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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Guide To Collecting Muppets By Nicholas Napoli

Last year might not have been the best for fans when it came to Muppet productions but merchandising wise we did alright. 2016 was a fun year to be a Muppet collector, it was even more fun and at times difficult to keep up if you’re a fan of all things Jim Henson. Staying up to date with my Muppet collection has always been a challenge, especially since I have to order everything online, I purchased the entire Palisades Toys line through the internet. For me it’s difficult to keep my collection updated because at times some items are hard to come across but money wise there has always been such a limited selection of merchandise (at a time) that it’s never been a problem until recently. This generally tends to happen when there’s a new line of figures (in any form) as was the case over ten years ago when Palisades released their line of Muppets action figures. The last time I had trouble keeping up was when Palisades began releasing wave after wave of excellent Muppet figures every four months for about three years, this was a fun experience, one that will always remind me of the name Ken Lilly.

Diamond Select reintroduced The Muppets in action figure form back into our lives last year and alongside the regular figures they also introduced Muppet Minimates. For the first time since Disney purchased The Muppets I was overwhelmed by merchandise and Lego and Muppet fanatics were overjoyed.  

No longer was I patiently waiting for a
Rowlf plush to show up at the Disney Store or for Hallmark to release their annual Muppet ornament instead I was working like crazy to hunt down those difficult to come across Pigs in Space Toy R Us Minimates Exclusives amongst others. So far the Minimates have given us a large selection of different characters even including a random Swinetrek crew member, twenty-seven characters and thirty-seven figures in total when including variants. Honestly I would not mind if the line ended by Series 4, obviously if they continue I’ll keep buying but for now we have a nice selection of characters. I wasn’t a fan of the design yet I thought the same thing when the Vinylmation figures first came out, then I kicked myself for not collecting those, only because so many different characters were represented, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice so I began collecting these the day they became available. I’ve already got the first two series, I’ve got Series 3 in the mail and now I’m just waiting for Diamond Select to announce the Series 4 line up so I can continue being excited to collect these in the future. My Series 4 wishlist would include Sam the Eagle and Bobo Bear, Rizzo the Rat and Snowth, Walter and Lew Zealand and finally Sweetums and Uncle Deadly.

I purchased Diamond Selects Muppets Action Figures Series 1 as soon as they became available and a few months later I ordered Series 2 but it wasn’t until recently that I finally opened them all out of their packaging. I’m moving soon and because of that I’ve had to begin storing my Muppet collection into containers, if there is no display and  only storage then what is the point of unpackaging my collectables? Around Christmas I decided to give myself a little present and opened Statler and Waldorf as I was keen to display them inside their balcony box on a hook on the wall. If you’re a Muppet Fan you’ll know exactly what happened next, I opened Animal, then Kermit, Robin and Bean Bunny, followed by Fozzie and Scooter, Gonzo and Camilla and lastly Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. As I looked at my newly opened figures I began to wonder why so many negative reviews? None of my figures came with any paint problems, the joints were a bit stiff but with a little exercise they began to move easily and the characters all look perfect especially Scooter once you push down his glasses.

When these figures were first announced I thought to myself this will be a nice way to hopefully fill in the few gaps left by Palisades but after opening the first six sets I’ve realised this is a brand new line of Muppet action figures and I’m glad their different from what Palisades offered us so many years ago. These figures are much smaller therefor much easier to handle, they won’t take up to much shelf space like the Palisades figures, I’ve actually found the perfect way to display them all without taking up to much space in my livingroom. These figures attract you to play with them unlike the Palisades ones which feel more like collectable figures you’re scared to touch. I must point out I was very impressed with Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, perhaps it was the fact that Statler, Waldorf and their balcony and Animal and his drumset had me so excited I had overlooked the scientific duo but once opened I could not put those particular two down. I’ve always visualized a full body Beaker resembling that of my Palisades Series 1 Beaker so this representation looked off but when you finally have the figure in your hand you realise this is a far more accurate representation. Have you ever wanted a regular clothed Link Hogthrob amongst your Muppet collection? Now you can if you’re okay leaving Hans Solo out of your Muppet Star Wars display.

Most excitingly of all (well for me anyway) is the upcoming Series 3 which will not only include Floyd and Janice, a perfectly shaped Miss Piggy along with Foo-Foo and a Penguin but also has an insane three pack consisting of Rowlf, Crazy Harry and Mahna-Mahna! This is the series I’m most excited about, I’m a huge fan of Mahna-Mahna and the Snowths, they’re the reason I wish I had 
collected the Vinylmation line, will we ever get Mahna-Mahna and Snowths plush toys which sing their classic song when squeezed or maybe even a Mahna-Mahna alarm clock? I never understood why Palisades didn’t release Mahna-Mahna and the Snowths in action figure form, they were going for obscure characters yet they only made these characters as part of the Muppet Minis. If Mahna-Mahna comes as part of a three pack why he is not packed with two Snowths instead fascinates me, perhaps we’re getting a Snowths, piano and explosives set down the line. I haven’t read anywhere that Rowlf, Crazy Harry and Mahna-Mahna come with any accessories yet Crazy Harry’s hands are designed to hold dynamite sticks... do they expect us to use our Palisades dynamite sticks? Diamond Select please do not let Mahna-Mahna become the Johnny Fiama of this line. The only annoying thing about Series 3 is the fact that it won’t decide on its release date, first they were slated for January 31st, then February 22nd and now March 31st but looking around online I can see they have quietly started popping up yet at ridiculous prices, I’m sure they’ll become widely available any day now at a more reasonable price.

