Category Archives: Television

Let’s Rank the NECA Cartoon TMNT Figures!

The collection swells!

So I swear I do not want this to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy blog. It’s definitely looked like one ever since Christmas ended though and that’s partly because of new releases and some technical difficulties. I have some posts I’m working on, but they’re not ready to go up yet and it’s a situation where it’s out of my control. However, this is a post I have wanted to do for awhile and it’s just been a matter of when to do it. In the review of the most recent release, Splinter vs Baxter set, I mentioned that particular set was the end of the essential figures for some folks. Not me, as I’m sticking with this line for awhile, but it was a sentiment I’ve seen expressed online more than once within the collecting community.

Given that, it’s a perfect time to take stock of where we are with the line. And specifically, what characters have been done well and which may have been underserved. I will say upfront that this line has largely been very good. Ignoring complaints about scarcity and scalpers, this line has delivered a great assortment of characters from the classic cartoon series and will be the measuring stick going forward for a lot of TMNT related releases. The old Playmates line of action figures was great, but most of the characters did not resemble their cartoon counterpart and that’s a void NECA has filled. And I have liked every figure so far, just some more than others. Despite what you may read online, a NECA figure is also not destined to fall apart in your hands. By all means, if you have bad experiences with NECA toys your opinion is valid, I just feel the need to point out that I own a lot of NECA product at this point and I have yet to have anything break. I have had one quality control issue so far and it was with the cartoon Slash who arrived with a detached strap on his backpack, something easily fixed with a dab of superglue. That doesn’t mean I don’t think NECA has room for improvement, but my overall experience has been very positive.

With that said, let’s move on to the rankings! I’ll link to my individual review and write-up where appropriate (but only once, so I don’t have four different links going to the same thing) if you want to read more of my thoughts as what is presented below will be a summary. And in some cases, my opinion may be slightly different than what it was originally since we’re going back a few years at this point. Let’s get started though with what is probably the consensus worst figure in the line:

She doesn’t look great, but at least she comes with a bunch of stuff!

April O’Neil – April is an essential character to the cartoon and I think fans and NECA are in agreement there, but for whatever reason, NECA just didn’t get her right. Depending on who you ask, either her head is too big or her body is too small. It doesn’t really matter which is the true issue (it’s the body) as in the end we have a miss-matched figure that looks pretty goofy. Even absent that, her face just doesn’t really look like April. It’s very round and her expression is pretty blank. When I think of April I think of a fearless, cocky, go-getter reporter and that’s just not here. She isn’t terrible as the articulation is good and I like the paint app. She also has some great accessories. I’ll continue to hope for a redo on her though, maybe as a deluxe release with swappable parts referencing the times she was mutated on the show. I don’t expect that to happen, but a man can dream.

He’s not nothing without his body, but he’s definitely lesser.

Krang (Bubble Walker) – Krang was originally released as part of the San Diego Comic Con 8 – pack and then again as a two-pack with a turtle and once more as a two-pack with Shredder. For what he is, he’s fine and I like that this version of Krang really resembles the Season One depiction of the character. He is a little on the small side, but that wasn’t really apparent until the new version came out so I don’t consider that much of a strike against him. He’s mostly ranked here because he’s just limited by his design from the show. He’s just a brain with tentacles and his bubble walker doesn’t really do anything. The legs move, but they lack “knee” joints which is unfortunate. By far the coolest thing this figure did was have easily removable tentacles that could plug into the bubble walker, a much better way of doing things than what the classic toy did.

The Turtles (Style Guide Colors) – The brothers four saw themselves re-issued as part of the second wave and have the dubious honor of being the only figures on this list that I do not have (hence why there’s no link or pic). I just have no use for them. They’re the same figures from the SDCC set and Wave One, but painted a bright green to match the style guides put out for the property in the 80s and 90s. These were the colors utilized for notebooks, t-shirts, lunch boxes, etc. and because the property was so popular it’s this look that some people most associate with TMNT to this day. There was even enough demand for NECA to release them as two-packs (Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey) with a few extra paper goods thrown in for good measure. Again, I personally have no use for these, but acknowledge that some people probably get more out of them than I would.

These robots may not blow you away, but they sure do look pretty great for what they are.

Roadkill Rodney – Like Krang in his walker, Roadkill Rodney is a figure that’s just limited by its design from the show. It’s a robot with no arms or legs that rolls around Gizmoduck style and has extendable tentacles. NECA packed two of them in with the Triceraton Infantry figure in what was the line’s second army builder bundle. For what they are, these robots are cool and NECA nailed the likeness. The swappable parts, while unnecessarily challenging to make use of, look great and were a good idea. I like them enough that I bought a second set, this is just a figure that really had no chance to be one of the best in the line.

Foot Soldier/Bashed Foot/Slashed Foot – No line of TMNT action figures would be complete without the lowly Foot Ninja. NECA included two with the SDCC set and packed some in with Wave One turtles and as a two-pack, army builder, set in Wave Two. Wave Three then saw the introduction of the variants, bashed and slashed, and there’s actually a deluxe version still to come. This is a solid figure that really nails the likeness of the source material, it’s just hard to get too excited about a Foot Soldier. I do wish it had more articulation as this figure would really benefit from some torso articulation. The variants, of course, can’t have that, but the standard Foot would benefit greatly. The bashed variant is definitely the lesser one as it just has some exposed metal and circuitry inside it. The slashed variant is pretty great though and I love it for what it is. I wouldn’t mind a few more, though I doubt NECA would ever release a two-pack of slashed Foot and I don’t need more bashed ones.

He comes packing heat.

Triceraton Infantry – The Triceraton is best known from the original Playmates line, and the infantry ranked dino-alien is the one that resembles that figure the most. And that’s because it’s a big, orange, triceratops in an armored onesie. This figure is one of many to make use of the general body created for Bebop and Rocksteady, only it has Leatherhead’s tail with hands and feet to call its own. I do like how this guy turned out, and my main complaints were with some inaccuracies (the tail should be smooth, there are pants wrinkles because of the parts reuse) and the fact that this was an army builder not designed to be an army builder. A proper army builder should have some variety, but this figure has just one trigger hand and it only works well with the rocket launcher. The other guns, which resemble what Bebop and Rocksteady used in the show, work with the gripping hands and look kind of stupid without a trigger finger. I also wish he had an articulated jaw, something the other Triceratons possess. Still, on his own, this is a striking figure on the shelf and I liked it enough to buy two.

They’re here, but they don’t impress like their many rogues.

The Turtles – the Turtles have the somewhat dubious honor of being ranked in the back half of this list, despite being the stars of the show. They also have the added challenge of competition. Few companies have done a proper Shredder or Traag, but a lot of companies have taken stabs at doing figures of the Turtles. And these ones are showing their age. Originally released in NECA’s arcade set, the Turtles have been re-released a few times with little or no added engineering. Their articulation scheme is dated compared with the rest of the line, and they also stand out as many of the villains to follow feature a lot of paint given them a real matte finish while the Turtles are a bit glossy due to the presence of colored plastic. And I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that the general shape of these figures works better as a representation of the classic arcade game than it does for the cartoon. That said, while other companies may be able to boast that their Leonardo or Donatello is better than NECA’s, few can compete on price as these guys are basically $25 figures instead of twice that. And as we speak, NECA is prepping a release that’s a four pack of these figures with soft goods, new heads, and some re-tooled articulation. Maybe Raph will have better sais and the other boys holsters for their weapons (only Leo can accomplish that) to help move them up the ranks. For now, they’re fine, but there’s some obvious room for improvement here as well.

The only way to display this guy is with those blades!

Zarax – The Triceraton Captain who few remembered. He’s essentially the same as the Triceraton Infantry, only yellow and with different armor. He has an articulated jaw which works great and I love what such a thing can add to a display. He also has removable bracers for his wrists and can swap in some bladed ones which look pretty cool. Aside from that, his accessories are the same from the previous release and any faults that other figure had, this one does too. Only this figure does have different feet which unfortunately are plagued by NECA’s paint woes. The ankle hinge is painted to match the bootie this guy is wearing, but the paint will flake off almost immediately and the plastic underneath is flesh-colored (which in this case means yellow) and it looks bad. He’s not the first figure to suffer from this issue, just the most recent. Hopefully he’s the last.

I just prefer my dino aliens to be green.

Zork – Zork is the other Triceraton released with Zarax. I rank him ahead of Zarax because I just think he looks cooler. He’s green and has his own headsculpt which is a bit wider and spikier than the others. Any con is shared with Zarax, so I won’t repeat those. The pros are also the same, I just prefer green to yellow apparently.

Slash is here and he’s armed!

Slash – A lot of folks seem to hate on the cartoon version of Slash, but I for one enjoy him! Sure, the comic depiction that Playmates sourced from is cooler, but not every villain needs to look cool. Slash was a bit of a goof in the show, and NECA really nailed the likeness with the head-sculpt here. The body is recycled from the video game Slash, which was recycled from the other turtles only with spikes added to the shell and claws to the feet and hands. That does mean the articulation could be better, and Slash wears these half gloves that suffer from the painted hinges issue mentioned earlier, but the figure is able to bring it all home with an assortment of awesome accessories. He’s loaded with a pair of futuristic-looking guns, a pair of bad ass katanas, his precious binky, and an unmutated version of himself. And since his box mate has yet to appear on this list, you can basically infer that Slash has been part of one of the best two-packs so far. The only true criticism I have for this figure, and what keeps him from being higher, is just the reuse of the turtle body. Slash should be squatter, and chunkier, and reusing that mold did him a disservice. Not enough to truly disappoint, but it’s also something that comes to mind every time I look at the figure.

“I’m Casey Jones, and I’m here to fuck you up!”

Casey Jones – A fan favorite, Casey Jones has been there since the beginning. It’s no surprise that NECA turned to him relatively early and even felt he could anchor a two-pack all by himself since he was packed with one of the Foot variants. Casey comes equipped with an assortment of weapons he apparently acquired from a sporting goods store and a golf bag to store them in. He also has a bunch of extra hands and all in all looks really good. The only cons with this release is that this was the start of the painted hinge problem and it affects both his feet and his hands. And he’s also made of a really soft, bendy, plastic that gives the figure a cheap feel. His knees are prone to bowing as a result and he’s a more challenging figure to stand than most. Thankfully, most of the figures to follow have not been of this construction, though the paint issue will persist.

“I swear, I only want to talk to him.”

Granitor – Granitor had the distinction of being one of the earliest villains introduced in the show to never receive an action figure. NECA showed off a version of this figure a few years ago as part of its video game line, but it was before the cartoon was on the table for retail and it was apparently cancelled when the cartoon line took off. Granitor is a cool figure though who shares a lot of parts with his box-mate and fellow rock soldier, Traag. The only reason why I rank Traag ahead of Granitor is because I think Traag better reflects his cartoon appearance. Granitor has a lot of the parts in place like the pointy nose and big shoulders, but something is off. He probably should be taller and slimmer than Traag, and his head might actually benefit from being smaller. He looks good, but more so than the figures to come (and actually some that came before) NECA just didn’t quite nail the likeness. His rather lofty ranking is a testament to how fun he is to handle and the fact that he’s been missing in action since 1987.

“Tonight I dine on turtle soup!”

Shredder – This was the figure that really impressed in that initial SDCC 8-pack. Which means that for a little while this was the best figure in the line. Shredder has since been topped, but he’s still the definitive take on the cartoon version of the character. Like the Turtles, he was adapted from a previous arcade release, but unlike them it all works perfectly. He also gets a new headsculpt and NECA’s paint app on it looks great. Like the Foot, I do see opportunity for more articulation that could have been incorporated into his torso, but for the most part I have no complaints. He just looks a little dated now for the same reason the Turtles do as he has more colored plastic and less paint. Again, I’m not against colored plastic in place of paint (Bandai pretty much shuns paint and they put out great stuff), but it makes Shredder look more toy-like when positioned amongst the later figures which better capture that “ripped from the screen” look.

The disciplinarian has arrived.

Splinter – The most recently released two-pack brought us the first cartoon accurate Splinter. And once again, NECA really nailed the cartoon likeness. Splinter scales well with his surrogate sons, and I welcome the use of soft goods with the kimono. And more than anything, this guy has tons of accessories. Some no one asked for, but it’s still nice to have them. I didn’t have much to complain about when I reviewed him, and he’s ranked here because he’s just not as fun to mess around with as some other figures. Because of who he is, he lends himself better to simple poses as opposed to dynamic ones, but no one can deny that this is a rat that belongs on the shelf.

Traag is the general because he’s superior to Granitor in every way.

Traag – Krang’s general, Traag, got a figure in the old Playmates line, but it looked nothing like the character in the show. This was the first time we got a proper cartoon Traag and NECA knocked it out of the park. The only negatives with the figure is just the lack of accessories, but that’s because there’s so much plastic in the sculpt (and he was bundled with Granitor) that it likely prevented NECA from adding much else. He moves well though and has tremendous presence on a shelf. He’s basically the surprise sleeper of the line so far as I don’t know that many had Traag high up on their list of wants, but anyone who got him is probably pretty happy with him.

The only figure in this line capable of kicking some ass and then cleaning up the mess afterwards.

Metalhead – The first deluxe figure in the line, and thus the first solo release, was The Mighty Metalhead! And he’s awesome, a true cartoon-to-plastic creation that’s big and beefy with some fun parts. The more recently released Android Krang does make him appear a little less “deluxe” than he did before, but he was also cheaper. He was also a real pain in the ass to find last summer, but at least NECA put him up for order on their site leading to scores of people like me ending up with two by accident. Nonetheless, I’m not down on having two as he is a great figure. The only real negative is his articulation isn’t great due to the shape of his arms and such, but he also doesn’t need a ton and he’s perfectly capable of looking imposing on your shelf or tidying it up with his vacuum attachment.

“You’ll have to speak up, I’m wearing a towel.”

Krang (Android Body) – Bubble walker Krang is nice, but this is the Krang everyone wants. Krang in his weird body is a natural for NECA’s deluxe line. He snuck in just before 2020 ended and nearly stole the show. He’s big, he’s got a new Krang to go inside him, and he comes with a bunch of extra stuff. The only thing that stinks about him is that he has so much paint on him that he is prone to chipping and factory defects. He’s definitely the kind of figure you want to come across in-store in larger quantities so you have a chance to pick the best available. Thankfully, that’s what happened to me and I was able to find one with pretty terrific paint, but literally every other one I left on the shelf had some ugly smudge or chip somewhere. He’s a truly goofy looking figure, made more so if you slap that shower attire on him, but that’s TMNT!

Lets see you get out of this one, Leo.

Leatherhead – More so than any other figure, Leatherhead surprised me. I wasn’t really looking forward to him even though I like the character, but once I had him in hand I was pretty blown away. He looks awesome and he’s based on the Bebop/Rocksteady body so he’s big and moves well enough. NECA gave him an articulated jaw and also packed him with some fun accessories like his weird ketchup gun and shackles. I love this figure, and the only issue I had with him is the damn painted joints. The issue is just more pronounced with Leatherhead because his legs and boots are blue since he’s wearing hip waders, but for some reason they were cast in white plastic which really shows up in the ankles when the blue paint flakes away. Supposedly, there has been a running change with this figure that fixed it, but I haven’t seen evidence of that. I’ll be curious to see if it’s no longer a problem when NECA ships out its made-to-order Leatherhead/Slash sets next month. Despite that annoyance though, this is a great figure, just watch that hook on his belt which appears to be prone to popping off.

He’s about to say something stupid!

Rocksteady – The moronic duo of Bebop and Rocksteady were staples in the cartoon, and they were part of the first offering of figures from Playmates back in the day. They were, however, never toon accurate until NECA stepped in. Rocksteady, to put it plainly, looks perfect. He’s chunky, he’s got a gut, and his eyes capture that “dangerous but stupid” expression he seemed to always wear. When I lucked onto a set around Thanksgiving 2019, I had nothing to really complain about. He could have come with a helmet, but he rarely wore that so I don’t know if I would even use it. He’s probably a little oversized when compared with the Turtles, but he looks so good this way that I hesitate to really complain. This is the Rocksteady I wanted when I was a kid, and I’m really happy to have him now in my 30s.

Oh I do love this little fly boy!

Baxter – Old Baxter is a character I just have a soft spot for. I’ve always liked his design, and like with many figures in this line, I always wanted a cartoon accurate version of him for my collection. He’s tiny, but packed with articulation and, more importantly, personality and I find myself charmed more and more each day that passes with this guy in my possession. NECA gave him some great accessories and he’s one of the few figures I really don’t want more from. The only real criticism I had was the lack of articulation in his purple appendages, but it’s not a deal-breaker, by any means. Just a wonderful little figure that does what it needs to and more!

Trust me, this is not a mug only a mother can love.

Bebop – The mutated wart hog is my pick for best figure in the line. Like Rocksteady, I just had nothing to complain about with this figure. He has all of the screen-accurate details I expected and his size and proportions are even better than what we saw with Rocksteady. Sure, you can quibble with that size as far as being too big goes, but he looks great and I wouldn’t mess with him. Literally the only thing that bugs me with this figure is his wrist chain, which is a real chain. It looks wonderful, but it will fly off when you swap his left hand and it’s hard to get it to look as good as it did out of the box. If they had sculpted the chain on his arm it probably wouldn’t look as good, but it would also work better, so it’s both hard to complain and praise the decision. Otherwise, he’s fantastic and I’ll never need another Bebop. Oh, I’ve definitely bought more that you’ll get to read about some day, but I didn’t need any more. For now, Bebop is the high water mark for this line and if NECA never tops it that’s honestly okay, but I hope they do at some point.


