Ironic Punishment Playset

I'm a huge fan of the Simpsons. I have a ton of stuff - check here for photos from the old toy room to give you some idea - and was a huge fan of the Playmates line of action figures and playsets called the World of Springfield. And one of these days I swear I'm going to get around to writing THE book on the WOS line.

So you might guess that I've been very interested in the new line from Mcfarlane. They've had the license for more than a year, but the first version of McToys OFF is about to hit shelves. Based on the classic Treehouse of Horror episode The Devil and Homer Simpson, this playset, includes Homer as he is being force fed all the donuts in the world by a minion of Hell.

You can find this set for pre-order at many online stores (expect to pay around $20 - $25 depending on the retailer), and I picked mine up at Toys R Us for $20.

Packaging -  ***
The set comes in an attractive box, very similar to the final WOS packaging, most likely due to the tight control FOX has over such things.  They did add some interesting text, including the round bubble that points out that the demon has never been sculpted before.

Another nice touch is a series of shots right from the actual episode on the back of the package, showing the use of the torture device.

But if you hate twisties, than the 7 or 8 that are here won't make you a happy camper.

Sculpting - ***
Translating 2 dimensional figures into 3 dimensions is far harder than folks often realize.  These characters morph and shift scale and proportions from one scene to the next, and can look entirely different from one angle in 2-D than another, making it tough to capture them to everyone's satisfaction.

McToys has done an fine job here though, with a few minor nits.  Most people will like the demon, particularly since he's a new character.  Unfortunately, these figures won't be sitting right in the WOS display, as they are in a 4" scale.  That inch is a huge difference, and they come closer to Star Wars scale than they do WOS scale.

I can understand the scale change if they plan on doing new sculpts of already created characters, like a Flanders or an Apu in normal outfits.  If they did them WOS scale, and you already have a WOS version, why buy a new one?  At least by altering the scale, they might suck you in.

However, I haven't seen any plans where they will be doing any characters in 'normal' outfits any time soon. The first series of regular figures appears to all be manimals from the THOH episode, and from the plans I've seen, episode specific characters are the main idea.  If that's the case, I think it would have been smart to go WOS scale to attract more of the old school folks.

Either way though, it's not a major issue.  I'm a little more disappointed in the issue with scale between Homer and the demon, because the demon is much smaller in relation than I remember him.  This kind of character to character scale issues drove me nuts with the WOS line, and I was really hoping we wouldn't see the issue here.  It's not bad enough in this particular set to lose a lot of points, but I'm also hoping it isn't an indication of bigger issues to come.

My other issue here is the mold and assembly lines on the figures.  This is not something we're used to seeing on Mcfarlane product, and it's quite evident on both Homer and the Demon.  Had it just been Homer, I could have chalked it up to the playset action feature, but with mold lines running around the Demon's head and torso, I'm afraid it's a bigger issue.

One of the highlights of the sculpt is Homer's hair.  Rather than sculpting it as bumps on his head, it's done separately and attached.  This adds a nice new detail to the figures, and helps set them apart from their earlier cousins.

While the scale between figures is a little off, the internal proportions of each figure are extremely good.  Homer's head to body ratio is spot on, much better than the WOS counterpart.  This is the kind of thing that will make the non-playset figures coming out in series one really stand out. 

Paint - ***
I'm not quite as happy with the paint as I am with the sculpt, and there are more issues than I normally expect from McToys.

One of the additions to these figures is the use of black highlight lines around edges.  Of course, in the cartoon there are black edges to any part of the figure.  In the earlier WOS figures, there were none.  Here, they've added them back in, attempting to capture the feel of the drawn cel.

It's very hit or miss though.  Had they not been serving expresso shooters at the plant the day mine was painted, it might have worked out better.  The thickness of the lines varies quite a bit, especially on Homer, and there are lines just about everywhere - eyes, mouth, collar, sleeves, pants, cuffs, etc. etc. etc.  Like a wash or drybrush technique gone wild, too many lines end up becoming too obvious, and don't blend in the way they should ideally.  Also, those that were done with a heavier hand, like around the eyes on my Homer, end up looking out of place.  Those done very thin, with a light touch, look great.

