Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dusting off the Wayback Machine

Haven't done a re-run in quite a while. But I was looking at some files this weekend from the old Creatus Maximus blog we did for a while, and decided to run this. It's a look back at some of the Mini Muppets (the smaller non-articulated Muppet figurines we made at Palisades) that got canceled. Though I have actually edited it down for one Blogzilly post, it was originally spread out over multiple posts on Grey Matters.

MONDAY

Hey everybody. Last week, I put up a post on our message board showing a paint master of a Floyd Mini Muppet, so I figured I would devote this week to the canceled Series 4 set of the Mini Muppets.

First, a little back story. The Muppet figures in the early series was going OK, not great, but OK. It was decided that an expansion of the line as a whole, to include some extra categories, might help to get the line more exposure in a more traditional retail store environment, specifically stores like Target, where you can place a variety of products based on brand in a section of an aisle. That was the goal to try to get the line more exposure, the thought being that people just weren't getting exposed to the line, which is why it struggled more than we would like.

So the Mini Muppets and MEGA Muppets were born, and they both actually did serve the initial purpose. With the extra categories, the line was able to be presented to the Target buyer and we got in. It didn't last, because we learned something else from that experience...even exposing the line to people was not enough to get them to buy. The Muppets overall was just not something that was in the forefront of people's minds, as many fans of The Muppets know this was in the transitional period when the Henson company was trying to sell the Muppets, which they eventually did. With very little actually going on in the Muppeverse, any casual fan just didn't seem to care, certainly not enough to buy enough product.

But I digress...a full paper could be written about the whole Muppets line and what happened to it overall. Specifically, let's stay on the Mini Muppets. Originally they were released in boxed 3-packs. When the third wave of releases came out, they changed to blister card format and were only available exclusively through the Palisades Collectors Club. They were already dying at that time, but the hope was that releasing them through the Club could be viable since it was Direct to Consumer sales.

Alas, even that was not enough to save the line-up for Series 4, which was to consist of the Electric Mayhem and Rowlf (who, while a piano player was not officially an EM member). We got as far as initial sculpts, which were cast and painted and only semi-approved. They all needed some major rounds of revision, which would have been taken care of at the next stage. As anyone who used to follow 'in-progress' reports from me at Palisades knows...getting approval on any sculpt meant we were only 1/3 of the way there...our own internal approval system, namely me, was more strict than the licensor. So these would have all received the full revisional treatment by doing the digital manipulation of the sculpts and so on...but there was some great stuff to work with on these small sculpts...it would have been great to see them become more fully realized and closer to the puppet likenesses.

Here are the images of Floyd I showed on the message board, at a better quality. The image with Sam and Piggy are to show a generalized, untweaked scale to the existing plastic Mini Muppets. We would have tweaked things like scale during the process.




Next up, let's take a look at everyone's favorite saxophone player, Zoot. Again, almost there, but still in need of the usual tweakages and changes.



Tomorrow we can take a look at one of the other paint masters from this awesome series...one that I really wish we had been able to put out. But like anything else in making this stuff, you do what you can, but if you don't have enough people to buy the stuff you can't keep putting it out. In the end, Palisades really went above and beyond and put stuff out that probably would have been outright canceled by a bigger company. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I like to think of it as a good thing, since it shows the type of people who steered the ship there. They BELIEVED. No matter what.

TUESDAY

More of the canceled Series 4 Mini Muppets...today's images are of Dr. Teeth. Of all of these canceled sculpts, this is the one that would have required the most revision to take it to the next level. I really had some issues with the sculpt overall and would have done some major overhauling.



We were also torn on this one...there was some talk of trying to include some kind of keyboard with him, though costs were certainly a factor of the discussions because we knew the Mini Muppets were not setting any sales records. We wanted to make them as great as we could make them, but we also wanted to try to do what we could from a PD perspective to make it more likely for them to come out...in other words, making them come in at a cost that would not scare anybody off from green-lighting production.

In the end, the decision didn't have to be made whether to make one or cut it. The decision to cancel the line came in before I found myself at that crossroads.

