Mezco's South Park Series 1
Kenny, Cartman, Hip Hop Cartman, Big Gay Al
Officer Barbrady and Chef

South Park is a tremendously popular show, with a huge pop culture following.  It's also a cartoon, with fairly basic designs, and a TON of well known characters.  You'd think it would be a natural for a successful action figure line, and yet, no one has hit the magic formula.

Oh, they've tried.  Toycom/Mirage took a shot at it, and managed to produce three series of figures.  They weren't terrible, but the high prices hurt them.  And even Mcfarlane Toys owned the license for awhile, showing off prototypes.  But snafu's and personalities ended up tanking the line before it ever made it to production.

Now Mezco is taking a shot at it, and have released their first wave.  Kenny, Cartman, Hip Hop Cartman, Barbrady, Chef and Big Gay Al make up the first assortment.  Mirage had done Cartman and Chef, but the other four are really new figures (Kenny comes with parts to make him Dead Kenny).

These are just now showing up, and I have a list of possible retailers at the end of the review.  Mezco has also shown prototypes of the kids in their Finger Bang outfits, for a future release. 

Packaging -  ***
I wasn't a huge fan of the packaging with Mirage, but the work here from Mezco is quite a bit better.  This is a good example of how two companies can work with the same basic premise, and still find a way to do something interesting.

The use of the clamshell is nice of course, something I'm a fan of.  It's a bit too large for some of the figures though, since it had to be big enough to handle the large adults like Chef.

The insert is attractive, but the only uniqueness is in the small front sticker on each.  There is a listing of the various accessories on the back under each character though.

Sculpt - ***1/2; 
We have a unique opportunity here - an opportunity to look at two versions of very basic, simple cartoon designs and see where one went wrong, and one went right.

Perhaps the easiest one to look at is Cartman.  The Mirage version has a head that is larger than his body, and very round.  It lacks any chin, and while some details are sculpted, like the eyes and mouth, the painted version from Mezco looks far more like the actual show.

And that's really the trick here.  Mezco got the proportions right, something that can throw off a sculpt completely.  Cartman's head is more oval, just the right size, and has the right amount of sculpt detail - not too much, not too little.  Some folks will look at these quickly and conclude that they're pretty much the same - they couldn't be further off.  Just in case what you forgot what the Mirage Cartman looks like, click here.

Having the arms as separate pieces was also a critical difference.  Having the lower bodies all one piece made Mirage's look too much like dog chew toys, rather than action figures.  The separate arms give the figures so much more personality, and give them the chance to include additional arms, something I'll mention in the articulation section.

Although the mouths and eyes are not sculpted, there are some details added in the sculpt.  The chins on Barbrady and Al are sculpted to protrude, as is Al's earring, Hip Hop Cartman's hair, and Brabrady's badge.

The scale on these isn't even close to the Mirage series.  These are much smaller, but they are in scale with each other.  Chef is bigger than Barbrady, the kids are much smaller than the adults.  But the adults in this line are shorter and less stocky than the Mirage series, and the kids are at least 30% smaller than the Mirage South Park kids.  If you were hoping the two lines would go together, you can give up that hope right now.  Another one crushed.

Going with a smaller scale was another smart move, at least in terms of appearance.  When working with simple designs, the lack of detail works better in a smaller scale.  Blow them up too big, and this simplicity becomes too obvious and cheap looking.

I've included a shot at the end of the review with one adult and kid from both lines to highlight what I'm talking about, especially proportion and shape.  Good God, just look at Wendy's head!

Paint - ***
There's a lot more paint detail here, since the majority of the facial features are done with paint, rather than sculpting.

This is another category where the small touches make the difference.  Notice that when the eyes of a character are close enough to touch, like Kenny or Cartman, there's a small black line painted in between to give them further definition.  This was lacking from the Mirage eyes, where the white of one simply bled into the white of another.

There's a variety of eye and mouth styles done on the various characters, again all with paint this time.  Everything on my set of six is extremely clean, but I have heard complaints from others of sloppy paint, especially with bleeding between the various hands and arms.  I'd keep an eye out for it, but since mine were relatively free of this bleed, I didn't deduct.

However, mine had a separate issue that kept them from the top scores.  On the areas where a single color was used across an expanse, like Cartman's red jacket or Barbrady's blue uniform, there was some inconsistency in the finish and the occasional abrasive mark.  It wasn't enough to bring them down more than a half star, but it was mildly annoying.

Articulation - regular Cartman ***; the rest **1/2
These figures don't lend themselves to hyper-articulation, but Mezco has done a nice job.

Both versions of Cartman, Kenny and Chef have ball jointed necks.  Al and Barbrady have flat heads attaching to the bodies - which looks much better for these characters than rounded chins - but I'm betting they have the same neck joint underneath.  It's just that the flat neck on the flat shoulders doesn't allow for much tilting.

All of them have articulated waists as well, and articulated arms.  Most have shoulder joints, but Chef has a joint at the elbow, just below the sleeve.

The main purpose of these arm joints, at least for Kenny, Cartman, Hip Hop Cartman, and Barbrady is to swap arms with the additional ones provided.  Since Mezco knew that they couldn't give them much articulation, they went with extra arms that allow for different poses.  Great idea!

