Playmates Toys has been the master toy license holder for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for as long as I’ve been aware of TMNT. In the 80s, the toy line produced by Playmates was excellent: fun sculpts, imaginative characters, crazy set pieces, and tons of vehicles. It was a great companion to the animated series airing on television five days a week and it was a huge reason the TMNT franchise became as big as it did. As the property cooled off and moved on from the old show, Playmates was the one constant that remained. When the turtles jumped to live-action for The Next Mutation, Playmates went with them. When they came back in 2003 with a new animated series, so did Playmates. And it’s been that way for over 30 years now with no end in sight.
Right now in 2022 we’re living through a dry spell for TMNT multimedia. The comics are still going strong, but there are no new episodes of a TV show airing on television and no feature film is set to hit theaters this year. Often times when a toy maker enters into an agreement to be the master license holder for a property there are various stipulations in the agreement that need to be satisfied in order for the agreement to remain valid. One such common stipulation is that new product has to be shipped at set intervals since whoever actually owns the property (in this case, Viacom) stands to make money on units sold and wants its property to remain in the spotlight with consumers. I don’t know if such a clause exists in the license that Playmates holds, but it would certainly explain the vast amount of reissues that have been shipping over the past two years. Rereleases of the vintage figures showed up at Walmart last year while new variations on the Classic Collection figures from 2012 have been available at comic shops and as part of some bizarre two-packs with Cobra Kai. For fans and collectors, some of these reissues have been welcomed, but some have not. The quality has been suspect at times while other releases have left fans scratching their heads wondering just who actually wants some of this stuff?
I’m mostly in the camp that doesn’t place much value in the recent Playmates releases, but one such bundle did finally get me to pull the trigger. The 2012 animated series that aired on Nickelodeon is one of the blind spots for me as a toy collector. Prior to that series, I had dabbled in basically every line Playmates released. I also watched that 2012 series as it aired and really came to love it. I saw the toys on shelves at various big box retailers and I thought they looked fine, but I just never felt compelled enough to pull the trigger. It was a line aimed at kids, and the Classic Collection did arrive that same year and largely scratched my itch for new TMNT product, so I felt comfortable passing on it. Now though I’m re-watching the series with my kids and I’m being reminded how good it is and Playmates made it really easy to grab some of what I had missed.
The latest bundle of figures from Playmates centers on the 2012 series. For 50 bucks you get a fancy box decked out to resemble the Shellraiser from the show that contains six, carded, action figures inside. If you’ve been following the Playmates reissues this kind of packaging has become common as they’ve done movie turtles, toon turtles, and even sports turtles in this same style. Once I saw these sets arriving in the hands of collectors I felt comfortable to grab one myself. Some of the others have been rather lackluster, like Bebop having solid black legs and the movie turtle reissues lacking the soft, rubbery, form of the vintage versions so it was hard to predict just what the 2012 reissues would look like. And in general – they’re fine. They’re pretty standard reissues and largely get the job done, but they do have their issues as well.
First of all, the box is pretty neat. It comes in a rather plain, white, slipcase with green font and a Playmates logo on it that basically just exists to protect the inner box. The interior box is fairly sturdy and the art looks great. There’s a turtle on 3 of the sides while Donnie is on top in the gunner position. The turtles are designed to resemble the toys and not the show and there’s even a handle on top of it should you feel the need to bring this to your buddy’s house. Each end is taped closed so you’ll have to break out a knife to get into it if you don’t want to rip tape off. Once opened, the figures can be found stacked 3×3 with some tissue paper wrapped around them. All 6 cards arrived in good condition. They’re the standard blisters from the line sold at retail only the cross-sell on the back has been updated to feature just the six figures in this set: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, Splinter, and Shredder.
Let’s talk about the turtles first. They were the main reason why I decided to grab this as the other two figures were almost irrelevant to me. Like past Playmates lines, these turtle figures are more inspired-by the show they hail from and are not aiming to be true recreations. They’re all generally much rounder in appearance and each turtle is a unique shade of green, as Playmates often does. Leo strikes me as the most neutral as far as his shading goes while Raph is definitely the darkest of the four as his shade of green skews more blue. Michelangelo has a lot more yellow mixed into his coloring while Donnie comes across as more pale. Each turtle has their own unique mask with the traditional color assignments while the kneepads and elbow pads are brown. There is an ever so slight variation to the shade of brown for each turtle and each one also features athletic tape around the wrists, hands, fingers, and feet. Leo’s tape is an off-white while the other three brothers all have brown tape, except the hand tape which is the same across all four. Raph and Mikey’s tape is a pretty close match in shade to their knee and elbow pads, while Donnie’s is noticeably lighter. Each turtle also has a unique belt for storing their weapons with both Leo and Donnie having a shoulder strap.
