Review: Muppets Star Tours Figurines
Between the mediocre Star Wars/Transformers crossovers, the amusing Star Wars/M&M figures from a few years back, and the Mr. Potato Head "Darth Tater" figures, fusing other properties with Star Wars is becoming commonplace.
But the figures I'm looking at today have a bit more history. In 1980, a few months before The Empire Strikes Back was released, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca appeared on an episode of The Muppet show. At one point, Luke Skywalker commandeers the Swine Trek to save Chewbacca from Dearth Nadir (Gonzo in a Darth Vader outfit).
If you've never seen it, I recommend tracking it down: it's one of the best episodes of one the best series ever put on television.
When Palisades released their series of Muppet figures, they never made a "Dearth Nadir" toy, which is a shame: it would fit beautifully in the Swine Trek playset they released. I'm not sure whether the character wasn't famous enough or if there were copyright issues, but whatever the reason, Palisades has since passed into memory, and with it, I thought, any hope of a Dearth Nadir action figure.
Turns out I was wrong.
Disney recently put out a box set, exclusive to their theme parks, containing figurines of Muppets dressed as Star Wars characters.
There's a total of six characters: Gonzo as Darth Vader, Kermit as Luke Skywalker, Miss Piggy as Princess Leia, Rizzo as Yoda, Fozzie as Chewbacca, and Beaker as C-3P0. And I'm not calling them that again.
I don't know if the rights to Dearth Nadir are complicated or if someone felt the joke was a bit too obscure for the back of the packaging, but that's the character's name, so I'm using it.
And, while we're on the subject, lets go with: Luke Flywalker, The Princess, Rizzoda, Chewwacka, and C-Beak-P0. All right, so not all the names are winners. At least I tried.
These were given to me as a Christmas gift. If you're not visiting Disney World anytime soon, I'd recommend picking these up online: you'll probably pay around twenty bucks on Ebay.
This is, obviously, an average, since the figures vary in quality. Most have visible mold lines: in some cases this is hardly noticeable; in a few it's distracting. Because there are a lot of figures and because their quality, merits, and flaws vary as much as they do, I'm going to change things up a bit and consider this section one at a time.
Oh, one more thing: click on the pictures for larger images!
It feels wrong to talk about the Muppets without starting with Kermit. Easily the second best in terms of appearance, Flywalker's head is nearly perfect. The skin (felt?) is textured wonderfully, and his expression conveys a lot of Kermit's character. The outfit and lightsaber were well planned, as well. They wisely went with the blue blade from the original Star Wars, which lines up with the designs for most of the other characters. Flywalker is wearing his white outfit from the same movie, as well, and overall it looks fantastic. My largest complaint is with the feet, which are painted the same color as the rest of his outfit. Other than that, there's a pouch on his back that's the exact same color as his shirt... but it's hard to care. Also, on close examination there are some paint problems, but honestly I didn't even notice them until I had the pictures under magnification. If I were scoring Flywalker on his own, he'd easily get a nine. If every figure was this nice, the set would probably have pulled a ten.
First Mate Piggy (aka: The Princess)
First Mate Piggy, or "The Princess" as she likes to be called, appeared in this outfit during the famous "Star Wars" episode of The Muppet Show. She was performed, of course, by Frank Oz, who played Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (and reprised the role several times since). While Miss Piggy did dress up as Leia, I don't recall her brandishing a hair dryer. Her pose, while certainly appropriate for Miss Piggy, doesn't really duplicate the character as she existed in that episode... a fact I can hardly penalize them for, since I'm probably the only person alive who cares. The outfit is perfect, and the hairdryer/blaster gag is well executed. There is one problem with the figure, though, and unfortunately it's a big one: she has a very noticeable, very obtrusive mold line in the middle of her face. From a few feet back it won't bother you, but if you pick her up, it's hard to miss. Even with this problem, it would be hard not giving her at least an eight.
Next up is Chewwacca, who's very much a mix of good and bad. No, that's not fair: he's really a mix of great and okay. First of all, the concept is top notch. Let's just take a moment to appreciate the thought that went into this. There is a rubber chicken in a satchel that's hanging from an ammo belt. This is how you know this was designed by someone who loved and understood both of these characters. My only quibble with the design stems from the mouth. I can see what they were going for - incorporating Chewbacca's teeth into Fozzie's large mouth - but the end effect just doesn't work for me. He's more scary than funny, and ends up not capturing quite enough of either character's face to succeed. My other complaint is with the plastic used in the figure. It's far too shiny, and winds up looking more like a toy than a collectible (that said, it isn't actually as bad in person as it looks in the photos). Between these two issues, I couldn't go higher than a seven for Chewwacca, which is really a shame given the how well most of the design elements work.
