It was early last September that NECA made available for pre-order a redesigned version of their Street Scene diorama tailored specifically to fit-in with the company’s growing assortment of action figures based on the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fans had been asking for this set for even longer as NECA had been featuring it in its own displays at trade shows for about a year and fans were eager for one of their own. The orders for the diorama were open for two weeks on NECA’s own webstore which meant they were all made to order. A large item such as this wasn’t attractive to a big box retailer like Target where NECA’s toon line of figures is sold exclusively in the United States. Initially, there wasn’t a release date attached to the orders, but NECA would clarify not long after that the company hoped to ship product sometime in Q1 2021. The state of shipping in the world being what it is, Q1 turned to April, to May, to now as the diorama has arrived, though not entirely as expected.
When the diorama was made available to order there was a bit of sticker shock felt by the collecting community. An item like this is always going to be fairly expensive, but fans had a decent gauge of what to expect as this was mostly a re-deco of an existing product that retails for around a hundred bucks. This set, however, was listed at $150 and included a $20 shipping charge meaning it was going to cost collectors roughly $170 to bring this baby home. The increase in price appears mostly to be attributed to the inclusion of a plastic tower on the roof of the diorama as well as some additional paper goods. It was also suggested by NECA that part of the cost increase was attributed to the packaging design which would feature new artwork and photography to distinguish it from the standard diorama sold at retail.
Well, some things apparently were changed between September and May as the diorama arrived in a plain, brown, box. It’s possible the art didn’t cost out after the orders were placed, or maybe the company scrapped the idea to either get the item to consumers faster or because it just didn’t make much sense. Packaging is nice and all, but how many mint-in-box diorama collectors are out there? There probably are some, but this is an item intended to be opened and displayed alongside the action figures from the line (or any action figures, I suppose) and it’s not really something that will necessarily be attractive to mint-in-box collectors. On the other hand, NECA said one thing, and delivered something else, so anyone angry about it has a right to be. I was always planning on tossing whatever box this came in so I’m not particularly broken up about it. And I sincerely doubt fancy packaging was expected to account for the price difference. It should also be noted, the company previously did a one-off TMNT themed diorama for the movie figures that was priced at $125 which is a better comparison. This is basically that set with more stuff. Is it 25 dollars worth of new stuff? That’s for the consumer to decide. My entirely speculative take on the whole packaging thing though is that NECA had to trim costs on the units and the packaging was the first to go. They only sold around 2,000 of these so the margins are likely small. That doesn’t excuse NECA not informing its customers of the change to the packaging. It’s basically always better to be upfront rather than surprise people with something that isn’t exactly a good surprise. At the end of the day though, a product was listed at a price and consumers were free to ignore it or toss a stack of bills at NECA. I, obviously, enjoy throwing money at NECA.
This diorama has been something I’ve really been looking forward to. That’s not because it’s particularly impressive or amazing. It’s just a fancy stand. I was looking forward to it though because my current display needs more room. I have been finagling a display out of my collection on a shelf behind a bar. I had to clear out a bunch of drinkware and liquor bottles to make room for the initial release of 8 figures, which has only grown over the months since the line was launched at retail. I had a hard time sliding the Rat King and Vernon set into it, and the recently released sets were non-starters. I needed to find a new spot for my display, and this set was my excuse to do some re-arranging.
The actual diorama is fairly basic. It’s a bunch of plastic panels that snap together to form a stand and backdrop for your action figure display. It’s a three-level display once completed: street, balcony, roof. It’s colored and styled to evoke images of the classic 1980s cartoon series with an almost cream colored brick pattern and a cardboard backdrop featuring the iconic Channel 6 building. The included tower is intended to go on the roof and it was featured in an episode of the cartoon and is the unique item expected to get the most attention. There’s also a manhole cover, fire hydrant, and numerous paper goods dotted with familiar faces and references for anyone who grew up watching the show. It’s also not just a façade as there is room behind the windows to place figures and objects so that you can have a villain lurking in the shadows or maybe place a cowardly camera man to shoot the violence on the streets.
The controversial brown box comes in a an outer shipping box. It’s about 27″x14″x6″ so it’s a pretty sizable package. The diorama is designed to be assembled starting from the ground up. The walls basically tab into each other, but forcibly so they’re not going to fall apart. Each front-facing wall features removable components as this is a modular set. There are two blank walls, five windows, and one shutter and you’re free to arrange those however you want. The shutter is non-functional, but the windows are open and there are included window panes that snap into place. The window panes are fingerprint magnets though as well as dust and hair or pet dander and installing them means you can’t have figures reaching out or into the windows, so I didn’t use them. There are also several holes that bricks can peg into. NECA did it this way so you could peg additional accessories basically anywhere.
