When you say the term “TV Dad”, there are all kinds of images that pop into people’s heads. From Mr. Brady of the “bunch” to Mr. Huxtable on one end, and from Al Bundy to Peter Griffin on the other, being a “TV Dad” can mean a lot of different things. Of course, it also depends on where in the world you are, since TV is often a very culturally-specific medium. Every now and then, though, there is a character that can transcend national, ethnic and linguistic boundaries and become known world-wide.
Surely, then, when one thinks of a “TV Dad” like that, one can’t help but conjure up the image of a balding, somewhat pot-bellied, bug-eyed, doughnut-munching nuclear power plant worker. What other “TV Dad” is known so far and wide as Homer Simpson? Whether it’s strangling his son/nemesis Bart or messing up in yet another string of improbably ridiculous predicaments, Homer Simpson has been doing the whole TV Dad thing longer than pretty much anyone else. He’s also been doing it in more places than pretty much anyone else. Ever.
When the Simpsons hit the airwaves in late 1989, no one likely thought that this hyper-dysfunctional family and their bizarrely dysfunctional world would still be around 32 seasons later. According to some internet sources, the Simpsons was seen in 200 countries, and that was a 2007 number! Sure, there are always people out to ban them, but the Simpsons is the poster child for “no such thing as bad publicity”, and even with a widely-held belief that the show is not as good as it once was, it’s still chugging. To be fair, who’s as good today as they were 32 years ago? Anyone? Yeah, me neither…
If you have star power like that, it’s not a surprise that you get merchandizing deals! The Simpsons have seen their images applied to just about everything. Being a Simpsons collector must be as difficult a job as being a Disney collector! There have been countless toys, figures, Lego sets (The Kwik-E-Mart set is epic!), comics, shirts, lunchboxes and I’m sure a whole lot of things that I don’t know about and would be horrified if I did know about them!
One thing most people DON’T think of for Simpsons merchandise is model kits. Sadly, by the time the Simpsons came around, modelling was not really as widespread a hobby as it had been, and thus the market for Simpsons kits was not a market really waiting to be tapped. Yes, there has been a model of “The Homer”, Homer’s crazy dream car, but that’s about it. Or is it? Of course, it isn’t, or I wouldn’t have asked, now would I?
Amazingly, there are actually two other model kits from the Simpsons; one is of Bart on his skateboard and the other is Homer with his two best friends; a can of Duff beer and a doughnut. (I’m sure it’s been done, but shouldn’t that be “D’oh!_nut”?) What makes these kits weird, other than that they were issued in the mid-2000’s (about 2005), they were not issued by a major North American or even Japanese producer. Nope. If you want a styrene representation of your favourite Springfield Father/Son pair, you have to go to Heller.
See, Heller knew they couldn’t just trade on ugly French bombers forever! How on Earth they got the license for The Simpsons I don’t know. Why they did what they did with it, I don’t know. However, I do know that I was pretty excited to get my hands on the Homer kit a few years ago at Carefree Hobbies in Oakville, Ontario. My Sister-in-Law is a big Simpsons fan, and has dabbled (with excellent results) in some rather whimsical modelling endeavours. This is a kit I got for her, but I asked if I could put it up on the site, after I gave it to her.
So, without further ado, let’s just see how Heller sees one of TV’s most famous patriarchs!
A lot of Heller kits are packaged in boxes that have very realistic, very gritty box art. However, “gritty” and “realistic” are not two adjectives usually used in the same sentences as “The Simpsons”. So, clearly, the folks at Heller had to try something a bit different on this one. Since Homer is a cartoon, it only makes sense that the entire box is cartoonish. And boy, is it ever!
