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TMNT Classics Collection
by yo go re

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have debuted in comicbooks, but that's not how most of us met them. No, it was the cartoon that actually brought the heroes in a half-shell to the world, and so it's the cartoon that we often think of as being the "default" versions of the characters. So how is it that in the nearly 25 years of the liecense, we've never had toys that actually looked like the show?

Catpulted from indie comic origins to super stardom by the original Murakami-Wolf-Swenson (MWS) animated series, TMNT ran on air for nearly a decade (1987-1996), and ranked #1 in ratings for an unprecedented 5 straight years! Featured in over 150 episodes, the fun-loving shell-shocking teens are still recognized around the world and fondly remembered by fans with every bite of pizza!

Donatello was the thinking man's Turtle. Mikey was the immature joker and Raph was a violent psychopath (and Leo? What kind of boring kid would like Leo?), but Don used his brain and beat the crap out of Foot Soldiers with a weapon that could be disguised as a walking stick - Don for the win!

The Classics figures are surprisingly large. Donatello stands 6¼" tall, which puts him in a... well, what scale he is depends on how tall you think the TMNT are. According to the original filecard, Don stood 4' on two legs, which would make this a 9" scale, give or take. Of course, all his brothers were listed in the 5' range, and he never seemed to be a foot shorter than them, so maybe that was a typo. If so, this is a 7.5" scale. Basically, the figures are in scale with GI Joe Sigma 6 and the big Thundercats that nobody bought. Remember, these guys are teenagers; it's right there in the name. They're supposed to be short.

Since these figures are based on the cartoon, the sculpt is very simple. Remember the NECA TMNT? And how they had lots of textures and sculpted lines to define the muscles and the shadows? Yeah, there's none of that here. These toys are smoother than the young boys Rustin keeps getting "unwanted" email spam about. There are bulges on the limbs to indicate musculature, but he's not what you'd call "cut." There's some decent detail on the hands, and a lot of wrinkles on his sides. The plates of his plastron are smooth and curved, while the scutes on his carapace are presented with geometric precision. Come on, don't front: there's no point in pretending you don't know all the technical terms for the parts of a turtle's shell. Scutes! SCUTES!

On the cartoon, all four turtles were the same shade of green. On the toys, they were each different. The Classics sort of split the difference: while they're all different, they're very similar. For instance, Don used to be closer to brown than green, but this one doesn't even come close to that shade. On the other hand, the original toys didn't have pupils and the cartoon did, which is why you'll see a lot of Classics customized with the eyes blanked out.

In the case of Donatello, that might actually be a kindness. Out of all the turtles, he, in particular, seems to have trouble with his eyes being painted on crooked. I lucked out (having ordered my Don online) in that his eyes are nearly pointing the same direction, but we wouldn't recommend you take that same gamble: if you want one, buy it in person.

And hey, while we're comparing the toys and cartoons, let's look at Don's belt. On the toy? Black, with two straps and a yellow D in the center. On the cartoon? Brown, no straps, gray buckle. And so, yet again, the Classics version splits the difference: the belt is brown, like it was on the show, but it gets a yellow letter on a black background; meanwhile, he gets a single strap running over his shoulder - that's Leonardo's look! We feel cheated! His mouth is only open on one side, rather than both sides like the original (Raphael gets the "double teeth" head if you want to make a custom).

For years, the best-articulated TMNT (from Playmates, of course - NECA's were great) have been the Fightin' Gear Turtles, but the Classics have now taken the crown. Donatello has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged fingers, swivel/hinge thumbs, a balljointed torso, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, hinge and balljoint ankles, and hinged toes. The card claims 34 POA, and that seems to be right on the money!

Now, that's an impressive tally, but it would mean nothing if the joints couldn't stand up to some play. The shoulder hinges were a bit tough to get moving at first, but pure force took care of that - no freezer time, no boiling, no tricks of any sort, and the joint was never in danger of breaking. This is a well-made toy, and a lot of fun to play with. I mean, come on: swivel/hinge thumbs?! Not even Spider-Hulk managed that! And for all that articulation, there's really only one cheat: his belt is done as two pieces; one goes around his waist, and the other goes around his shell. It fakes the way the real belt would wrap around him, but doing so preserves the widest range of motion for the torso. Nice work!

Donatello comes with just one accessory: his bo staff. It's 6" long and sculpted with wood grain at the ends and a white wrapping in the middle. It can stow in a loop on the back of his sash, and as you can see, he's articulated enough to reach back over his shoulder and grab it. All the Turtles come with a display base, as well: it's a 3¾" disc designed to look like a manhole cover. It's molded with the classic TMNT logo and a blank bar where the individual turtle's name is printed. The base has two large pegs that fit into the figure's heels.

So clearly the figure is a campy '80s throwback meant to appeal to Generation X - but the package it comes in is, too. The graphic design is a clear homage to the '80s packaging, though the art of the brothers is animated style rather than comic style, as it was back then. The top of the curved blister is molded to resemble a manhole cover, with molded "ooze" dripping down the sides. It's a nice nod to the line's beginning.

Donatello is a great toy - all the TMNT Classics are. But they're also on the expensive side, and completely out of scale with any other toys you might want to put them with. If this guy was an inch smaller, he'd be a Toy of the Year contender and we'd be telling you to buy the whole crew. As-is, though? Get your favorite Turtle and that will be enough.

-- 09/16/12

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