Muppets Series 9
Pops, Steppin' Out Fozzie, Chef, Lips


Fans of the Muppets have been buzzing this week with the announcement that Palisades has picked up the additional license to do Sesame Street figures for 2005. With characters like Grover, Guy Smiley and Oscar already planned, the new line and its possibilities have been the talk of the town.

Let's not forget though that the Muppets line itself is far from over. Tonight's review covers series 9 - Pops, the Swedish Chef, Steppin' Out Fozzie, and three versions of Lips. At this very moment in time, this is the last regular retail series of the line. The figures planned for wave 10 have all found homes though with various stores or conventions as exclusives, and there have been rumors of a possible tenth series in the works that could debut by Toy Fair. Only time will tell...

One thing is for sure though, and that's the production numbers on series 9 were low. Without any major bricks and mortar retailers ordering, you can be sure that this series will not be widespread, and could be even lower in numbers than the infamous wave 3. I have several suggestions at the end of the review of sponsors who have these, including Clark Toys where I got mine. There are also reports that some FYE stores may carry them, although none of the stores in my area carry any real number of toys.

Packaging - ***1/2
Let's do the clamshell two step! Just don't slice off a finger opening those babies up. I've professed my unseemly love of the clamshell, so it's no surprise I like these. Same blue graphics that we've grown accustomed to, but the recent red packaging on the Jim Henson Muppet reminds me of how much I liked the original color/graphic scheme.

Sculpting - Fozzie, **1/2; All Lips, Chef, ***1/2; Pops ****
When it comes to sculpts, there are really only four figures, not six, since all three Lips share an identical sculpt.

It's a great one too, with his look of quiet concentration, focusing on his music.  The closed eyes, wild hair, and raised eyebrows all worked great together to give us an excellent version of the fifth Beatle of the Electric Mayhem.  His left hand is sculpted to hold the trumpet with his fingers on the valves.

The Chef sculpt is quite good as well, although that should come as no surprise.  As close as I can tell, it's almost identical to the previous two versions, with the exception of a slight change to the left hand to hold the gun.

Pops is the big winner in this entire set, with an amazing sculpt of a rather unique and fun character.  Sure, he was never on anyone's A list, but Pops is a great looking guy, who translated extremely well to plastic.  The huge moustache, thick glasses, and wide grin look fantastic.  He's quickly becoming one of my favorites of the last several waves of regular figures.  The clothing/body sculpt is great as well, with differing textures for various types of 'material', and lots of attention to small detail.

Unfortunately, Fozzie is pulling up the rear.  The body/suit sculpt is nice, and he'll certainly fit in nicely with the other "steppin' out" characters, but the head sculpt is off for me.  Part of this is certainly the closed mouth, and part is also the paint job on the eyes (I'll whine about that more in the next section), but in the end, the execution on this sculpt wasn't up there with the others.

Paint - Fozzie, Silver Lips **1/2; Chef ***; other Lips, Pops ***1/2
The general issues that have popped up with some recent Palisades products seem to be solved.  This is about the third product in a row I've seen now with no real tackiness to the paint, and tremendously clean lines all around.

That's particularly good to see on the softer plastics, like Chef's apron, Pops' vest, or Lips Nehru jackets.

The paint ops are very clean all around, with no slop and very nice definition between colors.  Some of the figures have amazing detail work, like the complex patterns on Lips' white shirt, and it's done flawlessly.

There are also some nice touches, most notably the trademark polka dots on Fozzie's bow tie, even though he's wearing a tux.

Chef drops a little in the score because the outfit doesn't do a whole lot for me.  The white shirt isn't quite white, and the apron and hat have a worn look that ends up making them look more like plastic than cloth.

Fozzie and the silver shirt Lips fall on the bottom of the list, for two very different reasons.  Fozzie's big problem is his eyes, which appear rather googly.  While I've only seen mine in person, photos of others appear to have this same issue.  I'm also not thrilled with the much darker fur color, which looks closer to Rowlf than Fozzie.

Lips has issues with his silver shirt, because the silver just isn't going to last.  It's sort of a glitter that's been applied to a black shirt, and it's already starting to rub off the right arm.  It looks like it won't last long around the joints, and I don't think it's going to age well at all.  Aesthetically, it's also my least favorite appearance of the three shirts. 

Articulation - ***1/2
All the figures sport the usual nifty Muppet articulation, and all stand perfectly on their own.

Chef actually has two more points of articulation than the previous versions.  He has neck, ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, knees and cut biceps (new!).  It's nice that they added something extra to help differentiate this version from the previous two.

This is the most articulated Fozzie we've gotten as well, with neck, ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, and hips.  Lips has similar articulation, but also adds ankle joints.  They don't have a huge range of motion, but they're there.

Lips' only issue is that he can't really hold his trumpet in both hands properly.  Oh, I did find some ways to get it close, and he can hold it well in the sculpted left hand, but it would have been nice if he could have approximated a real pose a little better.

Pops has slightly fewer points of articulation than the rest, but sports the single most important joint - the ball jointed neck.  He can look up, down, and tilt his head left and right perfectly, adding a huge amount of personality to any pose.

