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Treehouse of Horror 13: The Island of Dr. Hibbert

The Simpsons
by yo go re

Everybody wants to know the things they do matter: if you polish screws, you want to know you're the best screw polisher there's ever been, and that everybody else polishes screws the way you decided to do it. So it's very exciting when you find concrete proof that people have noticed.

In "The Island of Dr. Hibbert" (Treehouse of Horror XIII), the Simpsons visit Dr. Hibbert's vacation island resort. Homer discovers that something creepy is going on - and it's not just timeshares [sic] sales! Dr. Hibbert has transformed his guests into slovenly, marauding manimals and prowly, voracious invertibroads. Homer vows to fight back with all his might. However, when he learns that all Dr. Hibbert's victims do is "eat, sleep, mate, roll around in their own filth, mate and eat," he reconsiders and happily joins them.

Many of McFarlane Toys' Simpsons sets drew from the "Treehouse of Horror" segments, but this is the only one that approaches the level of quality seen in Playmates' World of Springfield playsets: multiple figures, a large diorama, all that. Like The Alien Spaceship and The Collector's Lair, this set is based on only one segment of the show, and is stronger for it.

"The Island of Dr. Hibbert" is a parody of HG Wells' classic story, The Island of Dr. Moreau published in 1896. More than 50 different characters were turned into animals for this episode, though not Dr. Hibbert himself. He's wearing a white suit and hat with a tan vest and a black tie. This pure, unblemished look (a bright contrast to the dark experiments he carries out) is a reference to Charles Laughton's costume in Paramount's 1932 adaptation, Island of Lost Souls. He's posed with his foot up on a rock, and his eyes closed in laughter. He has swivel joints at the neck and both shoulders, meaning he's just one waist shy of matching the old toys' articulation. The figure doesn't look too good when he moves his arms, but the joints are there if you want them.

Dr. Hibbert also has one of this set's seven manimal hybrids: Mr. Burns. As a fox. Which, come to think of it, may be a joke about The Simpsons' parent network, which happens to be owned by an elderly, amoral man with a history of doing any underhanded thing he can to make a dollar. He's hanging around Dr. Hibbert's shoulders like a stole, and is non-removable, but looks great - they even sculpted the three age spots on his forehead! What a delightful little detail!

Some say the word "jaguar" comes from an American Indian word that means "killer that takes its prey in a single bound." Some exaggerate. The name comes from the Tupi word yaguara, wich means "beast"; the actual Tupian word for a jaguar is yaguareté, with the additional suffix meaning "true." So basically, the jaguar is the beast of beasts - or in general parlance, the king of the jungle.

Jaguars could be found throughout the southern United States until the end of the Pleisticene era, but don't assume that's a clue to where Springfield is. Jaguar Marge has a very svelte body, with articulation only at the neck and tail. She's still wearing her red string of pearls, and her eyes are yellow. Considering that Marge has been as gray as a mule since she was 17, it's surprising that her fur is dark blue. Her back feet are definitely paws, but her front feet are still much like hands, complete with thin fingers and thumbs.

In the original novel, Dr. Moreau was trying to turn animals into humans - Dr. Hibbert goes the other way, with seemingly no thought about what each person should be turned into. Making Homer a walrus definitely makes more sense than a Rainier Wolfcastle rabbit or Mayor Quimby panda.

Walrus Homer is the largest figure in this set - so large, in fact, that he can't be removed from the base. Walruses spend about two-thirds of their lives in the water, but this one is lounging on a stone. The toy is mostly immobile, with just a swivel near the end of the tail, and another for his right flipper (which is holding a can of Buzz Cola).

Air sacs in the walrus' neck allow it to sleep with its head held up in the water, but the only thing in Homer's neck is a spring: for whatever reason, McToys chose to make him like a bobblehead. Because of this, one of his bone-colored tusks has left a big scrape of paint transfer on his gray body. It's not too noticeable, but it could have been avoided. He has stiff 3D whiskers, just like Marge did, but he also gets the two hairs on top of his head.

