Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

NOTE: Thanks to Nikki W.G.B. of Cybertron Philippines for these figures.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… Heroes in a half-shell… TURTLE POWER!
I miss how cartoons in the 80’s had those catchy theme songs. I miss a lot about those shows. I’m sure millennial babies say the same thing about Dexter’s Lab and Power Puff Girls, but you had to admit that the stuff from the 80's was a totally different animal (just like I’ve got to admit that Looney Tunes blew them all away).

There were always clear cut morals in shows (sometimes hammered home with a PSA like in G.I. Joe) and no one ever seemed to get really hurt (well, except for Optimus Prime that one time, but he came back). It would have been unthinkable to have a show like Transformers: Prime on the air, with bots being torn in half or hacked to pieces. I’m sure Standards and Practices would have vetoed that shit before it got anywhere near Saturday mornings.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had all the pre-requisites. Episodic serials with blatantly obvious morality tales every week – check. Silly pseudo-science-y slash sword and sorcery elements – check. Focus on teamwork and camaraderie – check. Ray guns, dinosaurs, mutants, martial arts, robots, evil scientists – check check check and check.

It started as a comic book by creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, in 1984. They created the characters, but the franchise is better known for the 1987 TV series, which reached a far wider audience. While Eastman and Laird’s Turtles were dark and gritty (as much as a comic about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could be, anyway), they had very little to do with the cartoon, which was made sell action figures to gullible kids like us.

Hence, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo underwent changes. First, they were green (the original printed version was black and white). Second you could tell them apart, even without their weapons (the originals all had red masks; the cartoon versions got individual colors and attitudes). Third and most important, the show emphasized humor. It was kind of like how printed science fiction was so serious back in the day, but when it got to the big screen, it got all campy. I’m sure the original Turtles never said “Bodacious, dude”.

Anyway, the creators eventually got tired of all the crap that accompanied managing a multi-million dollar franchise and passed the animated rights for their title to Nickelodeon in 2009.

And that’s how we got to the new 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.

Now I haven’t watched the series yet (it’s set to debut on September 29), but I’ve been excited about the toys since I first heard about them online. From all the reviews I've read, the new line is living up to all my nerdly expectations. While they aren’t yet available here at retail in the Philippines, I was able to get a set through Nikki W.G.B.'s US GroupBuy over at Cybertron Philippines.

If you've never participated in the US GroupBuy, it's a guy who knows a guy in the States who forwards stuff via Balikbayan Box to him here in the Philippines. Buy stuff online (from eBay, Amazon, BigBadToyStore, etc.) and ship it to his guy, who then forwards the box to here once it's full. Nikki W.G.B. then sets up group meet-ups at Greenhills on the weekends, or during distribution events.

There is a service fee to cover the cost of the Balikbayan box (based on the volume your items take up) but it's still more convenient since there are a lot of options for shipping within the United States ( often does it for free) compared to shipping it straight here. There’s still no 100% guarantee when it comes to online shopping, but in the end, it's a lot cheaper and more reliable. And did I mention that you don't need to deal with customs (the GroupBuy’s organizers take care of it)?

For instance, I got my Astonishing X-Men Omnibus from when it was like 50% off. Even with my share of the Balikbayan Box fee, I still shaved about Php1000.00 off the cost of other omnibuses (omnibi?) I've bought here. I also got the 6" Thundercats figures at Php 850 each, less than Toy Kingdom's asking price when they finally hit retail.

The first wave of Basic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were pre-ordered for Php 650.00 apiece from the US GroupBuy. These figures are taller than Marvel Universe or G.I. Joe at about 5" so still ok. If they are coming out here next year, I figure that they’re going to run about Php 700 to 800 anyway.

They come in a standard carded blister, with an odd-shaped, polygonal card. They're small so it's probably gonna be easier to store, but with all those corners, it's going to be hard to keep them mint if that's what floats your boat. The colors of the card are primarily purple and green and it really makes the thing pop off the shelf (if I'd seen it on the shelf I mean).

The back of the cards have the requisite elements: logo, blurb about the show, blurb about the character, portrait, the "also available" line up, and the small print. The layout is nice and draws your eyeline to the appropriate areas of the print. Plus it doesn't look too crowded, which is always great.

It's a little weird, though, how little the toys look like the 2012 cartoon images from Nickelodeon. Here's a look at the models from the Nick website:

Screenshot from the Nickelodeon webpage for the 2012 cartoon
While the toys look aesthetically pleasing to me, the computer models look weirdly... well, weird. Or maybe that's not the right word. They look... kind of like kids' drawings of the Turtles. Sort  of like how I used to draw them when I was watching the original series. The toys' designs look more... together. Refined.



And it's odd how that despite looking like they're very similar, each of the Basic Turtles is completely different. Different heads, hands, feet, weapons, etc. They are entirely different figures from their shell-heads right down to their three toed feet. And each has a face that is completely appropriate to their individual personality.

It's something that is completely unexpected from a kid-centric manufacturer like Playmates. I'd have expected them to use one Turtle body and just make four heads (and truth be told, I probably wouldn't have been too bothered by it), but here they go and take that extra step.

Bodacious, Playmates. Just absolutely gnarly.


The number of accessories available to these 5" toys is crazy considering most every other line is trying to skimp in this area. Each one has their signature weapon (Leo has twin katanas, Donnie his bo staff, Mike weilds nunchaku, and Raph has his sais), but they've also each got a sprue tree full of other ninja weapons like kunai, kusarigama, shuriken, truncheons, twin hooks, naginata and a couple of other implements spread between the four of them.

Sure, they're all cast in color (gray for the metal weapons, brown for the wood ones), but damn. I'll take character appropriate accessories over paint any day.

Speaking of applications, the colors are limited to their masks and various white areas, really. The rest is cast in color, a different shade of green for each Turtle (again, an awesome extra by Playmates). The ones I've got have pretty nice paint, though there's a little overage around Raphael's teeth.

Frankly, since these are meant to be played with by kids, I'm not to bothered by the lack of extra paint applications. These aren't collectors pieces like the NECA Turtles (2008). I'm not going to say their better: apples and oranges, just like the comic and the cartoon. Both lines are great, and if you're a fan, it can't hurt to collect them all.

Articulation is great for the size and price point. Again, they're made to survive some rough play, so they've gone with sturdiness over flash. The joints are mostly nicely constructed ball (or the pin/swivel/hinge equivalent) joints that offer a good, if not spectacular range. The joints are somewhat limited by their elbow and knee "pads" as well as the recessed areas in the buck that surround them. If you're a customizer, you could probably skin some material off of them to get a better range of movement, but I'm not touching mine.

All in all, I could not be happier about the joint work on these things. Very nice.

Honestly, I can't find a think wrong with these figures that puts a single nick in their final score. Articulation, Accessories, and Aesthetic are all there in the package. They've even got Mikey's scale right (he's a little smaller than the others)! There's also the huge fun factor built right into the franchise itself: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's all right there in the name.

Whether you're a kid or a kid at heart, ask your mom and dad for a set of these for Christmas. If you've been a  particularly good boy this year, ask for the rest of the figures from the first wave's assortment: Splinter, Shredder, Krang, the Foot Clan ninja, and April (which I'll take a look at sometime next week).

Oh, and if you've been a really really good boy, ask for the Shellraiser or the Sewer Lair playset!



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