I am not afraid to admit that I am an unapologetic fan of the Muppets. I love everything about them from their design to their purpose to their “personalities” and beyond. I have always felt (get it? “felt” wokka wokka!) that it is a perfect property that can meld into any time and place and situation, and now that it seems like Disney has a handle on them, hopefully it will mean good things. That said, though, one of my favorite things about the Muppets is the fact that they got one of the single greatest action figure lines of all time from the it-makes-me-cry-every-time-I-think-about-it now defunct Palisades Toys. No matter what happens or what direction the property is taken in the future, I will always have my little near-perfect plastic representations of most of the main cast on my toy shelves. So, in honor of the late and amazingly great Jim Henson’s birthday (it was earlier this week), I wanted to take some time to revisit my absolute favorite corner of one of my absolute favorite lines with a look at the Electric Mayhem band. Let’s take a stroll through some memorable Muppets rock ‘n’ roll!
To say that the Palisades Muppets line had an unwavering attention to detail would be the understatement of the century. A lot of action figure lines have been handled with a detail-oriented eye, but the care, passion, and love put into every aspect of the Muppets action figures is something that comes along very rarely. Ken Lilly and his crew achieved legendary status within the action figure collector community, and every accolade that has been given has been nothing but deserved. As an action figure collector and Muppet fan, I feel spoiled rotten by this collection, and even though it has been years since the last figure was released, I still relish my collection on a daily basis.
There are individual standouts to be sure, and some of my favorite characters like Rowlf, Fozzie, Lew Zealand, and Sam the Eagle are amongst the best of the bunch, but no matter what, I always find my eyes settling on one end of my display more than anywhere else. It is where Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem have set up to jam, and damn if they don’t look awesome doing it. All six members are strong figures in their own right, but put them together with that awesome drum kit stage, and you just cannot beat that setup. I just want to take a moment to comment on each member of the group individually, but really, this is a classic case of the sum of the parts being so much more, and that is saying something since the parts are so strong on their own.
The Electric Mayhem Stage
Have you really taken some time to actually look at this thing? I still laugh to myself on a regular basis because I seem to notice a new little detail about this set every time I look at it. It really has everything that you could want from a drum set riser, and while the kit itself is very impressive, I find myself loving all of the little parts that make the stage. The scaffolding around the back that supports the spotlights and sign is the perfect way to tie everything together. You need bars to contain the wild-man drummer in Animal, so the framing is great for the aesthetic.
It also provides the foundation for the awesome “neon” light EM logo that sits behind the drum kit. I think this is my favorite part of the whole set. It is just so clean and spot-on perfect for the 1970s feel of the band. The colors pop and the plastic has a sheen to it that almost makes it look like it is illuminated. The little spotlights that hang from the scaffolding are tiny little lamps of greatness too, and they do everything short of actually lighting up. They are removable so you can put them pretty much anywhere, and they can turn and twist and position on the spot right where you want them. It is a small thing, but a very nice touch.
The stage rounds around to the front with more of the neon lights right into the open-mawed and gold-toothed Dr. Teeth logo on the front. This is done in sculpt, so it is 3D, and the double bass drums have a monitor effect on them that look like the split glasses of the Dr. himself, so it completely incorporates the front logo.
Speaking of the bass drums, they are the foundation to one of the most accurate drum recreations ever offered in an action figure. Animal plays on an authentic set, that is for sure. All of the drums and cymbals are recreated in fantastic fashion, and all of the arms and handles move so you can adjust them as you like. Even the cymbals on the high hat are loose so you can give them a crash and they move. This is the part of the set that can be directly referenced to a real-life item, and if I took a little time to set up the lights, I am pretty positive I could fool some people into thinking they are real drums in the pictures. They are just that good.
Now, I know Palisades wanted to get a stool out for this as well, but it never came to be. Sure, I guess you could still harp on about that, but I am not quite sure of the point because it is just too easy to get caught up in what is there instead of getting stuck on what is not. Sure, the Swedish Kitchen and Back Stage sets might be more impressive in terms of everything that they have, but I just love the EM stage for what it is, and what it is, is awesome. Animal was included, of course, but I will get to him in just a minute.