The box is bright, with the familiar “The Simpsons” titling in its “crooked” white rectangle. This is superimposed on a red and yellow background, which is as loud and attention getting as it is simple. The box is actually really weirdly illustrated. On the left, is a drawing of Homer digging his way through the fridge. There’s an assortment of carelessly tossed food on the floor or on its way to it, but clearly Homer hasn’t found what he’s looking for, because he’s still digging. Adding some graphically lowbrow comedy is Homer’s lower-that-it-ought-to-be waistline, revealing a bit of “plumber’s crack”. It just adds to the sense of desperation; Homer doesn’t care if you can see his butt… he just wants, well, whatever it is. (Maybe it’s the “Soul Doughnut”? No, that was in the freezer, I think.)
I love that you can read the notes on it, like the Post-It that says “Buy more Duff” and the two tests: Lisa’s A+ and Bart’s unsurprising D+. I have to say: it’s a shame that this kit doesn’t come with the fridge, because it’s pretty awesome. Beside the fridge are an out-of-scale drawing of a can of Duff and a large, sprinkle-laden doughnut. Oddly, these two things take centre stage, while a somewhat more sated Homer, patting his likely recently filled belly, is to the right. The Simpsons are so well known that there’s no label telling you this is Homer. It just shows him, with the Matt Groening signature below him. If you don’t know this is Homer Simpson, then you’re not the audience for this kit!
Oh, don’t forget; this is 100% Plastic, as is emphatically stated by the blue disk beside Homer’s head. Uh… Okay. Thanks? I mean, it’s a Heller, right? Were they thinking people would think the doughnut and the beer were real? Were people expecting resin and photoetch? I mean, if you’re a modeller, you know who Heller is, and you expect plastic. If you’re not a modeller, you won’t know Heller, and you’re unlikely to be where this thing was circulated. However, the blue dot is very excited about it, and so was I!
Unfortunately, the sides of the box are as plain as the front is cartoony and comedic. The only thing that’s interesting is the small drawing showing the dimensions of the finished kit. Usually, if it’s a plane, they just use a generic plane shape. But for this kit, they show an actual drawing of the finished Homer, beer and doughnut in hand. Oddly, they use a generic airplane nose rack for the “20 pieces” call out. I don’t know what kind of plane it’s for, but I know it’s Russian because of the three SRO-2 “Odd Rods” IFF aerials on it. I’m sure Homer does NOT come equipped with those!
Upon opening the box, you are greeted by three racks of white styrene. None are particularly big; the box is only about the dimensions of an Airfix 1/72 plane, although thicker. Once rack has the bulk (pun intended) of Homer’s body, the other, parts like arms, feet, mouth and beer can, and the last has his head. There’s no full-colour moulding on this one, but you do get a decal sheet for the Duff beer and Homer’s pupils.
As is likely to be expected, the surface detail on the kit is virtually non-existent. After all, Homer is not some mechanical creation, nor is he even a depiction of one! He’s an organic entity, and he’s all smooth and very-rounded lines. The kit reflects this, and everything has a decent amount of “chub” to it. Being a semi-shiny white, the entire kit has the look of being cast in shortening. While this may sound unappealing, it does have a certain appropriateness to it. Sadly, the Duff can is moulded in halves, and there aren’t any sprinkles moulded into the doughnut. Of course, you could fake these by coarsely sanding some coloured plastic and dropping them on while the doughnut is covered in still wet Future. Actually… that’s not the worst idea ever!
I have to be honest; this kit is just as creepy as it is comical. I’m sure we’ve all had a kit where we look at the parts and, scratching our heads, think: “Okay, I know this kit is a <whatever>… but how do these parts make into THAT?!” Sometimes, when you see parts in a different colour, separate from the entire subject, they become difficult to recognize, and they can take on shapes of things that are totally unrelated. The Homer kit is like that. A more innocent example is the bit of triangular wave. This looks like it could be structural support for a ship’s mast, or maybe guarding on something. Of course, that’s not it at all; it’s the “ring of hair” around the back of Homer’s balding pate!