Palisades Toys Muppets Action Figure line ended back in 2005, I was so grateful for all the new characters I now had as part of my collection (and until this day some have still not been represented again in merchandise) but at the same time I couldn’t stop but dwell on the ones that didn’t make it into final production. Every time I look at my Frog Scout Robin figure I wonder why are you not naked? Every time I look at my Johnny Fiama figure I wonder where is Sal Minella? Every time I play Muppet Treasure Island I wonder where is Clueless Morgan and Mad Monty? Every time I look at my Dr Phil Van Neuter figure I wonder why are you not Bobo Bear. After all these years some of these Muppets have fallen more into obscurity whilst others which we had never considered during Palisades run have risen to fame and deserve the action figure treatment. I highly doubt we’ll be adding Sal Minella, Clueless Morgan or Mad Monty to our collections anytime soon but we’re only three series in and we already have naked Robin, Bean Bunny, Foo-Foo, Mahna-Mahna and a balcony set! I think Bobo Bear stands a good chance of making it into our collections this time around and hopefully Walter, Big Mean Carl, Behemoth, Yolanda, Bubba Rat and perhaps even Constantine and Miss Poogy might make it too. My Series 5 wish list consists of Sam the Eagle, Walter and Lew Zealand (3pack), Bobo Bear and Pepe (2pack) and Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem Bus replica (Multipack). Series 6 wish list would include The Swedish Chef, Rizzo and Yolanda (3pack), Zoot, Lips and Snowth (3pack) and Sweetums, Uncle Deadly, Big Mean Carl, Behemoth, Angel Marie, Pigs in Space Crew, Beauregard, Muppet Newsman, Bobby Benson, Baby Band, Bubba Rat, Pops, Marvin Suggs, Muppaphones, Johnny Fiama, Sal, Wayne, Wanda and Chip (23pack).

Last year was also a rare treat for Jim Henson fans, not only did our Muppet collections continue to grow but we were also able to add merchandise from other classic Jim Henson properties including The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Until last year my collection lacked The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth merchandise, I had books, DVDs, a Labyrinth postcard and a Skeksis Neca action figure butthat was all. Thanks to Funko Pops I now have representations of most of the main characters in figure form, including Ludo! If that was not enough later on Funko Reaction released their own line of The Dark Crystal action figures, each figure comes with a separate piece of the dark crystal. There was a convention exclusive back in summer featuring Jen and a Landstrider and another a few months later including Kira and a Garthim. I’ve searched high and low all over the internet and I have not found a single seller selling the Kira and Garthim convention exclusive, luckily the Garthim will also be released as a Toys R Us exclusive sometime around March and will hopefully make it easier for us collectors to track down online or if you’re lucky in a store. We also received a second helping of Labyrinth merchandise in the form of a board game produced by River Horse, it’s a shame the character playing pieces don’t come painted, that was a big selling point for me, although I did read online a while back that they might eventually release the figures separately and painted. Archaia Comics continues to release great graphic novels based not only on The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth but The Storyteller too.

Let’s not forgot that we were also lucky enough to add the Sesame Street gang to our Funko collections making it four Henson properties to get the Funko Pop treatment. We all know what’s missing and by the way Funko are taking over toy stores I’m sure Fraggle Rock Pops will eventually become a reality, at least I hope so, I need a 6” Junior Gorg Flocked Exclusive. Dinosaur Funko

Pops would also be very welcomed, I really do prefer the flocked exclusives, miniature flocked Muppet statues would be something I could really get into collecting. Sadly this year other than an Animal flocked exclusive Funko didn’t release any other new Muppet characters which is a real shame, I would have hoped that with the 2015 TV show they would have at least had an extra set to release. What I most enjoy when adding items to my collection is when I am able to add merchandise of a character who is not represented in my collection yet, thanks to Funko Pops I’ve filled many of those holes but now they have gone far and beyond as this March we’ll get to add Herry Monster to our collections. Herry Monster Funko Pop will be released this march as part of Funko’s Speciality Series alongside a stoned Jiminy Cricket.

So far 2017 is shaping up to be another good year for collectors, we were able to start the year by buying a bunch of different Muppet calendars and as mentioned above a Herry Monster Funko Pop will be released this March. This year Diamond Select will release Muppets Series 3 Action Figures and probably a Series 4 (which they might reveal next month at New York Toy Fair) as well as a Series 4 for the Minimates line and if we’re extra lucky and wishful they might release Sesame Street action figures too. This summer Medicom will release a really nice set of Sesame Street figurines
and we’ll have a Muppet colouring book to help us destress half way through the year. Sometime before Christmas hallmark will be releasing their annual Muppet ornament and this year’s ornament belongs to The Muppets Christmas Carol’s Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Last year was fun because for the first time I was having a hard time keeping track of what merchandise was being released and when. Luckily MuppetsHenson provides a slideshow of
upcoming Muppet merchandise (and happenings) being released this year near the bottom of the sidebar on this page, I found it very useful at times. What would be my 2017 Muppet wish list item? A Sweetums plush toy, how does this not already exist?

Happy Collecting !

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