Palisades had a good run over the first three series of the Muppets line in introducing a new band member with each wave, and the colorful and dynamic leader kicked things off in series one. I remember finding Dr. Teeth at a Suncoast store and thought he was probably the most impressively painted action figure I had ever seen. I still think that. Sure, his sculpt is great (some might argue that his head is a little too large), but the paint applications are what totally make this figure. Dr. Teeth has a very interesting look from his pimp hat to his tall moccasins, and no wash or highlight was left out. His shirt is perfectly striped and all of his bling rings are accounted for. Don’t even get me started on his cummerbund. Have you seen this thing? I have no idea how the hell they painted it, and accurately at that. I just love to enjoy it and pretty much everything else about the good doctor.
Sgt. Floyd Pepper
The almost literal Paul to Teeth’s John, Floyd carries the rhythm and is second in command of the band. He even handles the vocals sometimes, and he is dating the guitar player. All this while being the felt embodiment of Sergeant Pepper. Floyd is a straight-up rock ’n’ roller. His costume and thin physique leaves no detail behind, and he, like all of his bandmates, got a wardrobe change variant. He comes with his trusty bass that has a real and functioning strap as well as an amp. If I had to complain about anything with this figure it’s that the bass and amp are permanently connected via the cord, but over time it bothers me less and less. It certainly does not keep Floyd from rocking out with his best girl Janice.
Ah, Zoot, you little devil you. The horn section of the EM is by far the most elusive group in the entire ensemble and I count myself as being EXTREMELY fortunate to own the standard version of the figure. Series three, for some reason, was produced in smaller numbers than the previous two waves, so there were already fewer Zoots than Floyds, Teeths, and Animals, but it was also rumored that the standard version was actually produced in fewer numbers than the red variant (instead of the other way around), so getting your paws on a Zoot in his classic outfit was/is no small (or cheap) feat. On top of that, and I HATE to be that guy, but Zoot is one of my favorite figures of the whole line. Of all of the EM members, I think Palisades got him the most right. Everything from his expression to his glasses to the classic Muppet “divots” just ring so perfectly. His saxophone even comes with a case for storage and a removable neck to mimic the real-life thing. I cherish this figure and if you have one, you should too.
The lone lady and only guitarist of the group, we had to wait all the way until series five to get the last of the classic members of the band. I remember being scared that we would never get her when she was not announced as a part of series four, but luckily, Palisades did not hold her back too long. Spindly and thin in giant chucky heels, Janice has a bit of trouble standing on her own, but she is delightfully on-model. Her expression and face sculpt might be the best of the entire band, and you can almost hear her valley girl voice, you know? Fur sure. She is left handed and that was a detail that was not overlooked, but I do wish she had gotten a strap to help her hold her guitar. The good news is that her amp is completely separate so she can totally wail without being impeded by wires and cables.
Ah, the final member of the band was also the last addition in the toy line. Barely making the cut in series nine, I had pretty much given up all hope of getting him at all. But when we did, we got a great-looking figure that actually had three versions instead of two. None of them come close to the classic white dashiki with the insane patterning in terms of looks, but the brow and silver versions were a lot more stable. I guess it was the paint they used at the factory, but his bright white shirt has been left forever tacky and prone to smearing. It is a shame because he looks so good, you just cannot handle him much. A great touch is that his left hand is sculpted so that you can snap his trumpet right in place for a natural hold. Since he was a part of series nine, he is quite rare, but if you are not adverse to displaying one of the variants, well, you are probably still going to pay through the nose.
The best-known member of the band was included with the stage in series two (he also got a revision and several variants), and he is probably still the most universally appealing figure of the entire band. Everyone knows Animal, right? ANIMAL! WOMAN! Frank Oz’s offering to the band (all of the primary Muppeteers had a band member) is certainly the most memorable individual personality, and the figure itself certainly carries that over. He can stand behind his drums perfectly, and the fact that he has movable eyebrows is grounds for geek overload. Now, he did get a sculpt revision down the line to make his crazy hair, well, more appropriately crazy, but I was never one to have that big of a beef with it, though I will admit the newer versions are an improvement. When people come over to my house, Animal is just one of those figures that everyone seems to love, so the fact that he gets his entire drum set, not to mention the stage, to go with his full band is pretty special.
Here is a hard truth for you: there will NEVER be another action figure line like what Palisades gave us with the Muppets. I honestly believe that. All of the skill and love and care and online interaction with the fans by Ken Lilly made it so special and results ring true in the entire line. I cry that the Sesame Street line never got a chance and I REALLY wish I would have gotten the little bit of that first series that snuck out, but it was not meant to be. What I do have, though, is a fantastic Muppets collection that I would not trade for the world and an amazingly cool Electric Mayhem band to lead the charge. I miss you, Palisades, but thanks for giving me one of my all-time favorite action figure lines.