When is a minifigure not a minifigure? That’s the question that’s been posed by Collectible Minifigures since the heady days of 2014, when the blind-bagged theme branched out into licensed territory with 71005 The Simpsons Series 1. In doing so, it took not only a thematic detour from its predecessors, but a stylistic one, realising its yellow-skinned cartoon characters with unique, moulded heads.
They weren’t the first time the LEGO Group had created a specific mould for a minifigure head, of course – see countless Star Wars aliens – but they represented a wholly singular approach unlike any we’d seen before. In a galaxy far, far away, Rodians, Mon Calamari and whatever Yoda is all sit happily alongside Twi’leks, Togrutas and Cereans, mixing a blend of completely unique heads with headpieces atop classic minifigure heads.
In LEGO Springfield, every character gets their own single-purpose head, establishing a template since followed by select Disney characters across two series, and all but one of the dozen minifigures in last year’s 71030 Looney Tunes. And as it did first in 2014, then again in 2021, and now again in 2022, that potentially-divisive design standard raises the question: at what point do these minifigures stop being minifigures, and start being action figure heads atop minifigure bodies?
The answer may lie in 71033 The Muppets. The LEGO Group’s latest adventure into this unorthodox design language takes the DNA of Jim Henson’s classic characters and realises them in an appropriately colourful cast of blind-bagged minifigures, each representing the pinnacle of what’s possible with LEGO characters in 2022. They’re brilliantly designed, instantly recognisable – and perhaps more authentic than it should be possible to get through the LEGO lens…
— Set details —
Price per minifigure pack: £3.49 / $4.99 / €3.99 Pieces: Variable Minifigures: 1 per pack, 12 to collect
— Characters —
Just as it did with 71030 Looney Tunes, which seems unlikely to get a second series, the LEGO Group has had tough decisions to make with 71033 The Muppets. In 2021, it scaled back its Collectible Minifigures series to 12 characters per, rather than 16, and that means not everyone is going to make the cut. But across the dozen Muppets that have been selected here are inarguably the franchise’s most iconic; from headliners like Kermit and Miss Piggy to a supporting cast that includes Animal, Rowlf the Dog and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.
Whatever you make of this continued approach to minifigures, in design or in number, it’s hard to say that any of the 12 characters in 71033 The Muppets doesn’t belong here – while perhaps the most notable omission does get some representation, if only through an accessory…
Kermit the Frog
The beauty of a series like The Muppets is that even if you’ve never seen so much as a minute of their original 1970s’ TV series, any number of the movies that followed or even their recent adventures into primetime television, their pop culture dominance is so ubiquitous that you’ve definitely heard of Kermit the Frog.
The Muppets’ veritable everyman and arguably their main character (as much as there can be one in an ensemble cast), getting Kermit right was fundamental to making 71033 The Muppets work, and he’s prototypical of the series’ approach to all its characters: keep it simple, stupid.
His collar could have been a fabric element that looped around his neck, but instead it’s printed on his torso. His banjo could have been a brick-built combination of a 2×2 round piece with clip and bar, but instead it’s a brand new moulded element, joining the growing list of LEGO instruments. These are effective design choices, and when paired with that wonderfully-realised head combine to create exactly what you’d expect of a LEGO minifigure of Kermit the Frog. So far, so good.
Miss Piggy debuted on screens a full 21 years after Kermit, in the original The Muppet Show, but she’s arguably now just as iconic as her green co-star (or, we’re sure she’d say, way more iconic). Giving Kermit mid-sized legs goes some way to communicating the difference in stature between the on-again, off-again pair, but the heavy lifting is otherwise left to their unique head moulds.
Piggy’s works well in that regard, and given how much those heads lean into action figure territory already, restricting each of the Muppets to traditional minifigure torsos and legs was a wise decision. At some stage, these need to be LEGO-first interpretations of their characters, and Miss Piggy is a great example of just about striking the right balance.
Her accessory – a printed 2×3 tile with a picture of her own face, presumably a poster or magazine cover – is a little less thrilling, though totally on point for the character.