There's also a little more inconsistency here than I'm accustomed to from McToys.  The blue of the Demon or the yellow of Homer for example, aren't quite as consistent over the full course of area covered as I'd expect.

Articulation - **
The Simpsons and articulation are two words that just don't go together, it seems.

The Demon has a cut neck, and semi-ball jointed shoulders.  That makes these less articulated than WOS, something that I thought was hard to do.

Homer's articulation doesn't really count, since he's simply designed to work with the action of the playset. His shoulders have cut joints, but the rubber restraining strap keeps them pretty much in one place.  Both legs and his jaw move as part of the overall action feature.

Accessories - **
There's a whole bunch of tiny donuts, all on the single strand running up to his mouth.  There's a couple colors of pink, and of course, chocolate.  The other donuts on the other stacks are not loose.

That's about it for accessories, and while it would have been nice to get the smaller second demon as well, at this price point I can cut them some slack.

Playset Action Feature - ***
The Ironic Punishment set has the feature portrayed in the episode.  Homer is force fed donuts after selling his soul for a donut.  Of course, the irony is that this isn't any sort of punishment for Homer.

The crank on the back of the set turns, pushing up the donuts in the stack in front of Homer's face.  At the same time, his upper jaw (and head) tilt back to open his mouth, and his feet dangle in glee.  As you turn the crank, the donuts fall into his mouth, and drop out the bottom into a chute, ending in a small tray in back.

The concept is fantastic, but the execution isn't entirely smooth.  The handle on my crank doesn't want to consistently turn the rod, spinning uselessly much of the time.  It takes a lot of patience and effort to get the donuts up the pole, and the timing is iffy at best.  I managed to get about two thirds of the stack into his mouth on one try, and that was enough tries for me.

While it was frustrating to get it to work smoothly, I have to give them extra props for coming up with a creative and imaginative action feature.

Fun Factor - **
The action feature on the set was the key to the fun, and unfortunately, kids will just find it frustrating.  The set works well enough for adults, but it's just not smooth enough for the under 10 set.  Still, I won't hit them too hard on this in the overall, since the set (and all Simpsons action figures) aren't really intended for kids, no matter what FOX might think.

Value - ***
At $20 (and under if you shop around), this set is a better than average value.  You're getting a decent size set, with a cool new figure, and a good if not flawless action feature.  Mcfarlane tends to beat other companies on price, and this set is no exception.

Things to watch out for - 
When unpacking the sets, be very careful with the thin rods that hold all the donuts.  These are very easy to break - I speak from experience.  Also, you can lose one of those donuts in about 3 seconds if you're not watching.

Overall -  ***
While it's not perfect, the set is a good first attempt at Simpsons product.  The proportions and sculpting of the individual figures appears to be an improvement over WOS (although we'll need a bigger sample to be definitive), and I'm hopeful they'll correct for issues like the flashing and seam lines.  The black paint was a bit much, but that's another area that they can improve without any radical changes or extreme difficulty.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - **1/2
Playset Action Feature - ***
Fun Factor - **
Value - ***
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
These are hitting stores as we speak, so even if it still says pre-order, they will have them any day.  Online options include:

- Clark Toys has him listed at just $20.

- Amazing Toyz has the pre-orders up for $20.

- CornerStoreComics has them in stock at just $20 as well.

- Killer Toys has the set for $22 on pre-order.

- YouBuyNow also has it up at $22.

Related Links:
I don't have any other McToys Simpsons related links yet, but here's a feature on the WOS line, along with a page of all the Simpsons reviews of the past.

And if you're looking for a place to discuss all things Simpsons, check out the Simpsons Collector Sector, the best discussion boards for Simpsons Merchandise on the web.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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