Sally/Classroom Playset

One of the big lines for the year is Peanuts from Playing Mantis.  With two different lines, playsets and a TON of variations, collectors seem to be responding well.

This classroom playset with a special Sally figure is the second playset in the series.  The first, the Halloween set of the Red Baron and his Dog House, was a bit smaller and less detailed.  This time we get a full sized set, with lots of accessories.

Target seems to be the place to pick them up right now, and the price is right at $16.

Packaging - ***
The box is larger than the previous dog house playset, but sturdy and well designed. It's easy to see the whole set, and it required some fancy twisty tie work to hold it all in place without a floor.

If you wanted to put in a lot of effort, you could return the set to the box. There's nothing you have to destroy to remove the set, but the aforementioned twisty tie jungle would be fairly difficult to replace.

Sculpting - ***
The sculpting on Sally is the same as the previous versions. While the head sculpt is good, and the plastic seems a little stiffer on this version than the original, she still takes a big hit for the poorly sculpted hands. She can't hold a single accessory,
and that really hurts her overall score.

The playset is a different story. The details are great, particularly on fixed objects like the blackboard, bookcases, and little touches like the door knob. This is a very nice looking playset, and is a big step up from the dog house.

Paint/Stickers - ***1/2
Sally has solid paint ops, better than the figures from the early releases. Playing Mantis recognized they had some problems, and it looks like they are working to correct them. Sally is not the same paint colors as shown in the prototype,
and there's bad news for the variation hunters - she comes with multiple facial expressions as well. I've seen at least two - big smile and frown - but I'm betting there are more.

The paint ops on the playset are even better. All the lines and colors are clean and consistent, and the stickers used for the windows and smaller details look good. Things get a little sloppy on a couple of the accessories, but overall it's a big improvement over the previous figures.

Playset Design - ***1/2
I wanted to break out this playset design separately from the other categories, since Playing Mantis is trying a couple new things here.

First, they went without a floor. The playset is made up of three main walls, with various accessories to put inside. That's actually a very smart move, and doesn't limit you in terms of where you can display the set, or how many kids can be 'inside' the classroom. It also means you can place the desk and chairs wherever you'd like.

Second, one of the three walls is on hinges, allowing you to swing it all the way open, or leave it at 90 degrees to the back wall. Either looks fine, and this gives you even more flexibility.

Third, they've also gone with a sound feature. This isn't new, since the dog house had the sound effects as well, but it's still important to note. So important, that I'll be covering that aspect separately down below.

The combination of no floor and the moveable third wall really work to make this a tremendously flexible playset. Both were great ideas, and I hope we see Playing Mantis exploit this even further in future sets.

Articulation - **1/2
Sally sports the same articulation as her previous versions - neck, shoulders, cut elbows and waist. It's not particularly useful articulation, and not particularly exciting. It works alright, and I'm glad we got the cut elbows, but considering the terrific articulation on the Rudolph figures also from Playing Mantis, and the Year Without Santa Claus figures from Palisades, I'm sure we could have gotten something a little better.

Accessories - ***1/2
I'm counting the playset as the three walls, and I've already talked about dear Sally enough, so this category will cover all the extras - the two school desks, teachers desk, globe, pencils and pencil sharpener.

The sculpting and paint ops on all the accessories are good, and the number and size are also on target for this price point. I particularly like that both school desks can open up, and since only one school desk was pictured with the prototypes, getting the second was a nice surprise.

Talking Feature - **
|The teachers desk houses a sound feature as mentioned under the Accessories heading. Push the red apple, and you can hear three or four different versions of the "Waa, Waa Waa Waaa, Waa Waa" voice, always used in the Peanuts cartoons to represent the adults speaking.

Unfortunately, it's less than spectacular. It sounds a bit tinny, and mine sound sluggish, as if the battery is perhaps already wearing out. It could be that they went with particularly cheap batteries, or that the recordings from the show were of inferior quality. Still, I was looking forward to this feature working better.

Value - ***1/2
At $16, this is an extremely good value. You're getting a figure, quite a few accessories, and a well designed playset for less than the usual twenty bucks. If Playing Mantis can continue to hold this price point, they should sell very well.

My greatest fear however, is that these will end up at the $25 price point we're seeing some e-retailers carry them at.

Overall - ***
This is the nicest toy to come out of the Playing Mantis Peanuts line so far. Had the talking feature been slightly better, and a couple other minor problems like Sally's hands been corrected, it would have been an easy ***1/2. Even as it is, it was *this* close to that extra half star.

If you've been buying the line, I wouldn't pass this one up. If you haven't started yet, this playset could be the straw that breaks your collecting camel's back. The design is great, and it looks excellent on the shelf. It's a great setting to put several of the kids, and because of the design can be displayed in a number of ways. I'm hoping this is the beginning of improved figures and sets across the board for the Peanuts line. 

Where to Buy - 
I picked up Sally at Target for under $16. Not all Targets have them out yet, but I'd expect that they'll start showing up in greater numbers. On-line:

- Entertainment Earth has them, and I couldn't find any other e-tailers with them listed in a quick search. Problem is, they are $25 plus shipping - ouch! (MROTW Affliate)


This photo shows that the classroom is even better scale with the Simpsons figures!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour