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TMNT 30th Anniversary Cartoon Action Figure Box Set

by yo go re

Well this is something new: we've never been able to review an SDCC exclusive as SDCC was going on.

Last year, NECA performed some sort of dark necromancy that allowed them to transfer their souls into dolls as they were dying release new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures. Those sets were so well received that it enabled them to release even more, and this year they're back again!

Rather than selling the Turtles and the Foot Clan in two separate boxes, the new set contains both, packaged in the sort of carrying case that used to be all the rage in the '80s and '90s. Not a cardboard box designed to look like one of those cases, but an actual vinyl case with a carrying strap and a metal latch and everything! The artwork on the case, depicting the world's most fearsome fighting team (and their enemies) outside the San Diego Convention Center, is drawn in the style of the old Archie TMNT Adventures comics; a nice nod, since, like those comics, the 2017 toys are based on the cartoon. The logo is the modern one, not the vintage, because that's what Nickelodeon told NECA to use.

The turtles themselves are all the same mold as each other. And also the same mold as last year's release, so let's just talk about that in one big batch instead of repeating the same info four times.

The figure stands less than 5½" tall, and has a smooth sculpt with a minimum of detailing - there's no texture, just a few indentations to create the muscles. They wear color-coded pads on their elbows and knees, and matching wraps around their wrists. All four wear the same style of belt, with their initial in the center. That's just silly! Everybody knows Leonardo is supposed to have two straps going over his shoulders, and Donatello is supposed to have one! The front of their shell is fairly flat (though with enough lines to suggest chests), while the back shell is thick enough to double the width of the figure. The style of the sculpt perfectly suits the "animated" origin of the characters, while still having enough detail to not look out of place among non-cartoon toys.

The individual heads are the same as last year, too, which does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity: there was nothing so distinctive about the heads that they had to go on any specific Turtle, so why not change things up? Instead of giving Leonardo the full grimmace, why not give that one to Raphael? Why not let Donatello show some teeth and make Michelangelo the one with his mouth fully closed? It's not like we're asking for entirely new heads, just a rearrangement. They've already got new bandana-ties, because those are separate pieces that plug into the back of the mold.

The real differentiator between these figures and previous efforts is the paint. Gone are the blocky squares and diamonds calculated to make them look low-res, replaced with smoother colors. Note, however, that it's still indisputably stylized: the boys are not a solid color all the way around; they have one shade of green on their fronts, and a different shade on their back; the same goes for their color-coded clothing, as well. Do you get why NECA would do that? It's to represent the kind of shading that cartoons had in 1987! Compare it to actual screenshots, and the parallels are strong. There are also thin black lines outling the musculature and the faces, trying to look like cel art. The figures have very large pupils, which aren't always painted on very well. You may need to customize that.

The figures move at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, torso (way up under the shell), wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, neck, and head. It's a fine selection of balljoints and swivel/hinge combos, and everything moved without breaking. The hips are that "nested" kind where the peg from one leg fits inside the peg from the other (so that the crotch doesn't have to be super wide), but that always means that the legs want to move in unison, not alone. That's a minor problem in the scheme of things, though.

Unlike last year, this year's set actually included all the extra hands it was supposed to. At last, my Raphael will be able to hold his sai between his fingers! Other than that pair, the other three are chopping, pointing, and thumbs-upping. And since all the TV turtles were the same color, you can give the hands to whoever you want.

Each of the boys comes with his signature weapon. Leo's swords are still inappropriately curvy, because that's the mold that was available, but they were sometimes drawn like that in the cartoon. Mikey still gets the "swirling" nunchuck attachment. Donny's bo still splits in the center to better get into his hands, and Raph still has no loops on his belt to store his weapons.

We get some new accessories, though! There are four Turtle Communicators (two open, two closed), a Turtle Line (the grappling hook that eventually became Michelangelo's signature weapon in the UK) and a box of weird pizza. That's the brand name on the lid: "Weird." While this is the same box last year's set, the pizza inside is new. It's missing a slice, which is packaged separately in the tray. This isn't as cool as the pizza Rizzo came with all those years ago, but it's better than Spider-Man's. It's even got a hole so Raph can spear it on his sai!

So that's it for the Turtles. Continue on to Page 2 to learn about the Foot!

Just kidding, that would be stupid. The second half of the review is right here.

We begin with Shredder, because of course we do. Can't have the Foot without a Shredder. There'd be no point! The arcade version was based on the cartoon, but the toy used the comic mold. This one uses many of the same pieces, but not all - the chest is new, and it's done in a rather unexpected way. Rather than the baggy, wrinkled shirt the other two Shredders were wearing, this one's top is tighter, enough to show off some muscle. However, it's molded from the same sort of soft PVC as the blades on his shoulders, forearms, hands and shins, and if you peer under it, there's an actual sculpted chest. Why? What purpose would that possibly serve? Is this a hint that NECA is planning to do actual toy-based toys, since the original Shredder went around topless? Only time will tell!