Our next figure is actually two in one: Lisa as an eagle and Maggie as an anteater; they're playing the "let's eat Maggie" game! Eagle nests can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can be as large as eight feet high and 10 feet across. Lisa hasn't been a bird long enough for that, though, so she just spends most of her time perched in a tree. Since this version is swooping down to grab her sister, her wings are spread and there's a clear plastic peg in her back that allows her to "hover" when it's plugged into the tree behind her. Her tongue is sticking out the side of her beak as though she were licking her non-existant lips.

Like Maggie, anteaters do not have teeth; instead they have tongues that can reach as far as two feet in length. Well, the anteaters do, Maggie doesn't. But she hasn't started teething yet, either. She's permanently embedded in Lisa'a talons, and moves at the neck and tail; Lisa only moves at the neck.

Spiders have been on the planet for 350,000 years. There are 37,000 known species of spider - not including Bart. It's a bit disappointing that even with eight legs, he only moves at the neck, but the legs are so skinny that there's no way to articulate them. Like his sisters, Bart has a clear peg that will connect him to the trees - the tree has a hole in the front and in the back, so you can decide what side you want Spider-​Bart to be on. His web, in which he's spun the words "EAT MY SHORTS," stretches between the two trees. It's clear plastic, and thus brittle and prone to breakage if you're not careful with it.

The final figure in this set is not a member of the Simpson family - so no, it's not Grampa as a chicken, or Patty and Selma as a lion and an elephant (respectively). Rather, it's Jeff Albertson as a goat-man. In Greek mythology, the satyr is a part beast, part human creature of the forests and mountains. Which sounds a little "outdoorsy" for Comic Book Guy, doesn't it? Of course, satyrs are lustful, fertile creatures, who love dancing and drinking, and we know how much CBG loves downloading risque pictures of Captain Janeway, so maybe there are some parallels there after all.

Comic Book Goat is fully nude, except for the shell-and-feathers necklace he's wearing. His fur is detailed very well, he has hooves, and sculpted ridges on his big horns. His hair is more red than the rest of his fur, and his usual beard flows seamlessly into the goat's goatee. He swivels at the neck, shoulders and wrists, if you want to change his pose slightly.

He also comes with the set's only accessory, a large staff topped with an animal skull. It splits in two so you can get it into his hand. It's an impressively detailed piece, considering that this is based on a simple cartoon.

The "display" part of this set may not have electronics like the World of Springfield sets did, but that doesn't mean it's not without its fun features. It's divided into three sections, each with space for a pair of figures. That would be fine on its own, but what's really cool is that the three sections all have exactly the same "footprint," which means you can line them up in any order you like (as shown at the top of this review - try reloading if you don't believe us). Fully assembled, they form a 13½" wide semi-circle, surrounding a translucent fire pit. If McFarlane Toys hadn't created one of the most spectacular failures of the last decade, there might have been a second set in the future, showing more of the island's creatures and with three more interchangeable bases. As it is, we only got this one set, and most stores never even ordered it. I've been after this set for years, so I was thrilled when I found it dirt cheap at a toy show last year.

If you remember our opening paragraph, we spoke about having an impact. It's no secret that OAFE changed the way people review toys: before we started, no one ever did the "more information than you ever thought you'd need" thing; toy reviews were nothing other than plain facts and figures (no pun intended); now everybody follows our playbook. But the real surprise was that with their Simpsons figures, even McFarlane Toys aped our style.

If you look back up through the review, you'll notice a few sentences that are in a dark blue font, rather than black (sorry to leave you out of this one, blind fans). They sound exactly like the kind of information we always provide for you, don't they? Well, we didn't write them: those blurbs come straight from the back of the packaging, where McFarlane printed a "Didja Know?" list of random trivia. This definitely isn't very humble on our part, but we choose to interpret it as McToys trying to get out ahead of us, to publish these factoids before we can. It's not like there's anything about the Simpsons license that immediately says "make a list of fun facts" - Playmates never did it, it doesn't relate directly to the show... so where did McFarlane get the idea? I choose to believe it was from us.

We promise to use this power only for good.

-- 10/04/13

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