Loot Crate’s first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crates in 2020 were a massive success. The crates sold out and anyone who missed out found out acquiring them on the secondhand market would be most expensive, and that’s because each crate came bundled with a NECA exclusive action figure. NECA’s parent company rescued Loot Crate from bankruptcy a couple of years ago, so the two are kind of one in the same. It made sense for the two to team-up and for TMNT collectors it meant there were actually figures out there that were easy to obtain, provided you actually jumped in when the crates were first solicited.
Considering they were such a success, it’s no surprise that Loot Crate is back for round two. This wave went up for preorder earlier this year and it includes four crates. Each crate will take inspiration from one of the four main pillars of TMNT media: film, video games, comics, and cartoon. And to be more specific, the themes are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Tournament Fighters, Mirage Studios, and the ’87 cartoon. Basically, all are returning from themes from last year with the exception of Turtles in Time exchanging places with Tournament Fighters. And unlike last time, Loot Crate was pretty upfront with what the figures featured in each crate would be rather than just providing the theme. And also just like last time, subscribers who prepaid for all four get a bonus fifth figure, Scrag, from the cartoon to ship alongside the fourth crate. And also, just like last time (I know, I sound like a broken record at this point), the first crate out the door is the one based on the 1990 film and the figure is one Danny, or Dan, Pennington.
NECA and Loot Crate’s approach to the figures in this series is to give collectors something that might not make sense at retail. When it comes to the original movie, all of the heavy hitters have seen a retail release and even some not-so-heavy hitters have too. The only exception is Tatsu, but the actor who played him just isn’t interested in playing ball with NECA. Enter Danny. The youth in search of a father figure recruited by the Foot who has a change of attitude when he meets the turtle dad Splinter is a solid choice for a Loot Crate. He’s not in a ton of the film, but he plays a role and might even have more screen time than Shredder. He’s not a fighter, so he’s not the sort of character who needs a bunch of accessories and extra parts and he’s just not someone that excites retail partners. Of course, the flipside is that Walmart can’t seem to keep anything from the film line in stock, so why should Danny be viewed any differently? And that might be true, but the good news is that Danny has two looks in the film so if NECA ever wants to test him at retail they could release his other look there and find out.
Now, I grabbed the Shadow Warriors set, so I’m basically willing to buy anything from the first film. Danny wasn’t the figure that excited me the most when this round of crates was unveiled, but he was also someone I was more than willing to welcome into my collection. Plus, I wanted that bonus figure. If you’re unaware, each crate retails for $50 and the included figure is something lesser than a NECA Ultimate release. These figures are basically half of that $50 and the rest of the “value” comes from pins, a shirt, and other assorted stuff. Your mileage may vary with that stuff, but to me it’s mostly junk. The figure is what makes or breaks each crate and I’m happy to say that I was satisfied with each of the previous crates. With Loot Crate, I think the fear on the consumer end is that we’re paying more for a lesser product and any figure is going to be severely compromised with reused parts that don’t make sense or they’ll just be variants no one asked for. They’re being bought sight unseen, so there’s a trust element at play. Last year’s crates included two straight repaints: Spirit Splinter and First Appearance Shredder. I passed on Splinter, but the Shredder was a rather stunning repaint of a figure previously only available as a convention exclusive, so I was satisfied. The other figures included a glow-in-the-dark “shell shock” turtle and the bunny boys, Bebop and Rocksteady. I wasn’t too excited by the shell shock turtle, but it was a neat idea. The bunnies I loved because they’re just so silly, the exact kind of figure I want from something like this.
Because of my positive experience with the 2020 crates, I had few concerns this time. The promo shots of Danny looked good, but myself and many others were concerned about the scale. The scale in this line is a bit funny largely due to the turtles themselves probably being too big, but for the most part NECA has been able to work around that by making sure the other figures (like Casey) are at least a little taller than the green dudes. Danny, portrayed by actor Michael Turney, is a little tricky. He shares scenes with his dad, Charles, who is not in figure form (yet?) as well as some with April and Casey. He’s not around the turtles a lot, but he’s definitely shorter than Casey and a little shorter than April. We also see him with Shredder and Splinter. That said, I was fine with Danny coming in as the shortest character in the line, but I still wasn’t prepared for this.
Danny (no way I’m calling this short stack Dan) comes in at a “whopping” 5 3/4″. For comparison, Oraku Saki is a touch over 6 3/4″ and he uses the same body as Shredder and the Foot. He towers over Danny, as does Casey and the turtles. In the scenes he shares with April, he doesn’t appear to be much more than an inch shorter than she. With Casey, the top of his head is right around the eyes. Here he looks like a 10 year old next to basically anyone in this line. It’s fine to quibble over a quarter inch or so, but this is pretty bad. And it’s made worse when one realizes why. Danny is so damn short because NECA opted to reuse the legs (and possibly more) of its John Connor from Terminator 2 figure. They’re denim, and they’re loose-fitting, so they look the part, but they’re way too small. And everything about the figure just seems small as a result like the arms and the head size. I expect some parts reuse with these figures, but it’s irresponsible on NECA’s part to reuse parts that just aren’t suitable for the character. They could have recycled parts from someone like Marty McFly and that would have been better, even if the fit of the pants is tighter than they want. As it stands, this figure looks ridiculous whether right next to another figure or off on his own and that’s a real shame.