More odd, and perhaps less-safe-for-work, are some of the other pieces. A perfect example is the doughnut. It looks more like a hemorrhoid cushion than an edible; the aforementioned lack of sprinkles doesn’t help with that, but the pronounced seam around its circumference is likely the main reason this impression is given. Even weirder are his eyes. One doesn’t normally think of Homer’s eyes apart from his head. Yet, here they are on the rack, and they look like… Well, being kind, they look like the “ring for service bells” at a shop’s counter. Taking a second look, though, and being a bit crass perhaps, they look a bit like breast implants. This impression is given great assistance by the fact that Homer’s pupils are raised nubs in the middle of the rather globular shapes. (See, it even sounds dirty!)
If you’re wondering why his pupils are three-dimensional, you are not alone. I don’t get it. They give you decals for the pupils! Why would they then mould them as protuberances? It makes no sense, and it means you’re likely going to have to back fill them and then sand them down. It honestly is going to make for a lot more work than it should have been. However, the eyes aren’t the worst part. That is reserved for Homer’s mouth. If you look at a drawing of homer, the area around his mouth is a darker colour. I assume this is to show the concept of stubble, scruff or some such facial hair-related phenomenon. It’s great, then, that Heller moulded it separately, so you can paint it easily, right? Well, sure, but it looks so, SOOO wrong. Look at it, just sitting there beside the hemorrhoid pillow! It reminds me much more of a toy you’re likely to see an ad for on an X-rated movie site than a mouth! Oh Heller… The French really are more liberal about this stuff!
Since Homer is simple (on every level), there’s not a lot to the instructions. You glue his halves together, put his eye-boobs and ears on, and then glue his hair and fleshlig… mouth… in place. A few strands of hair, his beer and doughnut and you’re done! The instructions are massive considering the size of the kit, and there is pretty much no way you can’t tell what’s going on. There’s not much here to cause confusion or dismay to a modeller of any experience or even total inexperience! Well, that’s at least true of the actual building directions. However, there’s not much weirder than the instruction that shows just Homer’s head being built.
Of course, I say that, but when you flip the instructions over, the sight that greets you is just that little bit weirder. For those of us used to seeing Homer in colour, seeing him in grey tones is weird. However, the drawing of the finished kit just looks strange. I don’t know if it’s the spread arms or the weird eyes or what, but there’s just something off about this rendition of Homer.
As for the decals, they look fine; they’re in register and I guess the colour is about right. They’re not very complicated, being as they are a couple of pupils, the Duff Beer label for the can and two decals for the round ends of the can.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, then a kit of one of TV’s longest-running dads is certainly one way you can go. I know I was surprised to see that this even existed, let alone that it was the good folks at Heller that brought it to us!
Seeing as the Simpsons isn’t exactly a Miyazaki-level animated undertaking, there’s not a lot of detail on the kit nor in the decals. But hey, that’s fine. You don’t buy a plastic Homer expecting nuanced engineering and upgraded realism. You buy him because he’s Homer. That being said, the kit is as simple as the art style it replicates, with only a few pieces and no poseability. It’s certainly no Master Grade Gundam, but it isn’t marketed as one, either!
This kit is a good one for any level of modelling experience. It’s not too difficult, so even first-timers should be able to handle the bulk of it. There will likely be a lot of sanding and filling needed on the kit’s few seams, though, to make it look great. If you want to reposition the kit’s limbs at all, you’re into major, major work, so if you don’t like Homer how he is, then maybe just don’t bother, unless that’s your thing!
The Simpsons are a global phenomenon, and the fact that their influence even extends into the realm of modelling shows just how big they are. Homer might be a simpleton, but he often tries to do the best he can with what limited resources (and brainpower) he has. In a lot of ways, then, this oddly charming little chestnut of a kit is very much an excellent replica; simple and limited but still entertaining. If you’re into the Simpsons, or know someone who is, this is a neat little piece of merchandise that likely is just as fun unbuilt as it is on display fully finished!