Bringing Bucky Home

Bucky and the gang approach a cross roads!

The New Year holiday is a time for both reflection and looking forward. Almost every publication, network, YouTuber, blogger, etc. does some sort of “Best of the Year” segment or just a feature that recalls the events of the past 365 days (or in the case of 2020, 366) because it can be both fun and it’s easy to fill time during a period when everyone is looking to take time off. Toy producer Boss Fight Studio is no different in that regard for it did a webcast on its Facebook account recalling the events of 2020 as it pertained to its line of toys. It featured the partners and some of the designers at the company and it gave them a chance to maybe spotlight something that fell through the cracks and also draw attention to what collectors could look forward to in 2021. As a rabid collector of Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, I tuned in to see if there was any news on that front. Captain Mimi LaFloo was released at the end of 2020 and it was the first figure in the line to see release without an announced figure in the pipeline. It’s a bit of a cruel reality for toy designers that once a new figure is put out fans immediately turn to ask “What’s next?!” but that’s the way it is.

Needless to say, the update on the Bucky franchise was not what I would consider promising. To paraphrase, the update (which is archived on Facebook) was that there is no update! There are plenty of figures in stock and ready to order, but the company is not ready to announce another figure to follow. It was, of course, stressed that they love Bucky and have enjoyed their relationship with the license holder, Continuity Comics, but that doesn’t change the reality that there appear to be no plans for Bucky O’Hare at this point in time. Sure, things can change and maybe something gets announced in the future, but for an industry that works on lags of more than a year from conception, to announcement, to release it can certainly be inferred that there will be no new Bucky product in 2021, and if there isn’t an announcement of some kind before the end of the year then you can probably write-off 2022 as well.

2020 was not a good year for a lot of people and things, but for Bucky O’Hare it was a significant improvement over 2019. 2019 was the first year since the line launched that there was no new Bucky product released. Anything that might have released in 2019 was pushed to 2020 due to a variety of reasons, one of which was undoubtedly COVID. It was pretty fruitful though as Boss Fight released two new characters, Bruiser and Mimi, as well as a fun variant of the Storm Toad Trooper. I, of course, got all three and even in the case of the Storm Toad I got two. I am all-in on this line and that pretty much includes new sculpts and variants at this point.

Boss Fight Studio has given us a wonderful assortment of figures, something I never thought would happen with this property.

It should be noted that Bucky O’Hare was the first license Boss Fight Studio acquired. Since then, the company has added a bunch more and has released or is preparing to release action figures based on Sam & Max, Flash Gordon, Zorro, and more. It’s a small, Massachusetts-based, company that sells a lot of its product direct to consumers with a few internet outlets and comic shops also stocking product. Space is a real constraint for a company of Boss Fight Studio’s size and I took the comment from the Facebook Live event about having plenty of stock to mean there physically is not any more room for Bucky O’Hare figures in their warehouse. At least, the company does not want to devote more space to the line. Bucky O’Hare is, and I’ve said it many times, a niche license. The fanbase is small and has been given no reason to grow over the past few decades as pretty much the only new Bucky merch have been the toys of Boss Fight Studio. And being that this is a small company, it can be assumed the figures are being sold at a price that is as low as it can be, and at $35 a figure, it’s not priced to invite a casual fan that may have a fading memory of the old Hasbro line or Konami game. And the fact that they’re not in a lot of physical stores also means the company loses out on impulse buys. That’s all to say that Bucky O’Hare is dependent on its fanbase, and it’s a small, limited, fanbase.

If that sounds negative, I don’t intend for it to be. I think of it as a realist point of view. From what I understand in speaking with people who have some inside info on the line, it’s that it’s a pretty flat line in terms of sales. In some respects, that’s good as it implies that the fans have bought basically every character Boss Fight has put out in roughly equal numbers. They know what to expect, and since they’ve released 6 sculpts in the line they must not be losing money on it or else why keep putting figures out? Boss Fight Studio isn’t Hasbro or NECA where it can take on some pet projects that maybe just break even or actually come in at a loss, so the fact that the line has gone as long as it has tells me it’s not a loser. It just doesn’t appear to possess any growth potential, and when the company is launching new licenses that maybe have more active and excited fanbases, it’s easy to push Bucky aside. And it can also say to the company that if they do indeed come back to it they know what to expect sales-wise

The villains has found it tough sledding as far as getting action figures is concerned.

All of this is to say that I’ve had this line and Bucky on my mind in general for the past few weeks. I’ve been in a reflective mood when it comes to this toy line. When Boss Fight Studio announced this toy line back in 2017, I was both surprised and psyched. Up to that point, Bucky O’Hare had come to feel like a forgotten property not even worthy of a true DVD release in the United States. It’s legacy seemed destined to be constrained to the retro gaming circle where the old Nintendo game was both praised and a bit of a hard-to-come-by item. If someone had told me I could have a modern Bucky O’Hare action figure I would have taken it and happily paid probably a dumb amount of money for it at that. A whole line though was a dream come true. I was also guarded from the moment it was announced though. The only other Bucky announcements from the 2000s had ended in cancellation before anything was officially produced. As a result, I’ve always approached this line with the thought that whatever figure I get could be the last one. An announcement or prototype unveiling didn’t necessarily mean I’d ever get my hands on the product, and that has even been true of this line. Boss Fight showed off additional variants of both Bucky and Dead-Eye that have gone unreleased, alongside a line of mini figure and vehicle combos that are apparently cancelled at this point.

Even though I’ve always had reservations about this line’s survival, it didn’t stop me from compiling a wish list for where I wanted the line to go. And even as I made that, I mostly acknowledged that the chances of seeing every character on that list get made was remote. Now that we’re at what can best be called a pause in the line, it has me wondering what it would take to end this whole thing on a happy note? To bring it all home, so to speak.

For some collectors, recreating the old toy line is all they’ve wanted out of Boss Fight Studio.

For most collectors I know who have been into this line, they’ve largely wanted to see it re-make the characters Hasbro did and if they could have got to Commander Dogstar’s crew then all the better. For me, I have a lot of nostalgic attachment to the cartoon so I’ve always wanted to see that embraced more than the classic toy line or even comic. A character like Mimi was one that excited me, but appeared to disappoint others. That said, we have presently received the following figures: Bucky, Jenny, Dead-Eye, Bruiser, Mimi, and the Storm Toad. It’s a selection heavy on good guys and naturally my greatest wants are bad guys at this point. The lowly Storm Toad Troopers have no one to lead them, and they’re hardly formidable even with leadership so without they’re just laser fodder. As much as I would love a Toadborg or Al Negator, it pains me to admit they’re now low priority, because if we want to end the line with a sense of closure, and only have room for a figure or two, I think we need to focus on Bucky’s crew.

When both the comic and animated series begins, Bucky’s crew consists of the following: Jenny, Dead-Eye, Chief Engineer Bruce, and A.F.C. Blinky. Bruce is the brother of Bruiser and he gets killed off rather quickly and is essentially replaced by Bruiser in the cartoon’s second episode. Bruiser, being a marine, is not really equipped to take over for Bruce and Bucky is forced to turn to the displaced human, Willy DuWitt, to serve as his new engineer. I am not a huge fan of the Willy character, but I can’t deny he is a member of Bucky’s crew after that first episode and is pretty essential for a toy line based on the property. Hasbro already provided the blueprint for a successful Willy figure back in ’91 and that’s to put him in his space suit (a holdover from Bruce) and equip him with his silly squirt gun. For Boss Fight, this does mean a whole new sculpt which isn’t a new thing for this line as basically every character is entirely unique. He possibly could reuse Bruiser’s feet, but that’s it. And it would mean the standard roll out of accessories: alternate hands, head (masked and unmasked), and a gun. And seeing how the glasses of the old Hasbro toy always seemed to break or fall off, it would be really cool and appreciated if he came with a spare set.

Those damn glasses…

More important than Willy though, is that other character who was there from the start. Little Blinky was always a favorite of mine. He just has a nice, clean, and even cute design being that he’s a little robot with a giant eye for a head. The old Hasbro figure was not in-scale and he was the same size as everyone else when he should be noticeably shorter than Bucky and is absolutely dwarfed by the likes of Bruiser. I’ve wondered if the fact that he’s so small has turned off Boss Fight from doing him since he’d look so tiny beside the other figures, but would probably still need to retail for the standard MSRP. As we saw with their release of Max from Sam & Max (a review from me is coming, I promise), it seems like the solution there is to pack the figure with some more accessories, but with Blinky what do you give him? In the original comics and cartoon, he really doesn’t use anything. No guns, no signature items, and being that his head is just an eye he doesn’t really demand additional faceplates or heads. Sure, you can get creative and play with the size of the his pupil to illustrate surprise or even fear, but that’s all. Hasbro gave him a jetpack with a gun and I assume Boss Fight would just do the same, but what if they didn’t have to? He’s still a figure needing a unique sculpt, tooling, and production and being that I’m not an industry insider I don’t know how much cost accessories add to the package, but what if they could do a two-pack?

A final release in the line of just Willy and Blinky together as a two-pack would be a neat way to put a bow on the whole toy line. Could they price it closer to Bruiser’s retail? That I don’t know. Is there enough fandom to consider a made-to-order release? I suspect “no,” in that if Boss Fight solicited such a thing there might not be enough orders to satisfy a factory order at a tenable cost. And as neat as a two-pack would be, I don’t know that it makes any real financial sense since anyone who spends $35 on a Willy action figure will probably spend $35 on a Blinky. And honestly, if they could do a Blinky on the cheap compared with the other figures produced thus far I’d be totally fine with the company putting him out at the usual price-point to boost the profit margin on the line in hopes that it could help finance a Willy. Simply put, a two-pack makes sense only if Blinky has little or no accessories and if Boss Fight just wants to do one, last, release that completes the team.

Blinky has become my line in the sand. I would like a Willy, Toadborg, etc., but if Blinky fails to materialize it’s going to haunt me whenever I look at my collection.

As much as it would pain me to see this line come to an end, I’d feel a lot better about it if it ended with Bucky having his whole crew together. I think Boss Fight could do an awesome Toadborg, but I understand their reluctance considering he’d have to be another deluxe figure. If Bruiser underperformed relative to the other figures, it would make sense that the company would have little interest in doing another figure with a $55 price tag. Even though I personally think the fanbase would be more excited for Toadborg than it was Bruiser. If Toadborg can happen one day then I’ll jump for joy, but my focus is on the crew and I hope it’s a goal Boss Fight and Continuity has as well. We don’t know how the license works. It could have an expiration on it, it could expire if the company doesn’t release new product within a certain window of time, or it could be totally at-will with both parties able to cancel at anytime. It’s not like Continuity is fielding offers from other toy makers looking to get in on that Bucky “action.” My guess would be the license is Boss Fight’s until they no longer want it, but sometimes company’s can be unrealistic about the value of their property so who knows? Hopefully both parties have the same goal and can work towards that. For now, at least we have a great selection of characters that, in some respects, shouldn’t even exist! I’ll continue to hold out hope for more and if there’s any Bucky O’Hare news you’ll definitely be able to read about it here.


NECA TMNT Cartoon Splinter vs Baxter

Got another two-pack for ya!

I didn’t intend for so many TMNT reviews to hit one after the other, but Christmas pushed a bunch of stuff into the final week of December and then some surprise difficulties with another review has moved this one up. So be it. 2020 had a final surprise in store for collectors of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. NECA had previously announced all of Wave 4 of its cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure line would release in the fall, before having a change of heart. The two most anticipated releases of the wave were pushed to 2021, the deluxe Android Krang and the two-pack of Master Splinter vs Baxter Stockman in his mutated fly form. In addition to being some fan-favorites, these two releases were important to collectors as they represented for many the last essential release of the line. Everyone’s mileage is a bit different, but I think all can agree that the most important characters in the show are (in some order): the turtles, April, Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, and Splinter. You could certainly make a strong case for the generic Foot Soldier, and maybe some would push for Irma considering she was in a lot more episodes than you may recall. No one would argue though that those 10 previously mentioned characters are not essential.

I guess these two were paired-up because of their similar height?

Well, as I said, 2020 had a final surprise and it’s that both the deluxe Krang and Splinter vs Baxter two-pack arrived early. They first popped up in California Targets in the middle of December and gradually worked their way east before the end of the year. I actually found my Krang on New Year’s Eve, but had to wait on Splinter vs Baxter until 2021. While it’s always nice to get something earlier than expected, I definitely wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of running out to stores and hunting for action figures during the holiday rush, COVID or not. The whole pandemic thing just added another layer of anxiety, but I suppose there’s enough fool in me that I did go out. I masked-up, armed myself with a ton of hand sanitizer, and went through stores as quickly as possible until I found what I was looking for. In the case of this particular set I’m reviewing today, I never actually found it myself and was helped out via the CollectorsHelpingCollectors hashtag on Twitter so a special shout out is reserved for user og3 (@OG_mulch) for helping a fellow collector out!

Check out the sculpting around the base of Baxter’s wings and extra limbs.

Splinter vs Baxter comes packaged in the standard NECA window box. It’s a thinner box than some of the more recent releases as these are two of the smallest figures in the line so far. The only one smaller is the Roadkill Rodney. Not that we’re going to hold their size against them as these two boys more than make up for their small stature. And perhaps to compensate, there’s a ton of stuff included with this release, most of which belongs to Splinter. Some of it should be very familiar, but some of it is pretty obscure and I’m not even sure where it all comes from, but I’m happy to have it! More than accessories though, I am just thrilled beyond belief to finally have cartoon accurate depictions of both of these characters. The old Playmates line featured a Splinter that didn’t really resemble any version of the character. There was a slight resemblance to the Mirage Studios depiction, but he was kind of his own thing. And there weren’t a ton of Splinters to follow, and none really resembled the cartoon look. As for Baxter, his Playmates version was close, but like a lot of that line there was a lot more detail and grotesqueness with the figure that the cartoon chose to ignore. Playmates also wasn’t that concerned with scale so even though he was a fly he was the same size as basically everyone. For the cartoon, they took the already short Baxter Stockman (he was the same height as the turtles, pre-mutation) and shrunk him further when he was mutated resulting in a rather diminutive villain. They also gave him a sweater vest, but kept the bowtie, which just further separated him from the action figure.

Enter: The fly!

I get the sense that Splinter is the figure fans are most excited for, but I want to talk about Baxter first. I touched upon it a bit in my review of the Super7 Baxter Stockman, but this character was one of my favorites in the cartoon. And since I never got the original toy, it actually made me drawn to him more. He was used sparingly in the show, and he was able to be a sort of perfect villain for the show because he could be threatening, funny, and even sympathetic. He was as much a villain for the turtles as he was for Shredder, whom he blamed for his transformation into a fly. And I love the design! He’s got that big fly head with tiny wings and those purple appendages coming off of his back. He’s just a fun design.

Aww, he brought flowers!
And he brought a friend.

For this figure, NECA absolutely nailed it. First off, I love his size. Like a lot of characters in the show, he could be inconsistent in how he was portrayed, but generally speaking, Baxter should be shorter than the turtles. And he is here as he stands around 4 3/4″ when standing upright. The proportions also look pretty good with Baxter having a rather large head given that he has those big fly eyes. The paint though is where this thing shines. The way NECA painted the eyes is especially striking. This line does a great job of really giving the impression that these characters stepped out of a television set, but Baxter might be a new highwater mark as far as that goes. And I think it’s partly due to the fact that Baxter is basically fully clothed as the shading NECA has utilized for this line works really well here. NECA also matched all of the hinged pieces to the appropriate color this time around, so no paint-flaking that reveals the wrong color underneath as we saw with Leatherhead and the Triceratons. Oh, there’s still plenty of flake though as NECA continues to paint over joints, but at least once removed it doesn’t leave behind an eye sore.

“Hey, dude, you’re lucky I left my fly swatter in my other shell!”
“Lucky, am I?”

Little Baxter comes packed with an impressive array of articulation. Mine did feature some pretty stiff joints out of the box. Some of that is likely due to arriving rather cold since it did come by mail to the north east in January, and some of it is just the usual assortment of stuck joints this line is known for. Strangely, the joint that gave me the most trouble out of the box was the head which is just a simple ball-joint. I held him under running, hot, tap water for a bit and was able to get it to move. It sounded like there was some paint or something just holding it fused and once broken his head spun just fine. He has good rotation up there with a little ability to look up, but he can look down quite far which is useful if you intend to place him on a flight stand. His shoulders are pretty standard, ball and hinges, but at the elbow he features NECA’s somewhat unique double-joint. There are two hinges at the top and bottom and the arm can swivel at the top joint. He can bend well past 90 degrees as a result, but be a little careful as after the head this was the part that was toughest to free up. The hands are pegged in and can swivel. There’s also a hinge, but the hands sit fairly deep into the cuff of his dress shirt so it doesn’t do much. There’s what seems to be a ball-joint at the waist hidden under the vest that allows for some rotation and a little pivot. The legs are secured via a ball-joint, but they lack the usual amount of swivel we see in this line. He can swivel his thighs maybe 45 degrees or so, it’s not much. The knees are double-jointed and his feet are hinged and can rock side-to-side. The feet are also stuck pretty well on mine, so be careful. Lastly, Baxter has those wings and extra limbs on his back which are all attached via a ball-joint and hinge. I wish NECA had added additional hinges to the purple “arms” and some pinching articulation at the claws, but they’re largely just decorative.

