Welcome to Figures & Speech, Nerdist’s regular column by, for, and about grown-ups who still play with their toys but might want to know more before they buy. From product reviews to informed editorials, these are most definitely the articles that’ll make you want to strike a pose.
The toy market may not be quite as wide nowadays as it was in the late ’90s, when it seemed that just about any property that had ever existed was now fair game for figures (hell, we even got toys based on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu), but the market is still pretty broad if you know where to look. And when you have a broad knowledge of what’s out there, I find that you can usually find at least one action figure that works as a gift for your friend who doesn’t think s/he likes action figures. As exhibit A, I give you Diamond Select‘s new Muppet figure set of Statler and Waldorf.
Statler and Waldorf were The Muppet Show‘s built-in critics, sitting in the balcony and mocking the product before any real critics had a chance to do so. Their jokes, in truth, were almost every bit as groanworthy as the Fozzie Bear bad puns that aggravated them the most, but they contributed to a general air of irreverence that kept the Muppets from ever being too cute for adults, while never veering too far into territory that would make them unacceptable for children either. Kids could see traces of their cranky elderly relatives in Waldorf and Statler, while adults could see a spoof of critics, and nowadays (perhaps), internet commenters.
Point being, if you know anyone who’s a professional critic, or even an amateur one who dislikes most pop culture, these guys would make a fun gift. And they’re part of a larger Muppets line that can, in many cases, function similarly.
The Muppet line is a little different than most Diamond Select figure lines, which tend to all come with diorama bases. Only Statler and Waldorf do in this line—for the rest, budgeting that might normally go to a base has been dedicated instead to extra articulation, paint applications, and accessories. Articulation is maybe the biggest cost, and in some cases here you get two fully posable figures in a package that would normally contain only one; also, costs are spread across the series, so while Gonzo, for example, might normally be sellable at $15 and Waldorf and Statler for $35, hypothetically, they all come in the same case and cost $25. If that’s too high, cheaper versions with less accessories are available at Toys R Us.
The line also features a LOT of paint apps. Very bright and vibrant ones in most cases, though obviously not for Statler and Waldorf. This can lead to some occasional slop, especially around the mouths (which aren’t articulated, except on Animal, but are sculpted to look like they could be).
They are pretty much on scale with other Diamond Select figures. While I don’t know the exact dimensions of the actual puppets, they do look as proportionate to the company’s human figures as the real ones did on TV:
But let’s talk Statler and Waldorf, since they are the highlight of the line. Muppet figures have been done before, as the late great toy company Palisades made a hugely popular line that still fetches high prices on eBay (they were going to follow it with Sesame Street, but went out of business). Palisades packaged Waldorf and Statler with chairs, but Diamond one-ups them with the whole booth, which comes in a few easy-to-assemble pieces.
Packaging is the same style as all Diamond Select figures, with photos of the characters on the spine, images of Kermit and Fozzie on the blister, and Beaker and Miss Piggy on the backing card. Curiously, Miss Piggy is absent from the initial offering; one hesitates to cry sexism, though, as Diamond has never had a problem making female figures before (their Scarlett Johansson Black Widow is the best American figure of the character, and Selina Kyle came in Gotham series 1). Perhaps they just wanted to save at least one heavy-hitter for the next series, assuming they get to one.
As you can see in the “ninja pose” image at the top of this page, Statler and Waldorf are far more articulated than most men their age. The majority of the figures in the Muppet line have ball-jointed heads, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees, with rocker ankles and hip joints that vary: characters like Gonzo and Beaker have ball-joint hips, Waldorf’s are simple back-and-froth hinges, while Statler’s go side-to-side as well. Often with consequences. When this senior citizen breaks a hip, he really breaks a hip.
On the plus side, it snaps right back in. Scooter has the same issue (and solution). But odds are you won’t be making these two geezers into action heroes in your playroom imagination—you’ll mostly want them to sit in their chairs and heckle. Which they do, though you have to slide them in, as the bottoms of their suit jackets are wider that the armrests on their seat, so you can’t drop them into place from above.
It’d be cool if there were a hook or hole on the back of the booth to wall-mount it, as there was with the Gotham alley diorama, but it should be easy enough to customize should that be your end goal.
Now, let’s say you don’t have any friends who are cranky or critics. The Muppet line offers some other all-purpose gift potential too. Like, do you know anybody who’s into science?
Beaker is such a perfect replica you expect him to feel like felt, while Bunsen’s glasses are a tad askew and his head texture a bit sloppy from all the paint. They come with cool science accessories, and two really odd display stands; odd in that they are not compatible with any Muppet figures, none of which has holes in the feet for the pegs. If you collect other Diamond figure lines, consider them a bonus to use with previous figures that do fit them.
Got any friends who are drummers?
Animal comes with a full kit and a metal chain, along with a stool that he sits on surprisingly well. It’s probably a toss-up as to whether we’ll ever get the rest of the Electric Mayhem, but if you’re buying this figure for display, you may want to find a base to glue the cymbals to, as they’re pretty top-heavy. The chain is real metal, and his jaw can open wide or close all the way.
If your friends are more casual musicians, however…
Kermit, Robin, and Bean all come in a set, ready to fake-strum “Rainbow Connection,” “Halfway Down the Stairs,” or any other classic tune. Kermit is a masterpiece of delicate engineering: as thin as his limbs are (and they’re almost as thin as a toy lightsaber accessory), he can still stand up, and has a lot of articulation, that I confess I’m afraid to use for fear of breaking something.
For friends in showbiz, the Gonzo and Camilla set might be fun.
Camilla is not articulated, but may need you to bend her legs a bit to properly stand her up. Gonzo has a lot of colors and joints in his tiny body, and the giant trumpet is removable. As with Animal’s cymbals, you may want to glue the stage light down in the perfect display spot to keep it from toppling, unless you’re skilled at making miniature sandbags (leave it to Gonzo to be reckless enough not to correctly bag a lightstand).
Fozzie and Scooter are a less all-purpose gift, and the lightest on accessories, but they are both key characters and presumably it’s hoped that’s what will carry them. Fozzie does at least have all his essential props: a removable hat and disguise kit, and a terrified rubber chicken.
In a weird quirk of articulation, his legs are designed to move side to side rather than back and forth, and it seems like the folks painting the figures couldn’t decide whether to paint the actual joint or not.
Put all of the Muppets and props together, and you can make a chaotic diorama worthy of a real Muppet Show. (Robin Lord Taylor not included, of course.)
For Muppet fans, these are can’t-miss, especially if you did miss the Palisades line. But everyone of a certain age loves the Muppets, and I’m inclined to think anyone who even vaguely sees their chosen profession in a particular Muppet will be appreciative of at least one of these figure sets.
As a member of the LA Film Critics Association, I think I’ll be picking up many Statler and Waldorf sets this holiday season.
Luke Y. Thompson always plays the music and lights the lights as Nerdist’s weekend editor. Find him on Twitter for toy-related stuff and more.