The Year Without Santa Claus


First it was The Island of Misfit Toys.  Then, Peter Cottontail.  Just a few weeks ago, it was The Great Pumpkin.  Now the latest holiday cartoon of our youth to be immortalized in plastic is The Year Without Santa Claus.

The license itself is owned by the Musicland Group, the owners of Musicland, Sam Goody, Media Play, Suncoast and On Cue stores.  They shopped around a bit, and selected Palisades Toys to produce these cool action figures.

There are six full sized figures in the line, with two variants and a few of little buggers thrown in for good measure.  There's Santa and Mrs. Claus of course, and the two main character, the Heat and Snow Misers.  There's also Jingle and Jangle, two of Santa's elves.

The two variations are a clear blue version of Snow Miser, and a clear red version of the Heat Miser.  These only come in the three pack sets, and they are only one per case (one for every six three packs).  The figures also come carded in two packs, and it is isn't obvious from the fact that Musicland owns the license, these are exclusive to the Musicland family of stores.

Packaging - ***1/2
I'm grading these on the three packs, rather than the carded sets.  The three packs are a terrific way to pick them up, collector friendly, and easier to store if necessary than carded figures.  The graphics and text are decent, but the real value here is in the simple fact that it's a nice box, rather than a nasty card.

Sculpting - ****
Palisades does some beautiful work, there's no doubt about it.  All six figures look just like the source material, and even though the cartoon doesn't allow for a ton of detail, they found ways to get it in.  

Along with the detail, Palisades has done a marvelous job capturing the perfect facial expressions for the characters.  My personal favorite is the Heat Miser, but the whole gang look like they just stepped off the screen.

Mrs. Claus shows just how good the detail can be even on a fairly basic character.  The detail on her hair and the lace of her apron is excellent, although she's really quite a simple looking character on the show.

Paint - ****
Another area that Palisades seems to have down to a science is their paint ops.  There's lots of places here where errors would have been easy - the face tone of Heat Miser could have been inconsistent or lumpy, the red of his nose could have bled, the blush on Santa, Jingle or Jangle could have been over done - but there's not a single problem on a single figure in the bunch.

I'm very impressed by how clean all the lines are, even the stripes on Santa's pants.  This is the way you do a terrific paint application.

I did have my concerns about the sparkles on Heat Miser.  I was afraid they might come off on your hands, but there was no reason to fear.  It feels like they applied a top coat over them, making them pretty permanent.

Articulation - ***
There's quite a bit to go around, although all of it doesn't work quite as well as I'd hoped.

The Snow Miser has neck, shoulders, cut elbows, wrists, thighs and ankles.  With that many points, I was a little disappointed in the trouble I had getting him into a reliable standing position.  Still, I found lots of great arm and hand poses were possible.

The Heat Miser has neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, thighs and ankles.  Unlike his brother, he stood just fine in several foot positions, but there were far less I could do with his arms.

Santa has neck, shoulders, waist, wrists, and one cut elbow.  Do you own the Island of Misfit Toys Hermey?  Then you've seen his cool leg joint before - his legs are split into two pieces vertically, allowing each to move independently.  It's a great idea, and works particularly well with a portly fellow like this.

The Mrs. has neck, shoulders, cut elbows, wrists, waist and ankles.  She stands extremely well in her big boots.

Jangle, the skinny elf, has neck, shoulders, wrists, mid-leg, waist, and cut elbows.  Jingle, his better half, has neck, waist, ankles, wrists, cut biceps, and the same cut crotch as Santa.

Accessories - ***1/2
There's also a ton of cool accessories for each figure, although with the boxed sets it's pretty much up to you who gets some of them.

Santa has his cane, which fits nicely in his left hand, and his hat, which fits nicely on his head.  I gave Mrs. Claus the newspaper with the headline "Santa Takes Day Off", and the basket containing Santa's red suit (all one sculpted piece).  There's also the funky North Pole phone, which could go with just about anyone.

There's a bunch of toys for Jingle and Jangle - an elephant, giraffe, and zebra - plus an already wrapped package.  Again, it's one sculpted piece.

Both the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser come with a couple miniture henchmen.  They are basic PVC's, but well sculpted and nicely painted.  The only problem I had was getting the one Heat Miser henchmen to stand - his foot position is sculpted in an odd stance.

The Heat Miser also has a 'icicle' cane.  That's a great quantity of accessories for the usual action figure, and Palisades has gone out of their way to put as much value into these as possible.

Quality - ****
I add this category whenever I find a figure of either terrible overall terrible quality or exceptional quality.  I'm happy to say this time it's the latter.

The figures are heavy, well made and sturdy.  The joints were a little tight at first (you may have to use the freezer trick) but once they're loosened up they worked great.

Palisades went the extra mile as well on places like the watch chains for Santa and Jingle, both of which are real metal.  Those types of little touches sets the line apart.

Value - ***1/2
I haven't seen the two packs at the local store yet, but the three pack sets are $20.  That's slightly more than $6.50 each, which is a nice solid value.  You're getting a ton of accessories, plus great sculpting and decent articulation.  Add to that the fact that they are an exclusive, which could have easily driven the price up further, and it's an even better value.

Overall - ***1/2
These are some very sweet figures, and if you're a fan of the show you'll want to pick them up pronto.  You won't be disappointed, but I do wish they had been in scale with the Playing Mantis figures.  I know, that's a pretty unreasonable hope, but they would have looked a lot nicer next to each other on the shelf.

Still, with some fantastic paint ops, excellent sculpting, and wonderful accessories, these are one of the best cartoon lines this year. 

Where to Buy - 
The Musicland stores is the place to be - Musicland, Sam Goody, Suncoast and On-cue.  Expect to pay about $20 for the three packs.  You can also find them on-line at the Suncoast or Media Play sites.

Suncoast has the Heat Miser 3 pack, and the Snow Miser 3 pack for the same twenty bucks as the store, although shipping is going to cost you more than tax would.  They also have bobble heads, snowglobes, ornaments, beanies - they're going all out with this license.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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