|Talking Family Car Review Capsule|
|Toy vehicle with dedicated figures. The Talking Family Car has rolling wheels and speaks a variety of phrases from The Simpsons television show. $20-$30.|
A natural extension of the second year Simpsons line, the Talking Family Car has everything you might want in a car, although it's scaled down from the figure scale. With a variety of vocal samples in its databank but no compatibility with the action figure line the question arises: is this a toy worth buying?
When looking at the family car, it looks a little small-- and rightly so. While early photos made it look like it just might be scaled to the action figure line, it isn't-- the toy is scaled down, but not too much. The toy ships in a box that has the same dimensions as one of the interactive playsets.
Sounds can be activated by any of six "buttons"-- each character acts as a button, and the half dozenth (new word) is the hood of the car. All are well integrated into the design, and an on/off switch on the bottom insures you don't accidentally bump one of them when moving the car around.
Even though the car is a little bland in terms of extras, it has some surprises. At first, it looks like it's possible the wheels are fused. Not so, they roll with no problems. The rear view mirrors are silver, not reflective, and it helps to keep the cartoony look. The biggest surprise was the locks on the car doors-- they can actuallybe moved up or down, however the user sees fit. Quite nice. The one thing that seems noticably missing-- and it would be required for the mechanisms to work-- is the windows. There is no plastic to simulate the glass of the windows, and in one spot, it really looks bad. Wait, better make that two-- the entire roof is also missing from the car to accomodate Marge's hair, and the dog is placed so that if glass were present, he would currently be in it.
The "figures" are just the characters from the waist up, except Maggie and Santa's Little Helper. Maggie is there in her full glory and actually looks a little better than the previously available Maggie figure. Since the other kids are cut in half and she's standing up, she looks a little weird.
The family dog lies in an area on the back, and seems out of place. Since the windows were removed, part of the dog sticks out where the rear window would ordinarily be-- so, as mentioned earlier, part of the dog sticks out of the car. It looks like he would just go flying... it's very out of place.
Homer, Bart, Marge, and Lisa are all posed more or less "in-character" for lack of a better term. Marge is trying to stop Bart from writing on the oblivious Homer's head. Homer's hands are posed so neither of them are touching the wheel. Lisa, looking like a scaled-down version of her action figure, is reading a book, with no markings of note on it. Overall, the look of the family turned out pretty well, although when examined closely, there are nits at which to pick.
At least two different prototypes existed-- one had Marge with her hair bent back slightly due to the wind, the other was closer to the set that was eventually released.
All of the figures have a few lines, some surprising, some not. They all sound pretty good and the speaker wasn't as low-budget as one might hope, so the sounds are actually pretty good.
Homer: "(Honk, Honk) C'mon, move it!," "(annoyed grunt)," "Woo-hoo!," "We're almost there."
Marge: "Mmmmpppphhh!," "I'm so proud of you!," Why are you driving so fast?"
Bart: "Ay carumba!," "(laughs)," "Hot stuff, comin' through!," "Whooo! Springfield rocks!"
Lisa: "Oh no! We left Grampa back at the gas station!," "Where are we going, Dad?"
Maggie: "(sucking sound.)"
Santa's Little Helper, despite being present on the vehicle, has no vocal representation. Fun fact: the quintet's mutt is voiced by Frank Welker, best known as the voice of Megatron on the old TransFormers show.
There are also a few conversations activated by the car's hood. One has Homer arguing with Marge about picking up a hitchhiker, there are two conversations from the Treehouse of Horror episode where they're driving to house-sit Mr. Burns' Manor, and there's also a discussion on why Homer's driving so fast. (He's trying to think.) Some of them contain lines from the individual character "buttons," and ultimately there's a lot going on here.
While the vast interchangability of the playsets with their (theoretically) huge bank of voices turned out great, a self-contained product like this isn't at all bad either. If a fan is looking for a toy to keep on their desk to poke when they want to hear a line from the show, this is possibly the best option: five talking characters for around $20.
The art of the action figure vehicle/playset is a lost one, gone the way of the Genera Hypercolor T-Shirts, the way of the novelty that was once attatched to Reebok Pump Sneakers, the way of a dozen cereals at any given time based on a popular kiddie show. And this item proves it-- if it were released in the late '80s or early '90s, it would probably be compatible with or at least properly scaled to the action figures. Of course, it also wouldn't be sculpted as well nor would it have this quality of voices. But still, this is a piece that shows as far as we've come in great looking figures, we've gone the complete opposite direction in terms of vehicles.
(Notable exception: ReSaurus' Mach 5 from Speed Racer. This is what one would expect out of vehicles in this day and age. What one gets is a Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect Trike Dozer.)
For the price of $20-$30, interest in this toy is going to vary from fan to fan. Since it's similar to the scale of the wildly popular action figure line, and put on the shelves next to them, odds are a lot of people are going to pick this up. It's not a bad toy, but there were a few shortcuts that one might wish weren't taken. But for around twenty bucks, you can't complain too much, and if it's ever on sale for a low enough cost there's no reason not to have one around the home or office.
Our sample was found at a local Toys "R" Us for $19.99, the same price as one of the playsets. The toy, so far, has also surfaced at a few web stores.
Reviewed by Adam Pawlus
Reviewed on July 29, 2001