Friday, May 15, 2015

Simpstravaganza finale: Construction of the LEGO Simpsons House!

I toldja this would be a big one! When the LEGO Group announced that they would be producing a set based on the iconic Simpsons house, excitement spread like wildfire across the internet, and the widespread appeal of the Simpsons brought it a great deal more attention than a LEGO set typically receives. When the set was unveiled, many were quick to hail it as the greatest LEGO set ever produced. Does it lay claim to that lofty title? You'll have to wait until the end of the article to see! (Or, y'know, scroll down to the bottom, if you're the impatient sort.)

As a hardcore Simpsons fan who has been watching since the Tracey Ullman Show days, I knew I would be getting this set. At 2,523 pieces, it is the largest LEGO set that I own by a fairly significant margin. (The next largest one I own is the Haunted House, which clocks in at 2,064 pieces.) I milked it for all it was worth; eschewing the numbered bags that are designed to make the build quicker and easier, I dumped them all into a bin, put on some classic Simpsons episodes, and spent the next three days building this beast. (My estimate for the total build time is about fifteen hours. If that sounds too daunting, you could easily knock off a few if you used the numbered bags. I don't get to enjoy a massive build like this too often, so I wanted to string it out.) I documented the build fairly extensively, so for now, I'll let a selection of those photos do the talking.

 Impressive, eh? It's difficult to get the size of the set across in the photos; it really is quite large. Devoted Simpsons fans will immediately notice that the interior layout is not 100% show-accurate; unfortunately, the realities of toy production mean that making the house larger and more accurate would have resulted in a set that was easily twice as expensive, and $200 is really pushing it as it is. All the most important rooms are present, though the scale can seem a bit small at times. The kitchen is particularly crowded. It must also be noted that the layout is not consistent on the show itself-- note, for example, the magic door in the kitchen that leads to various places depending on the needs of the episode in question-- so it's tough to hold any inaccuracies against this set.

Once you get past that, you can appreciate the amazing detail in the set. Things like the workbench and tool set in the garage, the dented fender on Homer's car, the posters and comics scattered around Bart's room, the vacuum cleaner tucked into an alcove behind the staircase, and the “Property of Ned Flanders” labels on the various items Homer has “borrowed” over the years propel a great set into truly legendary territory. (The newly-released Kwik-E-Mart appears to double down on this!) 

Most of the issues I have with the set are related to the minifigures that are included. Obviously, including the family is a no-brainer, and Ned Flanders is a similarly obvious inclusion. However, the family has a sleepy/stoned appearance that just makes them look odd, with the exception of Maggie. (I have the Collectible Minifigure Series Maggie displayed inside my house; the one included with the house is identical, but has normal wide-open eyes.) It's understandable that TLG felt the needed to differentiate these minifigs from the ones included in the CMF series, but one would think that such details as Homer's tie and Marge's apron were enough. As things are, anyone who buys this set and skips or cannot find the CMF versions will be stuck with less desirable versions of most of the family, and that's a bit of a bummer. Maggie is fine, as noted, and Flanders is okily-dokily.

Another drawback is the absence of the family pets. (At least they are now available in the Simpsons CMF series two, but it honestly kinda sucks that we have to buy another Lisa and Maggie to get Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II. Lisa is a neat variant, but Maggie is exactly the same.) It should also be noted that the floors are completely covered with tiles, making it tough to get minifigs to stay in place. This can be easily fixed by simply popping off a tile so you can lock a minifig's feet in place, so it's not a big deal. On the contrary, the tiled floors look sharp, and I'm glad TLG made the decision to do them like that.

This set is definitely greater than the sum of its parts; its drawbacks are few, and its positives are innumerable. So, is it the greatest LEGO set ever produced? In my opinion, it is not, though it is a solid top ten, possibly even top five, contender. That said, putting aside all objectivity, it is my second-favorite set of all time. (For the record, my all-time favorite LEGO set remains the Haunted House.) It's a must-have for hardcore Simpsons fans and lovers of great LEGO sets alike. I feel this is destined to become one of those “holy grail” sets in the years to come, so if you're interested, better get one while you can! (It is currently out of stock on the official LEGO Shop website, but they are expecting more, and it's currently instock at Don't pay ridiculous scalper prices if you can help it.) Hope you enjoyed this in-depth look at one of the coolest Simpsons collectibles out there, and if you missed any Simpstravaganza articles, you can catch up right here. Enjoy the season finale Sunday, and I'll see you all next time!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Simpstravaganza Day Three: LEGO & World of Springfield comparison photos!

Today's entry is light on the text, but slam full of photos! I thought it would be cool to take some comparison pics with LEGO minifigures and their World of Springfield counterparts, for those that have them. I'm still missing Patty, Selma, and Krabappel, and I never got WoS Bartman or Martin, so they'll be absent, but there's still plenty to chew on. Enjoy!

 Smithers' glasses do not want to stay put.