The head is a new sculpt, with a slightly different helmet and an entirely different face. The last two just had a little strip of face and blank eyes visible between the mouth armor and the brow, while this one opens that up a little bit and delivers fully painted eyes. He gets a softgoods cape, but it's thin enough that it looks okay on him.

Oroku Saki moves at the head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, torso, waist, hips, thighs, knees, shins, ankles, and toes. A lot of his joints were stuck, and needed work to get moving. Well, maybe not a lot, since he has 27 points of articulation and we're really only talking about the swivels in the biceps and thighs, but it's still noteable. At first I didn't realize the shins swiveled, and thought one of his shin guards had just been glued on abominably off-center - nope, I'm just an idiot, that's all.

In addition to the fists and gripping hands the previous sets offered, this one also has a pair of vaguely gesturing hands. They have the first two fingers extended, and the last two bent down. Karate! He can be armed with a sword, but the set also includes a cannister of mutagen that we haven't seen in nearly a decade. For times when a melee weapon isn't enough, he also has a white blaster, presumably tech from Dimension X.

We can safely assume it's from Dimension X, because the set also includes Krang. No, not an Utrom, an actual Krang! The gross little brain is an entirely new sculpt, all wide and lumpy, matching the animation model more than the vintage toy. He has a ridge running over the top of his head, various little tendrils or skin tags or something hanging off him, a tiny tongue visible between his sharp fangs, and two balljointed arms. The "cartoon" paintscheme means that he's lighter overall than you might expect - especially since his eyes are a dark lavender.

The set does not include Krang's robot body (sadly), but that just means there's still something for NECA to make in the future, right? He doesn't have to forever rest on the ground, though, thanks to the inclusion of the little platform he often sat on. It's just a disc with three legs terminating in large balls, but it's enough. There's a matching circle inset on the underside of the toy, meaning he can attach quite firmly.

But because that's not enough, we also get his bubble walker! Or "mobile life-support system," as the 1989 toy called it. It's basically a high-tech chair with legs and a dome (an artificially articulated cranium cart), and the toy fits inside perfectly. You can even remove Krang's arms and attach them to the front of the walker, to make it look like he's poking them through as he did on the cartoon. The walker is mostly shades of grey, with white tubes on the sides, and details on the underside (a vent, a hatch) that were probably never seen on the cartoon. The lid hinges open, and the legs have two joints apiece.

And finally, we get two Foot Soldiers. The Foot on the cartoon were robots, not humans, so it would be okay for the Turtles to actually use their weapons against them. Is that why they had such weird proportions? Only '90s kids will remember the weird hunched-over posture, the strangely oblong heads, and the elongated arms. Most of the mold comes from last year's sets, but not necessarily the way you expect: while everything below the waist is from the previous Foot ninjas, the chest originally belonged to Shredder - if you look at the shoulders, you can still see the tabs where his shoulder pads glued on. Those are used here to anchor the Foot Soldier's tunic/shawl thing, which is a new piece. So are the forearms, because they needed to be longer than any others (and have new armor) if they were going to accurately look like the 'toon. They're done all in black and purple, as they should be, and the shading paint here is good on both the front and the back.

You know the head is new! It has just the right kind of odd shape, all tall and yet weirdly narrow. The neck fits into the torso's existing socket, though it's designed to lean far forward. He has a heavy brow above his yellow eyes, and the red Foot symbol on his forehead is a raised element. Now, is that the sole of a right foot, or the print of a left foot? Fight it out amongst yourselves.

You can put these modern Feet into the old pose, thanks to the abundance of articulation. The two soldiers move at the toes, ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, waist, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and head. Theoretically the bottom of the neck is a joint as well, but getting at it to make it move seems too tough. Again, a few of these joints were stuck, but that might just be because of the heat of summer.

They get a pair of fists, a pair of chopping hands, and a pair of gripping hands that allow them to hold their two guns: one, the suction-cup-tipped thing seen wielded by Orange in the Arcade Colors set, the other a more realistic (but still cartoony) rifle. The set also includes a purple communicator device with Krang's picture on it - presumably he'd be using it to call Shredder, not these two goons.

After the comic-styled Foot Clan box, we said that would probably be the last thing NECA released. Rarely are we so glad to be wrong! And we can't even repeat that mistake this year, because just yesterday, NECA gave everyone at SDCC the first glimpse of figures of Slash, General Tragg and Granitor, which suggests that they see a future for this line, even if they are limited to only releasing it at conventions and never in stores. Getting both the Turtles and the Foot in one big set is nice, and the fact that it's done as a collector's case is even better. Plus, if you have the Bebop and Rocksteady figures Playmates released a while back, they look great mixed in here.

-- 07/22/17

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