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The World of Springfield is a series of action figures featuring characters from the animated sitcom The Simpsons. The line ran between December 1999 to December 2004 and was released by Playmates Toys.

The toy action figure series was called World of Springfield, because the concept of the line was for collectors to build a miniature Springfield through a series of interactive action figures and playsets. It eventually encompassed over 200 different figures and characters from the series, 40 interactive playsets (toy re-creations of Simpson's interior settings and town location settings within Springfield), and three non-interactive diorama town settings.

Contents

Background

The release of all mass-market action figure lines based on TV or movie characters are timed to the initial release of the project — as part of its promotional and marketing messages — taking advantage of the promotions, P.R. and comsumer awareness. The figures themselves also act as advertising and promotional vehicles for the TV or movie on which they are based. Most movie/TV tie-in action figures are successful for the brief period of the theatrical release, the video/DVD release and the possibility of a successful sequel but rarely for any longer period. Typically the pattern for action figure sets is no more than a few dozen figures are released along with some playsets to serve as background dioramas, with sales dropping off a few months after the last film is released. The Kenner/Hasbro Star Wars movie line, in the marketplace since 1978, is considered the gold standard, with all the figures in the same scale. The closest TV equivalent might be the Star Trek line (also from Playmates Toys) though it is non-contiguous and not technically from one TV series.

Level of Success

The mass market appeal of The Simpsons encompasses everyone from young kids who loved the slapstick comedy to adults of all ages who appreciate that the jokes and situations that work on multiple levels of our intellect. Like other classic TV series, fans remember and quote the lines, and Playmates Toys managed to capture that appeal with its interactive playsets.

Each figure came with its own "coded" chip generally set into the character's foot that when contacted with the "trigger" tab on each playset would complete the circuit so by then pressing a nearby button, you would hear playback of one to five phrases for that character. Unique features included audio playback from the show and the actual voice actor; placing the Homer Simpson figure on an appropriate playset would trigger the playback of a quote as performed by Dan Castallaneta on the original episode. Each playset held quotes and voice clip performances for a variety of characters so that placing the Marge Simpson figure or the Bart figure would trigger different quotes and voice clips. One limitation was that not every character worked with every playset — some for story logic reasons (character might not appear at that setting), release logistics (figures released long after a playset) or presumably for cost reasons (as each voice clip had to be approved and licensed).

The sets were released during the dot.com bubble and a healthy economic environment in the United States. The figures themselves cost between $5.99 USD and $7.99 USD each, while the playsets generally ranged from $20 USD to $25 USD at the end of 2004. There were also special releases that were in the $60 USD range. Even at minimal retail, 200+ figures and 40 playsets meant a large financial commitment. In addition, there were a dozen exclusives and mail-in figures that required extra work to obtain the figures — often via an online auction. However, the early success of the series and the healthy economy added extra momentum to the line for a few more years.

Fan interaction

The World of Springfield line set a new standard of company/fan interaction in its relationship between Playmates Toys and the collectors, specifically based at the Simpsons Collector Sector (SCS) website and forums. Starting in mid-2001, with contacts from board moderator Michael Crawford, Playmates executives (first Jeff Trojan and later Pat Linden) reached out to the collectors in a mutually beneficial relationship — fans got input into the line; the company got free market research. Playmates Toys answered a monthly Q&A from collectors, and regularly gave exclusive details about upcoming products to the SCS website directly. Collectors had opportunities to affect the line's future on a few occasions. Collectors were asked to give suggestions on what figures and playsets they wanted to see; polls were generated. The results of these polls had an impact on future lineups, with collectors getting many of the figures they had requested.

This interaction reached a peak in 2003 when the Simpsons Collector Sector hosted a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic Con that July. A representative from Playmates Toys was the featured guest and engaged in Q&A with attendees and handed out free figures to all.

Fans continued to have a voice through the end of the line, although larger issues such as voice contracts and licensor disagreements sometimes prevented collectors from getting everything they wanted. This model of interaction has been followed by many other toy companies since.

A controversial incident occurred in summer 2001 after the release of a ToyFare mail-away figure, Pin Pal Burns. Fans complained about the unfair way ToyFare handled the offer. Playmates responded by having ToyFare make later offers available online and eventually ending World of Simpsons offers from ToyFare entirely. Conversely, fan enthusiasm helped revive products that had been cancelled at one point, including the deluxe Main Street playset and the Moe's Tavern playset.

The line end

The line ended in mid-2004 due to a number of factors, most importantly slow sales. There were a number of factors that contributed to the declining sales, including "collectors fatigue", the release pattern of the figures, the sheer size of the line being difficult for newcomers, the slowing economy, the changing toy retail situation, and Playmates Toys' relationship with 20th Century Fox.

