#0944: Bart’s Treehouse




With a whopping 27 years on the air, The Simpsons is the longest running scripted TV show in American history. During those 27 years, The Simpsons has found its way into just about every corner of merchandising, which of course includes my very favorite type of merchandise: action figures. Simpsons figures have been produced by the likes of Mattel, McFarlane, and even NECA, but the most successful, most popular line of Simpsons toys by far was Playmates’ World of Springfield line. Running from early 2000 through to 2004, the line managed to produce just about every named character from the show, alongside prominent variations of the main family, leading to over 200 unique figures produced. They didn’t stop with figures, though. One of the line’s main hooks was the recreation of some of Springfield’s more memorable locales as playsets. Each playset included a unique figure and had the ability to interact with most figures from the line. Today, I’ll be looking at Bart’s Treehouse and its included figure, Military Bart.


BartsTreehouse2Bart’s Treehouse was released alongside Series 12 of the World of Springfield line, which hit retail in the spring of 2003. The first 10 series each got two playsets, but Series 12 was when the line was nearing its end, so Playtmates had cut back to one playset per series. The Treehouse is 6 ¼ inches wide, 6 ¾ inches tall, and a little over 4 ½ inches deep. It’s not really articulated in any really conventional way, but there is a hinge on the roof, allowing it to swing up for easier access to the interior.  The construction of the treehouse is fairly basic, but that seems about right. From the screenshots I’ve found online, it doesn’t look like a horrible approximation of the in-show setting. The basic detail work is actually pretty nice. The boards are all fully detailed, with nails and everything, and there are even a few spots for posters on the walls. The actual tree bit is decent, if maybe not as exciting as the rest of the house. The bark in particular is a little on the soft side. It’s also worth noting that the entire back of the set isn’t meant to be seen, so the leaves on the tree just abruptly stop. There isn’t a whole lot in the way of paint on this set. The tree bark is all painted a rather drab greyish-brown, which is appropriate I guess. The two maps and the Krusty the Clown poster are all done via decals. They’re pretty well applied and don’t look to be going anywhere, so that’s BartsTreehouse4good. The rest of the pieces are pretty much just molded in the appropriate colors. It was a tiny bit of a letdown to find out that the bulb in the light fixture was just left green, but that’s pretty minor. In addition to the Bart figure (who I’ll get to in a second), the Treehouse includes a table (with assorted supplies on it), a pile of water balloons, and a pair of binoculars. The set also included the usual interactive feature of all the playsets in the line. There are three ports where compatible figures can be plugged into the set. By each port, there’s a button, which will play a random clip of dialogue associated with the figure on said port. The set is compatible with 51 figures in addition to the included Bart (though a good number of those are just variants of the main family), and there are over 25 unique phrases included. The sound quality’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a pretty novel little feature nonetheless.


BartsTreehouse3Included with this set is a variant of Bart Simpson, who was one of the more recurring characters in the line. This particular Bart is based on his appearance in the episode “Bart the General,” which had the Treehouse in it, so it’s a good choice. The figure is 3 ¾ inches tall and he has 4 points of articulation (the standard for the line). Overall, he’s a fairly standard Bart, with the usual orange t-shirt and blue shirt (which Bart will no doubt demand you eat). He’s in a fairly generic pose, aside from his arms, which he’s got held up and bent at the elbows, as if he’s doing the chicken dance or something. The head is the main distinctive part here: Bart’s eyes are in a more serious half-lidded position, and he’s got a bit of wheat sticking out of his mouth. He’s supposed to be serious and military, but he ends up looking a bit dopey. To aid with his military look, Bart includes a helmet, sunglasses, and a baton, all of which are pretty well sculpted and sit nicely on the figure. The glasses even cover up the weird eyes and make him less silly looking, which is good. Bart’s paintwork is overall pretty clean, with nice, bright colors, and no really noticeable slop. For the talking feature, Bart gets six different lines with this set: “I promise you victory! I promise you good times!”, “I ain’t gonna get out of the fourth grade alive”, “We are happy, we are merry! We gotta rhyming dictionary!”, “I’m gonna have to teach you a lesson.”, “There’s this boy at school who keeps beating me up.”, and “I can’t squeal. It would violate the code of the schoolyard!”


World of Springfield was all over the place when I was growing up, but the only figure I ever got was a Series 1 Bart. The playsets always fascinated me, but I just never got one, since I was a bit young for the show at the time. I was at a thrift store with my brother two weeks ago, and happened upon this particular set for less than half its original retail price. The box was super beat up, but everything was there, so I figured “what the heck?” This is actually a pretty fun set, and I’m glad to have found it. Of course, now I need to resist the urge to go back and pick up the compatible figures!


#0940: Cyclops




Today is, amongst other things, the day I graduate from college. It’s been a long road, but it looks like I’m finally done with this whole school thing (for now, anyway…). Graduating is kind of an interesting experience: it’s sort of an all new thing, but at the same time it makes me rather nostalgic of all the time I’ve spent in school. So, I’m going to acknowledge my college graduation the way I acknowledge everything else in my life: with action figures.

Fitting the theme of nostalgia, I’m taking a step back to one of the earliest lines I ever collected: Toy Biz’s X-Men line from the ‘90s. The line was no stranger to gimmicks, and one of the more popular gimmicks of the early ‘90s was action figures that talked. For some reason, that was an area lots of toy makers saw a need to fill, Toy Biz included. They put together a line-up of seven of Marvel’s more popular characters, all making use of this particular feature. There were three X-Men characters represented, including today’s focus figure, Cyclops.


CyclopsTalks2Cyclops was released in the first (and only) series of Marvel Electronic Talking Super Heroes and X-Men. Yes, the “and X-Men” is actually on the card. Guess they don’t count as Super Heroes. The assortment was released in 1991, alongside the first series of the X-Men line and Series 1 and 2 of the Marvel Super Heroes line. As such, the talking figures have a fair bit in common with their non-talking variations from those lines. In fact, the prototypes on the packaging are just the regular release figures with the talking boxes attached. Cyclops has a lot in common with the X-Men Series 1 Cyclops, but he actually has a few notable differences. The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 7 points of articulation. While he loses the elbow movement from the X-Men Cyclops, he also loses the light-up feature, meaning he gets neck articulation. That would be a feature unique to this figure for several years. Aside from the slight changes in articulation, the sculpt is more or less the same. There’s no denying that this is a slightly dated sculpt, but it’s a step up from what Mattel offered 7 years before. Honestly, I think the neck movement does a lot to help make the sculpt look a little less unnatural, since the head looks far less stiff. The paint is, in theory, the same as that of the X-Factor version of the Series 1 Cyclops. In theory. In practice it’s noticeably sloppier. Like, a lot sloppier. From afar, he’s not atrocious, and I don’t think the figure’s ruined, but there’s no denying that this guy isn’t Toy Biz’s finest work. The talking portion of this figure is handled via a giant red backpack, which plugs right into his back (and stays there really securely. I almost thought it wasn’t coming back off). The figure has three different sounds: “Let’s Go, X-Men,” “Optic Blast Fire,” and a laser blast sound effect. The sound quality is a little muffled, but otherwise not bad. In addition to the talking box, he also includes a gun because… reasons? Maybe it’s because he’s the father of Cable? Yeah, I don’t know, but there it is.


Despite having grown up in the ‘90s, when these things were all over the place, Cyclops is actually a very recent addition to my collection. Two weekends ago, I was in Rehoboth, and one of my favorite stores, Gidgets Gadgets, had just gotten in a large collection of ‘90s figures. They had just about every figure from this set. I was fairly drawn to this guy, for whatever reason. My dad told me he was buying it for me because “How often is it that I get to buy you a Cyclops action figure anymore?” Yes, the figure’s super goofy. There’s no denying that. But he’s also pretty nifty, and plays into my nostalgia pretty hardcore.