Some pretty interesting comparisons there, eh? It's pretty cool that some of them even have some of the same accessories, and cool little details like the back of Moleman's tie sticking out have been captured in both lines. Anyway, that does it for today, but there will be a new Simpstravaganza article over at The Latest Pull tomorrow, then come back here Friday for the finale! Trust me, you do not want to miss that!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Simpstravaganza Day Two: The Ten Best Episodes of the Past Ten Years is live over at The Latest Pull

Like the title says, today's Simpstravaganza article is live now over at TLP! You can read it here. Don't forget to come back here tomorrow for the next one!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Simpstravaganza Day 1: LEGO Simpsons Collectible Minifigures Series 2 review

Simpstravaganza begins today! The season finale of The Simpsons airs Sunday, and in celebration, I'll be posting a Simpsons-related article every day until then, including a really big one that you definitely don't wanna miss! The articles will be split between here and The LatestPull, but don't worry; I'll link each of those articles here as well to remind TMR regulars.

To kick things off, we'll take a look at half of the new LEGO Simpsons collectible minifigures series 2! My CMF reviews normally include a “groping guide” to help you find the specific minifigs you want in the blind packaging, but since I've already done a separate guide for this series, that part will be omitted in today's reviews.

“Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!” Groundskeeper Willie is one of the characters whose absence in series one left a gaping hole in the LEGO Simpsons lineup. (Willie is my favorite character in the show, however, so your mileage may vary.) Getting my hands on a Willie was my number one priority with this series. (Yeah, I know what I said.) Thankfully, the beloved Scotsman is on par with the best minifigs in the Simpsons line. They have absolutely nailed his likeness, from the wild, bushy hair and low brow to the protruding molars and oddly bumpy upper lip. Willie has the short sleeves that were introduced with last year's Simpsons series 1, and has his trademark arm hair as well. His torso has his shirt collar and overalls printed, while his legs are all one color. However, the colors are a little off from how Willie usually appears. Willie's shirt is normally white and his overalls blue, but the minifig has dark green overalls and a dark tan shirt. This is one of those things like Apu's hair, where the color is inconsistent across the show and on merchandise, so no matter which color scheme The LEGO Group chose, they risked putting off someone. Fortunately, despite being a hardcore Simpsons fanatic, I'm not anal retentive about details, so the possible (depending on your preference) miscoloration doesn't bother me. Willie's only accessory, aside from the ever-present stand, is his plunger. It's a bit surprising to get this instead of the more often seen rake, but it's a good choice nonetheless, and adds a good bit of variety to the display. Now we just have to hope that we don't have to wait too long to get a kilted Willie! (I know I'll be picking up one of series 12's Lifeguards soon so I can make a shirtless ragin' Willie!)

“Oh, a sarcasm detector. That's a real useful invention.” Jeff Albertson, better known as Comic Book Guy, is one of the most beloved Simpsons characters, largely because all of us have encountered at least one person who is just like him. (Incidentally, he's the other character I felt merited inclusion in series 1 along with Willie.) The likeness here is perfect, though his neutral facial expression does come close to the dreaded blank stare. His brow and the sculpted lines around his eyes add just the right touch of casual contempt to avoid that, however. The printing is typically clean, though it should be noted that his man scrunchy is unpainted.
Unfortunately, CBG really suffers from use of the basic minifig body. Where this was a flaw with series 1's Chief Wiggum, it's a serious drawback here. CBG simply does not look right. A torso overlay, similar to what we saw with one of the dwarves in this Hobbit set, is sorely needed here. Sadly, since TLG did not see fit to use something like that on the one character who truly needed it the most, we can resign ourselves to the reality that all future heavyset characters will suffer from this as well. (That really kinda dampens my desire to get a Muumuu Homer at some point.)
What we do have is a printed belly, with the bottom of his t-shirt lifted above his waistline, which is a nice detail. His red shorts and blue shoes are printed on the front and sides, but not the back, of his legs. CBG has a couple of nice accessories: a new Squishee cup that matches their appearance on the show, and a 2x2 tile with printing to represent a copy of his Everyman comic. Despite being stuck with a standard minifig torso, CBG is an essential character, and so will be very sought after. Despite my disappointment at TLG's failure to capture his girth, I am glad to finally be able to add him to my LEGO Simpsons collection.

“No one is gay for Moleman!” Hans Moleman is easily one of my favorites on the show, with his odd (even by Simpsons standards) design, wilting voice, and legendary bad luck making him one of the series' most endearing (and hilarious) characters. His head sculpt captures all of his wrinkled, lumpy greatness, with his eyes hidden behind his thick (non-removeable) glasses. His torso has his shirt collar and tie printed, with the back tail of his tie sticking out from behind the front. (This is a detail also found on his World of Springfield counterpart.) Moleman has the immobile kid legs, as befitting his stature. I still wish that TLG would implement articulation into the short legs, but it is what it is. His lone accessory is his driver's license, which is voided, of course. Moleman isn't one of the superstar characters like CBG, but he does have his fans, and they'll be very pleased with this representation of him.

