Crittaz Series 1

If you're a member of the Palisades Collector's Club, then you know there's a guy over there named Punch Bunny who does 'drunken' reviews each week.  The theory is that he gets liquored up and writes a review of the latest action figures.  Last week he reviewed the first series of Crittaz figures, and reminded me once again that any attempt I make at being funny is just plain lame next to this guy's comedic genius.

That doesn't mean I won't still try, but just that I'll always be painfully aware that I'm just not that funny.  Maybe I need to start drinking again.  If you are a member of the club and haven't read his reviews, get your ass over there and check them out.  If you're not a member, than you'll simply never know what your missing, and instead will be forced to think my weak ass jokes are actually high art.  If that's not a good reason to join the club, I don't know what is.

Back to the review - Crittaz, series 1.  Originally, Palisades wanted to call these guys (and I do mean guys, since wave one doesn't consist of any female animals) Urbanimals, a nice catchy name, even if the whole 'urban' thing is getting cliche.  If I remember correctly, there ended up being some sort of conflict with that name, so they settled for Crittaz, which doesn't seem all that much like settling to me.

The general concept is pretty straight forward - if the urban jungle were really a jungle, what would the inhabitants look like?  There's six figures in this first wave - TuTusk the Elephant, Omnivorous P.I.G. the pig, Dizzle the dog, 'G' the gorilla, Kotton Suave the rabbit, and Dub the chimp.  Dub comes with another character as an accessory, Lil V the mouse.  I had assumed with a name like Lil V he was actually a vole, but no, he's a mouse.

Palisades has a pretty good site set up to explain all this, and give background on each of the characters.

Packaging - **1/2
Palisades definitely has the blues. From Muppets to Ren and Stimpy to Crittaz, it looks like the packaging artists in their 'blue' period.  The card art is fairly straight forward, with a brick wall look and a general rundown of the characters on the back.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Each of the six characters is done up hip hop style, all da shizzle. Most are pretty stereotypical, but that's to be expected.

TuTusk is the largest, although even he is pretty small. I'm sure the most talked about thing with this line will be the scale, but it allows Palisades to keep the price down around something reasonable, especially since this is an in-house property.

I love TuTusk's head sculpt, and from that perspective, he's probably my favorite. There's good detail, but not excessive, giving them a slightly cartoony appearance without being silly.

Each of the sculpts seems to have a theme, and for TuTusk it's sweat bands. This guy must have a serious problem with arm sweat.

For Omnivorous P.I.G., who has the coolest name but the weakest appearance, it's tattoos. But since those are paint apps, we'll discuss them later. His sculpt is decent, but there's something about the big arms and small head that leaves me cold.

G is into the athletic wear, with the cool Silverbacks shirt. He's throwing the goat as well, which seems to be a common hand sculpt these days. Unlike piggy, the large arm sculpt works well for G, and he falls somewhere in the middle for me.

Likewise with his little friend, Dub the chimp. He's another nice mix of urban and monkey, that seems to work well with the basic style. Chimp's buddy Vole has a slightly more Mouse Muslim thing going on, and certainly has some serious 'tude.

My two favorites in the sculpting department are the rabbit, Kotten Suave, and the bulldog, Dizzle. Both are excellent, from the poses to the expressions.

Kotten is a pimp. A rabbit that's a pimp...get it? Not only does he have the best name of the bunch, he's got the best shoes. Huggy Bear would be envious. I have no idea what Kotton's stable looks like, but one can certainly visualize...

Dizzle is the muscle, even more so than TuTusk. He's got the look of machismo and power down in his hoodie and jeans, but don't make the same mistake I did. Yes, that's a piercing in his right eye lid, and while it might be obvious in the photos, in reality it's much harder to tell. I thought it was a plastic burr at first (especially since the early photos I had seen didn't have it) and almost tore it off his face. Me thinks Dizzle wouldn't have been happy.

