set is worth $15, so this set is really only about five bucks more than a perfect price point.

Overall - ***1/2
If aliens attacked and I could only save one single World of Springfield toy, it would be this play set.  For me, being the ultra-geek-collector, this set is the coolest of the cool.

However, I might be an uber-geek, but I'm not an idiot.  It is disappointing that at $40 for this set we didn't get more paint detail, cleaner paint applications, and a few more accessories.  While the part of my brain that loves the Simpsons says this is a four star set, my rational brain reminds me that there are some real issues.

Where to Buy - 
Stop staring at your computer screen, brush the cheese doodles off your shirt and get hiking to your local Toys R Us. That's the place to find them, and now is the time to do it! Oh, and don't rub your eyes with cheese doodle powder on your hands - trust me.

They have also just popped up again at, but you better hurry!  I don't expect they'll last very long on-line.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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