List of figures and playsets

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Wave one

Release date: January 2000

Wave one playsets

Release date: February 2000

Wave two

Release date: August 2000

Wave two playsets

Release date: August 2000

Wave three

Release date: January 2001

  • Sunday Best Homer — With Bible, radio and foam hand
  • Nelson Muntz - With baseball bat, spray can, water balloon and paper airplane
  • Moe Szyslak - With rag, beer mug and phone
  • Kamp Krusty Bart - With bow and arrow, slingshot, quiver with arrows and can of "Imitation Gruel"
  • Milhouse Van Houten - With ice cream cone, Squishy and walkie talkie
  • Otto Mann - With guitar and headphones

Wave three playsets

Release date: January 2001

Wave four

Release date: April 2001

  • Lenny Leonard - With plate of donuts, beer mug and bowling bag
  • Ralph Wiggum - With stack of books, toy rocket, keys on a chain and Radioactive Man comic
  • Patty Bouvier - With video, clipboard and picture of Principal Skinner
  • Groundskeeper Willie - With shovel and rake
  • Casual Homer — With remote control, Duff beer, sunglasses and "Salty Snax"
  • Itchy & Scratchy - With mallet and axe

Wave four playsets

Release date: April 2001

Wave five

Release date: July 2001

Wave six

Release date: September 2001

Wave six playsets

Release date: September 2001

Wave seven

Release date: December 2001

Wave seven playsets

Release date: December 2001

  • The Simpsons Kitchen with Muumuu Homer - With hat, can of "Much Ado about Stuffing" and weigh scale
  • Krusty Burger with Squeeky Voiced Teen — With tray, burger box, French fries and cup

Wave eight

Release date: March 2002

Wave eight playsets

Release date: March 2002

Wave nine

Release date: June 2002

Wave nine playsets

Release date: June 2002

Wave ten

Release date: October 2002

  • Stonecutter Homer - With Stonecutter book, framed certificate, hat and beer stein
  • Wendell Borton — With banana, apple, orange, stack of books and barf bag
  • Sunday Best Marge and Maggie — With purse, hats and Bible
  • Scout Leader Flanders — With scout knife, book on knife safety, removable scout's hat, removable glasses, half a pine cone and flare gun
  • Dr. Marvin Monroe — With foam bat, cash, clipboard and diploma
  • Resort Smithers — With phone, bag of pineapples and suitcase

Wave ten playsets

Release date: October 2002

  • Burns Manor with Pajama Burns — With snow globe, red chair, grate and Bobo
  • Hospital with Doctor Nick — With Buzz Cola can, open pizza box, table, rack of 4 test tubes, jar of cotton and 3 medical tools

Wave eleven

Release date: December 2002

Wave eleven playset

Release date: December 2002

  • Court Room with Judge Snyder - With American flag, gavel, law book and guilty verdict

Note: From 2003 forward, only one playset was released in conjunction with each wave

Wave twelve

Release date: April 2003

  • Number One - With beer stein, Stonecutter book and paddle
  • Database — With lunch tray, stack of books and a small horn
  • Mister Dewey Largo — With metronome, music stand, baton, chalk holder and sheet music
  • Don Vittorio — With clown bicycle, seltzer bottle, folded wad of money and gun
  • Luann Van Houten — With moving boxes, tape dispenser and can of lighter fluid
  • Mister Plow Homer - With key to the city, "Stock for V.P." T-shirt, stack of Mr. Plow flyers

Wave twelve playset

Release date: April 2003

  • Bart's Treehouse with Military Bart - With helmet, sunglasses, pile of water balloons, binoculars, baton and desk

Wave thirteen

Release date: July 2003

Wave thirteen playset

Release date: July 2003

  • Military Antique Store with Herman — With a dirigible, warhead, two swords, rope barrier, riding crop and rifle

Wave fourteen

Release date October 2003

  • Louie — With rifle, martini glass, carton of rat milk and briefcase of money
  • Kilted Willie — With Loch Ness monster doll, bagpipes, hat and tripod
  • Ms. Botz - With suitcase, "Happy Little Elves" video, rope and tape
  • Luigi — With open pizza box, bottle of wine and restaurant sign
  • Sarcastic Man — With "World's Greatest Jacket", nightvision goggles and the "ultimate" belt
  • Miss Hoover — With coffee mug, "Teacher's Edition" book, bag of standardized tests and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" sign

Wave fourteen playset

Release date: October 2003

Wave fifteen

Release date: January 2004

Wave fifteen playset

Release date: January 2004

Wave sixteen

Release date: June 2004

Wave sixteen playset

Release date: September 2004

Toyfare exclusives

Release date: October 2000

  • Radioactive Glow-In-The-Dark Homer — With glow in the dark plate of donuts and tongs

Release date: July 2001

Release date: October 2001

Release date: December 2001

Release date: December 2001

Toys-R-Us exclusives

Release date: September 2000

Release date: September 2001

Release date: August 2002

Release date: September 2003

Release date: August 2002

Release date: October 2003

Release date: November 2001

  • Simpson's Christmas w/ [[Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire|Holiday Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie on Santa's Little Helper - With piano