These versions of the turtles are actually not the 2012 releases, but the updated 2016 reissues. The main difference between the two is that Playmates re-sculpted the feet to resemble the show. These turtles have the all-white eyes of the 2012 release, but the eyes are painted to be much larger and extend outside of the actual sculpted portion. They don’t look as clean, and the paint in general isn’t great. There’s a lot of slop around the masks on my Leo and Donnie while Mikey’s doesn’t appear to be painted all the way to the edge of the sculpted part of the mask. Mikey also has some of the white from the teeth on his chin. Donnie is by far the worst of the four though as his mask was not painted well at all. The rear of the mask is almost all green plastic with much of the purple applied to the top of his head by mistake. It’s a bummer. To my surprise, the gold on his belt buckle is rather clean so he at least looks passable from the front.
I never expected the paint to be much to write home about as it’s the sculpt that interests me most with these guys. It’s a very fun look for the turtles and it’s a look I much prefer to that of the actual show which tended to give the characters these blocky looking muscles. Each turtle is individually sculpted which is actually pretty standard for Playmates. They probably expect to sell so many of the base turtles that they’re willing to sink more money into each one. The texture of the turtle flesh is well done with some featuring bumps, scaling, and cross-hatching to add a touch of realism to otherwise unrealistic designs. Somewhat unique to this iteration of the turtles at the time is the fact that each turtle had a distinct shape. Donnie is the tallest at about 4.625″ with Mikey the shortest at an even 4″. Donnie’s head also has an egg shape to it (fitting) with Raph being close to his shape while Leo and Mikey have comparably wide heads. Raph also has a unique crack in the plastron of his shell near his left shoulder. Donnie is the only turtle with a closed mouth expression which is a bit of a surprise since his model in the show had a gapped-tooth smile. They’re all good sculpts and I’m very charmed by them. The only thing holding them back is the paint and some of the materials as the belts have a very plastic look to them and the accessories do as well, which we’ll get to.
One thing Playmates has never been known for is articulation, and these guys are mostly more of the same. They’re certainly more articulated than some of the past iterations of the brothers, but obviously way less than the Classic Collection. Each turtle has the same articulation: ball-head, shoulder ball-hinge, elbow hinge and swivel, wrist swivel, thigh ball-hinge, knee hinge and swivel. What is present at least works all right. The elbows bend about 90 degrees while the ball-hinges at the shoulders and thighs allow for a wide range at both. The only thing I don’t like is the peg in that shoulder hinge which is pretty ugly and really odd. I also wish they had articulation in the ankles as that would really help in posing, but I’m also not surprised to see such a thing missing.
The accessories for these guys are also pretty standard. Each turtle comes with his signature weapons: swords for Leo, sai for Raph, bo staff for Donnie, and nunchaku for Michelangelo. The weapons are cast in colored plastic. Leo and Raph’s weapons are gray while Donnie’s is brown and Mikey’s is a more orange-brown. They look okay, but it would have been nice to see some paint. Mikey’s ‘chuks are also all plastic, and while they are flexible, stress marks will quickly form on the chain portion if they’re bent and stored in his belt. All four turtles store their weapons on the rear of their shell and it works fine excepting the issues with Mikey’s ‘chuks. Raph’s right hand also features a wider gap between his fingers so he can do the sai grip with the blade between his fingers just fine. In addition to the standard weapons, each turtle also has a weapon rack with extra stuff. Leo has a much longer, tachi-like blade here while Mikey has his chained sickle offshoot which his nunchaku basically transformed into in the show. Donnie has the bladed variant of his bo here as well and Raph has some strange, broken, sai where each is missing one of the side points. Raph also has some hooked weapons, Donnie a chained weapon, Leo various kunai, and Mikey multiple styles of shuriken. The other three also have their own shurikens and Leo also has what looks like a chisel or something. I like the variant weapons that Don and Mikey feature, while the extra large sword for Leo is cool too. Mostly though I assume people display their turtles with their traditional weapons and that’s probably what I will do as well.