And since we're talking about great ideas, let's talk about Cartman's eyebrows.  Yes, they are separate, articulated pieces.  He can go from happy to sad, inquisitive to annoyed in just a turn of an eyebrow.  This was a great idea as well, and I hope we see the same thing with Stan and Kyle.

Accessories - Chef, Kenny, Cartman ***1/2; Big Gay Al, Hip Hop Carman, Barbrady ***; 
The number of accessories varies by figure, but they are all extremely cool.  Mezco is smart with their cartoon licenses, which often have a wealth of great episode and character specific possibilities for accessories.  Not all companies exploit the opportunity though - Mezco almost always does.

Kenny comes with four rats, all identical in sculpt but with different paint jobs.  He also has an alternate 'dead' head, a right arm that comes apart to expose the bone, and a sticker for his chest for some more damage.  The sculpting on his dead version shows brains and rotting flesh - much more detail here than in general on the figures.

Big Gay Al only comes with two accessories - a goose and his case.  Both are done well, and the duck can stand fine on his own.

Hip Hop Cartman has his boombox, with a terrific sculpt and paint job, along with an additional set of arms.  This second set of arms allows you to pose him with his arms out from his body, and look terrific.  They pop on and off easily.

Barbrady has three accessories, if you count his removable hat.  There's also his extra left arm, so he can pose with the gun or without, and a second set of legs.  The alternate set are dressed up in panties, garter and stockings.  Hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

Chef comes with an alternate set of arms - either he can have them up in his common open hand expression, or just at his sides - as well as a spatula, lunch room tray with food, and tray of chocolate salty balls.  The normal right arm has a small hole in the hand to hold the spatula, or the pegs that are attached to the bottom of both trays. Chef's apron is removable, and pops apart in back with a peg.

Finally, there's regular Cartman.  He comes with four extra arms, to give him a number of different arm pose combinations, including one that's holding his recorder.  He also comes with Kitty, and the alien probe.  The probe attaches to his butt, and looks perfect when it's in place.

Fun Factor - ***
These are actually pretty good toys, not just pop culture statues.  The accessories are solid, and there's decent articulation considering the design.  Kids won't have any frustration swapping arms, but Kenny's head might give them fits.

Value - **
Ah, but here's the rub.  These figures are certainly better than previous ones, but are they worth $11 - $13 each?  I'm grading these at $13, which is what I paid, but you can find them for as cheap as $11, and at that price you can add another half star.

But at $13, I suspect they might be a tough sell, especially with the Mirage figures still clogging up pegs at some retailers even at deep discount prices.

Things to watch out for - 
You should do your best to pick out the best paint ops of course, but from what I've seen, things are pretty consistent.  You want to watch the red and yellows mostly.

When you pop off Kenny's head to swap them, you'll need to heat up the head to get it to fit on the peg.  I just ran it under some hot water from the tap, and it worked fine.

Another thing to watch for is the variants.  This is Mezco, working a cartoon line - that means lots of variants.  It appears that Kenny and Big Gay Al don't have any variants, but there are at least 3 regular Cartman's with different expressions (straight mouth and angry mouth to go with the smiling mouth), 2 Hip Hop Cartman's (the other has his eyes closed), 2 Barbrady (this one and a straight mouth), and two Chef's (the one I picked up and a second with a smiling mouth).  I've also heard that the Chef with the smiling mouth is NOT wearing the apron, but I can't confirm.

Overall -  Cartman, Kenny ***1/2; Big Gay Al, Barbrady, Chef, Hip Hop Cartman ***
This is an unusual situation with toys - we have two lines, based on the same property, but one done poorly and one done well.  This is a great chance to compare, and see how the little things make all the difference.

By using separate arms, proper body proportions, going with painted expressions (but adding important touches), exploiting the accessories, and shrinking the scale slightly, Mezco has managed to correct all the problems of the past line.  The only fight they still must win is value - it's going to be a tough sell to convince folks these are really worth the $11 or $12.

I'm extremely hopeful though that Mezco can manage this line as well as they have Family Guy, and by this time next year I'll be reviewing wave 3 or 4.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - Cartman ***; the rest **1/2
Accessories - Chef, Kenny, Cartman ***1/2; Big Gay Al, Hip Hop Carman, Barbrady ***;
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **
Overall - Cartman, Kenny ***1/2; Big Gay Al, Barbrady, Chef, Hip Hop Cartman ***

Where to Buy -
These are starting to hit at both Hot Topics and Media Play/Suncoast/Sam Goody stores.  Online options include:

- Amazing Toyz has the singles for just $11 each, or the set of six for $63.

- CornerStoreComics has the set of six for $65, or the individuals for $12 each.  They also have some of the older Mirage figures still available.

- Killer Toys has the set of six for $70.

- YouBuyNow has the individual figures for $12 each.

- OMGToys has the individuals for $12.50 each.

Related Links -
With a show like South Park, there's plenty of related links:

- Mirage did series 1, series 2 (I reviewed Towelie separately), and series 3 of their figures before packing it in. They also did an exclusive Mr. Hanky.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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