He also has ball jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips and waist.  He can hold a ton of upper body poses, all enhanced by that wonderful neck joint.

Accessories - Fozzie ***; All Lips, Chef ***1/2; Pops ****
As you'd expect if you've been paying attention to this line, all the figures are nicely loaded with accessories.  There's a little more reuse here than we've seen in some waves, but it's not bad.

Fozzie has his Chuckie dummy, with is a great sculpt, and fits quite well over his hand.  It's a solid piece though, without articulation.  NOTE - I was informed by a reader (and just broke it free) that he does have a neck joint! He also comes with the reused microphone and microphone stand (there are actually two microphones), and a little book of jokes.  He also has his hat, but he suffers from the same magnet disease that has hurt all the Fozzie's after the original - it's so weak, I'd assume it's non-existent.  I don't know if I just got one without, but I've heard others complaining of the same problem.  Since Fozzie's hat is so tiny, it falls off extremely easily without the magnet.  NOTE: Word is that he was designed not to have one.  While the hat is supposed to stay on, it doesn't.

Lips has a ton of stuff, although since all three Lips share the same accessories, it's allows for some serious reuse.  There's the lunchbox with different labels for each (which we saw with Pepe I believe), the albums and covers, all three different (similar to Johnny Fiama, but slightly smaller), his trumpet (two slightly different silver and once brass), a lava lamp (different colors for each), and the Java Muppets (all different colors).  Even with the reuse, that's a nice, healthy assortment, and the Java Muppets really add panache to your overall display.

I did have some issues with the lava lamps, which all seemed to be put together rather crooked.  I doubt I just got unlucky three times, but I'm not sure why these were so difficult to assemble straight.

On a side note, I'm have no idea if it was intentional or luck, but the albums fit perfectly on the player that comes with the Backstage set.  I haven't gone back and tried with Johnny's album, but I'm betting the same is true.

Chef is a little lighter, but with predominately new accessories.  There's a very cool backboard and basket, which can actually fit on the Kitchen or Backstage wall, a green tomato (reused), a new banana, and his gun.

Finally, there's my favorite once again - Pops.  He has his desk, with guest register, bell, Gaffer the cat, desk lamp and fly swatter.  He can hold the swatter in either hand.  Poor Gaffer has seen better days, and is slightly small, but is still one of the niftiest accessories we've seen recently.  He is sculpted to sit on the edge of the desk, or he can sit on the special shelf set up for him in the Backstage play set.

The desk lamp is also extremely cool, due to the inclusion of a light bulb made from clear hard plastic.  Mine would look even better if I hadn't broken it taking it out of the plastic tray.  Be careful - don't end up like me! 

Fun Factor - ***1/2
There's no doubt that this line is tremendously fun.  With great articulation, excellent sculpts and paint, and kick ass accessories, there isn't a kid around that couldn't have some serious fun.

The only caveat is that some of the accessories - like the aforementioned desk lamp - are too fragile to hold up to real play.  When Palisades begins working on the Sesame Street line, this will be an issue for them.  Do they make exceptionally cool accessories, although they might be fragile, or stick with the solid, thick, large items that kids are unlikely to break or swallow?

Value - ***
At ten bucks each, these are still a better than average value.  It's due to the excellent articulation and great accessories of course.  If you end up paying closer to $12, you can take off another half star.

Overall - Fozzie **1/2; Chef, Silver Lips ***; Other Lips ***1/2; Pops ****
The Muppets line is one of the finest lines produced in the last decade.  It has managed to find it's way into my top ten of all time, and that's not a simple thing to do.

Fozzie wasn't a home run, but he's still a fairly decent figure.  You just won't be staying up late, writing home to grandma about him.  On the other end of the spectrum is Pops, who grandma might just run off with.

You can bet that this set was produced in low numbers, and I noticed as I was searching around for the 'Where to Buy' section that most retailers are already selling out of the various Lips versions. If you're thinking about picking up this set, I wouldn't wait, as they are likely to be gone very soon.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Fozzie, **1/2; All Lips, Chef, ***1/2; Pops ****
Paint - Fozzie, Silver Lips **1/2; Chef ***; other Lips, Pops ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - Fozzie ***; All Lips, Chef ***1/2; Pops ****
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - Fozzie **1/2; Chef, Silver Lips ***; Other Lips ***1/2; Pops ****

Where to Buy - 
I have heard reports that FYE stores may get them in, and I'm assuming it will be the larger ones. None by me have them, but they don't carry much in the way of toys in general. On-line options include:

- Clark Toys is sold out of their complete sets (that's where I pre-ordered mine), but still have some Chef's, Pops and Fozzie's left for $10 - $11 each.

- has a great price at $10 each for the figures, but only have the silver shirt Lips left in stock, along with Chef, Pops and Fozzie. They also are the ones carrying the exclusive Sweetums!

- CornerStoreComics has the set of four (which includes the 'normal' white shirt Lips) for $40, or the individual figures for $10.50 each. They only have the white shirt Lips in stock however.

- Killer Toys has the set of four for $40, but doesn't list which Lips you'll get.

- Southern Island has the set of four listed at $45, but again doesn't list which Lips you'll get.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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