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Vanishing Cream Beaker

The Muppets
by yo go re

You've seen the gag a hundred times: Tom is chasing Jerry, the mouse finds his way into the makeup stash belonging to the lady of the house and accidentally falls into her jar of vanishing cream, and comes out invisible; or he's on a desk and dunks himself in invisible ink, with the same result. Whatever the source, the character ends up 100% transparent, and commences wreaking havoc on his tormentor. It's probably pretty cliche by now, but hey, kids are stupid - they don't know any better. That's why it can keep popping up unironically today.

Back when Palisades was still making Muppet figures (and still, you know, "existed"), they could always be counted on to bring some truly excellent exclusives to any convention they attended. The first was the repainted Dr. Teeth, available at the inaugural Wizard World East, followed soon after by Vanishing Cream Beaker at the long-running (and superior) Chicago version of the show.

Beaker is the same sculpt as the figure included with the Muppet Labs playset, which is no surprise - after all, isn't half the point of an exclusive to get more use out of an existing mold? This is the classic Beaker, wearing his knee-length lab coat over some of the most hideous plaid clothes you'll ever see not on a golf course. Seriously, if he wasn't wearing that coat, you'd want to gouge your eyes out. Of course, this particular Beaker is a bit better, since he's slowing fading from view.

Yes, to live up to the "Vanishing Cream" name, half of this figure is molded from clear plastic. In fact, just his shoes, legs and hands are made from opaque materials. The overall effect is really good, with a subtle fade from clear to visible thanks to some top-notch paintwork (designed, as you might expect, by brushmaster extraordinaire Eddie Wires). His hands are pink and he's wearing striped socks, and all the color that is applied, is applied well. Crisp lines, clean edges, all that.

Beaker's head is entirely clear, though he does have white paint apps picking out his pupils. We've told you before that, despite what some people would have you believe, the Invisible Man wouldn't be blind, and Beaker demonstrates that. The best thing about this figure, however, is how the translucent plastic really allows the detail of the sculpt to stand on its own. Undistracted by paint, you can appreciate the work Kathy Jeffers put into Beaker. His skin has that pebbly texture, and by contrast his eyes and the inside of his mouth are alarmingly smooth. His hair stands up all over, and even without any color, you can still recognize his look of panicky terror.

The figure has plentiful articulation, but he's far from perfect. There's a swivel neck, balljointed shoulders, pin elbows, peg wrists, waist and ankles. All that is very nice, but the general mold of the figure has him leaning strongly backwards. Unless you keep his feet pointing straight forward, he'll fall over backwards. And sadly, he doesn't get any kind of base to help hold him upright. You could use some hot water to soften and reshape his ankles, but you shouldn't have to. This is a problem the standard Beaker had, too, so it's not like there's just some error with the exclusive.

Beaker does get one accessory, however, and it's the perfect choice. What's he got? Why, the tube of vanishing cream, of course! The tube is molded from transparent plastic, just like so much of the figure, then entirely painted gray and silver. Why go to the trouble of molding it clear if they were just going to paint it? All so we can have a little blob of the cream being squeezed out of the end. See, it's that kind of detail that made fans love Palisades! The words "Vanishing Cream" are printed on the side of the tube - it's done with paint, rather than a sticker, to better accommodate all the wrinkles - and Beaker can hold the accessory in either hand. In fact, if you have Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, he can hold the tube, too.

Vanishing Cream Beaker was made before Palisades got into the really exotic exclusives (like, say, Super Beaker), so he seems rather tame by comparison. But even at this early date, the first hints of what was to come can be seen. It's a distinctly different version of the character, with a thematically appropriate accessory that you couldn't get anywhere else, and no shortcuts were taken anywhere in the production. He'd rate quite highly on our criteria for the perfect exclusive, even now. I have to thank a friend and one of OAFEnet's longtime readers for getting this figure for me when I couldn't make it to Wizard World '02... and also make fun of him for then waiting six years to actually send it out.

-- 02/12/09

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