Individually we are weak, like a single twig. But as a bundle, we form a mighty faggot!” Appearing in the second episode of the series, Martin Prince is one of longest-tenured Simpsons characters. TLG have knocked it out of the park again with this head sculpt, perfectly capturing the character to the smallest (animated) detail, right down to his cowlick. I know I keep harping on this, but taking the features of a two-dimensional character and rendering them in three dimensions is not an easy task, and it continues to astound me that TLG have done such amazing work with this line. Their consistency with the head sculpts in this line is even greater than that of Playmates' World of Springfield series, long held up as the gold standard when it comes to Simpsons toylines. It's a credit to the talented sculptors TLG has working for them. Anyway, Martin has his shirt collar and pens in his front pocket printed on his torso, and shorts and shoes on his legs. These are the immobile child legs, of course. Martin only has one accessory, but it's a big one, as you can see from the photo. Unfortunately, the big book is too large for Martin to hold. From what I've seen online it seems that Martin may be one of the least desired minifigs in this wave, but that's certainly no fault of the figure itself, as TLG did a fantastic job with him.

All your organs have been replaced with machines, but that doesn't make you any less of a man. Except that you don't have a penis.” Springfield's resident mad scientist Professor John Frink looks to be one of the more popular minifigs in this series, if the early buzz is anything to go by. We have another fantastic head sculpt here, with the nutty-- er, absent-minded, uh, let's just go with “brilliant” scientist's features flawlessly rendered, from his parted hair to his buck-toothed smile. Note that the earpieces of his glasses are painted and not sculpted, however. His torso has his bowtie, shirt buttons, and coat printed. The lab coat continues onto his legs, where it is joined by his belt. His coat is alternately colored white or green on the show and in merchandise-- the WoS Frink figure has a green coat, for example-- so the white is accurate, but it may not be your preference. I don't mind the white coat a bit, though given how the pink of his legs shows through, perhaps the green might have been a better choice. Frink comes with a beaker full of a green substance that is definitely not Flubber. While I like Frink, he's not one of my few favorite characters, but his minifig is one of my two or three favorites from this series. They really did a great job with him.

This is the part of my job I hate most: Talking to crazy people.” Dr. Julius Hibbert was originally introduced as a sort of playful jab at the series' rivalry with Bill Cosby when Fox moved The Simpsons opposite The Cosby Show on Thursday nights during its second season. The Simpsons' family doctor (when they're not slumming with Dr. nick) has become one of the most beloved supporting characters on the show over the years, so his inclusion in the second series of the LEGO CMF Simpsons line is no surprise. Hibbert has a very good head sculpt, but it doesn't wow me as much as the others we've covered so far. I can't put my finger on it, but something seems ever so slightly “off” about it. Perhaps my eyes are just playing tricks on me, though. It's still a good sculpt, and the expression suits the character perfectly. Hibbert's torso has printing for his collar, tie, stethoscope, and lab coat, which continues onto his legs. The same issue Frink had occurs here, as the gray of the legs shows through the shite of the coat. Hibbert has one of my favorite accessories from this series, an x-ray of Homer's head that shows the crayon lodged in his brain. Like Martin, Hibbert risks being overshadowed by some of the other new characters in this series, but he is one of the essential supporting characters, and Simpsons fans will be happy to add him to their collections.

Mr. Burns can't stand talking to his mother. He never forgave her for having that affair with President Taft.” The long-suffering Waylon Smithers finally makes his debut with this series. How did Mr. Burns manage the past year without him? We have yet another excellent head sculpt here, with Waylon's flattop and glasses lovingly rendered. Unlike Frink, the earpieces on his glasses are sculpted. He has the kindly facial expression that we so often see as he weathers the abuse of Mr. Burns. His torso has printing for his shirt, bow tie, and jacket lapels, while the legs are blank. Smithers has a great two-part accessory: a boxed Malibu Stacy doll with a NEW hat! TLG really nailed this character, and Simpsons fans everywhere can now breathe a sigh of relief as they finally have the opportunity to reunite Smithers with his beloved tyrant.

We'll wrap things up today with a look at one of the returning Simpsons family members, Bart in the guise of Bartman. Frequently seen in comics and video games, Bartman has only made a couple of appearances on the actual TV show. Nevertheless, it's a very popular Bart variation that had to make an appearance at some point, and I'm glad to add it to the collection. The head sculpt is the same as the one we've already seen twice now; thankfully, the sculpt is quite good, so that is definitely not a problem. The purple mask is painted/printed on, with the eylids given a slightly angry slant that suits this figure quite well. The body and legs are the same orange and blue colors as the other Bart minifigs, though it is worth noting that they went with a different shade of orange for the shirt, rather than the reddish-orange we got with previous versions. (Personally, I was hoping for a blue shirt when Bartman was announced, as he usually appears with a blue shirt when in the Bartman guise. Us blue-shirt Bart fans just can't catch a break!) Bart has his slingshot, and his cape is a separate cloth piece. It's the same very stiff fabric that was used for Marge and Lisa's skirt pieces in series 1. there have been some complaints about getting so many variants of existing figures in this series, but Bartman is a much welcome one as far as I'm concerned. Mine is currently an unsuspecting trick-or-treater entering the front gate of the Haunted House.

That's it for today! The rest of series two will be reviewed soon, and in the meantime, don't forget to check back tomorrow for another Simpstravaganza article! There are plenty more photos, so keep scrolling and check 'em out.