NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line has so been so successful that it’s allowed the company to branch out. It wasn’t that long ago that Playmates was the only game in town when it came to TMNT action figures and the company showed little to no interest in releasing anything other than the turtles themselves. If it was a toyline tied into a current cartoon, sure, there were secondary characters to get ahold of. The Playmates Classics line? Shredder and Krang were sculpted and shown off, then quietly cancelled. They did do Bebop and Rocksteady, but when it came to the movie line it was just the four turtles and fans were left wanting.
When NECA first started making figures based on the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they too focused on the usual subjects. The line was so popular though, that they soon found the courage to branch out. And that decision was made even easier when actress Judith Hoag, who played the turtles’ ally April O’Neil in that film, was enthusiastic about seeing herself molded in plastic. She was so eager to make it happen that she even talked Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones in the same film, to give his consent to do a proper Casey Jones figure which I reviewed just last month. Judith is pretty active on social media and was very active during the pandemic of 2020 so she was well-aware of the NECA experience and how frustrating it could be to acquire these figures. Her only conditions then for giving permission to use her likeness was that the figure had to be put up for preorder and she wanted to document the process through her social media channels. NECA was more than amenable to those requests and Judith, with coordination via NECA, was able to reveal the figure over a series of video installments earlier this year culminating in a preorder when all was said and done.
As NECA promised, the April O’Neil figure was put up on their webstore for preorder in April (obviously). Anyone who wanted one had a couple of weeks to log in and secure a copy. And, like clockwork, people were pissed. The online toy collecting community does not have a great track record when it comes to reacting in a calm, rational, manner when faced with disappointment. In this case though, there was some reason for the anger. During the reveal process, and even back to the announcement a figure was coming, a common request on Twitter and other outlets was for April to come with her yellow raincoat. The raincoat was worn by the character in her first scene when she stumbles upon a robbery and has to be saved by the turtles. It’s a scene that lasts maybe 3 minutes and then the coat is never seen again. A small detail, especially considering most expected NECA to depict April in a different outfit from later in the film when she’s properly introduced to the turtles, but one fans had a connection to. I don’t know if it was on purpose, though I suspect it was, that yellow coat was put on the character as an homage to the April kids were used to seeing in the cartoon when she almost always wore a yellow jumpsuit. They weren’t going to put Hoag in that outfit, an outfit no reporter has ever worn, but the yellow raincoat was plausible enough. It practically screamed to the kids in the audience, “Hey! It’s April!” and it felt right to see her in that color. I know it worked on me when I saw it in theaters as a wee lad, and yeah, I’d prefer a figure of April come with the coat than not.
When the figure was put up for order, the coat was included. However, it was included in the special “Signature” edition of the April action figure. What was the “Signature” edition? Well, as you could have probably guessed based on the name, it’s a version of the figure that comes signed by Judith Hoag. Or rather, it comes with a replica press badge signed by Hoag. The figure and packaging is the same, except NECA added the raincoat behind the blister in the box. It’s also limited, and fans were irritated that what was being billed as an easy purchasing process was being mucked-up with a special edition containing an accessory most fans wanted. The real kicker, though, was the price. The standard edition of the figure retailed for the usual $30. The signature edition was $100. Sixty bucks for an autograph and a tiny raincoat seemed excessive at the time, and still does. And yet, this edition sold out relatively quickly so if you didn’t make up your mind right away you missed out. I, being a sucker and completist, grabbed the signature version. We actually didn’t know the price until it went up for sale, so it felt like a hostage situation. The adrenaline got the best of me, but I was also holding out hope that we’d get a nicer product. Maybe something with the packaging, just anything. Instead, we got delays.
2021 has really been marked by issues with the supply chain, and toys have been hit especially hard. That’s not surprising as they’re nonessential goods and thus aren’t going to take priority over essential ones. It’s still frustrating to deal with. The April figure actually, remarkably, stayed on track. Most who ordered it in April with an expected release of July/August got their figure in that window. Unfortunately, those who paid for the more expensive option did not. NECA did not elaborate, but that version was delayed and one has to assume it was a production issue with the coat. The coat is a soft goods addition as opposed to a plastic one so it was probably manufactured in a different factory. The delay was described as a several months delay, and that came true as the figure started shipping in late October and I suspect most will get them in November. Mine arrived the first week of November putting an end to the lengthy wait, but the delay ended up bringing about another issue we’ll get to.