Stand-up comic Fozzie Bear arguably offers 71033 The Muppets’ most subtle design, which feels like an odd thing to say about a bear with a polka dot necktie and a pork pie hat, but here we are. In the right (or perhaps wrong) lighting, the fur printing across his torso and legs is easily lost, but any darker and it wouldn’t have worked.
What’s perhaps too dark is the base colour chosen for Fozzie, who’s decidedly more orange than brown on-screen, so this particular shade of nougat feels just a little off. Without creating an entirely new colour in the LEGO Group’s surprisingly wide palette, it’s hard to offer a credible alternative – but that duller shade of orange would have been a nice addition…
Fozzie’s head mould is otherwise successful to the same extent as (most of) the rest of the Muppets, capturing personality and detail with excellent printing, while his accessories feel appropriate, if not especially exciting.
Between his versatile torso and legs with dual moulding and side printing, fun accessories – a printed tomato head (that we couldn’t resist popping on a couple of cowled characters) and whisk – and arguably the most impressive head sculpt of all 12 characters (the hat is moulded to his head), Swedish Chef is easily one of 71033 The Muppets’ stand-out minifigures. However, he’s also one of three in this series that perhaps would have worked just as well, or even better, as a traditional minifigure.
That’s largely by dint of the fact he’s a human character, and as such fits very neatly into the template defined by thousands of other minifigures based on humans over the past few decades. His bushy eyebrows and ‘tache would have looked just fine printed on a standard minifigure head, with a removable chef’s hat on top.
As is, there’s something just a little jarring about seeing an accurately-sculpted human head atop a minifigure’s shoulders, nose and all (even if that nose is a defining characteristic of Swedish Chef’s appearance), and it’s where 71033 The Muppets starts to cross the line into action figure territory. It works within the context of the rest of this particular series, but does it work within the context of LEGO as a medium? That’s perhaps for you to decide.
If Swedish Chef gives you questionable feelings towards 71033 The Muppets, daredevil performance artiste Gonzo will remind you why the majority of this series is such a home run. Like the rest, his head sculpt is spot on, and the detailed printing across his torso and legs perfect for the character. Swap out those blue hands, and this is also another torso ripe for use beyond just the Muppets.
Gonzo is also another character to benefit hugely from the mid-sized legs – this series really wouldn’t have worked in 2017 – and comes complete with his girlfriend Camilla, or maybe just a doll he’s fashioned of her, because the LEGO chicken piece is wildly undersized compared to its source material. Then again, maybe that’ll finally help Gonzo tell her apart from the rest of the chickens…
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
No LEGO version of any character, ship, vehicle, location or historical event can be a truly accurate recreation, simply by virtue of the medium: this is an artistic tool, and artistic licence must therefore be granted. We say all this to explain why the limitations of the LEGO Group’s existing colour palette are easy to forgive when it comes to these characters, whether it’s Fozzie Bear or Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.
One half of the madcap pair of scientists responsible for inventing (deep breath): exploding clothes, hair-growing tonic, a robot politician, edible paper clips, an electric nose warmer, a gorilla detector, a banana sharpener and a machine that can turn gold into cottage cheese, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is arguably a little yellower than his minifigure would suggest, but this particular shade of green gets a pass.
With all those zany experiments in mind, though, it’s maybe a touch disappointing that the good doctor is only accompanied by a very basic beaker. (Note: that’s beaker lowercase, not Beaker uppercase, who’s anything but basic – more on him in a sec.) Bar his toe and side leg printing, he’s also among the least detailed minifigures in the range, so perhaps only one for completists (or diehard Muppet science fans).
Where there’s Bunsen (burners), there’s Beaker, and while Dr. Honeydew’s long-suffering assistant may play second fiddle on the show, he makes for the most impressive of the two minifigures. His torso and dual-moulded legs can be easily repurposed elsewhere, and are versatile enough to surely find plenty of applications beyond 71033 The Muppets, while his head is by nature more comical (and therefore more interesting) than his counterpart’s.
His walkie-talkie accessory lets him down a bit – these two are crying out for some kind of specific reference to one of their inventions, even just in a printed tile a la The Simpsons – but his perfectly-moulded shock of red hair and startled expression make Beaker one of the highlights of this series, and not only because his incredibly tall bonce is so well suited to this particular design language.