Now we reach the figure I was most excited about, Dearth Nadir. Overall Dearth is strong, but he has two serious problems. Despite the fact he has an impressive, detailed sculpt, from more than a foot away you can't really see it. There just isn't enough paint detailing to create much contrast, since he was cast in black. But if you do get close, his head is spot on, right down to the segmented nose. I'd have preferred if they'd followed the original Dearth Nadir design a little closer in the outfit, though, rather than use a more conventional Vader design. Again, I can't fault them for this, since it isn't - technically speaking - Nadir they're producing, but rather Gonzo dressed as Darth Vader. While these are ALMOST the same thing, it does explain the decision to use more elements from the Vader suit and arm him with, you know, a lightsaber. The other problem with Nadir is his size: he's far too small to be in scale with the other figures. I'd give Dearth a seven out of ten.
C-Beak-P0 is up next, and his problems are similar to Nadir's. While his sculpt and design are excellent, he's lacking the paint detail that would make him stand out. The aspects that work best are the stomach wires and the eyes. The eyes are very simple: sculpted balls with small painted circles in the centers. This gets the point across, though, and really gives him some character. The stomach is also effective, where they've put in only a few curved lines for the wiring. Less is more this time, and the minimalist approach really delivers without drawing attention away from the rest of the figure. Unfortunately, less isn't enough elsewhere: there's no other paint on the figure. A little detailing would really have made him stand out. As it is, he's still a solid eight out of ten. The pose selected is fantastic: I wish he had some articulation, but if I'm stuck with one position, this is a good one to have. If they'd have added a little extra paint, he'd have pulled a nine easily. A ten wouldn't have taken much more, to be honest.
The last figure is probably the best of the group, at least from a technical standpoint. Aside from uneven eyes and a tiny scratch on his robe, I can't find anything wrong with Rizzoda (I almost went with Yodent for his name: neither's particularly inspired, I know, but... oh, never mind). The more serious problem with Rizzo isn't one I can deduct point's for: it's a simple question I don't have an answer for. And that question is: what is he doing here? Look at the other figures: they're all Muppet characters playing characters from A New Hope. Not only is Rizzo playing Yoda, he's wielding a lightsaber, suggesting he's playing Yoda from one of the prequels. Also, if they felt the need to make a Yoda figure, I wish they'd used another character voiced by Frank Oz: Animal might have been an inspired choice. But, that aside, the figure is excellent. The paint work here is really impressive: they've even captured the hair on the back of his head. He's a solid nine, no question, though I wish they'd produced a different figure. I mean, where's R2, Han Solo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi? Of course, it's possible they're planning another set. If that's the case, all is forgiven....
Packaging and Extras: +1
Okay, lets talk packaging. The box this comes in looks good, and I really like the "hyper-space" backing, which pulls out if you want to use it as a backdrop. I actually kept mine, which, as you all know, is unheard of (that's NOT what the bonus point is for though: don't think I've gone soft).
All is not well, however, as you must suffer for your toys. I speak of the plastic tray these are stuck in. No, "stuck" doesn't convey an accurate picture. These are embedded, and your fingers will not be the same once you pry them out. I wound up needing to cut the tray to get Rizzo out safely, and I'm not entirely sure whether the scratch on his robe was caused during production or because of the tray.
I also want to reiterate my earlier complaint that they don't use Dearth Nadir's name on the back. I mean, sure, it's no big deal, but I'd have appreciated a reference.
In addition to the figures, you also get three stands. Each of these is designed for a single figure: C-Beak-P0, Dearth Nadir, and Luke Flywalker. The pegs coming out of the bases are sized for one character's feet, so you can't mix and match (not that I think you'd want to). That also means you can't display any of the other characters using one of the bases, since only half have peg holes. The only base you'll actually need is the one coming with C-Beak-P0, since Nadir and Flywalker stand fine on their own. You may choose to use the bases, anyway, since they look good.
Play and Display: ----
These stand up and look great doing it. There's no articulation, even in C-Beak-P0's arms (which really look poseable), which is a shame but isn't all that surprising. These are fundamentally miniature statues: they're intended for display, although most look like they could survive gentle play. Still, there are several points of articulation that could have been added, and I'm disappointed they were omitted.
On the other hand, they're well balanced. Of the three that come with bases, only one actually needs it to stand.
While there's no articulation, Nadir's removable cape does give you a few posing options. In addition to displaying him with the cape on or off, you can turn in it a few different positions. This was enough to warrant a bonus point in the last section, but it certainly can't justify another one here.
Price Tag and Final Analysis: 9/10
Even at nine, I feel like that score doesn't do these justice. These figures are awesome - simply awesome. Any fan of the Muppets and Star Wars needs to check these out; any fan of the 1980 crossover needs to buy this immediately.
Since this was a gift, I don't know what it cost. I do know these are available on Ebay for around $18, plus shipping. I find toys like these to hardest to value, to tell the truth. On one hand, this is a bargain when compared to pricey PVC figures - and these are better than a lot of PVC sets out there. On the other hand, these aren't much bigger than the Marvel Super Hero Squad figures (in fact, Dearth Nadir is about their size and Rizzoda is even smaller).
But these are phenomenal figures, and the more I look at them the more I like them. Going with my gut, I have to say these are worth the cash. Hell, if I'd known these were available, I'd have paid a lot more to my hands on them.
If you've got questions, comments, or anything to say, head on over to The Middle Room.