The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toyline was my gateway drug. Sure I was into all kinds of comic book and sci-fi toys as a kid, but for whatever reasons TMNT really grabbed me and I followed that line like a lot of now-adult collectors were into GI Joe, Transformers or Masters of the Universe. Playmates' other big hit, Star Trek was the line that turned me into a collector but there was just something great about the colors, designs and diversity in the Turtles line that I could not help but adore. It was thus that I was pretty excited when at Toy Fair this year it was unveiled Playmates was doing some collector targeted "classic" figures and now, after a month or two of chasing the illusory line they are all mine!
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Classic Series: Donatello
I don't know why, but this guy is cursed with wall-eye. I had seen him in a Toys R Us once before but the pupils were so far apart it was no wonder everyone had passed him up. This one still has a hint of that issue but it's fine enough to own. The figures are cast in colored plastic with paint at a minimum. Sure I would have preferred paint to plastic but much like with the new animated line since they are being consistent and casting each element individually as a whole it looks just fine. The one sad thing though is that it does allow for some misassembly, and once again Don gets the short end of the stick with his bandana glued on slightly askew. It was subtle enough I didn't notice it at first, but now it's all I see when I look at him. On the upside though, following the tradition of most Playmates Ninja Turtles, these guys are cast in different shades of green skintone, though pretty subtly here, so that they are even more individual and recognizable - a nice nod to the original figures.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Classic Series: Leonardo
Throughout my life my favorite turtle has shifted amongst them all (except for Raph - I hate Raph) and Leo has been m'boy for the last several years. He gets Blue, katanas and is the leader - what's not to love? If I recall correctly, these were done by master sculptor Dave Cortes (he of the Mezco Hellboy figures), and were done digitally. The only "complaint" I would have are the hands. I do kind of wish there was a bit more pronounced of a "halfpipe" groove to more snugly hold the weapons, but mainly it's the weird knuckles that throw me. The card art features the Turtles from the classic cartoon, which all had "cartoon eye" - big ovals with big pupils - yet the figures are closer to the classic heads than the cartoon heads, which begs the question, "what's with the pupils?" On one hand they bug me as they're inaccurate in every way and force the heads into a single gaze, but on the other I can't really imagine the toys without them and think the figures are too big for them them to look "normal" with just whites.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Classic Series: Michaelangelo
One of the big selling points here is the articulation, and this is certainly what set them apart from every other Turtle figure Playmates has done before (well, that and the pricepoint). Here we get a staggering 34 points! Even more impressively, it all works! They can hold their weapons pretty well and better yet hold dynamic poses securely. The hips are a little loose, so some of the more extreme positions are tricky, but that can still be achieved. The only two joints that give me some pause are the ankles and the head. Both are ball-and-socket joints with pretty narrow clearances so there isn't a whole lot of room for play. On the upside we get a so-crazy-I-can't-believe-they-tried-it balljointed mid-torso that actually works and looks surprisingly good, all things considered, but its the ball-and-hinge thumbs that really impressed me - best finger articulation ever! These guys certainly aren't the NECA figures but they're as close as we're likely ever going to get to ideal TMNT figures.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Classic Series: Raphael
Accessory-wise everyone gets a sewer-lid base and their signature weapon. They're nice enough but unnecessary to keep the guys standing. The weapons are all well done, and even feature paint! Paint on a Ninja Turtle weapon!? The end must be nigh! Coolest of all, Raph can hold his sais Wolverine style. Again, not as well as the NECA figures, but considering this is the company that made 2009's abysmal Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation figures it's staggering. These are really great toys. Distribution is insanely poor, the price feels a couple dollars high and the scale is on it's one but that that doesn't make these any less fun. I need Bebop and Rocksteady in this style and a classic Shredder and Casey Jones would be killer! Sadly, there's not much more re-use they could do so here's hoping Playmates spread out the tooling savings across the line, not just the series.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Don
If there is one thing I love it's textured sculpts, and boy do these figures deliver on that front! These are quite possibly my favorite looking Turtles toys ever made. What's even more impressive is that the four turtles are each wholly unique sculpts! The designs are so similar I wouldn't have noticed were it not for specifically comparing for this review, but indeed each has totally different (though sometimes similar) roughness, bumps, wrinkles and so on - even under their feet! Don gets possibly my favorite head sculpt (it's between him and Leo). The simple ball-ish shape, the thin, firm mouth. It's great and I'd love to see the whole team gets similar expressions as they are invariably re-released through out the life of the line. I also dig Don's soft green coloring. It feels much more natural than Mike's or Raph's and his lighter-than-his-pads brown bandages also look better than those two brothers as well.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mike
