World of Springfield: Springfield Elementary review

Springfield Elementry, eh? Well what happened to the rest of it?!

"I saw some awful things in 'Nam, but you really have to wonder at the mentality that would desecrate a helpless puma. I never thought I'd say this, but the no-goodniks rule this school!" ~ Principal Skinner, after discovering the school mascot egged and TP'ed.

Springfield Elementry has seen it's wear and tear over the last 10 years - from housing a host of young bullies, roughians and trouble-makers, to being at the center of a teacher-strike, even having had a fortune of oil stolen from its own pump - and now it's here in action figure form as a World of Springfield Environment Playset. Here are the details: to fit in with the World of Springfield 5" action figure series, Playmates Toys has designed a series of small "playsets" representing some of the important areas and environments of Springfield - each playset consists of a thick base housing the Intellitronic Voice Mumbo-Jumbo (more on this shortly), a couple of walls to back the playset, and of course all the sculpted, detailed accessories and bits. Also included is an all-new World of Springfield figure, available only in the playset, for use with that playset as well as all the others. Overall, the playsets are about 8" by 5" (the floor/base) by 6" (the walls).

The Springfield Elementry Playset highlights all of the things great about these playsets, as well as all the things wrong with them. One of the nicest and most recognisable of the playsets, it has concise detail which stands it out to be clearly a classroom at Springfield Elementry. A desk with a stack of books and a pencil-tin stands before the blackboard (where Bart has written lines - aka the opening sight-gag in the show); next to this, a radiator below the windows, where we can see the bullies mocking Martin, Wendell looking rather ill and Ralph picking his nose outside in the playground. The detail is done nicely; a combination of well-applied paint (for things like the desk, pencils and books etc) and Groening-illustrated stickers, for things like the blackboard and the windows. It's simple but it works, and looks nice.

Further, the figure and accessory that come with the playset are also great; Principal Seymour Skinner stands 5" tall, basically a picture-perfect version of his animated self, with his blue suit, tie, and obvious toupee. I have a grip with his strange facial expression, which is kind of strange, but from the side it's the Spanky we all know and love. Skinner is articulated in the typical WOS articulation, neck, arms and midsection, and comes with a cute little clipboard accessory with an amusing list scrawled down it (I shan't replicate it here as yo already did).

The Intellitronic Voice System is included in Springfield Elementry, as in all of the playsets. This gimmicky action works when you place a WOS figure onto one of the three pegs on the base of the playset, and press a button, to hear them say a humorous line from The Simpsons. This particular playset is a favourite of mine, with many amusing lines from all of the Simpson family (bar Maggie, who is doomed to be forever too young to go to Elementry School), Skinner himself, and, of course, the always Scottish and amusing Groundskeeper Willie, plus plenty more. The voice action works quite well, with amusing interactivity and clear, easy-to-hear sounds. So far, so good - now we get to the negatives of Springfield Elementry.

To begin with, this is a playset?! The thing is too small to fit any more than two figures and look uncluttered, and is thus pretty hard to play with. Castle Greyskull, now that's a playset! But this is more of a display base for Simpsons figures than anything else; a large accessory for Skinner. Although there are three footpegs in the base, being it's designed for three figures, it just doesn't look right with three figures put on it. Secondly, as a single "Springfield Elementry" playset, you have to wonder exactly what the Elementry School is. Is it just one room? Whose room is this? Although it appears to be Edna Krabapple's classroom, Skinner is in it instead of her, and there are no desks. It could be Skinner's principal's office, but it looks nothing like it. Pah! Finally, the "playset" is very expensive for what you're getting - at $20, this (and the other) playsets are small, and although they contain full detailing, accessories, a new WOS figure AND the voice feature, it still feels expensive considering the size and the amount of "play" you can actually get out of it.

Still, I like and recommend the Springfield Elementry playset. Sure, it is heavily flawed, but it's the best available and there is some value in it - but mostly as a display base. The best way to get these playsets I've found is loose and at half-price from Collector Conventions - for under $15, I feel the purchase is a better deal. Still, Simpsons fans will enjoy the WOS playsets with the figures, and will enjoy building large collections of the Simpsons cast and environments like I have. Kids wont enjoy the playsets as much as us collectors, but will still have fun with them.

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