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Toy Review: Playmates Toys’ TMNT Basic Figures

Posted by: Casimir at 8:02 am on Sunday, July 29, 2012

Before I start, let me explain my background with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I jumped on the TMNT bandwagon shortly after the original black and white comic by Eastman and Laird premiered, around issue 10 or so. I loved it! My middle school friends and I would rush home every night and copy the art, aspiring artists that we were. The next day we’d compare (and judge) each other’s work. When Palladium books produced the TMNT role-playing game, we dutifully played along. (The Terror Bears!) The original turtles were subversive and unique in a way that strongly appealed to us.

Original b/w comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

Original b/w comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

And then the original cartoon was announced. I was so excited! My beloved turtles were going to be animated! But when the premier hit the airwaves, I was crestfallen. What was this silly thing? Where was the drama? The conflict? This wasn’t my TMNT. So I turned away. I followed the original comic for a while longer, but it eventually collapsed under its own weight, dramatically speaking. My friends and I grew up and apart, and so did the turtles.

TMNT Cartoons in 1987

TMNT Cartoons in 1987

When the 200x show premiered and new toys hit store shelves, I was skeptical, but I was willing to try it. I was delighted to find the new show followed the old comics very closely. I loved it! I followed the show and dutifully collected the toys. True, the show fell apart in its final seasons, but that was due to executive suits meddling, rather than creative problems. It was a good run.

So now we’re offered yet another new animated take on the turtles. I’m a little dubious about the show, as what I’ve read seems to indicate this new incarnation will take its cues from the first animated series. I guess we’ll see.

Nickelodeon's TMNT

Nickelodeon’s TMNT

In the meantime, the new toys have hit! Let’s have a look at them.

Click on thumbnails to view bigger pics.

Several reviews of the turtle products have already been posted (including here and here at AFHub!). I’ll try not to repeat too much of what has already been said.

The figures of the four turtles themselves are outstanding! As far as I can tell, every piece is unique to each specific turtle. Even the feet, elbows, and necks are brother-specific, right down to the skin texture. No re-used parts. In this day and age, that’s a miracle! The articulation allows for some fun, dramatic, and ninja-riffic poses. And the joints are well hidden and non-obtrusive. The accessories and weapons are not as detailed, but that’s a fair trade-off, given the reasonable price point. All told, these are genuinely fun toys.

As proof, my five-year-old son, who has never seen an episode or issue of TMNT, could not wait to get his hands on these. And once he did, he was occupied for hours. (I’m so proud.)

So the good news is the four turtles are great figures! Sadly, I think Playmates blew its budget on them, as the remaining figures leave much to be desired.

Shredder and Foot Soldier

While the brothers have oodles of articulations, including eight ball joints, the non-turtles are lucky to have five swivel joints. Shredder and the Foot Soldier fare slightly better, but with no knee articulation, artful combat poses are out of the question. April can be excused, I suppose, since her limbs are so thin. (Being primarily a Timm-verse collector, I can understand.) The Krang figure (apparently “Krang” is a species name now, not an individual, and I guess “Utrom” wasn’t cool anymore) has limited articulation and the robot body is pre-posed in a hard-to-balance walking position. I guess all the Utrom Krang fun is meant to come from the rubbery brain fella. Splinter is encumbered by his robe, so I don’t expect much. However, the robe is glued together in the back. You can see from the photos that hold is not long for this world. I expect in a year or so a bunch of kids will be playing with naked Splinters.

Click on thumbnails to view bigger pics.

I should also mention the overall sculpted quality of the non-turtles seems… soft, in comparison to the brothers. Again, it appears more effort was put into the turtles than the supporting cast. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. I guess it just seems strange to me to see such strong consistency between the four turtles, and not all among the rest.

Click on thumbnails to view bigger pics.

I suppose the biggest question is “how screen accurate are these?” Not having seen any episodes, I can’t say. What I do observe, however, is that all the promotional art for the show, including the card art of the toys, shows the turtles with eyeballs. The figures’ eyes feature the traditional all-white eyes. So what’s that about?

Despite my admonitions of the non-turtles, the brothers themselves go a long way to winning me over. Overall it’s a strong start for the latest incarnation of the turtle toys. I hope it’s around for a long time. Today’s kids deserve fun toys, and these easily qualify.


About the Author: Casimir
Not satisfied with the limited options available at retail, award-winning customizer Cason Pilliod has been crafting his own toys since he was a child. His passion for toys merges with his background as a theatrical prop designer, allowing him to find unique customizing solutions, which he shares with the ever-growing customizing community via Inanimate Objects. Cason is also an armchair pop-culture historian, Swing dancer, DJ, daddy, and was once a Muppet wrangler, so he's got a unique spin on life. He also worked for Microsoft once, but let's just keep that a secret.




  • Zach says:

    Great review! I grew up a generation later, and got into TMNT with the cartoon. Some of my first custom figures were drawing pupils in the Turtles’ white eyes and giving the Shredder a more show accurate costume. Sadly, I have STILL not read any of the original comix…embarrassing, to be sure. These figures look phenomenal, though, and I can’t wait to pick them up. I would also love to get the ‘Classic’ line, as well. Do you think you’ll give these any kind of wash to bring out the etching and depth of the sculpts?

    • Casimir Casimir says:

      Funny, I was thinking a few more paint details would really make these fellas shine, too. I might try that, but right now I can’t get them away from my son, so extra paint will have to take a back seat. ;)

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