While Dizzle and Kotton are my favs, you're likely to find others more to your taste. That's the nice thing about a line like this - with six very different characters, there's likely to be something for everyone.

Paint - ***
Considering the scale, the paint ops are solid. There is some bleed between colors, and less than perfect definition at various borders, along with the occasional touch up spot. While the paint application is perfect all around, it's certainly average to slightly better than average for this scale and price range.

Articulation - **
Most of these figures only have neck, shoulders and waist articulation. Some of the shoulders are ball jointed, giving them more range of motion, while others have very little due to the sculpts. In general, these are designed to hold one or two poses each, and that's about it.

This isn't a terrible choice for this scale and style, and they really could have only added wrist joints and still kept the same cool sculpts. Those wrist joints could have made a world of difference in posing possibilities, but the articulation score won't have a major effect on the overall for me. 

All the characters stand great on their own too, which is critically important with limited articulation.

Accessories - Dizzle Bupkis; Dub ***; the rest **1/2
So what do you give a hood posse? Bling bling of course. Poor Dizzle loses out, being the only one of the six figures without any chains. That's not a bad thing, since they simply wouldn't go with his style, but adding in something else for him would have been nice.

Most of the rest come with one chain. Several come with a basic 'keychain' type chain, done in gold or silver. TuTusk actually has two chains, one of them a soft link. And Kotton has a larger link chain, but unfortunately, try as I might, I couldn't get it over the brim of his hat. If you figure out the secret, let me know.

And speaking of Kotton, don't go looking for the dangly that was on the chain in the prototypes - that was dropped early, as was the chain for Lil V.

Speaking of Lil V, he comes with the chimp as well, and whenever you can get another figure packed in, that's a good thing. Sure, he's really just a rodent Homie, but as an accessory to the main figure, he works great. 

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Do your kids like Homies? Then they should really like these. The quality is far better, and who can turn down a pimp daddy rabbit. Okay, so maybe Kotton wouldn't be the best present for your 10 year old don't want to get blamed for a bad career decision later in life.

Palisades is doing their best to avoid the drugs, violence and other less appealing aspects of urban chic. The intended target is the pre-teen market, but it's going to be tough to sell it to them if they never see it. These won't be available in any bricks and mortar stores, so on-line is your only bet.

Value - ***
I'm gauging the value at about seven bucks, but I have a couple suggestions where they are as cheap as $6. It's just a wild guess, but I'm betting production numbers on these are mighty low, causing the price point to be higher than you might expect.

There are a number of retailers selling exclusive versions of the figures. For example, Southern Island has an exclusive TuTusk, and Aisle Sniper has an exclusive 'G'. I've included a shot of the SI TuTusk for comparison, but Aisle Sniper hasn't gotten their G in quite yet. 

And if you're looking to be a completist, there was also an exclusive for the Wizard World party in Chicago, a repainted Dizzle.

Overall - ***
Developing a successful line in-house is a tough act. While McToys is touted for doing it successfully, even theirs are usually dependent on some sort of name recognition, like Wizard of Oz or Clive Barker. For Palisades to even give it a shot is well worth it, although the timing might be their biggest problem.

With the retail picture so bleak, it's going to be tough to sell these little guys no matter how cool they are. If kids, the intended audience, never know they exist, they could wither and die prematurely.

I like them quite a bit, although they might not be perfect. Kotton is my favorite, although both Dizzle and TuTusk have their high points. With six different animals so far, you're sure to find one that piques your interest.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - Dizzle Bupkis; Dub ***; the rest **1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall - ***

Where to Buy - 
No bricks and mortar stores picked these up, so your best bet is on-line:

- Aisle Sniper has an exclusive version of "G" available at their site for $9.

- Southern Island has their exclusive TuTusk for $10, or the whole set of series 1 for $40.

- Killer Toys has a great price on the figures, with the singles selling for just $6 each, or the full set of six for just $32.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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