I hear people enjoy comparisons.

Baxter is able to move around quite well which comes in handy since he has plenty of stuff he can be posed with. For starters, Baxter comes packaged with fisted hands, but he also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of trigger finger hands. I’m glad NECA gave him trigger finger hands since it could have been argued he didn’t need to come with them since his main weapon, the trans-mutation ray, doesn’t have much of a trigger. You may recall this weapon from the cartoon as it allowed Baxter to mutate Shredder into a fly and Michelangelo into a gerbil. It’s mostly white and features a dial on the rear of the gun by the sights that allowed Baxter to select what animal he wanted to apply to his victim. It’s well-painted and looks great, though I wish that dial could actually move. Mine has a black blemish across the top too that I hope to rub off. Baxter’s hands are painted purple and are pretty stiff so it’s probably not a bad idea to heat his hands before trying to insert this gun into them lest you want ugly purple smudges on it. Baxter also comes with his computer buddy who helped him escape Dimension X. I don’t remember if he had a name, but he’s basically a computer monitor with attached keyboard. The screen is a lenticular image so he can display different emotions and it’s pretty cool. He has an opening for a socket underneath, so I’m curious if NECA will sneak a body into another pack for him, even if it’s non-articulated. The doku flower is also included, which poisoned April in the same episode Baxter debuted his fly form. I’m actually not sure if this is a Baxter accessory or a Splinter one, as it could be the gazai plant which was used by Splinter to cure April. Both plants looked identical in the episode. What will likely entertain people the most though is the included fly Shredder and gerbil Mikey. Both are non-articulated, but they look pretty great. The paint is applied well and Mikey is actually quite cute.

“What the devil?!”

It’s an impressive haul for Baxter, and like I said, I appreciate NECA including proper trigger hands with him so he can also wield any of the other guns from the show (like the small handgun that apparently belongs to Splinter, but kind of looks like the gun Baxter used in “Enter: The Fly”) with ease. Maybe some wanted a goofy accessory like a stack of sugar cubes and I know people are aching for Mousers, but I suspect those will be included one day with a human version of Baxter. I’m happy with this loadout and it’s cool that his computer buddy could even just function as a computer in a display for someone like April, if it’s so desired. The inclusion of the trans-mutation ray also makes it more fun to compare this figure to the Super7 version since that one came with the same weapon, albeit, unpainted.

Your ninja training has begun!

Baxter is impressive, and his box-mate Splinter is much the same. He stands basically at the same height as Baxter with his ears taking him up to approximately 5″. This is a depiction of Splinter from early in the show when his fur was a lighter brown and his kimono a deeper magenta. In later seasons, his fur would change to a much darker brown and his kimono lightened to a shade of pink, or maybe it just looked lighter by comparison. This is my preferred look though and it makes the most sense since the main turtle figures we have feature that olive flesh-tone from the show’s early seasons. Splinter has a rather stern and serious expression on his face which is appropriate for the character. NECA’s toon shading they utilize is blended really well with the sculpted fur which is different as it’s usually more pronounced. I think it works quite well. There’s a minor paint imperfection on my figure where a blob of the light brown is present on the back of his neck, but it’s partially hidden by the kimono. His body doesn’t have the toon shading on it and is painted the darker brown as it’s hidden by the kimono. His hands though are cast in the light brown so it looks odd when his wrists are visible. The kimono itself is a soft goods addition which I think is the way to go with this figure. I just wish NECA had done something different with the belt as it’s just a black ribbon tied in a knot. It sits too high on the character’s chest as his lower abdomen is very round making it hard to put it in the right place. A plastic belt like the old Playmates toy or the more nylon one Super7 used might have worked better. Or they could have sculpted a channel for the belt to fit in. It would have made the figure look a bit ugly when disrobed, but who is going to display Splinter without his kimono? They also could have just made the figure less round which probably would have worked the best.

Well, he apparently didn’t put much thought into their names.

The articulation on Splinter comes largely as expected. He has articulation at the base of the head and where the neck meets the torso. It’s very stiff on mine even after heating it multiple times so I’m not sure if this is just my figure or if the articulation is doing what it’s supposed to. He can look down, but I can’t really get him to look up and turning his head is also a bit challenging. It’s hard to get just the head to turn without the lower joint trying to as well. And that one is sculpted fur to fit over the body so it’s a bit rough and definitely not a fun joint to mess with as it feels like it’s rubbing quite a bit on the torso. His jaw is articulated, but mine looks miss-aligned. It’s like he has a cross-bite and I’m tempted to see if I can get it into a better position with a heat gun, though I’d probably have to remove the soft goods lest I want to set them on fire. The arms are standard joints at the shoulder and feature double-joints like Baxter’s. They move very well considering you have to contend with the soft goods. My only concern is that the top pin holding the elbow joint together on the left arm of my figure looks pretty jacked up like it was damaged during insertion and pushed in too far. I’m only pointing this out because it seems to be rather widespread with this figure. He moves fine right now, but I’m definitely being careful there. The wrists are the same peg and hinge joints we’re accustomed to. There is a diaphragm cut and the legs are joined with standard ball-joints. The shape of his rump prevents him from kicking back, but he can kick forward and balance on one foot so ninja kicks are still on the table. His knees are double-jointed in a very rat-like manner as they angle backwards. There’s a hinged joint at the ankle and also a toe hinge. Thankfully, that ankle joint is cast in white so no paint blemish down there, but the toe hinge is a bit ugly as there’s a gap between the wrappings and toes. Lastly, Splinter’s tail is connected via a ball-joint and moves much better than any of the other tails we’ve seen in this line. It’s also a wire with plastic sculpted over it so there is some bendy quality to it. It’s not a lot, but better than the movie Splinter from NECA.

Splinter, I think it’s upside-down…

Splinter probably won’t demand a ton of posing ability from most collectors, but he is a ninja and should be able to move like a ninja. I think NECA did just okay in that respect. I really wish they could have figured out a scheme that allowed him to cross his legs in a meditative pose or got some more torso articulation into him as well. I feel like they could have taken advantage of the fact that this is a robed figure, like they kind of did with the movie version, to fit torso articulation into him that may not have been super aesthetically pleasing, but would have been covered up. He looks the part, which is most important, he’s just not quite the homerun I was expecting after seeing the promotional images.

That’s a lot of stuff for both figures.

Even more so than Baxter, Splinter is loaded with extra goodies. He comes with gripping hands instead of fists, but also has five extra hands to work with. I should clarify they’re more like relaxed gripping hands as he has a set of tighter gripping hands he can swap for. He has a set of what I would call martial arts posed hands, or maybe even meditative hands. One even looks like Bart Simpson’s infamous Touch of Death. The other is a two-finger pointing hand. And lastly, he has a right, single-finger, pointing, hand. All of the hands are painted light brown and feature sculpted fur and claws, though the claws are unpainted (which is consistent with the show).

When a walking stick literally won’t cut it.

Splinter has all of those hands because he has a lot of stuff to hold. The relaxed gripping hands work great with his books and scroll. He has two books, one is open and features depictions of the artists that inspired the names of the turtles and the other is closed. The scroll, which is from an episode of the show and did something, is unfurled and he can hold it via either end. He also has his walking stick which the relaxed hands can fit over for standing poses. The tighter gripping hands come into play with the sword and gun. The sword is the Sword of Yurikawa taken from the episode of the same name. It looks a lot like one of Leo’s non-stylized katanas, which is to say it doesn’t really look like an actual katana. It has a yellow-gold hilt and short blade, but best of all, it comes with a flaming effect piece which is cast in translucent orange plastic and slides over the blade. It’s pretty cool and if you prefer your Splinter to be less of a pacifist this should work. If you think that blade is too elegant though, there’s a gun. I don’t recall where this gun came from, but it’s a small pistol. Splinter also has a Yin Yang medallion that he can wear and a dojo mat to meditate on. The mat is kind of cool as it’s made of a springy, foam-like, material instead of paper of cloth. Lastly, we have a little rat. It might have made more sense for a Hamato Yoshi to come with a rat, but I’m not complaining. The martial arts pose hands can even allow the rat to sit in Splinter’s palm.

When necessary, Splinter can turn up the heat.

That’s a lot of stuff, and there was so much in the box that NECA had to put the extra hands on their own, separate, tray and tape it to the underside of the main bubble tray. It’s something I really appreciate about NECA and this line as when figures seem to come in under budget they fill the set with extra stuff until they hit their standard baseline. They could have just shipped a set with a larger profit margin than usual, but didn’t, and that’s cool. I give a lot of credit to brand manager Trevor Zammit for spending probably far too much time with this cartoon to find all of this stuff and to director Randy Falk for encouraging him. Of the two figures, I think I prefer Baxter as he both looks fantastic and has the articulation needed to make him wonderful. I do wish he had a little more articulation in those purple appendages he’s got, and I wish NECA in general would start supplying vertically-hinged hands for proper weapon wielding. And I also largely like what we have with Splinter. He looks like the character from the show, and while I found more room for criticism with him, I still think he turned out well enough. You won’t hear me asking for a better version anytime soon.

And when that doesn’t work, he’s also packing heat.

This puts a capper on NECA’s release schedule for 2020 as far as TMNT is concerned. It was quite a year for the line with lots of frustration, but also lots of damn good toys. Trying to figure out a favorite is an exercise for another day, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next. Next up is a Rat King and Vernon two-pack and I am super stoked to add a cartoon accurate Rat King to my collection. Also announced are the punk frogs, Ace Duck, Mondo Gecko, Muckman, Chrome Dome, and a four-pack of turtles all featuring cloth goods trench coats and new headsculpts. There’s also the cartoon city scape diorama set to ship to those who ordered it last year sometime this quarter. 2021 is going to be busy, but hopefully rewarding. Once again, thanks to those in the collecting community who helped me secure this set and good luck to the rest of you. Remember, don’t feed the scalpers! Good luck, and happy hunting!

At long last, the family is together.

NECA TMNT Cartoon The Wrath of Krang!

Bring the wrath!

We’re back for 2021, and right now it looks like a lot like 2020 as we have a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure to talk about – Android Krang! Hopefully, this doesn’t mean 2021 is a lot like 2020 going forward, but if it’s going to copy anything from 2020 then let it be the toys. There were a lot of toy releases in 2020 that caught my fancy, so much so that this blog is practically a toy blog 11 months out of the year and a Christmas blog the other month. As long as the toy releases remain this good, then that’s fine by me!

One of the weirder characters from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is Krang. It’s easy to lose sight of just how weird he is because he’s in nearly every episode. He’s overexposed so it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he’s largely portrayed as a rather large, thick, dude in a Speedo with a brain in his stomach. Krang was obviously inspired by the Utrom from the original line of Mirage Studios comic books, but in the hands of Fred Wolf Productions he became quite an intriguing character. An oversized brain with a face and tendrils, he was there from the start and Playmates quickly introduced an action figure into its toyline. That version of Krang was depicted in his “bubble walker,” which was basically a bubble with robot legs he could sit in. The toy also had robot arms that could be attached to it, though when it came to the cartoon I do not recall ever seeing such a thing (the bubble walker in general was rarely seen). From the moment we meet Krang in the series, he’s demanding Shredder create a body for him based on some blueprints he keeps waving around. By the end of the original mini series, he has that body and that was the version of Krang we came to know and love.

When NECA first tapped into the cartoon property for a comic con exclusive set, it included Krang with that same bubble walker Playmates had run with for its first version of Krang. All probably assumed NECA wanted to do a proper body for Krang, but at the time no one knew how far the company was going to be permitted to go with this property. When the inaugural wave was first unveiled, NECA referenced the expected body with their version of Krang waving a set of blueprints in action figure Shredder’s face. The following year, the body made its debut! Titled “The Wrath of Krang!” this release marks the second in what NECA calls the deluxe line of figures following last summer’s release of Metalhead. The deluxe line is essentially reserved for larger figures and figures that require their own unique tooling that won’t bare fruit later. Metalhead retailed for $30, while Krang retails for $35 likely due to the amount of accessories included and the figure’s increased size. It’s still a Target exclusive, so if you’re sick of hunting for toys at that store I’m afraid Krang is no different. However, if a figure was worth the trouble it might be this one as Krang in this form is definitely an essential character and one no TMNT collector likely wants to go without.

The only downside to NECA’s retro packaging is you’ll likely want to keep it.

Krang comes packaged in NECA’s Ultimates styled packaging which is the five-panel window box. The artwork on the box is a direct homage to the TMNT VHS releases by F.H.E right down to the font and art style for the characters depicted. Credit for the concept goes to brand manager Trevor Zammit with the actual packaging and illustrations credited to Chris Raimo and Dan Elson. It’s really a sight to behold and definitely hits all of the right nostalgia notes for those who grew up with the property. I’m able to bring myself to toss the standard two-pack boxes, but I can’t trash these ones. They’re just far too charming.

The original Krang (left) really captures the season one look while the new one is designed to fill-out the opening in the body and is more reflective of the other seasons.
The new Krang may be larger, but he still fits in the bubble walker. His tendrils are more secure in his body too, which I assume to is to prevent them from dislodging inside the body.
“Krang, would you shut up about that stupid body!”

Krang is relatively easy to remove from his package and presumably would be easy to re-insert should you desire. Once removed, he stands around eight and a half inches tall before inserting the antenna into the top of his head (which he comes with an extra, in case you lose or break one). Krang is packaged separately from his body and needs to be placed inside the body’s stomach opening. To do so, you have to remove the top half of the body from the bottom above the yellow cavity. The body is pretty rigid and NECA did not include instructions. The easiest way I’ve found to take him apart is to push from the inside against the side wall to release the body from a little tab in each side and front. Once you get one side out, it comes apart easy, but definitely don’t force it or you could scratch the paint. Once apart, Krang can be placed inside it and has a little plug that will hold him in place to a point. He can’t be shaken or turned upside down and expected to stay put, but if you’re sticking him on a shelf he should be fine. There are two joysticks inside the body to simulate Krang’s control over the body and they can slip inside his tendrils. They’re both on ball-joints and can be manipulated which is a really cool touch. The Krang figure is also brand new as the previously released one was deemed too small to work. He has a different expression that I’d say is fairly neutral and his tentacles are shaped to work with the joysticks. He still fits in the bubble walker though, if that’s something you want to do.

Some assembly required.
He looks happy (you’ll have to take my word on that).

The first thing you’ll notice once in hand, aside from the size, is that this guy has a lot of paint on him. NECA seems to love paint with this line and very little on this guy is just colored plastic. Even the body’s flesh tone is paint on top of a similarly colored plastic. The end result is a figure that looks like it was ripped from a cartoon, but it also means he’s susceptible to paint imperfections, chips, and the like. I was lucky to find this figure at retail along with five other sets so I was able to look at them all and choose the best one. Of the six, only two featured minimal imperfections. The others had eyesores on their chest or arms that couldn’t be ignored. Would they have stopped me from buying one had they all been like that? Probably not, but I might have kept the figure in box in hopes of finding a better one later. It’s definitely something to be aware of and if you’re buying one online or receiving via trade or something then buyer beware.

You’ve got to admire Krang’s confidence in his choice of fashion.
The handle and “butt port” seems to imply it’s also been built for fun!

Aside from the paint issues, the only other item to concern yourself with are the joints. I’ve seen many reports of tight or stuck joints, and that’s usually a symptom of the paint getting into them. I didn’t have any stuck joints, but I did have the usual paint flaking from the elbows and knees as I worked them a bit. I probably worked this one less than most NECA releases as his joints were fine on mine and to avoid more paint flaking. I don’t need him to do anything too extravagant, so I didn’t push it. The actual look of the figure is very cartoon-accurate. I like the scale quite a bit and I think NECA settled on the appropriate height and mass for the figure, which is tougher than it sounds as his size fluctuated a lot in the show. And I’m not referring to the few times he literally grew in size. All of the little touches I recall are present too, like the handle on the back of the body and even a port, which I don’t remember, right on his ass. Was this for charging the body? He has red hands, which I believe were quickly changed to flesh colored in the cartoon, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they went back and forth as that show was not a model of consistency. The sculpt is great though, and the only room for criticism resides in the face. When the figure was first shown, he had a more pronounced frown with the mouth shaped a little differently. I’ve seen some express a preference for that, but I don’t really care or feel that one is any more appropriate than the other. The only other oddity is with the eyes in which the left eye slit is larger than the other. This also wasn’t present with the prototype and I have no idea if it’s intentional or not. It’s one of those things that you may not notice, but once you do, it cannot be unseen.

“Bring me my rock soldiers!”
“I said rock soldiers!”

Krang articulates in basically all of the manners necessary, though he’s functionally a bit more limited than most of the other figures in the line. The actual Krang features ball-jointed tendrils that can be popped out if you want to make use of the bubble walker. The body features a ball-jointed head that mostly just rotates. The shoulders are hinged and on ball-joints, but the oversized shoulder pads restrict a lot of the range. The shoulder pads are soft so you can force the arms higher, but keep in mind it will probably put stress on the paint on those shoulder pads. The elbows feature a single hinge, but do swivel. The hands swivel as well and have a hinge, but they sit pretty deep and that hinge is largely rendered moot. There is a waist swivel below the yellow compartment for Krang. It’s a little loose on mine, but I was able to seat it a little better out of the box and there’s no gap issues. The thighs are are on ball-joints and the red underwear or trunks is a soft plastic that can be moved around, but you’re still not going to get a ton of range from that area. The thighs do swivel and the knees are double-jointed. The feet are on hinges and I think they should rock side-to-side, but mine may be stuck and I don’t want to push anything. If this figure is going to have durability issues it will likely be with those feet as I’ve seen a few broken ones on social media. This guy isn’t really meant to be posed in too dramatic a fashion. He doesn’t need to as his size alone gives him plenty of shelf presence since he’s easily the tallest in the line (a title that will be short-lived as NECA is prepping a Chrome Dome for 2021). He can be made to look like he’s swinging one of his arms or aiming a blaster and that’s really all he needs to do. He stands all right by himself, but he’s definitely a top-heavy figure and those tiny feet do not do him any favors. Because of all the paint on him, I think I will also reinforce him with a stand as one fall could really do some damage to the aesthetics of this one.

