Simpsons Series 14

I remember people claiming the death of the World of Springfiled line back at series 1.  Too many Bart's and Homers, too few Smithers, Toyfare mail aways, too many playsets, too many variants, too many obscure figures...I've heard just about every reason why this line was doomed.

Over 150 figures and 3 1/2 years later, the line continues cruising along.  Yes, at some point this amazing ride will end, but by the time it does, Simpsons fans will have been given one of the best action figure lines ever produced.

Series 14 continues the tradition with five new characters and one variant - Louie, Willie in a Kilt, Miss Hoover, Ms. Botz, Luigi, and the Sarcastic Man.  They are showing up at Targets and Toys R Us stores right now, and there are a number of on-line ordering option.

The play set shipping at this same time is the Aztec Theater, once cancelled but finally becoming a reality.  I haven't stumbled on it yet, but you can expect to find it at the usual suspects.

The mail away this time is the Stonecutter Moe, to go along with your Numer One and Stonecutter Homer.  At some point next year we may even see a Stonecutter Hall, similar to the Be Sharps set this summer.

Packaging - **1/2
I like the card art, especially the changing circle photos for each wave.  There's the series number in the top right, and some decent text on the back.  Nothing amazing, but adequate work with enough important visual clues to find the figures on the shelf.

Sculpting - Louie ****; Sarcastic Man, Kilted Willie ***1/2; Botz, Luigi ***; Miss Hoover **
Here's a pretty wide range of scores, and that represents the extremes of this series.  While some of them look terrific, others (particularly Miss Hoover) look far below average.

Let's talk about poor Miss Hoover for a minute.  She's joining the ranks of Database and Reverend Lovejoy at the bottom of the barrel.  She's not just my least favorite of these six - she's easily in the worst three of the entire series.

Perhaps her face is just too hard to capture in 3-D.  Perhaps, she really does stand leaning over this far, but I don't recall it.  Perhaps she's dead accurate and I'm just going blind.  But her sculpt is one of the worst they've done so far.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Louie. He is dead on, and captures the look of the character perfectly.  I love the craggy appearance of Louie's face and his stern expression.

Luigi, Sarcastic Man and Kilted Willie fall in the middle.  All three have decent sculpts, but none are perfect.  Willie is my favorite figure in the series, but he's slightly too tall compared to past Willies.  Luigi looks good at first, but the more I looked at him the more his exposed upper lip sticking out under his moustache bugged me.  And Sarcastic Man is a great obscure character, and the figure is fairly good, but the facial expression isn't quite as good as Botz and Louie.

Most of the hands are sculpted to hold accessories, although for some of them (like Sarcastic Man) I'm not sure what they are supposed to hold of their own.  Poor Hoover can't hold much of anything well, especially the large Gimme Gimme sign.

Paint - **1/2
The paint ops are disappointing here, although not every figure had a serious issue. 

There's lots of stray paint marks, spots of color in odd places, poor definition between the eye whites and the yellow face, slightly off center pupils, and bleed from one color to another.  None of the figures seem immune, but at least the white of Luigi's outfit - always a tough color to keep clean and consistent - looks good.  A tad plain, since everything is white, but well done nonetheless.

Willie has an odd sculpting detail that lacks paint - his clover tattoo on his leg. It's sculpted on the inside of his leg, odd for a tattoo, but not painted.  His overall paint ops are the best though, particularly with all the excellent detail in the skirt and bagpipe.  And yes, he's buck nekkid under that kilt! NOTE:  It's been pointed out by people far more acquainted with the Scottish culture than I that it's not a tattoo.  That's the hilt of his dagger sticking up out of the sock!

Articulation - **1/2
Neck, shoulders, waist.  See any good movies lately?

Accessories - Willie ****; the rest ***1/2
This is another varied lot.  Most of the stuff is original, but there's a little re-use.  Most of the accessories are extremely accurate to the characters though, and look great.

Louie has a re-use in his rifle, but also comes with a martini glass, carton of rat milk, and briefcase of money.

Luigi has some large accessories, with his open pizza box (with pizza inside), bottle of wine (although there's no label), and sign for his restaurant.  He also has his hat, and like the other men in this series, has a tough time keeping it on his head.

The Sarcastic Man has some very unique accessories, including the "World's Best Jacket" and the night vision goggles.  That's also the 'ultimate' belt, and he can wear it if you're of the mind.  His hat fits terribly though, and has a nasty tendency to topple off all the time.

Botz has very appropriate accessories from the episode, including the suitcase, Happy Little Elves video, rope and tape.

Kilted Willie has perhaps the coolest accessory of the entire series - the Loch Ness Monster doll.  He also has his bagpipes, hat (which also falls off his head quite easily), and a fourth accessory that I can't identify.  What the heck is the screen on the tripod?  (NOTE:  That would be the 'nessie finder' that Frink brought along!) Oh, and I don't know if he's hold those pipes right - I'm not Scottish, and I threw the card back out before I made sure I'd figured it out.

Miss Hoover makes up for her ugliness with some great accessories, including a coffee mug, large sign, bag of standardized tests, and 'teachers edition' book.  Too bad she can't really hold any of them well.

Talking Feature - **
The talking feature takes a major hit, and it's probably going to from here on out.  They've reached the point where the sets where these figures could have made the most sense were done long ago, and the only chance for lines are on newer, less sensible sets.

For example, Botz and Hoover only work with Aztec Theater.  Aztec Theater? And Luigi and Sarcastic Man work with Aztec Theater and the Military Store.  Huh?  Unless a figure is specific to a set like the exclusives, it looks like the talking feature has pretty much run its course.

Value - ***1/2
You can't really argue when you're only paying $6 for well done, licensed figures.  Who else is selling figures at that price point these days?

Overall - Willie ***1/2; Louie, Sarcastic Man, Luigi, Botz ***; Miss Hoover **
I really don't like Hoover, but I know there are folks out there thrilled with this version.  I don't like the sculpt at all, and the talking feature doesn't help matters this time.

The rest of the figures are all good, with Kilted Willie really standing out.  Considering he's a variant, it's nice to see how well executed he is.

Fans of Raphael and Luigi will be pleased with these figures, even if the paint applications aren't perfect.  The line has lots of steam left in it, and I'm hoping we see all the cool 2004 figures previewed last month at the October Toy Fair make it to market next year.

Where to Buy - 
These are showing up in force at Target and Toys R Us.  I've also seen them at Gamestop, but for a buck or so more
. On-line options include:

- has them available individually, or as a bundle for $35.

- has the individual figures for $6 each, or the set for $35.  Just look in the action figure section for the Simpsons store.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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