And my issues with Danny don’t end there. He comes with two portraits: one with the Foot bandana and one without. The default one with the bandana leaves something to be desired. The paint on the eyes is not perfectly aligned with the sculpted out area for them and just looks sloppy. Mine isn’t as bad as some of the ones I’ve seen online, but if I was at the store sifting through a row of Danny Pennington figures I would have passed on this one. The other head is much better, but both also feature no flesh-colored paint. The prototype had a nice, matte, appearance, but this one is rather shiny and plastic looking. There’s also some brown from the hair on the ears of the alt head, so neither option for me is ideal. The arms on this guy are also really spindly and the forearms look excessively long. They’re very awkward looking, and the hands are curled into hooks as I think they too are recycled from the John Connor figure who was meant to hold onto handlebars. The only positives I can find with the aesthetics of this figure is that the facial likeness, on a basic level, is acceptable and the paint on the denim and sneakers looks nice. NECA also struck a deal with the Sex Pistols to recreate Danny’s Sid Vicious shirt and the quality of the print looks fantastic. I just wonder if they blew too much of the budget on that piece of authenticity and not on making a quality figure.
Danny’s articulation is nothing to write home about. His head is on a tiny ball-peg and moves around okay, but he can’t look up which is a bit of a problem for such a short guy. His shoulders are ball-hinged and are quite stiff. He can’t raise his arms too far, but can rotate around. The elbows swivel and are single-hinged while the wrist rotates and hinges as well, but it’s tight and gummy and at times it’s hard to tell if the hand is rotating or the plastic is just bending. There’s a waist twist, but it’s severely limited by the oversized t-shirt. He has the old style hip joints and they’re rather tight and potentially fragile, so buyer beware. The thighs rotate a bit and the knees are single-hinged with swivels. The ankles probably do something, but his high tops prevent basically all movement down there. I would advise not forcing the issue because if it breaks who knows if Loot Crate can replace it (they had to cancel some orders of this crate because they oversold it).
In terms of accessories, Danny is very light. He has the second head I mentioned before and in addition to that he has a Walkman, or personal tape player. It’s cast entirely in a rubbery plastic, which feels really cheap. I think if he were a retail release, just the wire connecting the headphones would be cast in this while the rest would be a harder material. The chord is super long, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative. The paint is a bit sloppy on the headphones, but they do kind of fit on his head if you like that look. That’s it though. No extra hands, no Whopper, no nothing. I’m a little surprised they didn’t slip in a low cost item like a small picture of Leonardo like the one April gave him or maybe April’s wallet or the money he took from it. A bandana for him to hold, and drop at his feet, might have been fun too. And basically any extra hands would have been welcomed because the ones he has just don’t look natural.
Well, Danny might be a dud, but what about the rest of the contents? Like I said, the figure makes or breaks this thing, but even so the rest of the items offer little. This is the smallest crate yet as the only other items are a shirt, set of coasters, and a set of pins. The shirt is this neon green, the same color as a TMNT camera I had back in the day, and features the manhole art from the theatrical poster of the film. It’s very loud, but since it’s long sleeved it has a chance of sneaking into my wardrobe. The pins are just two, oversized, portraits of a masked Casey and Raph. The coasters though are weird. They’re kind of soft and bendy, not really the type of material one associates with coasters, and the artwork on them is Mirage artwork. Why are we getting comic coasters in the movie crate? I don’t hate the choice or anything, it just surprised me.
If you can’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with this crate. It’s easily the worst one yet and since it’s the first one from Series Two it’s hard not to worry about the ones to follow. I have three more to look forward to and if they all leave me feeling like this one did then I’ll probably have to bow out of this subscription service. This crate, to me, is what consumers fear when they sign up for these blind box type of releases. We all worry we’re just getting junk for our money, and this time that is mostly true. It’s just one though, so I’m trying to keep that in perspective, but this one isn’t up to the standards NECA and Loot Crate established last year.
Unfortunately, the wait to see if crate two is any better is going to be a long one. This crate was already pushed back from August, and now crate two isn’t expected to begin shipping until December meaning consumers aren’t likely to see it until 2022. This crate was marked as “shipped” on September 13th for me and I didn’t get it until October 6th. It is what it is as shipping overseas is crazy right now and it’s getting bad domestically as well. One thing I will say in Loot Crate’s favor is their communication is great when it comes to the delays and that’s all I ask for when it comes to such. Of course, it has to be said some people are having worse experiences as I alluded to. Some had their orders cancelled or delayed indefinitely, which is inexcusable for an item that was thought to be made-to-order. Loot Crate did have to close orders earlier than expected, but the fact that it couldn’t deliver on every order placed is not a good look. Yeah, we’re definitely not off to a good start here.
It’s just a start though and there’s time to recover. The hope here is that NECA and Loot Crate take the criticism to heart and that most give them constructive feedback. I’m happy to inform people when I get a good product from both, and for the most part my NECA reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so hopefully this experience is the exception. And if that proves to be the case, that’s obviously better than the alternative, but it’s still disappointing that Danny received such a bummer of a release because he’s probably not getting a redo. Hopefully, his dad didn’t have kittens when he got a look at how his son was treated.