If it's October, it must be time to enter the Treehouse of Horror.
The Simpsons have long enjoyed a relationship with Halloween. From the first Treehouse of Horror way back in Season 2, the residents of Springfield have taken one day a year to break from continuity and revel in the eeriness of the season. Playmates, dedicated as they are to the fans of the show, have, for three years now, also taken their turn with the theme.
In 2000, they gave us a graveyard scene. Last year saw an alien spaceship. And now, in the fall of 2002, they send us to Hell.
The 2002 Treehouse of Horror brings us characters culled from many years' worth of episodes. Dubbed the "Ironic Punishment Division," this set includes four figures: Evil Willie, Hugo, Witch Marge, and Donuthead Homer.
We'll begin with the ubiquitous Homer. Taken from the THOH IV vignette "The Devil and Homer Simpson," Donuthead Homer has, well, a doughnut for a head. A parody of The Devil and Daniel Webster and Dante's Inferno, Homer sells his soul to Satan in exchange for that sweet round pastry. He's then taken to hell (specifically, the Ironic Punishments room) to wait for trial.
There are no surprises in the articulation department - neck, shoulders, and waist. In addition to the new head, this is the first Homer we've gotten with a wristwatch and necktie; I guess he was on his way to work. He comes with a yellow doughnut, probably in an effort to keep him from picking at himself. Connect him to a peg on the playset and he says one of three phrases:
"If I don't finish this last bite, you don't get my soul, do you?"
"Mmmm... forbidden doughnut..."
"Oh, but I'm so sweet and tasty!"
We'll stick with the family and take a look at Witch Marge. She appeared in THOH VIII's "Easy-Bake Coven," which poked fun at such varied sources as Hocus Pocus and The Crucible. Exploring the origins of Halloween, we're taken back to early Salem just in time to see Marge outed as a witch.
Witch Marge has the Springfield Four as articulation, of course, but is made of entirely new pieces. Her hair is pointier than usual, and she's clad in the typical Puritanical/Witch garb - long black dress, white collar, buckle-bearing shoes - and comes with a broom to ride. [Bristles down; take that, busybody Wiccans! --ed.] She also has three unique phrases (and the box specifically points out that she doesn't work on any other sets):
"That's right, I'm a witch."
"We're here to eat your kids."
Next is not Bart; in fact, he's not-Bart: Bart's "evil" twin
Hugo took his bow in "The Thing and I" from THOH VII. Driven mad by their separation, this Quasimodo-like boy wants only to reconnect with Bart. What a Basket Case!
Hugo was bit larger than Bart (especially odd since he'd only been eating fish heads for ten years), but this figure is paradoxically smaller. I think you can guess what articulation he has. His clothes are tattered, his teeth are crooked, and he has tousled hair, bags under his eyes, and a chain on his ankle. One hand is molded into a sinister grasp. Press the button and hear Hugo say:
"Do you know what it's like to be locked in an attic for 10 years where your only friend is a jar of screws?!"
"I went mad after they cut us apart, but I'll be sane once I sew us back together."
*Hugo growls as he eats his napkin*
Interestingly, the original line from the show said, "after they tore us apart," though the closed captioning said "cut." Tres strange.
Finally, we have Evil Willie, dream invader
from THOH VI and "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace." Obviously the whole bit is a rip-off of Nightmare on Elm Street, but there are a lot of nods to other horror classics tossed in for good measure.
To help complete the Freddy Krueger look, Willie comes with a removable fedora and a wicked-looking rake. There are no stripes on his orange sweater (I suppose that would have been a bit too close to the real thing), but that's an easy custom. He's articulated just like the rest of this set, and says the following:
"You'll pay for this with your children's blood!"
"I'll strike where you canna protect them: in their dreams!"
"When I'm done with you, they'll have to do a compost-mortem!"
The playset itself is nice, with a molded plastic backdrop depicting the cavernous expanse of hell. There's a door labeled "Ironic Punishment Division" and a green imp working a lever that presumably controls the conveyor belt that takes up the foreground and feeds off into a big drum of "hot dog meat." The stalagmites are made from a nice soft rubber, so no one will get hurt. Seems that not even the infernal pit escapes the snake-like grasp of OSHA.
Overall, this is a good set, even if some of the episodes have been represented before (Witch Marge was part of the scenery on the original THOH set, which also included a figure from "The Devil and Homer Simpson"). I'm not sure that TRU's $40 pricetag is equitable, but at least I didn't have to pay eBay prices this year.