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Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef

The Muppets
by yo go re

Allez cuisine!

If memory serves me correctly, the Muppet line has thus far been a raging success: highly detailed sculpts that don't sacrifice anything in the way of articulation and a great selection of characters who all come with terrific accessories; most companies would kill to be this consistant. Even the playsets are astounding.

Following the Simpsons' lead, the Muppet playsets each recreate a specific location and include an exclusive figure - for instance, the Electric Mayhem Stage with Animal or Muppet Labs with Beaker. Not available anywhere else, the figures are half the appeal of the large sets. To give fans an opportunity to own these characters without paying $40 for a playset, Palisades will often turn these figures into Convention exclusives.

At SDCC '03, Palisades offered a repaint of the Muppets' own Iron Chef Swedish... the Swedish Chef! Wearing the same clothes as his boxed counterpart, but with a different paintjob, Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef is more than a simple repaint. Yomigaeru Aiyan Sheffu!

The standard edition of this figure has a blue-striped shirt and a pink bowtie above checkered pants, while this version has pink stripes and a blue tie with plain gray pants. That's just the most minor change this figure has seen, however, because he really lives up to his "Culinary Catastrophe" moniker.

The chef looks like he's just spent a gruelling 60 minutes battling the newest challenger to his Iron Muppet Chef title. His apron is spattered and stained with various colored globs of... something... his hat looks scorched and there's flour on his hands and face. He really is just a steaming mess, looking like the end result of a felt and foam food fight.

The Swedish Chef stands 5⅞" tall without his removable hat, and moves at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, waist and hips. The articulation is minimal, while still giving him a lot of playability. Palisades has found the right balance between sculpt and articulation for most of their Muppet characters, and the Chef is no exception.

Fukui-san! The sculpt is every bit as good as the original chef, detailed from his bushy eyebrows to the laces on his shoes. My favorite bit of detail on both chefs is the tiny sculpted fingernails on his hands. In puppet form, the Swedish Chef had human hands sticking out of his sleeves so that he could handle a wide variety of props, and the sculpting team captured this detail perfectly. That takes skill! Back to you!

Unlike the other Exclusive Muppet I got this year, Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef does come with a few accessories. First, of course, is his chef's hat. 1⅛" tall and sculpted to look like real cloth, the hat has a magnet in its base which allows it to cling tenaciously to his textured head. The magnet has been reversed from the normal edition, so you can't swap hats. A few brown splotches have been applied to the grand chapeaux to make it look either (depending on which you prefer) burnt or filthy. The other group of accessories has actually been salvaged from the discard bin, sort of.

Kyoo no tema wa kore desu: Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef comes packed with three sombrero-wearing, pistol-waving crustaceans known as the Lobster Banditos. Originally intended to be included with the Kitchen, the Lobsters were found to be too cost prohibitive and were dropped from the set. That Palisades has chosen to include the trio with the exclusive Chef shows how dedicated they are to their customers.

These lobsters are some seriously fun accessories: though their bodies are all the same, each Bandito has a few features that sets him apart from his two amigos: there are differences in the size of their claws, the type of hat they wear and even the way they've styled their moustaches. Yes, that's right, these overgrown shellfish all have facial hair.

In addition to their roguish good looks, the Banditos are also armed with pistols. Small enough to be held in the lobsters' claws, the guns are all made from the same mold, which is fine. The trio's arms are bendy, allowing you to aim their weapons at a variety of targets. Considering that most convention exclusives come with reused accessories (or nothing at all), the Lobster Banditos look even better.

Palisades consistantly shows the kind of dedication to their fans that other toy companies, even ones with "attitude," have forgotten along the way. With a superb combo of sculpt, articulation, paint and accessories, the judges agree: Culinary Catastrophe Swedish Chef reigns supreme!

-- 08/30/03

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