If you stuck with me this long, well now I can actually tell you about the figure. April O’Neil comes in the standard five-panel Ultimates box NECA is known for. The front flap features the Shredder’s wall of TVs he famously tosses a knife at when April comes on the screen and the rest of the box is reserved for product shots of the figure. The front is a lenticular image and the TV screens transition from static to April’s visage and it’s pretty cool. April O’Neil is depicted in her outfit she wears when she’s rescued by Raphael in the subway and is brought to the turtles’ lair. It’s a skirt, vest, and blouse combo that is definitely of its era. As is April’s full perm hairdo. This is a seven inch scale line and April comes in right around that 7″ mark. She’s wearing high heals which help push her past the turtles in terms of height and basically puts her on equal footing with Casey. Where scale was a large issue with the Danny Pennington figure, it’s basically spot on here with April.
The overall sculpt and looks of the figure definitely reflect April from the first film. The likeness is quite good, maybe not on par with NECA’s Doc Brown figures, but definitely good enough. She comes with two portraits: neutral and smile. Both have a slight wide-eyed quality to them, but they also both work pretty well. The difference between the two is a bit subtle and thus hard to pick a favorite, but they’re both appropriate for the character. The hair piece is the same on both, and I do wish one featured her hair pulled back slightly as it was when she was interviewing the police chief and assaulted by the Foot. The clothing, especially the blouse, is well-sculpted and the detail looks terrific. She’s sporting the somewhat infamous NECA double-elbows, but with bunched up sleeves the joints look fine. The knees are a different story. NECA opted for double-jointed knees and while the overall shape looks good, the joints above and below the knee are a bit awkward. Some may designate them an eyesore, but I wouldn’t go that far. Normally, I think the trade-off in articulation is worth the added cuts. This is an action figure, after all, not a statue. Here though it’s probably not the right joint as this is a character that doesn’t need tremendous range in her knees. A single joint would probably look better and would be similar to the change NECA made with the Casey figure and his elbows. And NECA apparently agrees as a running change has already been made to April that does just that. It eliminates the double-jointed knees for single hinges and this is presumably what collectors will see when the figure hits Walmart at some point (right now, she’s only out in Asia). And that’s the other issue I was referring to had this come out on time we’d have already had the figure before this change was revealed. Collectors probably still would be irritated, but it’s a little added salt in the wound to see a better version of the figure in the hands of collectors before you’re extra expensive version ships.
Knees aside, the sculpt is good enough. There will be variations though when it comes to the paint, as is the case with all mass produced figures. NECA painted on nylons onto April’s legs, a curious decision since casting them in the color they’re painted would have achieved the same end result. They still could have painted them, as NECA often does, but by not casting them in a similar color you get ugly chunks of flesh tone in the joints. The paint flakes off easily, or was never there to begin with as it is with the back of the knees and was on my figure’s left ankle. It’s an error NECA continues to make and is a frustrating one. It’s obviously a cost saving measure, but it’s also one of the lesser costs associated with figure production and an expense most collectors would rather shoulder than not. There are other small paint imperfections with my figure. The default portrait has a blueish mark on her forehead (and I don’t think it’s supposed to be a bruise) while her right shoe has a black blob near the toe. Beyond the paint, the shin on my figure’s left leg appears to be warped slightly and I can’t get her toe aligned with her knee on that side. I could try to heat and reform it, but considering her whole leg is painted I’d rather not risk it.
I suppose we should talk about the articulation though, since it bled into the talk about the sculpt. April is fairly conventional, though limited by her attire. The head is on a normal ball peg and the range is okay, but her hair is obviously going to present some posing challenges. The shoulders are simple ball-hinges and the double-jointed elbows provide bend slightly better than 90 degrees with swivels as well. At the wrist are horizontal hinges and swivels. There are no vertical hinged hands for April, which may not seem like a big deal since she’s not a fighter, but vertical hinges would work better with a microphone than horizontal. I wish NECA would just make that hand direction the default rather than horizontal. There’s likely a diaphragm joint in the figure, but the overlay for her clothing renders it useless. She does twist with a slight ability to pivot at the waist, and the hips feature the older style of joint, like every figure in this line so far. Her skirt is going to really limit what she can do there, so the range is almost inconsequential. The knees do give her bend past 90 and rotation above and below the knee, and the feet are hinged. There are ankle rockers on this figure, but again, be careful with the painted hinges. Because she has heals, she’s going to be a challenge to stand. NECA foresaw this and included a simple, black, disc stand that pegs into her foot. It’s all right, but she really would have benefitted from a more robust stand that grabs around the waist. Even if it was like a Barbie stand that didn’t pose, that would have been far more functional. She obviously doesn’t need a dynamic action stand, but she does need to stand.