Ready to bust shells.
For when a gun seems too clean.

Krang comes packaged with a whole mess of optional parts and items. Way more than what came with Metalhead. For starters, he comes packaged with open hands and comes with two sets of gripping hands. One set is a relaxed gripping hand and the other a tighter one. He doesn’t actually come with anything that he needs to grip, but if you wanted to give him a gun or communicator you have the hands to do it. It would have been cool if one of the sets of hands was flesh-colored to match his other appearances in the show and it’s a detail I’m honestly a little surprised NECA didn’t capture. In addition to the hands, he has other attachments that can take the place of his hands. He has a set of lasers that definitely look like something that would be featured in the cartoon. He also has a pair of flails with actual chains that look really neat, though I wish one had a rigid, plastic, chain for style-posing rather than both featuring the real thing which just hangs from the arm. There’s also an axe head that can be attached to one hand and a circular saw to the other. The circular saw is pretty cool as it actually spins, but sadly a factory error means every saw was assembled incorrectly and the back of the blade is exposed. The only way to fix it is to break it and re-assemble as it’s on a peg. The reverse side is properly painted and looks awesome if you have the courage to do it, but I’m still getting there. I’m not expecting NECA to offer replacements and if it does get corrected it will be with the next factory order so we’re probably on our own with this one.

Only slightly more ridiculous than his usual look.
Aww, what a cutie!

In addition to the assortment of weapons, Krang also comes with some fun stuff that’s definitely on the lighter side. Remember the episode where Shredder contacts Krang on their video communicator only to find Krang recently emerged from the shower? If that’s something you do remember fondly, you can recreate that look for your Krang! NECA included a shower cap that rests on his head. Just remove the antenna, put it on, and replace the antenna! There’s a bar of soap on a rope that fits around his neck and a blue, felt-like material to wrap around him for a towel. It’s goofy and I love it and it might make people want to buy two so they can display both versions. Krang also comes with the blue prints for his body and what looks like the Foot Knucklehead. They’re printed on paper and might look nice in a diorama. Lastly, there’s also a mini figure of Baby Shredder. He gets exposed to a fountain of youth or something in one episode and reverts to a toddler. The figure has a great, bratty, expression on his face and even features some articulation. The head is on a ball-joint as are the arms. There’s also a hinge in the middle of his torso so he can sit or stand. The paint is nice and clean and his shoulder blades feature mud, or sand, which is a reference to the episode. It’s silly, but fun, nonetheless.

He’s got a day care business on the side.
PSA from Krang: normalize breast feeding.

The deluxe, or ultimate, release of Krang largely lives up to expectations, which were pretty high for this guy. NECA nailed the likeness and made sure to include a ton of optional, but worthy, accessories. It’s really tough to settle on a display for him because there are just so many options and the desire to have multiples is pretty strong. He looks great beside his fellow rogues or in combat against his enemies and I do get the sense that NECA went the extra mile to really make sure that this figure felt special. And that’s a great feeling to have with any purchase and especially with collectibles. The only drawbacks I really find with him rest with the paint and the saw error is a bummer. There’s no denying that all of the paint utilized for this figure helps give him that cartoon look, I just wish it could be applied more consistently. I also wish it was a little easier to separate the two halves of the figure, but once I have the figure inside I don’t really need to pull it apart anymore. He’s easy enough to reset, it’s just getting his tendrils around the joysticks that often necessitates more intervention.

“So, do we like, look at the head of the brain in the stomach?” “I don’t know, Mikey, just hit him!”

NECA’s The Wrath of Krang is currently a Target exclusive. There is some hope that eventually NECA will offer a made-to-order method of production with this one as it figures to be a figure that’s very much in-demand with collectors, more so than other releases. NECA is currently still working to fulfill all of the made-to-order items it offered last summer so I wouldn’t expect any news on that front until late winter or spring, at the earliest. The other silver-lining though is that both Target and NECA seem to be on the same page with this release and he’s being shipped in far greater numbers than we’re used to. Most stores appear to be receiving one or two cases with each featuring six Krangs. There’s still some confusion on how they’re being stocked though as images have circulated on social media of the shipping containers indicating that these are to be stocked and handled by Target employees. This differs from every other NECA release which is handled by an independent rep. Normally, that rep comes in once or twice a week and puts out new stock and Target employees largely have little to do with it. With them being handled by Target though, this means stock actually gets scanned into inventory and employees may be more willing to help collectors find them. It’s still a free-for-all though as my nearest store appears to still be leaving these to the rep. Target has yet to offer this release online as it has for every other TMNT release so if you’re having no luck locally you at least have an online release to (hopefully) look forward to. And if you’re really having trouble, get on Twitter and look for the CollectorsHelpingCollectos hashtag. Chances are, someone will have access to this figure and will be willing to help you out without any mark-up. It’s a great way to beat the scalpers and it’s nice to know that fellow collectors are looking out for each other. Good luck, and happy hunting, as this is a release not to be missed!


NECA TMNT Cartoon Captain Zarax and Zork

More dino-men to terrorize your turtles.

Lets end 2020 on a familiar topic for the year: looking at another set of NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Wave 4 of NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of action figures based on the vintage cartoon brings to us the most obscure release of the line thus far. Here today is Captain Zarax and Zork, officers in the Triceraton army who appeared in one episode of the show. It was one thing to receive the Triceraton infantryman in the previous two-pack release since that character’s design was based on the Playmates action figure many are familiar with, while these two guys are pretty much their own thing. Yes, they’re still space dinosaurs and triceratops at that so their design is pretty familiar, but their overall look is unique to the show.

Still rockin’ those gator tails.
“I never realized how beautiful your eyes are…”

Given that, some may be wondering why NECA chose to release these two guys relatively early in the line’s life. Well, the simple reason is cost. Both Zarax and Zork should feel very familiar as they’re essentially the same figure as the infantryman. They arrive in the same styled window box as the rest of the line, only now it’s bigger than ever since these guys are pretty beefy. I didn’t bother to include a photo this time around since the packaging should be rather familiar at this point. NECA was able to likely save quite a bit of money by not needing to create new molds. The only new parts are the individual headsculpts, feet, and the soft, rubber, armor that fits over the torso. Some collectors look down on flagrant parts reuse, but it’s hard to argue it’s not good business and it helps keep the price consumers pay for the product down. Plus, these two guys impart enough personality that it doesn’t feel like a disservice to reuse the same mold. Helping that is the fact that both characters feature articulated jaws. I criticized the infantryman for not featuring that, since that figure was considered an “army builder” and an articulated jaw is a simple way to add variety to a display, and I am at least happy to see it here.

“I can siiiiiiiiiing!”
That’s a lovely shade of green.

Aside from the jaw articulation, these figures are the same as the previous one as far as articulation goes. The head features terrific range of motion for what one would expect to be a bulky figure. These guys do have shoulder pads which can get in the way a bit, especially with the yellow one, Zarax, but it’s still quite good. The shoulders are on ball-joints with double-jointed elbows and bicep swivels. The hands are hinged and can rotate while the upper torso has good play due to what is likely a ball-joint underneath the armor. Zork does feature a shoulder strap that goes across his chest and abdomen that you’ll want to watch out for when rotating his upper body. The tail is ball-jointed, but doesn’t afford much range of motion as it sits quite far inside that joint. It basically just hangs out. The legs can go out, forward, and back pretty freely and swivel above the thigh. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball-pegs and can swivel and rock side-to-side. It all works quite well for such big brutes and is pretty typical of this line as a whole.

Zarax’s bladed bracers will probably be the star accessory for most.
Ready for some blade-on-blade action?

Not only is the sculpt for these guys familiar, but so are the accessories. They come with the same layout of hands as the infantryman which is a pair of open hands, a pair of gripping hands that also work as fists, and a single, right, trigger hand. The weapon loadout is also familiar as they come with the rocket launcher, machinegun, and rifle to share between the two of them. The only difference are the blades for Captain Zarax. Pop off his hands and you can slide his bracers off and replace them with the bladed ones which he featured in the cartoon. It’s a cool look for him and I assume many will pose him with his blades and Zork with the guns.

It’s a small army.

The two dinosaurs looks pretty nice and mix well with the infantryman. The quality control appears to be satisfactory as well as the joints were all pretty free and easy out of the box and the paint is largely clean. There’s a little bit of slop on Zork’s armor and around the horns, but nothing egregious. His horns also aren’t level with each other with one pointing lower than the other. I have no idea if that is intentional or if they’re suppose to align, but it’s barely noticeable. Zork has a curious feature too where his hands are the darker shade of green used for the shading on his body. The other two triceratons have their hands cast in the lighter shade of their flesh and I’m not sure why Zork is different. The prototypes that NECA showed off back at Toy Fair featured the lighter green for the hands, so my guess is this was either a late change or a factory error that NECA decided to run with. Both characters also feature the same paint short-comings with the feet as other releases where the hinge is a different color than what is painted over it. In this case, both have these booty things over their feet and when you bend the foot forward the flesh colored hinge becomes visible. It’s the one consistent complaint about this line that I have, but it doesn’t appear like one that is going to be corrected anytime soon. My Zork also has the green of his flesh peeking through the foot covering along the inside of his ankle and handling the two figures will produce a lot of yellow and green paint flakes. Don’t eat them. Zarax’s bladed gauntlets are also a bit tricky to get on, but it wasn’t too bad. There’s a notch cut into them so they go on properly. I am left wishing the blades were a bit longer though. I saw numerous comments about their jaws being hard to work with, but I guess I lucked out because I’ve had no issue there, but buyer beware.

I’m desperate for shelf space, and these giant tails don’t help.
The view from the turtles’ perspective is looking rather dire.

These guys may not have been high up on anyone’s “wants” list from the show, but it’s hard to argue they didn’t turn out well. Both have a pretty mean presence on a shelf as they’re big, dinosaur, men. I wish that NECA had changed up the weapon loadout a bit, especially considering the other set was meant to be an army builder so we’re really swimming in these weapons now. On the plus side, if you want to pair Bebop and Rocksteady with their weapons (the rifle and machinegun were both handled by the pair in the cartoon) you should have plenty of extra laying around if you got this and multiple versions of the prior set. And you get yourself a little Triceraton squad.


Dec. 25 – Sonic Christmas Blast

Original air date November 24, 1996

It’s Christmas morning, and if you woke up to a tree packed full of presents you have only one person to thank for that – Sonic the Hedgehog! What? You didn’t know that Sonic took over for Santa back in 1996? Oh, well find yourself a comfy chair and a plate of chili dogs while I tell you the tale of An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas Sonic Christmas Blast!

Back in 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog was so popular that he warranted two separate cartoon series: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and the more plainly named Sonic the Hedgehog. Adventures was the direct-to-syndication cartoon and aired on weekday afternoons, while the other cartoon aired on Saturday mornings as part of ABC’s block of cartoons and came to be known as Sonic SatAM. Both cartoons were produced by DiC and both featured everyone’s favorite nerd (at the time), Jaleel White, as the voice of Sonic. The executive producer on both was Andy Heyward, who you may recall was also the executive producer for The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. He may be the first person to work on official productions of both Mario and Sonic, which I guess is pretty cool. While the Saturday morning program had a more serious tone, the afternoon Adventures was more of a typical screwball comedy where the wily Sonic outsmarted and outwitted his nemesis, Dr. Robotnik (Long John Baldry), on the regular.

Sonic has arguably never been as popular as he was in 1993. That’s because he had a host of games on the Sega Genesis that were well received. In 1996, Sega was promoting the Sega Saturn console and looking to unleash its mega-popular hedgehog on that machine. The game was to be called Sonic X-treme, and in order to market it, someone got the bright idea to commission a Christmas special. It would be in the style of Adventures and would be produced by DiC, though it would no longer be in conjunction with Bohbot Entertainment. The problem was, the game was never released. Sonic X-treme was cancelled, but Sega still had a cartoon it paid money for and intended to air. The solution: simply change the title!

This one is like a regular episode of the show, but it’s Christmas!

Sonic wasn’t leaving the 16-bit world in the dust just yet as Sega was prepping a title for the Genesis: Sonic 3D Blast. It was an experimental game that attempted 3D on the aging Genesis hardware via an isometric perspective. If you do not remember it there’s a good reason: it was terrible. Bad game or not, it was still worthy of promotion so the Christmas special was re-named Sonic Christmas Blast and released on VHS and aired on the USA network.

A few days ago we did Mario Christmas, so it only felt right to do Sonic as well. Plus, Sonic has the distinction of being the best movie I saw in a theater in 2020. No, it’s not a fantastic film, but it got to win that coveted crown by simply being the only film I saw in a theater in 2020! Thanks, COVID!

Meet today’s audience surrogate: Ugly Kid. He has no name, but an ugly character model, therefore we shall call him Ugly Kid.

This one starts off with a festive remix of the traditional intro, except most of the footage has been removed and just replaced with clips from the special to come. Boring. It then picks up in the city of Robotropolis, a city from Sonic SatAM that I do not believe was ever depicted in Adventures. At any rate, it doesn’t resemble the city from the other show, it just shares a name.

Something’s not right with this Santa…

Citizens are gathering to view a giant television that is apparently about to broadcast a message from Santa (do they not have malls here?). The camera is rather focused on an ugly little boy with no name (Eric Pospisil). I don’t mean he’s ugly as far as Sonic Society is concerned, just that his character design is rather offensive to the eyes. Santa (Jay Brazeau) appears on the big television screen with a rather important announcement. For one, he’s clearly a robot as he has pins in his elbows and he doesn’t appear to move very well so I am rather suspect of this forthcoming announcement.

Robotnik has somehow become even more insane looking.

And that announcement is that he is retiring! Yes, the unthinkable is happening at Christmas! Not to worry though, for Santa has already named a replacement. And that man is: Robotnik Claus! Yes, the evil Dr. Robotnik is set to take over for Santa and he is introduced to a stunned audience. For some reason, he looks like a homeless Santa as his suit fits rather poorly exposing his hairy gut and his shoes are torn. Robotnik’s first announcement as Santa is that this year things will be different. Rather than Robotnik Claus delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls of the world, they are to deliver presents to him! The madness!

Judging by that smile on Ugly Kid’s face, it would seem he was initially hopeful about this whole Robotnik Claus thing.

Scratch (Phil Hayes), the robotic chicken with the incredibly annoying voice, and Grounder (Garry Chalk) are positioned as cheer leaders for Robotnik Claus, but they annoy him more than support him. We then have it confirmed that this world does indeed possess malls as we see Robotnik Claus seated in a chair with a line of children waiting to see him. Ugly kid from earlier hops on his lap and Robotnik rather enthusiastically asks the child what he’ll be giving him for Christmas. The kid responds by punching him in the gut and informs him that he will do no such thing. Robotnik is rather pissed, but apparently he is still only cartoonishly evil as he doesn’t kill the little squirt, but he does order him imprisoned in his robot factory.

Hey! Look! It’s Princess Sal, in her original pilot colors! She looks like she has something to say in this image, but she actually has nothing to say. Absolutely nothing.

Elsewhere, Sonic is gearing up for Christmas with Princess Sally Acorn (Tabitha St. Germain is credited, but the character has zero lines). Apparently Sally gave Sonic a fancy ring last Christmas and he gave her squat, so he’s dead-set on getting her a bunch of stuff this year, even though she apparently wants nothing. Before she can utter a word of rebuttal, Sonic takes off with his buddy Tails (Chris Turner) to go do some shopping. While he runs, he decides to jump up and grab onto a tree branch for no particular reason and just dangle there. A bird in its nest takes notice of Sonic’s ring that Sally gave him which features an unusual marking. Ah, he grabbed the tree as a plot device since this ring is going to be important. Logical.

These two clowns are up to no good, but at least they’re well dressed.

In town, Scratch and Grounder are going door-to-door Sheriff of Nottingham style to collect presents for Robotnik Claus. They confront one poor sap who claims he has nothing to give, so they tell him they’ll be taking his house. And not in a way a bank would, but by literally using an excavator to take the man’s house while he begs them not to. Vicious.

Oh, good. Ugly Kid made it out of Robotnik’s factory unharmed. I was real worried for a sec.

Sonic and Tails arrive at a mall to find it completely barren. Someone has taken all of the wares and Sonic is apparently out of the loop. Outside, they run across Ugly Kid who tells them that he escaped from Robotnik Claus and informs Sonic of what’s going on. Scratch and Grounder then appear and like good, ineffective, hench-robots, inform Sonic of Robotnik’s plan to take over Christmas and get lots of presents for himself. They also tell him that they kidnapped Santa and used a robot to transfer his role over to Robotnik without a hitch. They even brought the robot with them as proof of their misdeed. They also brought some giant tank too.

Well, at least they seemed to have come prepared. Not that it will make any difference.