Rowlf the Dog
Rowlf the Dog might not be the character you first think of when you hear the word ‘Muppets’ in 2022, but he boasts the biggest legacy: the first Muppet to soar to national stardom in the early ‘60s, he was also one of those rare early characters designed as a live-hand puppet, and he was even one of the first Muppets based on a specific real-world animal.
By the time The Muppet Show debuted in 1976, Rowlf had assumed the role of resident pianist, and his LEGO minifigure is appropriately accompanied by sheet music, ingeniously printed on a book cover to allow him to grip it better than a standard 2×3 tile. Better still is the bust of Beethoven, which occasionally weighs in on Rowlf’s playing on the show, and includes a double-sided head here.
Rowlf’s head sculpt is as good as any of his contemporaries, but his torso and leg printing suffers from the same issue as Fozzie Bear’s, and to an even greater extent given the darker brown used here: it’s almost too subtle, and hardly distinguishable in certain lighting.
Statler and Waldorf
Here’s where things start to get really questionable. If Swedish Chef pushes the limits of how far these moulded heads should go, Statler and Waldorf have left those barriers in the dust. These are full human heads, that absolutely resemble full human heads – eyes, mouth, nose, ears and so on – sculpted, moulded and thrust on to minifigure bodies.
They’re in-keeping with the approach taken by The Simpsons to an extent, and the legacy of that series is keenly felt all across this series (perhaps nowhere more so than in these two), but those were two-dimensional cartoon characters. These are three-dimensional puppets, and it’s hard to shake off the impression that their minifigures look like novelty, 3D-printed pieces, like the ones you can buy on the aftermarket of your friends’ heads.
In the context of the rest of the series, they do work – like Swedish Chef – but they’d probably have worked just as well as standard minifigures. What detail can’t be conveyed through printing and hairpieces alone? We all recognise Anakin Skywalker, or Thor, or Hermione Granger, and surely we’d also have recognised Statler and Waldorf.
Perhaps they needed those detailed heads for how plain they otherwise are, though, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Resign those sculpted pieces to your parts drawers and you’re left with a brand new pair of LEGO suits for your wardrobe, including mid-sized brown legs with boot printing.
Statler’s three-piece outfit is also accompanied by a three-piece laptop, which features 71033 The Muppets’ only reference to Scooter, arguably the series’ biggest missing character. Waldorf’s accessories feel a bit more dialled-in, consisting of a tile printed with three Zs and a cup and saucer, but you do at least get a spare tea set (presumably for Statler).
One of two members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem represented in 71033 The Muppets – and perhaps the biggest omissions beyond Scooter are the rest of that band – Janice is much better suited to the LEGO Group’s current colour palette than some of her fellow characters, and almost every facet of her minifigure captures her on-screen presence perfectly.
While her guitar is appropriate for her main role in Electric Mayhem – she’s the band’s bassist – she’s also played tambourine, and even fronted on trumpet and trombone for the orchestra on occasion, so a second instrument would have really topped things off. It’s hard to quibble with what’s here, though, and that’s perhaps what’s destined to be 71033 The Muppets’ most underrated character. (You heard it here first.)
Rounding out 71033 The Muppets is Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem’s wildest member, Animal, who’s packing what may be the most involved build of any Collectible Minifigure to date. Nestled inside his bag are enough pieces to assemble an entire drum kit, or at least a bass drum, cymbal and snare – some drummers will tell you that’s all they need – stretching the limits of what’s possible within a range devoted first and foremost to its characters.
The printed bass drum head is a great touch, while Harry Potter wands make for neat sticks, but enough accessory talk: what about Animal himself? Like Gonzo, Miss Piggy and Rowlf the Dog, he’s better suited to his head mould than Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf, but like every single one of the characters here, that head mould also happens to be an incredible recreation of its source material, from the big, bushy eyebrows to the textured red hair all the way around.
The standard LEGO colour palette serves him perfectly, too, mixing vivid orange, red and yellow with dual-moulded arms and legs. Animal’s snare must be tuned pretty tightly, because he’s finishing off the series on a high note. (Sorry not sorry.)
