Simpsons - The Next Century
(aka Future Burns)

There's this little line called World of Springfield.  You might have heard of it.  It's been around for over 3 years, produced over 150 characters, with God only knows how many play sets.  Actually, I could tell you, but that means I have to go look it up, and I'm lazy tonight.

Suffice to say, it's been a tremendously successful line.  We've seen some truly unique and bizarre characters, and more than one odd playset.  But this exclusive from New Force and Electronics Boutique is one of the most unique and unusual sets we've gotten to date.

Packaging - **1/2
Sufficient, unsuprising, consistent with the current series. I like the graphics on the newer packaging, particularly the cirlce photos on the front, but I was disappointed that this didn't say it was a New Force Exclusive. Yes, it was shared with Electronics Boutique, but a sticker for New Force would have been nice. Also, what's up with the name? The Next Century? Who came up with that?It doesn't make any sense considering against the backdrop of the episode, since far more time had passed than a century. Even if you don't take it literally, there are a lot more sensible names.

Sculpting - ***1/2
There are three figures in this set, or so the front of the box proclaims. Future Burns, Future Smithers, and Bobo Smithers. For the trivia buffs, the Future Smithers figure is the first non-speaking figure in the entire series. Could we see more?

The sculpting on the figures themselves is exceptional. I'm especially happy with Future Burns and Future Smithers, a combo that look absolutely terrific together. They are both such a departure from the usual figure - no big, thick, round bodies here - that they are quickly becoming two of my all time favorites. Add to that the great claw sculpts on Future Burns, allowing him to easily hold the small Bobo in his hand, and you have a real winner.

Bobo Smithers isn't quite as interesting. Oh, don't get me wrong, the sculpt is good, and I have to give Playmates a lot of creditfor giving us an action pose and still managing to sculpt him so he can stand without any issues on his own. The pose makes complete sense considering his desire to make Burns happy, and the arm sculpts work in more than one position. Still, he's just not as an exciting of a figure - at least for me.

There's not much sculpting on the 'playset' itself. This is one of those mini-sets, like Lurleen's trailer or the small lane with Jacque and Marge. The sticker looks good, but that has little to do with this category, and there's just some basic rocky areas on the base itself.

Paint - ***1/2
These figures are better than usual in terms of the paint ops. Not perfect mind you, but Playmates has always had some trouble getting consistent, quality paint applications on this line.

The sticker is sharp looking, and that's good since it's the major visual attraction for the set itself.  All three characters had good paint application, with little bleed or poor definition.  The whites of the eyes had some minor issues, and the coloring used to make the Future Burns head jar look liquid filled doesn't work particularly well, but overall these figures are above the usual WOS paint quality.

Articulation - Bobo Smithers **; Future Smithers **1/2; Future Burns ***
This playset sports the most articulated figures in the entire series - another trivia tidbit! Bobo Smithers takes a step back though from the norm, with only 3 - that's right, 3 - points of articulation. He has neck and both shoulders, with no waist.

Future Smithers is better than average with five joints, neck, and one for each of his four little robot doggie legs. That's a joint up on the usual 4, but anything less would have been a serious disappointment.

Ah, but Future Burns sports the most articulation of any WOS figure, even with those little spindly arms! He has 6 points of articulation - neck, shoulders (but be VERY careful, as the arms can easily break), waist and HIPS! He can stand easily on his own, and the arm sculpts work great with the shoulder articulation to give you a variety of posing possibilities.

Accessories - **1/2
There's only one this time, and that's a bit disappointing. It's the poor, beat up, seen better days Bobo, and while the sculpt and paint ops are great, it's a little light considering all the cool accessories we've come to expect in this line. The glasses on both versions of Smithers are not removable, at least not on purpose.

Talking Feature - ***
The talking feature has become less than thrilling with the regular release figures and playsets, but with the exclusives it's still a major selling point. These show specific sets allow them to pick very specific lines for very specific characters, and the result is usually a higher degree of humor and enjoyment.

Only Bobo Smithers and Future Burns have chips, and as I mentioned earlier, this makes Future Smithers the first official 'figure' that doesn't make a sound. The lines are:

Bobo Smithers: "You want your bear Bobo, don't you?", "Here is something that should cheer you up, Sir. It's me sir, BoBo. Hug me, Squeeze me, tug at my fur.", "Wait for me sir. Woof".

Future Burns: "What could be more humiliating?", "I want my teddy. (in a moaning voice) BoBo...BoBo.....", "Let's roll"

While the lines are decent, there aren't very many. It's also worth noting that in display mode, it plays the lines from both characters, not just one. That's better than some of the exclusives like the THOH4 set.

Value - ***
The usual play set price these days is $20 - $30 each. Regular sized exclusives are running $35 - $40, well over priced. And these smaller style exclusives often sold for $30 in the past.

These are selling for $24 - $25, and are currently available at the price. (Don't go buying for an inflated price!). That's not an amazing bargain, but it's certainly well within reason, and you won't feel pick pocketed when you pay it.

Overall - ***
I'm being harder on this set overall than I feel in my gut. I love the Future Burns and Future Smithers, and both figures look fantastic. While I'm less thrilled with Bobo Smithers, he'll look good in Burns Manor. The playset itself is pretty basic, with an extremely simplebase and a single sticker on the back. Even compared with other one wall exclusives, it's simplistic. I'd buy the set just for the figures though, and this is easily the coolest Burns and Smithers variants we could have gotten.

Where to Buy - 
You have two options, as implied by the exclusivity of this set.

- New Force Comics has them for $24 each plus shipping.

- EBGames on-line has them for $25 each plus shipping. I have not yet seen them at a bricks and mortar EB, but they may still show up there as well.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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