Scratch then wishes Sonic and his pals a “Merry Crush-mas!” as he tries dropping a big, spiky, block on the trio. Sonic is too fast for it though, and he goes all buzz-saw and lands in their cockpit. He then controls the giant arm of the tank to position a magnet over them sucking up the three robots and then dropping them to the ground in a heap of parts.

Nothing puts me in the Christmas mood like a pile of broken body parts.

As Scratch and Grounder begin reassembling themselves, while mostly ignoring the destroyed Santa robot, Sonic comes waltzing by dressed as a janitor. He’s a bit like Bugs Bunny in this show in that he can always produce a not-so-clever disguise that fools the bad guy every time. He plays friendly and gets the two to spill the beans on where Robotnik is keeping Santa before splitting, but not first without revealing his identity to Scratch and Grounder and smashing them to bits again with a garbage can.

Why does he have a butt?

Scratch and Grounder head to the home of Robotnik which is currently being outfitted with many, many, chimneys. Robotnik is even demanding more of his robot minions for he wants enough chimneys on his home so that every citizen in the city can enter his home at once with big sacks of presents. The brainless duo flags down Robotnik with the bad news, and they’re informed that they can no longer expect a Christmas card this year. Robotnik then orders his defenses be increased while also informing the duo that they are to bring him the most important of Christmas presents this year: Sonic the Hedgehog! Hey, that’s the same thing my kid asked for!

Some “scary” looking robots.

Sonic and Tails are shown in a cold environment heading to the location of the kidnapped Santa. It’s surrounded by Swatbots, but they do not at all resemble the Swatbots from Sonic SatAM. They just look dumb. Sonic gets past them rather easily and finds Santa in a frozen cell. He tells Sonic they need to get to his workshop fast if they intend to save Christmas.

A clever use of exponents.

At Santa’s workshop (apparently titled Ho cubed), the heroes find out that Robotnik Claus has already paid a visit to the workshop and stolen everything! Santa is rather despondent, but Sonic thinks there’s still time to recapture the presents and save Christmas! As they sit and think, Santa notices Sonic’s ring. He recognizes the marking on it from the cave Robotnik had kept him at (how convenient!) and they return to consult some glyphs. Apparently, Sonic needs to complete a series of trials to unlock the secret of ultimate velocity. I don’t know how Santa got that much out of the wall, but it should fill some time.

Well, that was hardly a challenge.

They head to the location of the first trial: Ice Pick Peak. Sonic merely has to race up a mountain – no problem. Trial number two is to snowboard down Calamity Cliffs. This is amusing since the Mario Christmas special rather prominently featured a snowboard as well, and it too was orange!

Nothing’s more “X-Treme” than snowboarding, man!

As Sonic snowboards, Scratch and Grounder spy him and place a giant bear trap in his way. Sonic sees it, and just swerves out of the way spraying a bunch of snow in their face which buries them with the bear trap. Sonic then grasps a hang-glider and soars over the pair and dumps his snowboard on them.

This Santa is a real buzz kill. I think I like Robotnik Claus better.

The last piece of the trial is a bike ride. Sonic rides over the frozen tundra dodging moving icebergs. The animation is offensively bad and little of interest occurs during Sonic’s ride. When all is said and done, they’re back at Santa’s workshop and Sonic has apparently attained super speed. He didn’t physically receive anything, there was no flash of light, he just is faster, I guess. Santa still thinks all is for naught though, but Sonic is ever the optimist!

I am legitimately shocked at the absence of exposed butt-crack.

Sonic speeds off to Robotnik’s home where the jolly, fat, man is rummaging through the presents under his tree. He’s in an impossibly good mood, so it’s the perfect time for Sonic to swipe everything! He moves as a blue blur taking not just the presents and ornaments, but Robotnik’s clothes as well, leaving him to stew in his underwear proclaiming his hatred for that hedgehog.

Well, looks like he’s happy. I don’t know what I would have done if Ugly Kid didn’t get to have a merry Christmas.

We then check in on Ugly Kid, who is in his living room with a naked Christmas tree. The blue blur whizzes inside and decorates the tree while depositing a large amount of gifts under the tree. The kid can’t believe it, but he knows who to thank. He opens his window and shouts out thanks to Sonic.

Once again, you would think she’d have something to say.

Alone on a snowy hill by a campfire, Sally does her best Karen impression from Frosty the Snowman as she looks cold and lonely. Sonic then pops in with an arm full of presents he promptly buries her under. She says nothing, just looks surprised, while Sonic rambles on about wanting to give her a merry Christmas. He removes a present to expose her head, waves some mistletoe over her, and smooches her forehead before re-burying her. He then runs off before she can even react to his gesture. Honestly, I don’t know why they bothered including her if she wasn’t even going to say a word.

And now Sonic is Santa, how’s that for a resolution?!

Sonic returns to Santa’s workshop to celebrate a Christmas well done. There he receives some rather shocking news: Santa does indeed intend to retire! Sonic can’t believe it, but Santa informs him there’s no need to worry, for he has found a suitable replacement: Sonic! Tails slaps a hat on his head proclaiming him Sonic Claus. He seems unsure at first, but one look in a mirror seems to convince Sonic that this is the way. He and Tails then stand and wave at the camera while Sonic wishes us an “X-tremely Merry Christmas,” the one relic of the original title, as the credits roll.

And that’s the story about how Sonic came to be Santa Claus! If your tree is looking rather bare and has been for years, that’s likely because you’ve been leaving out a plate of milk and cookies as opposed to chili dogs and Mountain Dew (I just assume Sonic would do the Dew). I suppose I should have filled you in on that important piece of information prior to today, but there’s always next year!

Sonic Christmas Blast is a terrible Christmas special. Things just happen to advance the plot, and almost everyone is dumb and annoying. Sonic is fine, and I have no issue with Tails, but all of the other characters are just too stupid to even be funny. I’ll give it credit for coming up with an original plot. It’s sort of like The Grinch, except Robotnik is direct and open about his thievery, with a dash of unconvincing trickery too. It’s still not entertaining, and the resolution of Sonic becoming Santa is rather preposterous. I guess it’s the kind of thing you can do when you know there are no more episodes of this particular show coming.

I will say, as ridiculous as he is, I do mostly like this take on Robotnik.

Adding further insult to the special is the fact that it looks pretty bad. It’s definitely in style with Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was also handled by a different animation studio. Believe it or not, this actually looks slightly better than a typical episode as far as character animation goes. The backgrounds though are terrible, and the non-regular characters (like the ugly kid and various robots) look like they were designed in five minutes, and drawn just as quickly. There isn’t any one scene or piece of animation that I’d call fun to look at while the audio is basically what you would expect of any episode from the show.

If you wish to ignore my warnings and spend Christmas with Sonic, Sonic Christmas Blast is X-tremely easy to come by. It’s currently included with a subscription to Amazon Prime so you can freely stream it there. It’s also available for free on YouTube along with apparently every other episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and in great quality at that. It also was released on DVD and will probably be in discount racks tomorrow for five bucks, but the only folks who should own this one are Sonic diehards and they probably already have it.

This concludes the 2020 edition of The Christmas Spot! It was a truly bizarre and eventful year and I’ll be happy to kiss it good by in a week, but hopefully these past 25 days have helped bring you a little Christmas joy. Thanks for reading, and merry Christmas!


Dec. 24 – The SpongeBob Christmas Special

Original air date December 6, 2000

When I listed out the best Christmas specials over a week ago, I included the stop-motion A SpongeBob Christmas. And I stand by that as that special is pretty great. Before there was A SpongeBob Christmas, there was The SpongeBob Christmas Special. Confused? Well, there are only so many ways to title a Christmas special. To make things a bit easier (or more complicated) it’s also titled “Christmas Who?” This was a milestone episode of sorts for the now long-running SpongeBob SquarePants as it introduced Patchy the Pirate and his parrot Potty and told the story of how Christmas came to Bikini Bottom. It was also the first double-length cartoon for the show as most episodes are split into two segments. It’s probably not quite double-length though due to the live-action segments featuring Patchy, but you get the idea.

Meet the president of the SpongeBob fan club, kids!

SpongeBob Squarepants was created by the late Stephen Hillenburg, who got a lot of coverage on this blog in 2020 since I went back and revisited Rocko’s Modern Life, a show he was intimately involved with. It was due to the success of that show that Nickelodeon took a chance on a cartoon headed up by Hillenburg himself. Other veterans of Rocko joined him on SpongeBob, including Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence, and his show has largely eclipsed the former in terms of popularity. It’s probably become Nickelodeon’s most recognizable show at this point and I’m not even sure another show could really challenge it for that title at this point.

Do you like alternate titles, because we’ve got one here.

In spite of SpongeBob’s popularity, the show has mostly been a blind spot for me. The show just came at a time when I wasn’t watching the channel, and even though I have kids of my own now, they’ve yet to really latch onto anything on Nickelodeon. Maybe they will in time, though with everything moving towards a streaming format I’m less certain of that. Even though SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t my childhood, I can recognize it for what it is: a pretty solid comedic cartoon. I see a lot of influences from past cartoons in it the few times I watch it, and I’ve never really had much of a reaction to it beyond that.

For today’s special, we’re heading to the home of Patchy the Pirate located in the unfestively warm California (I have a cold weather bias when it comes to Christmas).

Even though I’ve seen very little of SpongeBob SquarePants, I still really enjoyed the stop-motion special so I’ve always wanted to check out this one. It just took me going out of my way to make sure I saw it. Thankfully, I have cable still so I didn’t have to go out and buy this thing, and with 2020 just being a tenacious pile of misery, I actually welcomed Nickelodeon’s Christmas in July programming during the summer. That’s how I finally experienced the first SpongeBob Christmas special. Maybe it’s not the authentic, December, experience it was meant to be, but it also meant I got to re-experience it later in the year too thanks to the wonders of DVR!

The bird is the real star.

After a festive rendition of the show’s theme, the special begins at the home of the president of the SpongeBob fan club: Patchy the Pirate. Played by Tom Kenny, Patchy is happily preparing for Christmas in the not idyllic setting of southern California. Even though there’s no snow to speak of, Patchy’s house is pretty well decorated and he’s got his parrot, Potty (voiced by Hillenburg) by his side as well. Patchy is a pretty conventional looking pirate, while Potty is an intentionally obvious puppet. Patchy is welcoming, like a classic holiday special would be, though he has an antagonistic relationship with his parrot. He’s in the process of making cookies, and isn’t eager to share the dough with Potty.

R.I.P. Potty…

The segment is pretty long and probably overstays its welcome. There’s some visual jokes, like a predictable bubble pipe joke, but little truly lands. I did like that Patchy flips his eyepatch up to read a letter, revealing a perfectly functional right eye, and dons a pair of glasses with the right lens blacked out. The setup for the introduction of the cartoon is created when a letter received by Patchy asks about Christmas in Bikini Bottom, prompting Patchy to tell the audience that the dwellers of Bikini Bottom didn’t always celebrate Christmas. Before we can get to the cartoon though, Potty has to consume the cookie dough, and explode. It leads to the very bizarre image of Potty’s dismembered head suspended in the air while Patchy looks on with amusement. Poor Potty, Patchy is the asshole in this segment and yet it’s the bird who gets blown up.

Well Sandy, if you’re going to live underwater you should expect to get wet now and again.

The actual cartoon begins with SpongeBob (Kenny) outside the home of Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence). Sandy is a squirrel living in the outskirts of Bikini Bottom, and being a squirrel, she needs oxygen in gas form to breath, so she lives in a bubble. SpongeBob is looking to infiltrate the bubble to drop some karate moves on her. I assume this is supposed to be a good-natured prank as SpongeBob doesn’t have a mean pore in his body.

Turns out, oak trees make pretty nice Christmas trees!

As SpongeBob prepares to enter the bubble, he notices Sandy lighting up a tree with lights. Mistaking this for fire (he’s not very smart), SpongeBob grabs a bucket of water and races inside only to douse Sandy herself. She’s rightfully annoyed, but soon realizes that SpongeBob has never seen a Christmas tree before. Not only has he never seen one, he’s never even heard of Christmas before. We then receive a montage of Sandy explaining Christmas to SpongeBob. We don’t actually hear what she’s telling him and can only see her pantomiming various parts of her lesson, most of which appear to have nothing to do with a discussion on Christmas (that’s the joke).

I love Squidward’s energy here.

SpongeBob is quite taken with the whole concept of Christmas (and who wouldn’t be?) and races over to The Krusty Krab to inform the others what Sandy has taught him. There he regales Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), and Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) a tale of Christmas with emphasis on Santa Claus. Mr. Krabs thinks it’s pretty great to hear about a guy who will give you whatever you want for Christmas and he’s eager to write a letter to the jolly, fat, man. Patrick is equally excited and sets out to write a letter to Santa as well.

SpongeBob is shockingly literate.

Squidward is the lone holdout. He finds the story preposterous and refuses to participate. SpongeBob tries to talk him into it, but he’s not coming around. All the while, Patrick keeps interrupting their conversation because his piece of paper has split in half. After he requests a new page a few times, we see what’s causing the problem. Patrick is sitting down with the pencil in between his legs pointing up. He then presses the paper down against the pencil in order to write on it. I’m now curious if he often has problems with the written word in other episodes.

Is he an inventor? I’m so confused by the existence of this competent machinery.

After the letter-writing is over, SpongeBob shows Patrick the machine he’s come up with to deliver the letters to Santa. They place each letter in a bottle and the machine fires it up to the surface of the ocean. It (shockingly) works just fine, and SpongeBob starts sending the letters to the surface. For his gift, he just wants to bring Christmas to Bikini Bottom, but the others want something more material. Patrick wishes to have more paper, and the message in his bottle is clearly ripped in half, while Mr. Krabs wants a pony…with saddlebags full of money. He gets it!

This is probably going to ruin the life of some castaway.

The other townsfolk get involved too and soon the surface of the water above Bikini Bottom is full of letters. Squidward is still holding out, and SpongeBob and Patrick get set to making the town look merry for Christmas via song. It’s called “The Very First Christmas,” and it’s plenty catchy. It’s not as good as “Don’t Be a Jerk,” but it’s fine. During the song, we see SpongeBob and Patrick chop down Squidward’s coral “tree” to set it up in town and decorate it with glowing jellyfish. Patrick is a natural fit for the top of the tree as the star.

Time for an image blitz because there’s a lot going on. First, SpongeBob and Patrick chopping down Squidward’s…tree?
At least they made it look nice.
Mr. Krabs coming in with the high notes.

When the song is over, Squidward is relieved that he can now peacefully go to bed. Only he can’t, because the entire town is outside his house to sing another song welcoming Santa. It’s basically “Jingle Bells” only with the words changed to reflect their Santa-eagerness. Time passes though, and as Squidward sleeps peacefully the folks outside sing all night to no avail. When the morning comes, everyone is still there, but there’s been no sign of Santa. The crowd angrily turns on SpongeBob, who shrinks before their gaze.

So who told them they should all stand outside and wait for Santa? Maybe that’s why things start to go wrong from here.
I admire that one fish in the front row still looking pretty hopeful.
This is how I felt right around noon of every Christmas Day for much of my youth.

Squidward rises to the misery, and is delighted! When the crowd leaves, he races outside to taunt SpongeBob about how wrong he was about Santa. SpongeBob doesn’t put up a defense and just stands there looking miserable. Squidward snaps a photo to remember this moment, and for some reason he gets off by putting his ass in SpongeBob’s face and slapping it. The cartoon literally tells us he’s being a jackass by superimposing an image of a donkey over him.

Squidward, feeling pretty god damn fabulous!
I don’t think SpongeBob can possibly be drawn any sadder.
Whoa Squidward! This is trending towards harassment here.
You’re lucky SpongeBob didn’t give you any advice on where to shove that thing. Don’t you feel like an ass now, Squidward?!

With Squidward’s antics mostly over, SpongeBob hands over the gift he made for him. SpongeBob was concerned that Squidward would be the only member of Bikini Bottom to not receive a present since he didn’t write a letter to Santa so he made him one instead. SpongeBob drags himself away leaving a stunned Squidward to stand there alone holding his gift. He opens it to find a clarinet that SpongeBob had made himself and instantly feels bad. Meanwhile, SpongeBob is miserable as he begins to take down the Christmas decorations he put on his own house as well as Squidward’s.

Raining underwater? It’s a Christmas miracle!
Looks like someone’s been hiding a secret Santa fetish…

Uncharacteristically, Squidward decides he needs to make things right. He goes home and puts on a Santa costume. I have no idea why he had such a costume in his house, but hey, it’s needed for the plot! He calls out to SpongeBob from his roof, before falling, leaving SpongeBob stunned with silent glee.

What’s with that look, Squidward? What did you think would happen?

Squidward gets SpongeBob to snap out of his trance long enough to tell him he’s here to thank SpongeBob for bringing Christmas to Bikini Bottom. He has to endure a pair of hugs from SpongeBob, but the exchange goes well for Squidward as SpongeBob heads back to his house. Feeling pretty good about himself, Squidward turns to enter his own home, but a little girl is standing in his way. She asks for her gift, and SpongeBob then reappears to encourage “Santa” to bestow a gift on this deserving young girl. Not knowing what else to do, Squidward ducks into his house for a present and ends up giving away a monkey wrench.

Squidward was not prepared for this contingency.
And he especially was not prepared for this!
Everyone seems to take their crappy gifts in stride, like this woman who wanted a new hairstyle, but instead was gifted a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve Santa Squid’s problem. A line of citizens has formed outside of his house and they all want a present. He goes in and out of his house getting items and gifting them to the people outside. They’re never what is asked of Santa, but the fish receiving them make do with what they have. They all seem to leave pretty happy, but they also leave behind an empty house for Squidward.