— Accessories —
Most of the in-house Collectible Minifigures series are as much about their accessories as any new minifigure components (like hairpieces or hats), but the same can’t really be said for licensed series like 71033 The Muppets, with good reason: all of their budget has been poured into those finely-sculpted headpieces, which means there’s only one truly new accessory to speak of among all 12 characters.
That’s Kermit’s banjo, which slots right in alongside the growing family of LEGO string instruments – essentially, it’s everything you’d expect of a LEGO banjo; no more, no less. But even while the rest of the Muppets’ accessories don’t necessarily bring any new moulds to the table, they’re still a fun collection of new prints and, in one case, a complete build.
If you’re looking for Animal in particular, just give the bags a shake and listen out for the one that rattles the most: there are a lot of pieces in there…
— Price —
We were hesitant to praise 71030 Looney Tunes’ pricing of £3.49 per pack last year, largely because of the lack of utility of those minifigures beyond their initial purpose, and also because of how difficult their action figure-approach makes them to weave into the rest of your minifigure collection. The same is mostly true of 71033 The Muppets, and that means these very specific minifigures once again cater to a very specific audience, and it’s Muppets-first rather than LEGO-first (save for a few exceptions).
There are two other factors worth considering in weighing up whether to complete an entire series of Muppets minifigures (at some £42 all in), though. First is that the budget opened up by that price point is exactly what’s allowed the LEGO Group to go to such lengths with each of its characters’ unique head moulds, even at the expense of any particularly interesting accessories (beyond a banjo, really). For how specialist they are, particularly next to in-house launches like 71032 Series 22 at the same price, £3.49 a go doesn’t feel egregious.
Second is that it’s remarkable how long the LEGO Group has managed to maintain that consistent pricing, even across these resource-heavy licensed series that demand so many new moulds. Rumours abound this time last year that 71030 Looney Tunes would be the first Collectible Minifigures series to herald a bump in price to as much as £3.99 or even £4.99 a pop, but here we are a year later, and 71033 The Muppets still comes in at the same price as 2020’s 71026 DC Super Heroes.
All that taken into account, and it’s hard to grumble too much about what each of these characters brings to the table from a price perspective.
— Pictures —
— Summary —
What’s a little easier to grumble about – to continue a train of thought from the price section, if you’ve just skipped to the summary here – is that there are only 12 characters here, because if any series deserved to break ranks from the Collectible Minifigures’ recent template, it’s 71033 The Muppets. Bumping things up to 16 or even 18 could have unlocked so much more of the series’ potential, especially when there are so many A-listers here that a second series feels unlikely.
As is, we’re left with only a dozen characters to collect, but what a dozen they are. There’s no denying each and every one of the head sculpts here is a near-perfect representation of the Muppets, demonstrating what can be achieved by an element design team already well experienced in transforming iconic TV characters into LEGO minifigures.
But then there’s that question again: when is a LEGO minifigure not a minifigure? Because while all 12 of these characters are wholly authentic to their on-screen counterparts, it means that some of them – Statler, Waldorf, Swedish Chef – are clearly Muppets first, and LEGO minifigures second, perhaps prizing that authenticity above the classic LEGO design language we’re familiar with.
It’s a choice, for sure, and one the LEGO Group has made before – so likely one you already have an opinion on, though it’s maybe taken to even further extremes here with the Muppets’ human characters. Either way, it’s also exemplary of the Collectible Minifigures’ recent approach to its licensed themes, which – between 71030 Looney Tunes and 71033 The Muppets – seems to be slapping novelty heads on minifigure bodies.
If that’s what you want, then great: you’ll love these, because they fulfil that brief to a tee, and are packed with the kind of attention to detail this theme prides itself on. And even if you’re looking for something that better imbues the LEGO DNA as we know it, there’s still plenty to enjoy across these 12 sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational minifigures.
These minifigures were provided for review by the LEGO Group.
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— FAQs —
Where can I buy LEGO Collectible Minifigures 71033 The Muppets?
How many characters are in LEGO Collectible Minifigures 71033 The Muppets?
How much does LEGO Collectible Minifigures 71033 The Muppets cost?
When will LEGO Collectible Minifigures 71033 The Muppets be available to buy?
71033 The Muppets has already started turning up in select stores in the US, and launches worldwide on May 1, 2022. Expect the series to be available through late July/early August.