Thursday, August 05, 2004
Toy review by Sombrero Grande
Today I got a nice surprise in my mailbox in the form of a tiny superhero with a jet pack and a general look of fear and reluctance on two of his three heads. I’m, of course, talking about Super Beaker, the second in a series of exclusive movie parody Muppet action figures from Palisades Toys. The first, Adventure Kermit (a.k.a. “Indiana Frog”), I picked up at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Super Beaker was created to be an exclusive for the convention too, but due to a hold-up in customs he missed the show.
Here’s where Palisades really shows what great customer service they have. So those who, like me, were eager to pick up Super Beaker at the convention and then were disappointed by his absence wouldn’t be left high and dry, Palisades is selling Beaker off of their web site for the same price he would have been at the convention (an even $15) with FREE SHIPPING! Even though the reason Beaker wasn’t at the show was through no fault of their own, the folks at Palisades are paying to have Super Beaker show up at the doorsteps of anyone who buys him during the first month he’s available on their web site (this offer expires August 27th)! It just goes to show that Palisades is a company devoted to keeping their collectors happy. No wonder they’re my current favorite action figure producer.
As wonderful as the free shipping offer is, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed once I got Super Beaker out of his box. I’ll get to the reasons why in just a bit; first I want to talk about what I really like about this figure.
Adventure Kermit, with his golden Gonzo idol, is an obvious spoof of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Super Beaker is obviously a take off on The Rocketeer, with Beaker’s strap-on jet pack and sail-adorned bucket helmet bearing much resemblance to the outfit in the film. The Rocketeer might seem like an odd choice for a parody figure since the film wasn’t really a huge success and is over a decade old, but you won’t hear me complaining. You see, this cowboy has a bit of a soft spot for The Rocketeer, largely because it contains one of my all-time favorite film scores.
An interesting thing, to a film nut like me at least, is that The Rocketeer was largely Disney’s attempt at creating its own “Indiana Jones” kind of movie franchise, much the same way that Dick Tracy was Disney’s attempt at a Batman style franchise. Of course, due to the so-so popularity of those films, no sequels were ever made, but I do think it’s interesting that Palisades’ two parody Muppet figures so far are based on Indiana Jones and Disney’s attempt at “Indiana Jones” in The Rocketeer. Is it just a coincidence? Probably. Is it a coincidence interesting to anyone other than me? Probably not, so I’ll move on.
Attention to detail is an area where Palisades always seems to shine, and Super Beaker is certainly no exception. The sculpting is top-notch everywhere, from the coils, bolts and wires on the jet pack to the texture on Beaker’s khaki shorts to the “quilting” on his oven mitt gloves to his untied shoelaces. The fact that the grill on the bucket helmet mimics Beaker’s mouth shape is an especially nice touch.
Earlier I mentioned the fact that Super Beaker has, in fact, three heads. All are separate pieces which lock, one at a time, into place, giving you the ability to customize the look of the figure for different situations. First, there’s the regular Beaker head which varies from previous Palisades Beaker figures in that the hair is fittingly sculpted to look a little more wind-swept this time around. Then there’s Beaker’s half-head, the way he looks when his cylindrical noggin slides down into his shirt when he’s scared. Last, and certainly not leastly, is the Rocketeer parody bucket helmet head that completes the ensemble when our reluctant hero is ready to take flight. The heads all fit snuggly when in place yet are easily removed when another “look” is desired.
Talking about Beaker’s heads brings me to my main disappointment with the figure: the paint. Each head has something amiss in the area of paint. The bucket head shows obvious brush strokes of gold paint and a glop of paint in the black area of one of the eyes. In the area of the mouth grill, the brown that should only be on the inside of the grill is spread all over the gold bars that cover the nicely sculpted mesh, making Super Beaker’s helmet look a to a degree like he has “smokers’ teeth.” On the “regular” Beaker head, there’s paint slop around the eyes and nose with the whites of the eyes bleeding onto the nose and the orange of the nose bleeding onto the eyes. Normally a little paint slop isn’t this noticeable, but when it’s on the eyes (the first place my eyes tend to go to when looking at figures) it becomes painfully obvious. The orange-brown paint on the nose is also noticeably uneven, being much lighter or darker in certain areas. The “half-head” also has the same problem with uneven color on the nose, but has a much bigger problem on top of that. The paint on Beaker’s bright orange hair felt very sticky to me at first but I didn’t really think much of it…until it came off on my thumb and then left an ugly bright orange mark on the side of his head! All I was trying to do was pop the head into place on Beaker’s body and now it looks like he’s got a massive bruise on the side of his head! NOT cool! In trying to wipe off the paint (which, just a few moments previous, was oh-so willing to let go of Beaker’s hair and now wasn’t going to come off without a fight) I merely engrained it into the pockets of Beaker’s skin texture and spread it a bit onto the side of one of his eyes. Looking back at the package I noticed that the plastic tray that held Beaker’s half-head had a big smudge of orange paint that rubbed off on the side during shipping. In my excitement to free Super Beaker from his box confinement I hadn’t noticed it before. What gives? HOW could the paint still be wet?
So as I stood there scowling in frustration at this plastic toy, Super Beaker fell over. It turns out Super Beaker’s quite top-heavy, especially with his big bucket helmet on. His spindly little legs, while amusing visually, just don’t do the trick of keeping him steadily upright. His legs aren’t even even, with the left leg being just shorter enough to cause a problem without being overly visually evident. Super Beaker’s fallen over twice more during the time it’s taken me to write this review. He’ll be standing there just fine and then all of a sudden--wham!--he’s on the ground and has taken any figure standing close by with him.
Overall, Super Beaker isn’t a “bad” figure; he’s a cool idea with “issues.” Like the Rocketeer’s first flight, Super Beaker has his ups and downs. Beaker’s one of my favorite Muppets, so perhaps I’m being a little more nit-picky with this figure than I would with some others. Another exclusive Palisades Beaker figure, the mostly-clear Vanishing Cream Beaker, is probably my favorite figure in the whole Muppets toy line--if not my favorite action figure, period--so Super Beaker had some rather big boots to fill. I think he comes up a bit short, but Super Beaker’s still a head above many other action figures out there, even if it’s only a bruised “half-head.”