I didn’t run into any construction issues until I reached the top. Getting the top level to slide into the roof of the bottom was rather cumbersome and it seems to want to bow out. I was able to get it to a place I was happy with, but the following step was far more annoying. NECA included six support pieces intended to snap under the roof. I don’t see how these add a ton of support, but it didn’t matter since I could not get the pieces to actually fit the peg holes. I wrestled with it for far too long before just ditching them and it seems fine. The rear of the unit also is designed to have the backdrop peg in. You line it up and NECA included some push pins that are meant to hold it on, but all it did was fall for me. And I definitely should have done this on a large surface or floor, and not the shelf, because my backdrop fell and the corner dented which left me momentarily irate. I ditched the pegs and am just relying on good old gravity for the backdrop as my diorama is against a wall so it doesn’t really need to peg in.
Once the diorama is together there are quite a few accessories that can be added to the display. NECA included a pizza billboard that pegs into either side of the unit and looks pretty cool. There’s a second billboard that is modular in that NECA provided multiple cardboard art pieces so yo can customize your look (I went with Slash for Cash for now), most of which feature a pizza advertisement. There are little lamps that can plug into it too and NECA included a stand so you can either position it on the roof or it can tab into the side of the building. There’s an air conditioner that can peg into virtually anywhere you want it and a bunch of paper goods. There are three wanted posters and four Ace Duck themed posters. The wanted posters should look familiar to anyone who got the cartoon themed Loot Crate as stickers of them were featured there. These ones are a little larger and they feature Mad Dog McMutt, Jersey Red, and Scrag who were all featured in the actual show. I stuck all of them on with some blue sticky tack and they hold fine. I do wish there was a bit more variety though as I don’t think we need four Ace Duck posters. The last two accessories are a fire hydrant and manhole cover. They don’t tab into anything and are just meant to be placed wherever you wish. The manhole cover is a little weird since the street-level portion looks like a sidewalk, but whatever. It also doubles as something a figure could wield so that’s cool.
The main attraction is the large antenna tower that sits on the roof. It’s made of plastic and painted in a two-tone black and gray and looks sharp. There are two pieces that tab into it in the form of an extended antenna on top and a satellite dish that can go on any side. Unfortunately, my dish arrived broken as the center antenna was snapped off. I don’t know why they didn’t make it two pieces that snapped together to prevent damage in shipping, but it is what it is. I know a few other people had the same problem and I reached out to NECA’s customer service about a replacement and received a response that was essentially “we’ll see what we can do.” I don’t really expect anything as this was made to order and I don’t know if they had the foresight to make extras for such an issue. With past made-to-order sets, like Tokka and Rahzar, customers have basically been shit out of luck when running into problems.
The finished diorama accomplishes two goals: it looks great and it provides a lot of room for toys. The unit itself is pretty large measuring around 19″ tall, 13″ deep, and 25″ wide. Factoring in the backdrop brings it to around 27″ tall so you need a fairly large area to display this thing properly. I was able to incorporate every figure I have in the toon line, though the posing had to be kept a bit vanilla to fit them all on. I also positioned the triceratons on either side of the unit and Metalhead, Casey, April, and Vernon are inside the unit. The bottom piece does result in a lot of wasted space as the building has a ton of room inside it. It’s at least a good spot to store extra hands, weapons, heads, and so on and keep them out of sight. It would have been cool if NECA found a way to better utilize that space, maybe with a panel that looks like a smashed wall so you could make it look like a figure is busting out or something. I can see some people adding lighting to make the figures placed behind a window stand out better, though it’s not something I plan to do.
The NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Street Scene Diorama largely accomplishes its goal. It’s not without some minor disappointment with the packaging and a broken accessory. I was at least able to glue my piece together so even if NECA doesn’t come through with a replacement (and I will update this entry if they do) I can at least display it and likely only I’ll notice that it’s been glued. I’m actually far more bothered by the damaged corner of the backdrop as that sticks out more to me. The only other real negative is my diorama is basically full! Whatever figure comes next is going to be a challenge to incorporate into the display, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. I’m sure there will be those who wish they could buy a second, or even third, especially since the non-licensed version doesn’t really fit the look. NECA might one day put this set up for order again, or maybe they’ll re-color the standard version to match the color of this one, just without the accessories. Unfortunately, if you didn’t grab this last year it’s to the secondary market you must go where $150 probably seems pretty cheap now.