Release date: September 2002

  • Main Street with Crazy Old Man and Squeaky Voiced Teen — With hat and cane

Release date: April 2002

Release date: November 2002

  • New Years Town Square with New Years Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — With large noise maker, small noise maker, martini glass, party hooter, Flagpole, 2003 flag, horn and star

Release date: September 2003

  • Be Sharps Centennial with Doolittle Wiggum — With microphone

EB Games exclusives

Release date: September 2001

Release date: October 2002

Release date: October 2003

  • Future with Future Burns, Future Smithers, and Smithers as Bobo — With ragged Bobo

Release date: April 2002

  • High School Prom with High School Homer and High School Marge — With corsage

Release date: January 2003

Mail away

Release date: Late 2002

Release date: Early 2003

Release date: May 2003

Release date: Late 2003

Release date: Late 2003

Release date: Early 2004

Release date: October 2002

Release date: October 2002

  • Cooder (Voiced by Jim Varney) - With tackle box, money bundles, rings for the ring toss and oversized comb

Celebrity Voices wave one

Release date: February 2002

Celebrity Voices wave two

Release date: June 2002

  • Lionel Hutz (Voiced by Phil Hartman) - With diploma, briefcase, monkey statue and business card
  • Brad Goodman (Voiced by Albert Brooks) - With cup, book, can, seminar sign and video tape

Celebrity Voices wave three

Release date: October 2002

  • Hank Scorpio (Voiced by Albert Brooks) - With a grenade, walkie-talkie and flame-thrower

This item was available as part of Wave Ten

Dioramas

Release date: July 2003

  • Outside Simpsons House with Homer, Marge, and Maggie
  • Outside Kwik-E-Mart with Grandpa & Apu
  • Outside Krustylu Studios with Krusty & Milhouse

Re-release

Release date: April 2003

  • Moe
  • Mr. Burns

Vehicles

Technically not part of World of Springfield, these vehicles were made by Playmates Toys in June 2001 and in August 2002, and are considered part of the line by some fans. The vehicles did not interact with the other World of Springfield items, and weren't actually able to hold any figures from the line, but by moving the characters that came with the vehicle to the right or the left or by pressing the car's hood a conversation could be created between the characters.

  • Family Car with Homer, Marge, Bart, Santa's Little Helper, Lisa, and Maggie. Release date: June 2001
  • School Bus with Martin, Milhouse, Ralph, Bart, Lisa and Otto. Release date: August 2002

KayBee Toys exclusive

In August 2002 Playmates Toys released a series of figures through the retail store KayBee Toys based on the "When Bongos Collide" storyline from Bongo Comics. It featured Simpsons characters transformed into superheroes. The initial three-pack of figures included Homer Simpson as the Indigestible Bulk, Apu as Captain Kwik, and Ms. Krabappel as Vampiredna. Two more three-packs were planned (featuring Marge as the Entangler, Lisa as the Jazzler, Maggie as Brainbaby, Grampa as Oldblood member Coda, and Skinner as The Stickler, and Willie as the Plaid Piper), but the line was cancelled as soon as it hit retail.

Cancelled items

As in most toy lines, items are planned for release that for a number of reasons (cost issues, low retailer interest) never end up being produced and/or released. Many items were cancelled from the World of Springfield line; a complete list is available in the Simpsons Collector Sector's Release Guide.

Cancelled figures

  • Rabbi Krustofsky - Was to be include in the Series 2 line of Celebrity Figures, but was cancelled, supposedly because Jackie Mason withdrew his approval.
  • Lyle Lanley - Originally part of the Series 3 line of Celebrity Figures, but was replaced by Cooder.
  • Malloy - Originally part of Series 12, but was replaced by Number One.
  • Stonecutter Wiggum - Was cancelled when the World of Springfield line ended. Was going to be part of the Mail Away figures.

Cancelled playsets

  • Flander's Rumpus Room with Maude Flanders - Was originally going to be the playset for the Wave 18 line, but was cancelled when the World of Springfield line ended
  • Springfield Elementary Playground with Janey - Was going to be a part of the Wave 17 line, but was cancelled for unknown reasons
  • Stonecutter Hall withStonecutter Carl - Was going to be a Toys-R-Us exclusive, but was cancelled due to slow sales of the Be Sharps playset and the end of World of Springfield line
  • 300th Episode Special: Bart's Loft with Skateboarding Homer, Pajama Bart, "Indian Burn" Lisa, and Casual Skinner - Was cancelled for unknown reasons
  • Oval Office with President Lisa, Old Homer, Old Marge, Grownup Bart, and Maggie Jr. - Was planned as a Toys-R-Us exclusive, but cancelled due to slow sales in previous exclusives

Cancelled waves

External links


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