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Hugh Hefner

The Simpsons 25th Anniversary
by yo go re

It's been a full decade, but at last someone is returning to Springfield, back to the world of The Simpsons.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner showed a multitude of talents in Season 4's "Krusty Gets Kancelled." Not only did we learn that the Shelbyville Playboy Mansion sports a biosphere and an alternative energy research center, but also that Hef plays a mean set of musical glasses.

When Hugh Hefner published Playboy, he started a revolution - but not the one you're thinking of. Yes, he helped make it okay for "nice" girls to admit they like sex, too, and he (successfully) challenged the US Post Office's right to ban anything it felt like, but more than that, he redefined what it meant to be a man. Before Playboy, men's magazines were things like this or Field & Stream, paeans to doing things outside in the woods; Playboy was more urban, the lifestyle it presented was more about staying indoors. Indoors, and in the company of beautiful, fun-loving women.

The first question anyone had when it was announced that NECA was going to be making Simpsons figures was "are they going to fit in with Playmates' figures?" Proving (yet again) that NECA is better than McFarlane Toys, the toys blend perfectly. They're the same size, have the same articulation, and are sculpted with a similar style. There are some differences that we'll talk about in a bit, but yes, NECA's figures will integrate perfectly with the World of Springfield.

There are images on the back of the card showing Hef's appearance on the show, which is why we can say with certainty that the facial sculpt is not without its flaws. For the most part, the likeness is very good - the hair, eyes and nose are spot-on - but the mouth is the wrong shape. The corners of his mouth come up too high, so he's lacking the appropriate appropriate "flatness" on his upper lip. It's like he's smiling, but way too big. He needs a more reserved expression, such as we see on the back of the card.

That said, there's no mistaking who this is. Who else would be walking around in a red robe all day? Yes, a robe, not a smoking jacket - for whatever reason, the Simpsons designers put him in an ankle-length garment, rather than the shorter piece he's known for. The colors are right - a red body with black lapels, but it's not his iconic look. To the toy's credit, it duplicates the design well. He's wearing black slippers, and carrying a pipe, and his purpleshirt collar pokes out around the robe. The sash tied around his waist causes his robe to wrinkle, slightly, and there's a pocket with an (unpainted) handkerchief on his chest. The pipe is a permanently attached piece, not a separate accessory, but at least you don't have to worry about him losing it.

Part of "fitting in with the WoS toys" is having the same sort of articulation, so the figure moves only at what we call "the Springfield Four": the neck, shoulders, and waist. They're all swivel joints, too, so don't expect any zany poses. Hugh Hefner looks a bit different from the Playmates toys, in part because those relied so heavily on pieces that had been cast in color, rather than painted - it makes him less shiny and plasticky by comparison.

There is no question that Todd McFarlane's inability to play nice with others had an adverse effect on his Simpsons line. If McToys' figures could integrate with the existing collections, fans might have been willing to overlook the mediocre sculpts and god-awful paint. But no, he had to be a rebel, had to try to prove that he knew better than everyone else, and he failed. Since NECA isn't repeating those mistakes, hopefully their line will be more successful. If Hef is any indication, the potential is there.

-- 02/16/14

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