More or less how I feel every year when Christmas is over. Only there’s more stuff, a lot more stuff, in my house thanks to my kids.

With the crowd gone, Squidward removes his costume and wonders why in the world he just got rid of all of his personal belongings just to make SpongeBob happy. Oh Squidward, you just got caught by the Spirit of Christmas! A knock on the door comes from SpongeBob, who excitedly tells Squidward all about Santa, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was Squidward he encountered and not the real Santa. He mostly keeps repeating that Santa has a really big nose, though Squidward seems to take this all in stride.

Apparently someone was watching.

When SpongeBob finally returns home, Squidward notices a letter has been left outside his door. It’s from Santa! It thanks Squidward for bringing Christmas to Bikini Bottom, though makes no excuse for why Santa passed them by. Squidward can hardly believe it, but sure enough, up in the…sky?…is Santa in his sleigh. He’s portrayed with a live-action actor, played by Michael Patrick Bell, and he does a lot of “Ho ho ho’s” and waves. Squidward thinks he’s going insane and returns to his empty house. He breaks out his lone material possession, the clarinet SpongeBob gifted him, and seems to enjoy insanity. Above, we see Santa fly in front of a setting sun.

Santa, surprisingly being played by someone not named John Goodman or Ed Asner.
Squidward’s just taking it all in stride.
Hey look! A twist on the old moon shot!

At Patchy’s house, the special is over. He’s acting out some sea wreck thing and we interrupt him. He finds a present from a reassembled Potty has been left on his head, a nest full of wrapped eggs. Patchy doesn’t seem too interested and is more focused on the mistletoe hanging in his home. He stands under it hoping a woman will magically appear and give him a kiss, but instead Potty comes soaring in to do the honors. The episode ends with Patchy basically running from the sex-crazed puppet. The special ends on an external shot of Patchy’s ranch with a “Happy Holidays” message spelled over it.

A last bit of chaos at Patchy’s house lets us know we’re done.

The SpongeBob Christmas Special is a pretty satisfying piece of Christmas comedy. It starts with a solid premise, and then does a good job of playing with the viewer’s expectations. Squidward was setup to be a Scrooge, and I even found his choice of pajamas to be very Scrooge-like. I thought for sure we were going full parody when he went to sleep on Christmas Eve, but instead we got something very different. Squidward had to learn on his own that wishing misery upon others really doesn’t bring about good feelings in himself. It was sweet to see him affected by SpongeBob’s sadness, and he actually had to learn about Christmas the hard way when he gave all of his stuff away to maintain his ruse. I liked that he wasn’t rewarded with anything material in the end, he just did what was necessary (albeit, in a comedically exaggerated fashion), and found the true meaning of Christmas within himself.

When I saw this outfit I thought we were going full Scrooge. I’m glad I was mistaken.

The odd part of the special is the fact that Santa apparently planned all of this? Did he decide to fulfill SpongeBob’s wish through Squidward? Or maybe we’re supposed to assume that SpongeBob’s unorthodox way of getting everyone’s letters to Santa was simply a flop? SpongeBob did wait until the last minute to get those letters out and Santa is only capable of so many miracles.

The part of the special that didn’t add much for me was the live-action component. I just don’t find Patchy all that funny. I’m also not 7, so maybe it’s just not for me. The cartoon was entertaining, just that component felt a bit long. It doesn’t ruin it or anything, I could just do without.

The Christmas card ending; a tried and true classic.

This Christmas special isn’t as good as the one that follows, but it’s plenty entertaining for an annual viewing. And I feel confident in saying that anyone who likes SpongeBob probably enjoys this episode too. If you have cable, this one should be very to easy to view even this late in the game. It’s possibly available for streaming on Nickelodeon’s website, and it may even air today! It’s also available on various holiday themed DVDs and as part of the second season of the show. It’s also available digitally because it’s SpongeBob, one of the most accessible shows around. If you have yet to view it this year then find 20 minutes today and rectify that.


Dec. 23 – The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! – “Koopa Klaus”

Original air date October 23, 1989

During the late 80s Nintendo was on fire in the US. The Nintendo Entertainment System came storming into living rooms, basements, and dens across the country making Mario and Luigi household names. In addition to video games, there were tons of licensing deals for clothing, school supplies, bedding, you name it. If it could be sold to a kid, then it had a Mario on it. This naturally made everything associated with Nintendo desirable for things like cartoons. Other older video game stars made that leap before Mario and found success, so it’s no surprise that Nintendo was willing to take the plunge as well.

Good old DiC was the first to come calling. By now, DiC is practically on top of the cartoon world in the US. The company has had some big hits while the former Hanna-Barbera juggernaut is starting to flounder and will soon be purchased by Ted Turner. Because of their stature in the world of animation, it wasn’t a surprise to see Nintendo go with DiC. Well, it’s not when you ignore that there are plenty of far more talented animation studios in Japan that Nintendo could have turned to, but their cartoon was clearly being targeted towards Americans so that likely explains the choice.

Danny Wells loves being Luigi.

For DiC’s first stab at a Nintendo cartoon it turned to the Super Mario Bros. It handed things over to Inspector Gadget creator, Andy Heyward, and trusted him to bring Nintendo’s mascot to the world of cartoons. That was hardly a surprise, but what was a bit surprising was the decision to include a live-action component in the show. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! would begin with a segment featuring actors playing the brothers Mario and Luigi. They would have their own plot to untangle that would be setup in the opening act before the show would transition to the cartoon segment. The cartoon featured Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and her attendant Toad as they traveled through the vast Mushroom Kingdom always crossing paths with the evil King Koopa. When the cartoon concluded, the show would go back to the live-action portion where it’s story would progress and then resolve in the final act.

Why did DiC feel the show needed this live-action component? Well, it probably didn’t, rather DiC just saw an opportunity to knock the costs down. Who knows what Nintendo charged for the license, but my guess is the live-action was a lot cheaper to produce than animation. The actual cartoon in each episode is only 12 minutes or so in length. And the live-action part is just shot on a soundstage. There’s no on-location filming, wardrobe is pretty consistent, and they could probably bang out a few of these things in a day. Plus, it also allowed for the show to have some guest stars when the opportunity presented itself.

Monday through Thursday 1989, little dudes like me were “treated” to a Super Mario Bros. cartoon as part of the Super Show.

To add another wrinkle to the program, is that the show was actually 3 shows in one. It was a direct-to-syndication program that aired on weekday afternoons in most markets. Monday through Thursday featured a Mario cartoon and on Friday the Mario cartoon was swapped out for a Zelda one. During the lead-up to Friday, a sneak peek of the Zelda cartoon would be featured too so that when Friday came it almost felt like a re-run. It was an odd setup, but Mario and Zelda were like a packaged deal during this era, if cereal could be believed.

This is not a show with a large budget.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! lasted just the one season before it was replaced with a show based on Super Mario Bros. 3. The show produced 52 Mario cartoons and 13 Zelda ones. It also produced a pair of Christmas segments. One of which is the subject of today’s post, “Koopa Klaus,” in which King Koopa tries to ruin Christmas. The other Christmas segment was the live-action “Santa Claus is Coming to Flatbush.” Why the two weren’t paired up I have no idea. It makes no sense, especially since this one aired before Halloween in 1989 and the other on the more appropriate date of November 29. Instead, this one was paired up with “Little Marios” which is actually one of the more memorable segments for me since it features a ridiculous flashback in which the same actors portray kid versions of themselves. At any rate, it has nothing to do with Christmas so I’m just going to ignore it.

Better than a toilet…

Every episode opens with the very catchy theme song, “The Plumber’s Rap.” There are actually two versions of the rap, the one at the beginning of the show and then a different, much shorter one, that introduced the cartoon itself. Let’s just get it out of the way right now: this show sucks. However, I unironically love “The Plumber’s Rap.” It is perfect for what it is. When the opening credits are done, the episode begins with the first segment in the “Little Marios” plot. Now, I already said I’m going to ignore it, but while we’re here, I’ll just make some observations. For one, Mario is played by former professional wrestler Lou Albano and Luigi by Danny Wells. Both men are, unfortunately, no longer with us. They mostly look the part, I suppose. They’re definitely a little older than how I would have pictured the Mario brothers, but they have the colored overalls, blue undershirt, and big moustache. Albano even shaved his signature beard for the role, which was quite a commitment for him. Their home, which doubles as their place of business, makes no attempt to disguise itself as something other than a set. It’s very open. For some reason, the telephone is always shown in the middle of an actual pizza and it’s covered in cheese and pepperoni. The Mario brothers basically speak in Italian stereotypes and seem to consume nothing but pizza and spaghetti. The show makes very liberal use of a laugh track which makes it feel even more dated than it is.

Behold! Koopa Klaus!

When we get to the cartoon, we get the other opening credits with the modified rap. The lyrics are different and tell the viewer how the Mario brothers came to be in the Mushroom Kingdom (they found the secret warp zone while working on the drain). When the cartoon itself finally begins, we’re dropped into a factory where Koopa Troopas are dumping toys into a machine to grind them up into junk. King Koopa (Harvey Atkin, easily the best part of this show) is decked out in a Santa suit and is delighted to see the toys being smashed. He hates Christmas and he’s made it his mission to ruin the holiday for everyone. The three-headed serpent, Triclyde, approaches and he’s wearing a reindeer outfit. Koopa addresses him as Randolph the red-nosed triclyde. Apparently, Koopa’s sleigh is ready for him and he announces he’s off to Santa’s workshop to bomb it. He takes off with a sleigh full of bob-ombs being pulled by a pair of albatross with bicycle handles for reindeer antlers, a superior solution than what the Grinch settled for.

Mario gets to wear this stupid outfit the whole episode.

Mario and the gang have just popped up out of the ground like fucking Bugs Bunny for some reason in a very cold environment. Mario is dressed for some place much warmer and we find out that Toad (John Stocker) gave him some bad directions which has taken the four to The North Pole instead of Hawaii-Land. It would seem Toad may have done this on purpose for when Princess Toadstool (Jeannie Elias) realizes where they are Toad eagerly suggests they pay Santa a visit. Mario (voiced by Albano, Wells voices Luigi to keep things consistent with the live-action portion) then adds an entry in his “Plumber’s Log” as the gang starts walking towards the work shop. This is an obvious homage to Star Trek, though we never see a physical log book for Mario so maybe he just does this in his head to feel important.

FYI: if you didn’t already hate Toad, you’re about to.

Toad is rather excited about the whole thing with a major focus of his holiday love being the presents. Oh Toad, will you ever learn the true meaning of Christmas? He hopes Santa will give him his present now, which reminds the Princess that she has a gift for the little shroom and pulls it out. It’s a snowboard, and Toad is more than pleased with this development. He zooms around on the thing without so much as a “Thank you,” but the Princess seems to be enjoying this new development that has left her loyal attendant in a more infantile state.

Toad grave. Sadly, it’s short-lived.

The sound of sleigh bells get the attention of the Princess, but when she looks to the sky it isn’t Santa she spies, but Koopa Klaus! He drops some bombs which explode on impact and appear to be a direct hit on Toad. He’s not blown into bits though, he just goes soaring through the air and lands in a pile of snow. His snowboard follows and lands with one end in the ground forming a crude tombstone. When Toad emerges from the snow, he shrieks about his precious present and gives it a hug. The others then surround him and the Princess is rather pissed he doesn’t seem to care about their well-being. When confronted by this, Toad can’t even muster much of a defense aside from “well, it is Christmas” before finally asking the Princess if she’s ok.

This shot of everyone staring angrily at Toad is going to be repeated a lot in this one.

Luigi then rightly forgets about the dumb, little, fungus and wonders what Koopa is up to. Mario realizes that Koopa was flying towards Santa’s work shop which sets Toad off once again. As expected, he’s worried about the toys and the others have to glare at him to get him to add “…and Santa” to the list of things he’s worried about. No one is concerned for the elves.

The icy work shop, and our first animation gaffe of the episode as Mario is depicted in his red overalls.

The gang then comes across Santa’s work shop only to find it encased in ice. I guess somehow Koopa’s bombs can freeze stuff as well as blow up? I don’t know. They’re all pretty shocked at what they see, but worse, there’s no sign of Santa! They then spy Koopa Klaus (and I find it funny they keep calling him Koopa Klaus) flying away with Santa hogtied on the back of his sleigh. Toad starts crying about never getting another present while Koopa (rightfully) laughs his ass off.

That son-of-a-bitch kidnapped Santa Claus!

The Marios give chase as Koopa is heading…to the frozen work shop? I don’t understand his strategy. Mario is also so committed to saving Santa that he’s still in his vacation attire. Anyway, they happen upon a playground and Mario declares it’s a playground for the elves. Usually elves are little old men and women, but okay. Mario especially eyes a teeter-totter, only it’s not what I would call a teeter-totter, but a seesaw. Maybe it’s a regional thing? He tells Luigi to get a block of ice, only it’s too heavy for Luigi to toss over to Mario so he has to hobble it over. Mario then places it on the seesaw and instructs Luigi to jump off of his shoulders and onto the other end. Luigi does as he’s told and the block gets launched through the air and strikes Koopa’s sleigh. He and Santa fall, but Koopa uses his empty bomb sack as a parachute to slow their descent. I guess Mario was counting on Koopa doing that otherwise Santa would have just plunged to his death.

It’s Snoweegi!

When they hit the ground, Koopa keeps a firm grasp on Santa and uses his sack like a wind sail and lets the breeze pull he and Santa across the snow. Mario and Luigi respond with…snowballs. Koopa, who has a big, spiny, shell on his back could probably just weather the storm here, but he actually stops. He catches some snowballs in his sack, then throws it back at the Marios. Mario gets knocked over, while Luigi ends up covered in snow resembling a snow Luigi.

And I bet you thought Bender did it first.

Koopa Klaus carries Santa across the tundra, and it’s at this point I am just now realizing they aren’t leaving footprints in the snow – cheap animation budget! Mario and the others are right behind them, so Koopa does the reasonable thing of using Santa as a taboggan. As Mario and the others watch Koopa race away on his Santa-sleigh, Luigi worries aloud about the potential for thin ice ahead. Luigi, you’re at the North Pole. I’m pretty sure that ice is plenty thick. Toad then says something smart and points out if the ice can hold Santa and Koopa then it must be pretty thick. It must have been standards and practices that demanded they acknowledge the possibility of dangerous ice ahead or something.

This little guy doesn’t have much of a threatening aura to speak of.

The gang slides down on their rumps and crash land on the ice. Koopa then summons his Koopa Flurries, the little ice skating guys from the US version of Super Mario Bros. 2. They enter to the boss theme from the same game and spin-up some ice blocks to toss at the Marios. Their aim sucks, and Mario declares they must fight fire with fire! No, he’s not whipping out a fire flower, but tossing the ice block back at the flurries. Luigi makes the obvious observation that they’re actually fighting ice with ice, while he and Toad help Mario give it a push. All three wind up on top of the block as it whizzes towards the flurries who just…stand there. In tight formation, so we can get a bowling pin joke. No wonder why Koopa always loses.

Looks like certain death awaits you if you go in the cave.

Lamenting the defeat of his flurries, Koopa races into a cave still dragging Santa behind him (Koopa must be absurdly strong considering how easily he yanks this obese man all around the frozen north). The good guys arrive at the mouth of the cave, but hesitate once there. Luigi seems to be afraid of the dark, but the Princess declares the whole world will be a dark place without Christmas! Toad chimes in with a reminder they need to save the presents or some shit, but really this thing is sending mixed messages at this point. It would seem, per the Princess, that there’s no Christmas without Santa. Since Santa is just a jolly fat guy who brings presents, it would also seem that the implication is there will be no Christmas without presents! Hah! Check-mate, Princess!

It’s worth pointing out that it’s only the bad guy who has festive, holiday, attire.

They go after Santa and slide through the cave, though not smoothly. They end up essentially just going through a tunnel and emerge back out on the tundra. Koopa Klaus is above them though with Santa and he’s ready to dump the fat man over a cliff. He also slips into an Edward G. Robinson impression for some reason, as he spells it out. He ends his evil monologue with his catchphrase of the episode, “Bah Hum-koop,” which he shouts over and over until the predictable occurs: he starts an avalanche.

Is the background ice or water? Eh, it’s just a kid’s show.

The horribly animated avalanche falls on Koopa and Santa. In order to save Santa, Mario relies on that tool he’s most famous for, a plumber’s snake! Yeah, not a power star or flower or even a Koopa shell, but a plumber’s snake. He uses it like a whip to retrieve Santa, while leaving Koopa Klaus. When he asks what he’s supposed to do, Mario just makes a diving gesture. Koopa refuses, but has no choice in the end, so he jumps into…the ice? The background looks like more frozen tundra, but the animators layer a splash effect on it and Koopa behaves like he’s in water, but it looks ridiculous. Koopa hauls himself out of the water and onto some ice to feel sorry for himself. He asks “What else could go wrong?” and is greeted by an angry polar bear. We now leave Koopa to die.

Koopa’s new friend.

Back at Santa’s work shop, the big guy is pretty happy about being rescued, but things look dire. Santa (Stocker) doesn’t see how he could possibly unfreeze the work shop in time for Christmas. Surprisingly, no one seems concerned about the elves or reindeer encased in ice. They should be pretty dead at this point. Toad doesn’t give a shit though since he has his snowboard. He races around like a show-off, while Santa cries.

That is one punchable face.

