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Treehouse of Horror

World of Springfield
by Poe Ghostal

So much Simpsons.

In my apartment here in San Francisco, the "Simpsons channel" is UPN 44. Last Saturday 44 ran a six-hour(!) marathon of Simpsons Halloween episodes, and I watched all but one (where was I during that missing hour? None of your damned business!). That, I discovered, was much too much Simpsons. Yes, there is such a thing as too much Simpsons, believe it or not. However, I was afforded the occasion to screen each and every episode represented by the focus of this review, Playmates' first Treehouse of Horror playset.

Once it was apparent Playmates' Simpsons line was a smashing success, they began to concoct nefarious exclusives to please and confound collectors and scalpers alike. Issued to Toys Я Us stores only, the Treehouse of Horror playsets have come to be anticipated by toy collectors as much as the actual "Treehouse of Horror" television episodes are by viewers. Each set features a unique base and three to four figures, each with a voice chip that interacts with the playset. The most recent set features Marge as a witch, Homer's donut-headed incarnation, Bart's evil twin Hugo, and Groundskeeper Willie as Freddie Krueger. Last year's set featured fan-favorites Kang and Kodos. But it all started with this set, and the first remains the best. The set features four figures, which, of course, "speak" through the playset. The sound is excellent, and the quotes are well-chosen.

We begin with Devil Flanders from "The Devil and Homer Simpson," where it was revealed that Churchy La Femme's good-natured... nature was just a cover for his being the lord of the flies (the Satan version, that is, not the more familiar William Golding version that I trust you thought of first).

Flanders has a truly excellent expression on his face, a big smug smile that rises up past the edges of his big bushy mustache. Two horns poke forward from his hairline, and he has removable glasses. Flanders is standing with one arm akimbo and the other leaning on his crooked grey trident, and his furry goat legs are bent at different angles, with one flaming hoof a helf-step forward from the other. From beneath his red robe, a dark, pointed tail curls around his right side. Plug him onto the set, and he says one of four phrases:

"I hold here a contract between myself and one Homer Simpson, pledging me his soul for a donut!"
"It's always the one you least suspect!"
"All right Simpson, you get your soul back..."

Next we have "Bartfly" (from "Fly vs. Fly"). He's a little less interesting than Devil Flanders - this is just a re-use of the regular Bart mold with a new head. The head is well-sculpted, but I can't help being a little unenthusiastic about this figure.

The etching on his eyes that is meant to make them look "compound" doesn't line up on each side, which seems like an oversight on the part of the designers. He does have a few spiky hairs sticking up off the top of his head, as well as his proboscis and two maxillar palps (those are used to help break up dried food). His shirt is slightly more orange than the normal Bart release. He cannot talk, so on the set's pegs, he'll simply make noises:

*spitting noise*
*snarling noise*
*snorting noise*

It's back to the classics for the best figure in this set, Vampire Burns from "Bart Simpson's Dracula". As far as vampires go (and as revealed by the name of the story segment he comes from), Burns is based on Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula - and more specifically, on Gary Oldman's costume and makeup from early in the film.

I'm especially fond of Vampire Burns. Like Flanders, Burns has an excellent expression on his face; in truth of fact, he has an "eeexcellent!" expression on his face - you can just imagine him delivering his trademark line. The sculpt of the figure even portrays him tenting his fingers, as he does. He has large gray hair, and wears a long red robe with a paler pink smock beneath it. You may not expect him to have separate legs beneath that, but he does.

"Simpson, eh? Excellent."
*lip smacking* "Oh... precious blood."
"Oh blast!"
"You're fired!"

The last figure, Homer Kong (from the segment of the same name), is a good translation of his counterpart, but is obviously a bit out of scale. He has shaggy fur ending at his ankles and wrists, and still manages to be bald with a combover despite being entirely covered with hair. He has sculpted ape-nippled, and an indented belly button.

The paint applications are good, particularly the black-and-white scheme on Kong. But be careful not to scratch them too much; as I've packed and unpacked this set for display on Halloween, it's garnered a few nicks and scratches. Place him on the set, and you'll hear:

"D'oh" *echoing*
"Heh heh heh..."
*furious growling*

The playset itself is not as high a quality as the rest of the World of Springfield environments. The base is thick and sturdy, since it has to contain all the electronics, while the rear "wall" is actually just a sheet of cardboard.

The environment is a graveyard under a full moon, and there are a smattering of refernces to other "Treehouse of Horror" episodes to be found all over: Kang and Kodos behind the gate; Witch Marge flying past the moon; the gremlin from "Terror at 5½ Feet" on a tree branch; the "interesting" Snowball II from "The Bart Zone"; the evil Krusty doll from "Clown Without Pity"; and tombstones for Itchy and Scratchy. The tombstones, trees, and cemetary gate are all 3D elements that plug into the base.

Of course, no set is without its bad points. The worst is the fact that you can't fit all four figures on the playset. Worse yet, Homer Kong is so huge he makes it difficult to fit even two other figures with him, so he's usually relegated to standing next to the set. Fortunately, he stands pretty firmly.

The first Treehouse of Horror playset set a high standard that the next two sets strove for, but didn't quite achieve. Kang and Kodos weren't very articulated; the Ironic Punishment Division had a figure that's mostly just Homer with a new head (yes, I realize his arm and torso are different, but it's still just Homer), Bart's evil twin (again, more or less just Bart in his usual outfit, if a little disheveled and weird-looking), Marge as a witch (not very fun, though I admit Marge needed another figure to balance out all the Homers and Barts), and a Willie Krueger with no stripes on his shirt (for copyright reasons, no doubt). But Devil Flanders? Homer Kong? Vampire Burns?! These are classics.

-- 10/28/02

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