Mike was my favorite when I was a kid and still has a soft spot in my heart. He's the comic relief and the little brother (literally so, this time out as he is the shortest of the four figures), and I like to subscribe to the theory put forth by the CG movie that he's the most skilled of the four, but is the least refined and therefore the weakest fighter. One of the things I dig about these guys is that all four come with a "weapon tree" just like the original figures over two decades ago (age-recognizing groan) and just like those they're cast in the same color plastic as the character's weapons. Leo and Raph fare the best since they use get silver weapons while Don and Mike suffer the ol' "why is the blade brown" syndrome. It doesn't quite come across in the photo but Mike has super bright, virtually day-glo, skin and I just can't get used to it. I'm also not crazy about his brown foot wrappings... why are they different colors than the finger tape? It just doesn't work for me.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Raph
Raph, booooooo - go back to your premenstrual Wolverine rip-off-ery, ya useless so'n'so! I really don't care for his very dark green coloring or brown bandages - he's just too dark, much like Mike is too bright. These characters look best in more mid ranges, like Leo and the Classics figures. Let's talk about articulation, yes? Ball-and-socket heads, ball-and-hinge elbows, knees, shoulders and hips plus swivel wrists. The lack of a balljoint at the wrist is conspicuously felt and if they could add in balljointed ankles these would absolutely be very solid Toy of the Year contenders. I would love to see them roll out added articulation in future releases to spread costs and eventually give us the perfect 4" Turtle figure.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: April
This is easily the weakest figure of the line (I'm not counting that terrible Dongpound in Series 2 yet) and it's not at all because she's a girl. It's because this is just a boring as heck design. I understand the "we've got to real-world-ize the TMNT" push, but frankly that decade is over. Just look at Avengers - "dark and gritty" is the past, people want "colorful and fun" again, and TMNT is poised to grab that and run, but maybe they need a year or two to ease into it while pop culture does the same. Teenage, skinny April? Yawn. News Reporter April makes so much sense in every way - but what do I know, I haven't even seen the new show yet. But anyway, yeah, just a boring, boring design. She gets balljointed hips and shoulders, ball-and-socket head and swivel forearms... oooooh. The only reason, other than completism, to get here is the neat tree of practice weapons.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter
I'm quite pleased to a return to the more classic look of splinter - brown fur and maroon/purple robe, but I'm still not crazy about it. In fact, I've never really been happy with any Splinter figure. This is a decent design but the white and black on his face is just too stark, I think, and while I generally loathe softgoods on action figures, I would love to finally get a Splinter that can sit. (Maybe sculpted arms and torso with a cloth skirt) His sole accessory is a cane or staff, but it is cast in translucent blue/green... huh? I suppose it makes sense on the show, but it's just a little too toy-ish for me. Again, more of a "complete the roster" figure than a must-have toy.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Kraang
I know in the comics they're the Ultrom but you know what - I grew up on Krang and I'm excited to see him back! However, based on the cardback it sounds like all they did was just change the name. If you're going to do Krang, do Krang. Have one crazy Ultrom named Krang go off on his own in an uber mecha suit. I really dig this design though, but it gets Battle-Droid-ed into a weak toy. It's just a spindly thing and the non-Turtle figures are not blessed with articulation so you mix those two things and you get this "what they should have done" figure. He gets ball-and-socket shoulders and head (the later has an awesome range) and effectively T-crotch. Good luck getting him to stand with such preposed legs! The brain is very soft rubber and pops in and out easily. He has a recess inside (i.e. is not solid) that just happens to fit over the robot head perfectly - is this a show thing or just a coincidence - the world may never know! The best thing here, though, are his super cool techno guns. I really dig their atypical sci-fi-ish looks!
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Foot Soldier
This is pretty much just the same design from the last show and the CG movie. A decent riff on ninjafying the costumes from the first two movies but certainly not nearly are iconic as the classic cartoon. I take it the Foot are human here, which is a bummer as the classic robot ones allowed for a lot more carnage ("We have swords and sais and we are afraid to use them!") but it's the gray/purple/blue color scheme I am missing. I'm just tired of bad guys all in black and gray. It's boring. This guy gets to throwing stars, two katanas and a removable double-sheath for his back - not bad. Articulation wise though... nothing specially. Just balljointed hips and shoulders with swivel elbow and a ball-and-socket head. Yawn. Not quite the battle-builder I had hoped for.
Playmates - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder
Wow... and I mean wow. Just when I thought there could never be a bad design for Shredder this thing comes around. This is easily my least favorite Shredder design ever, and yes I am including T-Rex Shredder and "Shogun Warriors" Shredder! The helmet is okay and the shoulder pads are solid, but the rest is just boring as heck. And whats with those big gaudy forearm bands and shin guards? Why would they give Shredder removable armor? Oh, they didn't? That just, ridiculous junk is actually affixed in place by pegs and glue? Ugh and double Ugh. Oh, hey at least he has big giant shredding blades... oh, nope again! That's right - this isn't even Shredder, it's Hanging-Tighter! The dreaded guy who just stands about. He must have graduated from Blackbeard's "PotC4 School of Doing Nothing To Warrant Your Claims of being a Threat." Whats worse is that comparing this to other lines' Shredder from this new show it looks like he must have snkit-y claws.... hoo boy... how tedious could this become!? I can thus only assume they'll release a different, proper, blade-out Shredder later and you, dear reader, should absolutely wait for that figure instead!