Toad the infinite moron, then asks “What’s wrong?” when Santa walks off to be sad. The Princess has to dumb it down for him, and then Toad gets to flip a switch in his stupid little brain. He hands over his snowboard to Santa and tells him to give it to someone for Christmas. Santa, in an extreme overreaction, embraces Toad and tells him he’s never seen anything quite like the gesture Toad just made. His exact words are, “In all my life, I’ve never seen anyone express the true spirit of Christmas quite like you did.” What an astoundingly stupid thing to have Santa say. The little mushroom donated a snowboard, not a kidney!

Toad using Santa’s beard to dry his tears feels way too clever for this show.

Santa starts crying, and then everything melts because of Christmas. The Princess and Santa spell it out for the kids at home, in case they couldn’t figure it out, that the spirit of Christmas has warmed Santa’s heart to the point where the ice is thawing. It’s dumb, and an easy out. The elves and reindeer even seem fine, and Santa is able to prep his sleigh for Christmas Eve.

Looks like they saved Christmas after all.

Santa is ready to depart, and once again gives all of the credit to Toad for saving Christmas. Never mind that the little brat did almost nothing to actually rescue him from Koopa Klaus. That was pretty much all Mario. He then declares he has a special present for the lot of them and invites them to ride with him tonight to deliver presents. Toad gets to sit beside Santa, while the other three get stuck in the back. Santa is running lean too since he only has four reindeer and apparently two elves. They take to the sky and Santa calls out “Mario Christmas to all and to all a good night!” and does a moon fly-by to close it out.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting the show to have an eight reindeer budget so I’m not even mad about it.

That’s how the Mario brothers saved Christmas. This is a profoundly stupid and cheap Christmas cartoon. I hate the Toad character as he’s annoying even when he isn’t acting like a child and he’s also kind of dumb looking, if I’m being honest. His arc is plainly obvious from the get-go and his selfishness at the beginning is just so over-the-top. Santa should just boot him out of the sleigh when they’re over the ocean.

The rest of the characters are fine, though none are particularly entertaining. Mario, who sounds like he was recorded over the phone or something, is the leader with all of the right ideas. Luigi is just there to be a sidekick and question Mario while the Princess is mostly along for the ride. She explains things, I guess, but in a cartoon lacking subtlety explanation is rarely needed. We don’t get any fun Mario power-ups in this one, and there’s a real lack of bad guys outside of Koopa Klaus. I did enjoy the Triclyde and birds with handlebar antlers, at least.

King Koopa, or Koopa Klaus, is the only redeeming part of the show. He’s over-the-top as well, but it works. He’s just an entertaining villain, even if he’s mostly inept, and the voice of the late Harvey Atkin is just so unique in this role. He and Stocker were pretty much the only voice actors that DiC would hang onto for the other Mario cartoons, as everyone else would eventually be replaced.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is a relic of its era, a licensed cartoon designed to simply boost the profile of the main characters leading to sales of other merchandise. It’s not a good show, and this isn’t a good Christmas special. It is a widely available one though as Netflix currently has the streaming rights. It’s also available, cheaply, on DVD if you for some reason need to own this thing physically. You could also just stream it for free too, as it’s available on YouTube without the need for payment. Like I said, it’s not any good, but sometimes you just have to DO THE MARIO!

Swing your arms…

Dec. 22 – Extreme Dinosaurs – “Holiday on Ice”

Original air date December 24, 1997

After looking at what I considered to be a pretty good cartoon yesterday, I’m feeling like I need to take-in some trash today. It’s to the late 90s we go and the Bohbot/DiC Street Sharks spin-off Extreme Dinosaurs! Ah yes, everything was extreme around this time. Surge was packing the soft drinks aisle in stores, the X-Games were coming to ESPN, and even the Ghostbusters were getting extreme, or should I say X-treme? And what could be trashier than a Street Sharks spin-off? That unapologetic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off started as a toyline and migrated to television and was truly abysmal in almost every way. The characters were just piles of muscles with mouths full of sharp teeth with easy to market personalities. I didn’t even know there was a spin-off until I came across this show, and my expectations could not be lower.

It was a just few days ago we looked at Inspector Gadget, DiC’s first big hit from the 80s when its animation was actually pretty good. Come 1997 though, DiC was all done with good and was only interested in cheap. Extreme Dinosaurs is an ugly show with poor animation, simplistic writing, and adequate voice acting. It was supposed to sell toys, and it shows. The character designs are in-line with Street Sharks in that it’s just muscles upon muscles with a dinosaur head on top. The show produced 52 episodes which aired as part of the Bohbot Kids Network, a package of syndicated cartoons that at one point was featured in about 75% of the US. I have no idea what channel carried this block in my market, but I do remember coming across Extreme Ghostbusters so it must have aired around me.

They’re dinosaurs, and they’re extreme!

The plot for Extreme Dinosaurs is some aliens created humanoid dinosaurs for nefarious purposes. They rebelled and became the heroic Extreme Dinosaurs on Earth. Opposing them are more mutated dinosaurs, these ones all velociraptors (again, this was the 90s and a post Jurassic Park world) that want to accelerate global warming and return Earth to a habitable environment for dinosaurs. The Extreme Dinosaurs live at a ranch/museum in the middle of no where with a kindly old man named Porcupine.

The 52nd and final episode of this dumpster fire was a Christmas episode. Titled “Holiday on Ice,” the evil raptors are taking their talents to the North Pole to set off a bomb of some kind that will melt the polar ice cap and flood the world. The Extreme Dinosaurs need to stop them for the obvious reason of not letting the world become flooded, and because Santa lives up there! Duh!

And you thought Charlie Brown had a pathetic little tree.

The episode begins in a cave with the bad guys. Haxx (Lee Tockar) is working on his letter to Santa. He is apparently the dim-witted portion of the bad guys as he doesn’t seem too bright and almost sounds a tad infantile. Bad Rap (Gary Chalk) enters to admonish him for his foolishness. He also explains their new plan to melt the polar ice caps using some device Spittor (Terry Klassen), the third Raptor of their little team, cooked up. When Haxx questions what this will do to Santa, Bad Rap predictably doesn’t care.

There’s something you don’t see in every Christmas special.

At the museum, Bullzeye (Jason Gray-Standford), a pteranodon, is trimming the Christmas tree when Spike (Cusse Mankuma), a blue triceratops, enters the room. He’s confused why Bullzeye would erect a tree in the house, and he goes on to explain it’s a Christmas tree. It would seem Porcupine’s nephew is coming to visit them and he figured the kid would want to see a Christmas tree. Not knowing what holiday the kid is into though, he’s also prepared by having a menorah on hand and even some Kwanzaa decorations!

“All right, lunch is here!”

Outside a car pulls up and some guy in a blue suit drops his kid off. The kid is Matt (couldn’t find a credit for him, but he sounds super familiar and it’s driving me nuts) and he’s not very happy about spending Christmas Eve at this place. His uncle Porcupine (Chalk) comes out to greet him followed by Spike and Bullzeye. The kid has basically no reaction to these dinosaur guys which is just insane! They look horrifying! Any reasonable human, kid or not, would flip out at the sight of these things.

The most unrealistic thing about this image is the fact that the kid isn’t shitting his pants.

They head inside and because the kid doesn’t seem to care I just assume his dad prepared him for them. Nope, as he ends up suggesting they take off their masks. The other members of the team, Stegz (Sam Vincent, you can probably guess what kind of dinosaur he is) and T-Bone (Scott McNeil), a T-Rex, introduce themselves, but also have some information. They received a distress signal from way up north and want to check it out. Matt wants to go too so he grabs his coat and hat and the gang heads out.

The dinosaurs meet the “mysterious” Claus Nicholas. What a dumb, fucking, name.

The dinos ride some flying contraptions to reach a research station in the North Pole. A bald guy with a white beard and lab coat greets them and he too is apparently not frightened by gigantic dinosaur creatures. Oh, and he’s obviously Santa Claus. He’s thankful the dinosaurs have arrived as he’s all alone for Christmas and noticed a disturbance. They head inside and check out the place, and Matt soon discovers the raptors up to no good when he checks some security terminal. It’s decided that Matt will stay with “Mr. Nicholas” while the Extreme Dinosaurs confront the raptors.

These raptors have style.

The Extreme Dinosaurs head out and at this point I feel the need to point out that these guys are likely cold-blooded and they’re running around the polar ice cap in short sleeves. I know they’re “extreme” and all, but come on! Bad Rap, Haxx, and Spittor are up to something, and it would appear they’re drilling into the ice. They’ve also at least put on some clothing to better prep them for the cold. Bad Rap looks quite nice in his baby blue vest and stocking cap.

Time to get X-treme!

To emphasize their extremeness, the Extreme Dinosaurs descend upon the raptors via snowboards. T-Bone and Bad Rap square-off with each other, as I assume they probably often do as leaders of their respective factions, which results in Bad Rap getting tossed into a snowbank. Declaring it’s too cold for this stuff, he activates some device and a bunch of robot dinosaurs attack. They make the stock “dragon” sound you’ve probably heard in many shows and cartoons (think the Dragonzord from Power Rangers, and the dragon unit from Warcraft II) and quickly surround the good guys.

Oh goodie, robots!

With the cyber raptors occupying the Extreme Dinosaurs, the raptors slip away to resume their operation. The good guys take a bit of a pounding at first, but once they get extreme and hop back on those snowboards the tide of battle turns. They even find one of Spittor’s devices and Bullzeye is tasked with taking it back to Santa before returning to deal with the raptors.

“Ok Matt, lets watch your new friends freeze to death.”

At the research station, Santa (they keep calling him Claus or Mr. Nicholas, but I’m just going to call him Santa because he’s obviously Santa) brings Matt some hot cider while he busies himself at the computer keeping an eye on things. Bullzeye drops by with the device and takes off. Matt shows concern for the dinos since it’s getting really cold out. Santa confirms it’s probably getting too cold, but if anyone can handle it, it’s the Extreme Dinosaurs! Yes, they actually refer to themselves as the Extreme Dinosaurs.

“Don’t get too attached Matt, food is scarce up here so you’re hugging Christmas dinner.”

Santa’s husky enters the room and Matt thinks it’s a wolf at first, but warms to the dog quickly. He mentions how he wants a dog, and Santa replies, “No shit you want a dog. Don’t you think I already know that – I’m fucking Santa Claus!” Ok, not really, but he gets a lecture on doing his chores and showing his father he’s responsible and all of that crap so he can get a dog. And we now know how this episode is going to conclude. An alarm goes off to interrupt their conversation. Apparently now it’s too cold for the dinosaurs, but all they can do is watch a monitor.

I tried to warn them. Cold-blooded and all.

The Extreme Dinosaurs then come upon the raptors who are finishing up with their operation. The snow is really coming down though and everyone sounds cold. Spittor shows off why he has that name, and what all of the hoses and stuff are for on his body, as he blasts the good guys with water. Normally, this would just be annoying, but since it’s well below freezing the Extreme Dinosaurs ice-up. Bullzeye arrives and narrowly avoids the same fate. Even though they have the Extreme Dinosaurs practically dead to rights, the raptors retreat as it’s just too cold. Stegz is then the first to succumb to the cold as he falls on the ground declaring he can’t stay awake. Santa and Matt watch this all unfold and by now the kid is pretty worried.

Santa tells Matt he has to have faith in the Extreme Dinosaurs in order for them to prevail. Matt thinks this is a load of bull, but decides it can’t hurt. Miraculously, the storm stops and the sun emerges. He accuses Santa of being responsible, and he in turn accuses Matt as the frost on the window starts to melt.

Stegz is apparently not extreme enough to handle the heat.

Bullzeye emerges from a pile of snow and looks around for his comrades. He finds them frozen solid, but with the sun now out he’s hopeful. He apologizes in advance for what he’s about to do, and lets out a mighty scream to shatter the ice prison each of his buddies is in. They emerge, seemingly no worse for ware, and Spike passes around a thermos of hot sauce to really get them going. With the temperature a balmy 50 below, the Extreme Dinosaurs set out to find the raptors.

It’s time for another fight, but this time they’re taking it TO THE EXTREME!

The raptors are prepping the last of Spittor’s disrupters when the Extreme Dinosaurs come upon them. Before the detonator can be activated, it’s knocked from Spittor’s hands and the Extreme Dinosaurs take hold of it. Inside the research station, Santa informs Matt he’s figured out the frequency of Spittor’s device and announced he can jam it. A crash outside alerts the two of the rumble taking place, and Matt excitedly races outside to see the Extreme Dinosaurs in action.

Matt: a kid who is clearly not extreme.

This proves to be a bad move, as Bad Rap gets a hold of him almost immediately. With a hostage in hand, T-Bone hands over the detonator and Spittor is happy to activate it and plunge the world into a new reality. Unfortunately for him, Santa is ready and activates his own device which cancels it out. When nothing happens, Matt happily informs the evil dinos that Santa messed things up for them. Defeated, they race to their personal flying devices taking Matt with them and toss their last remaining disruptor behind them. They detonate it burying the Extreme Dinosaurs in snow. As they fly away, Matt actually asks Bad Rap if they’ll be okay and he shoots back, “I certainly hope not!”

“Don’t worry about it. People go missing all of the time up here at the North Pole.”

The Extreme Dinosaurs emerge from the snow to find Santa. Bullzeye is especially upset that the raptors got Matt, as he just wanted to help the kid be less jaded, as he puts it. Santa assures him that Matt has come a long way and has learned to believe in others. The dinosaurs are skeptical, but Santa leads them back inside assuring them that Matt will be back in an hour.

Ahh yes, the bad guy moved to do good on account of Christmas.

Inside the research station, the dinosaurs can be seen pacing about while Santa sits contently at a computer. Spike informs him the hour is up, but Santa informs him there’s still five minutes to go. T-Bone expresses his displeasure at this course of action, but a knock at the door gets their attention. It’s Haxx, and before the Extreme Dinosaurs can “fossilize” him, Matt runs in waving them off. Haxx has apparently brought him back in exchange for something, and Matt promised him he’d be able to leave unharmed.

Always a good move to give Santa a hug when the opportunity presents itself.

After Haxx departs, T-Bone reminds the others (and us) that it’s Christmas Eve. They need to get the kid home as Spike invites Matt to ride with him. Before he boards Spike’s personal transportation thing, he informs him he has one last thing to do. He runs over to Santa and gives him a hug and thanks him for his lesson on believing. He also hands Santa a note, and I think we can figure out what the deal between Haxx and Matt was. Santa gives him a wink and a chime sound effect is even played when he does it which always means magic. Matt and the dinosaurs then head home. Except for Bullzeye who stays behind to request a favor of Santa that we’re not privy to just yet.

Uncle Porcupine should probably give that cider a sniff.

Back at the ranch, Matt is excited to tell his uncle what happened, but also upset that Bullzeye is apparently going to miss his first Christmas Eve. Spike tells him not to worry, and gets him some cider. Later, Matt is passed out on the couch beside a now shirtless Spike (this is kind of weird) who is watching TV. A Santa report pops onto the news and we see that Santa has apparently traded in his eight reindeer for one pteranodon. Matt wakes up to recognize that it’s Bullzeye pulling the sleigh, and Spike reminds him he better get to bed before Santa arrives.

A puppy – who would have guessed?

The next morning, Matt steps out onto the porch to get the paper. There he finds a little dog with a ribbon tied around him. He’s pretty excited and knows this is the work of Santa Claus. His uncle is there to suggest that maybe the dog is a stray as people apparently often leave them here (probably for the dinosaurs to feast upon), but Matt knows better. His dad arrives to pick him up, and he’s surprisingly not pissed about the whole dog thing. He tells Matt he can keep him, and everything is wrapped up in a neat, little, package.

Sadly, the show was cancelled before it could do a proper Kwanzaa special.

After Matt leaves, the Extreme Dinosaurs are able to reflect on their first Christmas a bit. Spike is actually disappointed they have to wait a whole year to do it again, but Bullzeye informs him that Kwanzaa starts tomorrow!

The lesson here is it’s okay to take a hostage as long as you return them unharmed. At least, as far as Santa is concerned.

Elsewhere, Haxx finds a little tarantula under his makeshift tree. Apparently this is what he asked Santa for and he’s delighted that Matt gave Santa his list. Spittor walks in to throw cold water on his moment saying the bug probably just wandered in. Bad Rap also enters to suggest the whole Santa thing is nonsense since he didn’t get what he wanted: a boiling, hot, warming, trend. Haxx informs him that he probably didn’t get what he wanted because he’s on Santa’s naughty list, and Bad Rap responds by throwing one of those disrupter things at him. Only he misses and hits the wall of their cave causing a bunch of lava to come flowing in. As the three take shelter, Haxx explains to Bad Rap that he got what he wanted after all and he reasons he must not have been a bad, little, raptor after all. Bad Rap responds by saying if he wasn’t bad, he’s going to start being bad right now and chases Haxx. And that’s apparently the joke the series decided to end on.

Well, I went looking for a trash cartoon and I mostly found one. This episode of Extreme Dinosaurs hits on a lot of the Christmas special tropes we’ve come to know (and love?). We get a bratty kid who doesn’t believe in Santa who ends up learning to not only believe in Santa, but in everything, apparently. The kid is so bratty that towards the end Spike even tells Porcupine he thought his nephew sucked, which actually made me laugh out loud. And in order to reach that end we get to watch a pair of warring factions of mutated dinosaurs do battle and out scheme one another. The animation sucks and so do the character designs. I could see how these creatures could make for interesting toys, but as cartoons they mostly look awful. T-Bone looks like an oversized Poppler from Futurama. I will say the bad dinosaurs looked better than the heroes, but not by much.