WEDNESDAY

No matter if it was regular Muppets, MEGA Muppets, Mini Muppets and whatever else Muppet related there was always one issue that seemed to be a problem on EVERY single puppet we tried to capture...pupils. Pupil placement is the one thing that seemingly was the most difficult thing in the world to get right, and even in the final products sometimes it would work sometimes it would not.

The sad fact is that at least at SOME point in the entire pre-production process the correct pupil placement was achieved. But because these projects get touched by so many hands along the way, the pupils invariably would migrate and even the slightest migration can have disastrous results on a Muppet face.

Even Eddie, as brilliant as he was (well, is) had trouble, all the way until the end. I mention that only because of today's Mini Muppet from Series 4. While I think the overall sculpt of Rowlf was pretty good (withy some minor tweakages pending of course), the colors are off a bit but what really throws this picture into the classic Muppets tailspin is the pupil size and placement.




That's why pupils were on my mind when I sat down to do this GM...because those pupils stare me down, make me uncomfortable. Momentarily I forget where I am and am almost overcome with the desire to take the pictures into Photoshop and start mucking around with the pupils. I said ALMOST...I ain't crazy and besides, I've got shit to do.

THURSDAY

Making it a quickie today, kind of busy right now. Let's take a look at Animal. Poor Animal...one of his drumsticks is broken. Sniff. No idea where it is.




I like this one...it's my second favorite from the S4 Wave. I saved my favorite for last, and that's tomorrow.

FRIDAY

I saved the best for last. At least, I think that this Janice, the last one of the six canceled Series 4 Mini Muppets, is the best of the sculpts from this series. I never really liked the Janice sculpt on the action figure. I thought it was stiff, fairly wooden, and I thought the limbs were too spindly. Most of all, I thought she lacked spirit, energy and any real femininity. Well...as much as you can get femininity in a puppet.




I love that pose, love the attitude and love the style of the body. It might not be Muppet-accurate in a lot of ways, but it's style and subtle power makes it work for me.

Thought this would be cool to see. Here are a couple of pics of all the S4 sculpts together in one shot. It really helps bring home how cool this series would have been once it was tweaked and revised and put out as a group. Would have, to me, made the Mini Muppets display feel complete, as it certainly does not now.



Hope you enjoyed that little trip down memory lane. I was just looking for some kind of distraction away from the junk I usually talk about, and besides, a lot of my new IS Friends have no clue about the stuff I used to work on. Those were some fun, fun times.

OUT...

6 comments:

  1. Okay...so I'm not really a sci-fi comic-y kinda girl. Although I do love The Lord of the Rings...and once had a crush on Spiderman.

    Anyway...

    Those lil' thingies are CUTE! Am I even allowed to use that word about something like this? I feel so NOT in the know? But I totally mean it with the utmost admiration!

    Distractions are good...

    ...d

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  2. Sure absolutely. The Muppets are supposed to be cute, and the whole line we worked on was supposed to garner that reaction, as well as a nostalgia for the puppets, some cool geek factor on the actual action figures we made, etc.

    But thanks for looking at the stuff. I think it's important sometimes to remind even myself that my life hasn't always been about Bennett's IS, though it feels like it has.

    :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I love the Muppets, but even so, can't really imagine collecting the action figures. But they are definitely neat I am not much of a collector though. My only true collection is the California Raisins..... maybe from Hardees? Wow, I haven't thought about those in a while. I wonder what box they are stuck in.....

    I agree, distractions are good, and I am mostly lost when you bring up Star Wars stuff. At least I know the Muppets.

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  4. I used to love those guys! I forgot all about Rowlf and Animal! It's been forever since I've see muppets. Rowlf is my very favorite :) Sounds like it was a fun job...as fun as work can be at any rate. Thanks for sharing.

    Karen
    www.caringbridge.org/visit/kcmahoney

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  5. Sitting right in front of my computer monitor are four of those mini's - Bunsen, Beaker, the Swedish Chef and Kermit on the log.

    :)

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  6. Looks like I need to dust off some more of these and show the IS brothers and sisters some of the Palisades years, ya think, Phil?

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