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South Park
by yo go re

It's hip, right now, to be "over" The Simpsons. The internet trendsters tell you that the show isn't as funny as it used to be, that Springfield is a pale imitation of what it once was. Of course, turning your TV to Fox at 8:00 on any given Sunday is enough to prove this wrong, but this is the internet: facts have no place here. If you want to be one of the kewl kids, you're supposed to be into Family Guy and South Park now. And hey, coincidentally, those are both toy lines produced by Mezco.

The South Park license has always been a bit of a problem for toymakers - for some reason, it's been passed around like a poorly rolled joint. Tweek Ages ago, McFarlane was poised to make the foul-mouthed foursome, but for some reason they never materialized. N2/Mirage (remember them?) actually got some toys out the door, but they were a terrible waste of plastic, and the line only lasted two series before it tanked. Mezco, meanwhile, is up to Series 5 - and have finally released the character I've been waiting for, Tweek.

Yes, Tweek, the jittery little guy whose parents run the town's coffee shop. Hey, every character has to be somebody's favorite. When Mr. Garrison assigns the class to prepare oral presentations on a current event, the boys are put in a group with this new kid (new to us, at least), though none of them are very happy about it, because Tweek is the class's resident freek. Er, freak. He suggests they do their report on the Underpants Gnomes who come into his room and steal his underwear every night. Yeah. Freak.

when did Lisa Simpson start wearing green? It's hard enough turning a good cartoon design into a 3D toy, so working with South Park's paper cut-outs has to be extra difficult. And that's for the simple, symmetrical characters, like Stan and Kenny - imagine how much worse it has to be for a character like Tweek, with his unkempt hair and all. Mezco, however, did a great job. His hair is all over the place, and his irregularly buttoned shirt is actually a sculpted edge, rather than just paint trickery - there are several distinct layers and the buttons stand out even more. The buttonholes are paint, but still, nice work!

One of Shocka's major complaints about the old South Park tilt toys was a complete lack of articulation, but that's a problem that Mezco does not share. Tweek moves at the Springfield Four - neck, shoulders and waist - but it's better than it sounds. Sure, the shoulders are simple and the waist could be easily overlooked, but the neck really sells it. It's a balljoint, with a truly impressive range of motion. Considering that the figure's head is basically a sphere to begin with, it's especially surprising that you can't see any evidence of the joint as you move him around - no gaps.

The South Park packaging is hideous. Bad enough the figures come in clamshells rather than on real cards, but the packs are gargantuan, easily twice the size they need to be, a waste of both space and materials. Looking at a tiny figure floating in this empty package just drives home how wildly overpriced these figures are. You're dropping $15 for a 3" figure with a simple sculpt, four points of articulation and three accessories? I got Tweek becaue he's my favorite; he's cool and all, but this isn't going to inspire me to buy any other characters.

covered in BEES! Tweek's accessories are pretty good, though. He comes with a cup of coffee and two Underpants Gnomes. The cup is green, and apparently Tweek takes his coffee black. It's probably Tweak Bros. Coffee, the family blend - yes, his last name is Tweak, making this poor kid Tweek Tweak. The figure has these creepy little thumb-nubs sticking out of his fists, so he can hold the coffee cup easily.

The gnomes in the episode had a business plan, Underpants Gnomes which is why they were stealing underwear. When the kids had to give their report, they turned to the gnomes to learn all about corporations. When Mirage made their SP toys, a gnome came with Butters, for some reason, and was almost as tall as he was. Tweek gets a pair of properly-sized, unarticulated Underpants Gnomes, depicted in the usual gnome manner: short guy, pointy hat, big beard, backpack, etc. One of the 1¼" gnomes is even smoking a pipe.

Phase One: Underpants. Phase Three: Profit It would have been really nice if Mezco had given us some more accessories. Maybe the minecart that killed Kenny? If that's too complex/expensive, how about the chart showing the Underpants Gnomes' business plan or, I don't know, some underwear? Anything to make this feel like less of a rip-off.

There are no noticable flaws with the paint apps. Tweek's shirt and exposed skin don't overlap, and the edges are even outlined in black to help preserve the cartoony look. The gnomes are wearing red jackets and green hats, and their beards (and even their eyebrows) are different colors. The buttons on their chests are simply painted on. WHOA! Much like the Family Guy figures, Mezco creates "variants" by painting new expressions on the figures - Tweek's normal face is his familiar terrified, screaming look, while this figure reveals his calmer side. I'd prefer the normal one, but this is all the store had, and the odds of seeing him anywhere else in the future seemed slim.

Tweek first appeared in the Season 2 episode "Gnomes," which was back when the show still had a message to get across, rather than just tired parodies (yes, yes, you saw 300, we get it - now be funny again). Tweak Bros. Coffee is threatened when a big chain, Harbucks, moves into town, but Tweek's dad gets the kids to rally the townspeople to his side. However, the moral of the episode is that big corporations aren't necessarily bad - that people just hate them because they're told to. Because it's hip to do so. Sound familiar? Tweek is a good toy, but would be a whole lot better for a whole lot cheaper.


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