The Santa radar from the news broadcast is the closest we get to a proper moon shot.

As far as Christmas goes, for an episode that takes place at the North Pole there’s very little Christmas to be found. We basically just get the beginning and end which features some decorated interiors and that’s it. We don’t even get to see Santa fly in front of the moon with his snazzy dinosaur ally! It’s fine though, and I did appreciate the winter clothing worn by the bad guys.

I had a little fun laughing at this one, but I’m not going to tell you that Extreme Dinosaurs is a good show. Or that it’s even worth watching. If you want a dose of 90s extreme then go for it, I suppose. No one is protective of it, so just punch the episode title into your search engine of choice. This is sometimes just labeled episode 52, and if you actually want to relive the Extreme Dinosaurs experience in its full then worry not as this episode was only the final episode in broadcast order. Production wise, it’s in the middle and feels like it’s pretty stand-alone at that. I don’t think Matt ever returns, which is probably why I can’t confirm a voice credit on the role, and it’s the only Christmas episode the show did. What a pity.


Dec. 21 – Buzz Lightyear of Star Command – “Holiday Time”

Original air date December 16, 2000

When Pixar set out to create competing, fictional, toys in its debut film Toy Story it settled on cowboys and space rangers. The thought being that once upon a time cowboys were the most popular fantasy toy among boys, but were soon replaced by fantastic space voyagers once real-life space travel became possible. In order to really set the mood for the film, Pixar created Buzz Lightyear. He had a fictional back story that felt like it came right off of the back of an action figure blister card in 1990. He had a fictional TV show in the film, though we saw little of it. He had a nemesis, and the lore of the Buzz character was added to for the sequel, Toy Story 2.

Both films were a huge success for Pixar and Disney. And since the films were popular with kids, it meant licensing was super easy. After all, every character in the film was a toy! Toys were created and sold and even more money was earned. Pixar didn’t stop there though. Kids liked Buzz and they had interest in the fictional lore of the character that the films only touched upon, so why not turn that into a real world cartoon series? That’s how the world ended up with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. This is the story of the fictional Buzz created and sold to kids like Andy of Toy Story. He’s supposed to be a cartoon in that universe, so in our real world he too is a cartoon (and because animating the show like a Pixar film would probably be way too expensive). The only thing the show couldn’t do was preserve his voice, since star Tim Allen was either too expensive (probably) and also probably didn’t want to be tied down to an animated series.

Enter Patrick Warburton, who has a better voice for the character than Allen himself. He’s a natural fit for the regal, yet brash, space ranger that is Buzz Lightyear. The show was, like many Disney Afternoon shows that came before it, a direct-to-syndication order. And like DuckTales and Gargoyles, it premiered in an extended format as a mini film of sorts which spanned multiple episodes when aired on television and could be sold at retail and marketed as a movie. The show was part of the One Saturday Morning block and also aired on week day afternoons (though not as part of the famed Disney Afternoon) from 2000-2001 and likely in reruns there after across various Disney platforms. For a long time, it was the only Pixar television series, though Disney+ is expanding that. It also has the distinction of being one of the few hand-drawn, 2D, animated offerings from Pixar.

Every episode begins with the gang racing to the TV to watch the show, a cute addition.

As a syndicated program, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command totaled 65 episodes with the 62nd being a Christmas one. We’re going to find out how the denizens of space celebrate the holiday. And if you thought the Santa who lived on earth had it bad, the one we’re about to meet has to deliver toys to an entire galaxy! And since this is a cartoon series with Buzz in the starring role, we’re going to have to meet some unfamiliar supporting characters along the way. The big, baddie is obviously Zurg, but he figures to have some minions or something, I would assume. I’m going into this show pretty cold as it’s a blind spot for me, but it at least has a solid pedigree to start.

This little robot is XR and today he’s going to learn a lesson about giving, because someone has to in a holiday special.

Each episode begins with a cute little piece of animation where the characters of Toy Story are rushing to get to a television set to watch the show. The episode begins on what I assume is the home planet of Buzz, or at least the home planet where the Space Rangers are headquartered. There’s a Santa ringing a bell in the center of town and this Santa is not the real deal, but is actually Buzz. He strikes a nice pose, though he’s lacking in the whole bowl full of jelly department. Fellow space ranger Mira (Nicole Sullivan) is educating her colleague XR (Neil Flynn) about the holiday season. Mira is pretty basic looking as she’s just a blue human, though XR is some sort of robot. He looks kind of like Earthworm Jim to me. He thinks all of this holiday stuff is pretty dumb as he buys a gift for a friend and they do the same (he’s pretty cheap since he cites the gift as being ten bucks) and doesn’t see the point. Mira stresses it’s the giving that matters, and we’re probably setting up for a holiday lesson that will pay off in the end. Some kid then goes running by and mistakes XR for a toy snatching him up and thus proving his point for him. I also can’t help but notice that the characters have yet to say “Christmas” and instead use the generic term “holiday.” It’s sort of weird to have a holiday just named “The Holiday,” but apparently there was no Space Christ for a Christmas to arise from.

Buzz is a pretty solid looking Santa.

They soon turn their attention to Santa Buzz who’s working the crowd. A large man in a red suit soon approaches needing Buzz’s help and it’s plainly obvious that this guy is going to turn out to be Santa (Earl Boen). And sure enough, he claims to be Santa! Buzz thinks he’s crazy and isn’t eager to help him out with whatever problem he currently has. Fellow ranger, Booster (Stephen Furst), then calls for backup and Buzz bails. As Santa calls out to him practically begging for help he refers him to Mira to provide a statement.

But this guy is a better looking Santa.

Buzz then happens upon Booster who too was playing Santa in a different part of town to collect donations. The kids have turned on him though as they recognized the big, red, alien is not Santa. He’s hiding in terror behind his collection bucket as the locals pelt him with snowballs. When Buzz arrives, they stop momentarily to regard him and soon claim he isn’t Santa either. When Buzz insists that he is they ask him to explain how he can possibly get toys to every kid in the galaxy in a single night, and Buzz confesses that he can’t. They ready their arms, and Buzz distracts them with promises of destruction by offering to show off his wrist laser. Problem solved!

Booster is apparently not the most reliable member of the force.

Mira is still taking “Santa’s” statement back in town. He had something stolen, but can’t say what. While Buzz is regaling the children with tales of his exploits until Star Command sends out a signal for him to return to base. They all return to an orbiting space station where Commander Nebula (Adam Corolla) hands over a list of crimes Zurg apparently intends to commit. It’s the usual sort of stuff, but ends with Buzz’s newspaper being stolen on the list which really seems to piss him off.

Diabolical!

The first item was to sabotage the fleet, so Buzz and team head to where they think Zurg is going to strike only to find nothing. Buzz thinks he was scared off, and then a flash of white light and snowflakes appear for a second. When it fades all of the space ships are in disarray. Buzz is in disbelief over what he just witnessed, but has no time to ponder how Zurg did it because next on the list was busting out everyone in a space prison. The fleet is scrambled and Buzz and team are shown surrounding the jail. Once again, a flash of light and snowflakes occurs and when it fades Buzz and his subordinates are surrounded by escaping criminals! And then to top it off, the next morning Buzz emerges from his home in his robe to find his paper waiting for him. He’s comforted by its presence, but as he reaches for it a flash of light and snowflakes once again occurs, and Zurg (Wayne Knight) appears with newspaper in hand. He offers a quick pleasantry and then vanishes!

Never mess with a man’s paper.

Back in town, Buzz is overseeing the lighting of a giant, holographic, Christmas tree. It lacks the charm of an evergreen, but at least it’s environmentally friendly. Soon the man claiming to be Santa reappears to once again request Buzz’s aide. Buzz is in a grumpy mood on account of the Zurg stuff and is in no mood to even entertain this guy’s request. The rest of the team bails too since they think this Santa guy is literally insane. Santa pushes back though and is pretty insistent on who he is. He does allow himself to get frustrated though as he wonders aloud why no one believes him. Clearly, no one realizes they’re in a Christmas special. Buzz then explains he stopped believing when he was 9 because he didn’t get the laser he wanted. Santa knows, and he knows why he didn’t get what he wanted. For one, he wasn’t going to gift a 9-year-old a weapon for Christmas, and two, Buzz was actually on the naughty list for shooting the fur off of his cat’s tail.

Nice tree, would be a shame if something were to happen to it…

Buzz is pretty shocked that Santa knows this as blasting Fluffy was something only he knew about. Now that he finally believes this guy is Santa, it’s the perfect opportunity for Zurg to strike again. He’s going full Grinch this time as he steals the giant, hologram of a tree with the same flashing lights and snowflakes as before. And it’s not just the tree, as Buzz receives a transmission from Star Command that Zurg has hit all of the other planets in the galaxy and stolen everything related to the holiday! They keep teasing the line too that Zurg stole Christmas, but no one actually goes so far as to say it as they still insist on not saying Christmas. They had me on the edge of my seat just waiting for it!

Well this puts every version of The North Pole to shame.

Santa then has Buzz hop into his Christmas tree-shaped spaceship to take him to his work shop on North Polaris. It looks like a snowglobe of a planet, which is pretty near. There Buzz meets the elves, which are actually “LGMs” or Little Green Men (the squishy aliens from Toy Story). They are decked-out in elf attire (and also voiced by Warburton, but with his voice sped up) and apparently serve Santa. They finally spill the beans on what Zurg stole from Santa. Apparently, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Santa uses a device that stops time to deliver presents. He used to use some impossibly fast jetpack contraption, but apparently he’s too old for it. The elves are working on a replacement, but it’s still a week away from completion and Christmas is just two days away. Buzz takes one look at the old hyper-speed accelerator and requests it be strapped to his back.

Buzz is a character that seems quite comfortable in the spotlight.

Buzz radios ahead to his teammates and instructs them to meet him on Trade World. Their the group rendezvous with Buzz and Santa, only the rest of the team still wants to discuss the whole Santa thing. There’s no time though, and Santa demands they help decorate the place for the holiday. As they do, they broadcast out a message designed to infuriate Zurg and basically challenge him to come wreck their holiday again. Zurg sees the broadcast and acts accordingly, while Buzz shows off his new toy. Santa’s hyper-speed whatever thing has been strapped to Buzz’s back and looks ridiculous. It’s a giant snowflake, but the side is what is strapped to Buzz so it extends off of his back twice his height. The other rangers aren’t sure of this plan, but Buzz tells them they just need to go at Zurg when he shows up to make him think they don’t have any real plan for dealing with him.

This jetpack thing is pretty ridiculous.

Zurg then arrives on Trade World flying around in this Dr. Robotnik-like ship. He’s predictably pompous, and I have to say I love the choice of Wayne Knight for his voice. Santa informs Buzz he has to activate the hyper-speed accelerator at the exact moment Zurg uses his stolen device to stop time. Zurg readies his item as the other rangers surround him and engages it. Everyone appears to freeze in place, including Buzz! Oh woe, Christmas is ruined! As Zurg starts wrecking up the place and celebrating his victory, the frozen Buzz comes to life!

This battle and chase sequence is pretty awesome.

Buzz breaks out the one-liners (“I’d say the yuletide has turned!”) and the rock music kicks in. It’s battle time! Zurg chases after Buzz and opens fire with his laser blaster. Buzz does some Matrix moves to avoid it demonstrating his impressive speed. As the two zoom around the city, Zurg blasts a bunch of holiday decorations that Buzz apparently feels compelled to save. Zurg laughs at him and tells Buzz his devotion to his holiday has made him weak. Oh, that’s where you’re wrong Zurg, it’s made him more powerful! They do the Dragon Ball Z thing of zooming around as lights and eventually come to blows.

Yes! Give me more of this!

When the dust settles, Buzz’s hyperspeed accelerator is destroyed and Zurg has lost his grip on the time stopping device, which frees everyone else. Buzz and Zurg meet in a standoff in front of a billboard lit up red as the snow begins to fall. It’s quite an impressive visual. Zurg then finds out he’s out of ammo, and as Buzz declares victory, he summons his little buggy thing which knocks Buzz over. Zurg jumps into it ready to escape, but Buzz tells him he lost since he doesn’t possess the ability to stop time any longer. Zurg points out that the device is broken so Santa can’t either. He’s ruined everyone’s holiday! XR even admits that Zurg has won.

With morale at its lowest, it’s time for XR to get his lesson in believing.

Zurg escapes and the rangers return to Santa’s work shop. They’re all pretty down as without the ability to stop time Santa can’t bring everyone their gifts. XR then asks what Santa did before he had all of this fancy tech, and he shows them. A bright, red, sleigh is summoned and Buzz is pretty taken by it right away. He jumps in and ponders what it uses for fuel, and Santa predictably confirms it runs on belief. The belief in Santa.

Who needs reindeer when you have…lights…on sticks..?

Everyone starts to proclaim they believe, and apparently it takes very little to fill the tank. With Buzz, Mira, and Booster all professing their belief it’s nearly full, but they need one more person. Santa confronts XR about his lack of belief and basically tells him he knows that he believes in him more than anyone, even though he’s rather insistent that he does not. When he asks how Santa knows that, he replies simply that he’s Santa! It’s kind of cheap as the sleigh then fills with power without XR actually declaring his belief. With it at full power, some lights extend off of the front of it. It kind of looks like an old TV antenna that used to adorn every house, but it’s in the shape of a Christmas tree. There are lights where the reindeer would be, though only six. A seventh, red, light is at the tip.

This is like Christmas porn for someone like me.

With the sleigh powered-up, Santa just needs some helpers. Buzz and the gang dawn space helmets and they take off for other planets. Buzz even gets to drive the sleigh! We see a montage of the gang sneaking into houses to leave presents, the best of which is a reverse of a scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. A bunch of fish aliens are sharing a bed in a manner similar to Cindy Lou Who and her siblings. Mira slides a candy cane under the hands of one of the fish kids, rather than stealing a candy cane out from under her.

A toast to a job well done. No whiskey here, though.

The gang ends up back at the work shop where Santa toasts hot chocolate to a job well done. The only thing is one person is missing: XR. Apparently he had a special task to attend to and we cut to a little boy’s room where XR is the actual present. It would seem he gifted himself to the little kid from the beginning of the episode which is…weird. We don’t get to see how he untangles himself from that situation to return to work as the episode ends on a shot of the family’s tree with a Space Rangers logo where a star would normally be. That’s actually kind of weird and is like placing a police badge or something at the top of one’s tree. If you do that at your house well more power to you, I guess. I stick with a star.

If some weird guy pops out of one of my kids’ Christmas presents and goes for a hug it’s not going to be a happy ending.

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a show I wish had existed when I was younger. It has a nice pace to it and the dialogue is rather witty. I love Warburton as Buzz and his supporting cast is solid as well. Knight is fantastic as Zurg and I wouldn’t mind seeing more episodes where he has an even bigger presence. The animation is also way beyond what I expected. Perhaps Pixar had something to prove because everything looks great. The lighting especially is dynamic and I had a great time just taking this one in. The action scene with Zurg and Buzz was set to techno music and gave off some serious Samurai Jack vibes, even though this show actually predates that one.

It’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it, but we do get the moon shot in this one.

As a Christmas story, this one is both fun and odd. The characters never actually say Christmas during the episode. It’s just referred to as a holiday and obviously shares a lot of the same imagery and even an icon. The animators kind of screw up though as the word “Noel” is present during the city fight between Buzz and Zurg. If they were avoiding the term Christmas because it references Christ, then they should have avoided noel as well since it translates to “to be born,” and is a reference to Christ as well. The lack of reindeer is almost bizarre, but I get that they wanted to do their own space thing with it. Santa does have decorative reindeer antlers on his seat in his spaceship, so maybe he had them once upon a time and now they’re dead. I definitely like that the show went for a Grinch plot with Zurg, made all the more obvious by the visual gesture during the montage near the end. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best Christmas special ever, why more shows don’t borrow from it confuses me. We have a million different versions of A Christmas Carol, and hardly any Grinch plots. It’s 50 years old at this point, it’s fair game!

Despite there being no “Christmas,” there’s still plenty of the usual imagery.

This special could have been pretty manipulative since it telegraphs everything that’s coming our way. We know XR is going to come around on the holiday, we know Santa is telling the truth about who he is before he ever opens his mouth, and we also know that the heroes will prevail. The episode does a good job though of not really staying with anything too long. It does come close with the Santa/XR confrontation, and that bit is probably the weakest part, but at least it doesn’t get too sappy. They also made room for humor during the exchange, such as Buzz declaring you can’t force someone to believe in anything followed by him ordering XR to believe in Santa. The montage was a good move, and making the kid get XR as a present is more funny than heart-warming so it works and doesn’t betray the spirit of the show.

Bizarrely, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is pretty hard to come by. Disney never released it on DVD or Blu Ray, and has yet to add it to Disney+. It doesn’t make much sense to leave it off, but for now the company is not being protective with it. That means you can find it online rather easily, though everything is going to be a rip from a TV broadcast. I assume it’s only a matter of time until Disney brings it to their streaming platform, but for now it’s basically YouTube or bust. If you like Toy Story then give it a look. It’s pretty fun and visually it’s definitely worthwhile. I think I even like it more than Toy Story That Time Forgot and if Disney were smart it would start airing that special alongside this one during the holidays. Of course, I’m the type of person that thinks Disney should be running a ton of its holiday themed episodes and specials on ABC this time of year so maybe I’m biased.


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