In addition to the stand and alternate portrait, April comes with a few expected accessories. She’s got her microphone for conducting interviews and it has a long, bendy, cord on it. In the box, she has open hands, but she also has a set of gripping hands. The open hands can grip the mic, while the tighter hands get a more sturdy grip. NECA also included a pointing left hand and a right fist, because sometimes she needs to get her hands dirty. She also has a stack of frozen pizza for when the boys are hanging out at her apartment. In true NECA fashion, they’re parody brands and in this case we have Smellio’s, an homage to Elio’s (which I loved as a kid, but I bet it was awful), and Josh Pizzas. She also has her handbag and the sai she snatched from the crime scene. The sai is the same as what we’ve seen packed with Raphael, only the paint job seems lesser. Mine even has a silver blob on one of the tines. If you want to stash it in the handbag you’re in for a challenge. I couldn’t get it all the way in and I’m not sure if it’s even possible. You will want to be careful if you try though because the printing on the bag, which looks great, is also prone to peeling. I don’t know what the failure here is, if it needed an acrylic coating or if the printing isn’t suitable for softer plastic, but it’s a bummer. I’ve seen a few bad ones online so I at least had the gift of foresight as stressing the plastic obviously makes the problem worse. And even so, mine had cracking right out of the box anyway. If you want it to look as nice as it can, definitely go easy with it. No word yet on if the running change with the legs improved upon this aspect as well.
Since this is the signature edition, we have the additions to speak of. First up is the press badge. It’s signed by Judith and looks fine, though it’s also paper. I was expecting an actual badge like what every office gives out to its employees, so this was a bit disappointing. This might be accurate to the film though, so that would certainly be one reason to do it this way. It’s in a plastic sleeve with a clip like a functiong badge would have and if you’re into cosplay then I guess this is just what you needed. The much talked about coat is also here and it’s certainly yellow. It fits on the figure, and if you really dislike those knees then here is a way to conceal them a bit. The fit is a bit bulky, but I suppose it’s better to be on the larger end than small as that would just make it hard to put on and take off. And I would argue it’s less bulky than the actual coat in the film. It’s stitched in several places and made of a shiny, vinyl, material so it certainly looks the part. The sleeves are permanently rolled up and there is a sash, but it’s mostly for decoration and not really functional. Honestly, the figure looks better without it, but I basically paid 70 bucks for the stupid thing so you’re damn right I’m displaying the figure with it on.
NECA’s movie April O’Neil figure from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bit of a tough one to properly rate. If this were just a figure I picked up at Walmart for 30 bucks then I’d probably be more enthusiastic about it. I think the peeling on the bag though is inexcusable and disappointing. That’s the type of thing a company can really affect its reputation with. It’s one thing for it to be poor, but to not address it is almost a worse sin. Had NECA come out and said it was replacing all of the handbags then it would possibly raise people’s opinion of the company and do more good than the harm of the faulty product. Similarly, NECA had an opportunity to do better with this signature release. Suppose they just tossed in the new legs as a way to make-up for the delay and to add a little more value to the set. I think fans would have been singing the company’s praises had it pulled such a move. The reality is, I don’t know how easy a fix that would be for the average collector, but presumably anyone paying 100 bucks for April is either a mint-in-box collector or an experienced one capable of switching out some legs. Doing so also isn’t unprecedented. Yeah, it would cut into NECA’s bottom-line on the release, but that’s exactly what Super7 did when it shipped out some Thundercats parts when the final release of those figures didn’t live up to their expectations. It’s the type of move that really helps foster good customer relations, but it’s also unnecessary since this stuff sells and likely will continue to sell well regardless.
Setting aside some of my disappointments with this release, I do want to say I think the figure is fine. A figure of April was never going to set the world on fire since she’s not a ninja turtle or a hideous monster. The likeness is well done and this April should fit in with the rest of your display. She poses well with Casey, and she also looks great beside the turtles so you have options. Most of the errors with the figures are of the unforced kind. NECA was way too ambitious with those knees and should have learned from the first Casey release that less is more. And the paint issues are also something the company repeats too often. If you’re just looking for this figure to hang out in a display though and look good, then I think most will be happy.