The Simpsons Mini-Busts:
When the Fox Network first took to the airwaves it had little to brag about. Yes, it was part of 20th Century Fox, the renowned studio, and yes - it was the fourth major network in the United States (after ABC, CBS and NBC). The pedigree alone wasn't enough to bring recognition to the network, but two early successes did. For drama, the X-Files was to be the standard bearer for Fox, but before that made an indelible mark on pop culture, there was an even more interesting show, one within the realm of comedy. This was The Simpsons.
The Simpsons started life as a series of short segments created by Matt Groening for the Tracy Ullman Show. The segments grew in popularity and eventually the Fox Network decided to spin the family off into a stand-alone show. Animated shows are nothing new to television, but animated shows in 'prime-time' are unusual with the best known being 'The Flintstones'. In 1990 the show premiered and has been a cornerstone of Fox ever since, consistently rating as one of the most popular and longest lived shows (over 300 episodes) on television. The show is written with a satirical theme and pokes fun at the American Family and values, the US Government and even the entertainment industry while keeping a straight face and preventing viewers from doing the same. It is one of the best shows on television.
The show centers on the misadventures of the eponymous family of Homer and Marge Simpson, and their three children Bart, Lisa and Maggie. The family could easily be labeled dysfunctional, and yet unlike many American families, they are still together and intact. Besides the family Simpson, the show features a recurring cast of seemingly thousands, who populate the small town of Springfield USA. While we never find out what state Springfield is located in, the characters and locales of the show make it seem surprisingly close to home.
To paraphrase Stan Lee, with great success comes great merchandise, and this fits The Simpsons to a 'T'. The show has spun off games, toys, action figures and tee shirts, and now the inevitable desire for more renditions of the characters on the show has reached the world of high quality collectible busts. And if you want to make high quality busts, and your local plastic surgeon is booked solid, you turn to Sideshow Collectibles. Sideshow has been quietly showing that you don't need mass-market stores like Wal-Mart to make outstanding products and get them to collectors, and now they have their sights set on Springfield.
Sideshow has started their line of mini-busts based on the Simpsons with a stacked deck for the first wave, covering all the major members of the Simpson clan. Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa are first out of the gate to get the ball rolling, and they'll be joined by Mr. Burns and Moe in Series 2, Apu and the Comic Book Guy in Series 3 and a special edition of the Comic Book Guy as The Collector from the Treehouse of Horror series of Halloween episodes. After that Series 4 is scheduled for Krusty and Sideshow Bob, with Series 5 covering Ned Flanders and Chief Wiggum. Sideshow may add a few surprises, so keep an eye on their site.
The aesthetic for the Simpsons bust is built around taking the contemporary characters and treating them in a classical style. The style of the figures looks to be more in line with the earlier episodes of the show rather than the later ones, and there is a strong sense of Matt Groening's art in them. The characters are fully painted and sculpted in poses, rather than static expressions and they are all atop faux marble bases, complete with classic Greek columns. To make this educational, the column is designed in a Doric style, though Homer would call it 'dork' style. The bases of the columns have the character names imprinted in what looks like good old 'Times New Roman', though font experts feel free to correct us on this one. The bases are sized to keep the characters in correct proportion, so they display well together. The size of the figures is roughly that of the action figures by Playmates Toys, though Playmates hasn't done as good a job at maintaining scale as Sideshow has. Homer is just a little over six inches tall, and the others scale from there. Once the line is further along you may be able to recreate the Parthenon of Athens just with Simpsons busts, if you're so inclined. Be so inclined...
Sideshow hasn't used all their design skills solely on the busts, but there are two other areas that deserve special attention. One is the packaging, and it is a window box with a small window on top to let light in and allow you to display the busts packaged if that's your taste. The coup de grace of the packaging is the Styrofoam, something given little thought by other companies. The Styrofoam is speckled with yellow and this makes the package display even better, even if it is subtle. The mere fact that this was designed into the package (and is used in the other busts from Sideshow) shows the attention to detail Sideshow lavishes on their products. The other stand-out is another standard Sideshow feature, and that is the numbering and marking of the bottom of the base. Each of the busts are limited to 5000 and are individually numbered on the bottom (and the same number is on the box) along with the usual markings for the line, company and copyright information. The kicker is the inclusion of the sculptor's signature on the base, in this case for all figures it would be master sculptor Oluf W. Hartvigson. He's a master in his abilities, not by lack of alternatives, as is the case for Zamfir - the Master of the Pan Flute.
Homer is the head of the Simpson family more by default than anything else. He's named after Matt Groening's father, a move he probably regrets on some days. Homer's day job involves safety at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, though the actual execution of his job involves little to no safety. When he's not at work you can find Homer is two places - home or Moe's. He usually heads over to Moe's to wash his troubles away and then back home to get new troubles so he can rinse, lather and repeat. Mmmm, repeat. Dan Castellaneta, who covers many of the other Springfield residents, performs Homer.
If Homer is the head of the family, Marge must be the heart. She's the mom who's able to put up with Homer's faults (and there are tons of them), deal with raising three kids and still get dinner on the table every night. How does she do it? Drugs, and lots of them. What do you think keeps that blue hair sticking straight up all the time? As much as Homer is a pain to Marge, she usually returns the favor with her sisters, whose favorite sport is Homer bashing - as long as it doesn't interfere with watching MacGyver. Marge's gravelly voice is the work of Julie Kavner.
Bart Simpson would be best described as the bad parts of the body, because he's always up to no good. His name is just brat rearranged and it fits him perfectly. Bart is the class clown and has logged more hours in detention than Robert Downey Jr. has in jail. That's because he's still waiting for puberty to hit, but when it does he may find his prank time cut back due to attention on girls and pornography. Until then, he'll continue to terrorize Springfield Elementary, his family and especially the world at large because he's the best there is at what he does. Bart's voice comes from a woman, not a man as you might expect, and that woman is Nancy Cartwright.
Lisa is clearly the brain of the Simpson tribe, and she's intelligent, shows empathy and cares about others. How she got to be in this family is a complete mystery. In addition to her scholarly pursuits, she plays the saxophone and has few friends. Some of those few are friends she'd probably like to be without, but beggars can't be choosers. Unless they pick their own corner, then they actually are choosers in a way, though they are still beggars. And to bring it full circle, Lisa would certainly donate money to a beggar because she cares. And it's Homer's money. Yeardley Smith provides conscientious elocution for Lisa.
Pictures of Homer
Pictures of Marge
Pictures of Bart
Pictures of Lisa
|Where to buy the Simpsons Busts: The Simpsons busts are limited to editions of 5000 each, and retail for around $35 USD each. You can find them at Sideshow's web site, and at various specialty stores and online retailers.
One such online store is RTM sponsor Big Bad Toy Store. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)