If this contained just the four turtles, I’d be fine with it. 50 bucks for four figures in a specialty box is a decent value in 2022, but we do have two other figures to talk about. First up is Master Splinter. Unlike the turtles, he is a straight re-release of the 2012 figure and he basically looks the same. He’s about 4.5″ tall so he’s a little shorter than Donnie despite being taller in the show. He’s also pre-posed like the classic figures with knees bent so he’s actually taller, but functionally not. He’s also way more basic than the turtles. Remember how I said Playmates seemed inclined to sink more money into their turtles? Well, they’re definitely not for the supporting characters as Splinter is barely more engineered than his vintage counterpart. He just swivels at the neck and elbows with ball-hinges at the shoulders and thighs. There are no knee or elbow hinges or even wrist swivels. He does have one additional point of articulation and that’s a swivel at the tail which comes unassembled in the box.
If Splinter is to be a statue then he’s going to have to make up for it with the paint and sculpt, and unfortunately that’s really not the case. The paint is fairly clean on this guy, but I’ve never liked the mix of white, brown, and black on his face. His legs and body are also gray which seems odd, but they’re not really visible so I guess it doesn’t matter. His left eye doesn’t appear to be aligned properly so he’s a bit goofy looking. I also wish Playmates used a different shade of white for his exposed teeth as they just blend in with the white fur around his mouth. He does have wraps on his forearms which are gray while the exposed fingers and tail are pink. He has one arched foot which is annoying, but he at least can use his tail as a third leg. The kimono is soft plastic, but aside from the black buckle there’s no paint on it which is a bummer. He looks like a toy wrapped in a fruit rollup. His lone accessory is his walking stick which is cast in a semi-translucent green plastic so it at least looks interesting. Otherwise though, he’s a dud and not something I would have bought outside of this set.
Our last figure is the sworn enemy of Splinter and the turtles: The Shredder. He’s better than Splinter, but not as good as the turtles. Like Splinter, he’s a 2012 reissue which is a bit of a bummer because Playmates would do a version 2 that was much better. He is at least sized appropriately at a tick over 5″ and his chest is broad and barrel shaped. He’s also fairly on-model with the show. Like the rest, the paint isn’t great. The chest, sleeves, thighs, belt and part of the boots are painted and it’s all fairly uneven. His eyes are also painted white and look pretty terrible. The armor bits not painted are cast in gray plastic and they look fine. The forearm blades are retracted and Playmates declined to include an extended variation which is also a bummer, but true of the 2012 release as well. I do like this look for Shredder as he’s quite menacing, this just isn’t a great interpretation of it.
The articulation for Shredder is also lacking. His head is locked down to just a swivel while the shoulders and thighs are the same ball-hinge joint the turtles have. He also has hinged elbows and a swivel at the wrist and waist but nothing at the knees. It’s odd to not have at least have a boot cut and I feel like with better articulated legs I could deem this one acceptable. I do applaud Playmates for putting the shoulder pauldrons on hinges so that Shredder has more range at the shoulder, but that’s about it. He doesn’t make up for the lack of articulation with his accessories either as he just comes with a sword and a pair of shuriken. The sword fits rather loosely in his hands which drives me nuts, plus I don’t know if he ever used a sword in the show. I’d much rather he just have extendable blades for his forearms. The updated Shredder Playmates released had a removable helmet, cape, and hinged knees and the forearm blades were sculpted to be extended. He couldn’t retract them, but I’d rather they be extended than not.
This boxed set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures mostly does what I want it to do. I don’t particularly care for Shredder and Splinter, but at least Shredder has decent shelf presence. I mostly just wanted the turtles and I do like these sculpts and designs, I just wish my Donatello in particular had been painted better. I’m torn on if I prefer the 2012 versions to the updated 2016 ones too. I like the new feet, but dislike the wider eyes on these ones. Still, it probably would cost me more than 50 bucks to acquire a set of 2012 releases so I’ll take the trade-off. By getting these I’m also more likely to dig out more of my vintage stuff to better display my collection. As for the rest of this line, I don’t know if I’ll add to it. I do like the Metalhead that was released, but nothing else comes to mind. Maybe I can talk myself into that 2.0 Shredder. Otherwise, I’m content to let it be unless NECA or someone else wants to take a whack at the 2012 series with more of a collector mindset. I would certainly welcome an alternative to the Revoltech releases, but for now, this should suffice.
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