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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
by yo go re

At last year's SDCC, NECA offered a second 1990 TMNT movie box set. Unfortunately, it sold out even faster than the previous year's, which is why you haven't seen a review of it. But thanks to NECA's partnership with GameStop, you can get all the figures individually!

"Many years ago, I lived in Japan, a pet of my master Yoshi, mimicking his movements from my cage and learning the mysterious art of ninjitsu, for Yoshi was one of Japan's finest shadow warriors. His only rival was a man named Oruku Saki, and they competed in all things; but none more fiercely than for the love of a woman: Tang Shen. Shen's love was only for for my master, and rather than see him fight Saki for her hand, she persuaded Yoshi to flee with me to America. But Saki vowed vengeance. I remember it well, as my master returned home to find his beloved Shen lying on the floor. And then he saw her killer. Saki wasted no words, and during the struggle, my cage was broken. I leapt to Saki's face, biting and clawing, but he threw me to the floor and took one swipe with his katana, slicing my ear. Then he was gone, and I was alone."

If you'd grown up on the cartoon turtles and the Archie comics, then the movie's origin for Splinter was weird (even if it was true to the Mirage comics): to us, he'd always been a man who became a rat, not a rat who became a man. This way does make more sense, though, in that the mutagen just advances creatures evolutionarily, rather than changing them into something else. Kind of like the black goo in Prometheus. But neon green.

There's no question Splinter would be a new sculpt. Just like the boys, the Splinter puppet was designed and created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop - and he was voiced and operated by Kevin Clash, the guy who would later go on to be Sesame Street's Elmo. The sculpt really does look like a wise, caring, elderly rat, which is quite the accomplishment. It's got more expression and emotion than some human faces do!

The rest of the body is just as fur-covered as the head, though you may never see it: much like the original Playmates Splinter action figure, this one is wearing a cloth robe. It's cream-colored, rather than maroon, and is marred with holes, tears, raggedy edges, and dirt along the lower edge - all purposely designed by NECA to match the film. The strips of cloth wrapped around his feet are sculpted, and otherwise he's naked (though you'll have to untie his black sash belt to see it). Trevor Zammit and Alex Heinke get credit for the sculpt, and the job they did on the fur is remarkable, so you should at least take a look at it one time. The hands, the feet, those will be on display a lot, but how often will you get to see his furry little back?

Taking the robe off will also let you examine his articulation more closely. Splinter has balljoints at the head, neck, chest, and waist; swivel/hinges at the shoulders, top and bottom of the elbows, the wrsist, hips, knees, and heels; a swivel for his bendy tail; and hinges for the toes. The head pops off super easily, but goes back on with an equal lack of trouble. He's not as dynamic as his sons are, but then, he's not as young as them either, is he? He needs to putter about slowly, not get in the middle of any zany fights, and there's plenty of motion for him to do that. Maybe a hinged jaw would have been fun, but not necessary.

The SDCC set was called "The Capture of Splinter," so the only accessories everyone's favorite rat had were a crate to stand on, and shackles for his arms. That wouldn't be very fun when he's by himself, so this release comes with a slice of pizza, a TCRI canister, and a pair of nunchucks - all things that were also included with the 2018 set, but all things that make sense for him... or would, if his hands weren't permanently open and unable to really hold any of them well. The cord on the 'chucks is plastic, not string, so they'll keep their shape.

Missing out on the Shredder/Splinter set when NECA offered it to non-attendees was really frustrating, so it's great they found a way to get the figures out again - and even better that it was at GameStop, where you could just preorder them and not have to worry about incompetent/lazy merchandisers.

-- 03/14/20

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