Awhile back, I decided to rank the various incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from worst to best. Occupying that dubious last place spot were the Turtles featured in The Coming Out of Their Shells tour. That may sound like the title of a TMNT sex tape, but it was something else entirely. If you weren’t around in 1990, that was the height of Turtle-mania. The movie had just come out, the cartoon was into its third and biggest season yet, Playmates was putting out new toys and play sets left and right, it was insane! And to add to it, was a ridiculous stage show where actors would come out in TMNT costumes, dance around, mime playing instruments, while a recording played over the loudspeakers. These guys went all over the country with this show which featured some Broadway elements, I suppose, as it was kind of like a play and not just a concert. There were some pre-recorded segments which would play during costume changes and a bunch of this material even made it to VHS. The soundtrack was sold on cassette and CD while virtually everyone who cared about TMNT in 1990 would be exposed to the classic tune “Pizza Power” via Konami’s Turtles in Time video game.
Now I am not backing down from my ranking. Those costumes are kind of scary. The Turtles have these big, crocodile, maws that flap around with little nuance while their eyes look ready to pop out of their heads. Below the head the costumes are mostly fine as they’re basically rubber suits not unlike what we saw in the films, only a little worse. The performers found it too difficult to run around in shells though, so those were quickly dropped from the costumes and replaced with denim vests. Definitely the weirdest part of the whole thing were the sneakers and leg warmers. Ninja Turtles running around in sneakers just looks weird, especially because their feet are normally quite large, but when you put sneakers on an actor you end up with something much smaller. And while it’s fine if you liked the music back when you were 6, few would try to argue that it’s any good. It’s simple, lousy, pop music. And while “Pizza Power” is a bit of an earworm, I would hesitate to actually call it good.
San Diego Comic Con 2020 couldn’t happen this year, as expected. Did that stop NECA from doing a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures as a convention exclusive? No! That’s how we ended up with this delightful abomination: The Musical Mutagen Tour. Coming Out of Their Shells must have had some interesting rights issues thus necessitating a change in title, but these figures very much are based on that tour. NECA made this set, along with an accompanying swag pack, available via Target since there was no convention. International purchases were also made available at NECA’s online store. I was able to secure a set via Target’s website sale, which sold out of them pretty quickly. Not “seconds” quickly like the cartoon stuff, but definitely “minutes.” It just showed up around me last Friday at brick and mortar and appeared to sell out fast. I was checking Target in the morning and later in the day and it arrived in between visits. The only thing left behind was an empty shelf and the t-shirt box, which appeared to be XL only at the two Targets I frequent.
When it comes to convention exclusives, companies usually like to do something fun or off the wall. Usually these end up being simple variants, but with NECA and its TMNT product it had been more essential than the garden variety con-exclusive. That’s because the license for TMNT made it either impossible, or just plain difficult, to sell action figures at retail. Well, with those restrictions lifting in recent years it’s allowed NECA to do something downright goofy this year. And that’s what a con exclusive should do. These aren’t the easiest, or cheapest, things in the world to get, but they’re also not supposed to be the type of set that everyone needs, let alone even wants. And for these particular Turtles, this is probably a set not everyone wants because as I said these are the worst Ninja Turtles ever. I am a sucker for the stupid and goofy though when it comes to toys, so while I did have to give this one more thought than I had in years past, I still ultimately decided that I wanted this thing. Did I make the right call?
This set comes with a slip-cover over the box. The outer cover has some nice artwork on the front and the reverse has a faux tracklist and a Raphael mask to cut out (which I assume no one will). Slide that sucker off and you have a box that resembles touring equipment. There’s some fun graphics on it and from a distance it looks like a legit case you’d find an amp in or something. It has a window flap on the front held down by tape, cut that sucker and two flaps fold out to reveal the figures inside. The box is meant to resemble a stage and it does a good job of it, though the material is a bit too thin for it to work as a true display piece without a little work. The figures are seated in a plastic bubble which lifts out so the backdrop isn’t marred at all.
This set includes all four of the Turtles and each should feel pretty familiar for NECA collectors. The bodies of each figure are almost identical to NECA’s movie line of TMNT figures with the only differences being the shell and head. The feet are obviously different because they have sneakers now, and they look just as ridiculous in 2020 as they did in 1990. The switch from bare feet to shoes seems to have added a little height to the figures as well. There are soft goods leg warmers in place above the feet and draped over each figure is a denim vest. Each turtle has a different logo associated with them and each jacket features the tour poster graphic on the back as well as that turtle’s name. The vest can be removed pretty painlessly exposing the shell underneath if you don’t like that look, but I for one find this little piece of fabric incredibly charming. The only other change is in the various pads and belts which are all different to match the old stage show. There’s little tassels and such done in plastic, but it’s not super rigid so you don’t have to worry too much about breaking anything. The articulation is the same as the movie figures.
The biggest change lies in that head. Oh boy, is that thing ugly! And intentionally so as these guys look just like their tour counterparts. Each head is essentially the same just with a different colored mask, as the actual costumes were back in the day. Each turtle has a headset glued to their cranium which can be forcibly removed if you want, but would leave behind a garish hole in the side of the figure’s head. There’s a wire coming down from that headset that doesn’t connect to anything, but it’s bendy so you can kind of do whatever you want with it for your display. By far, the coolest thing about these headsculpts is the hinged jaw. Opening these things up just adds a level of horror to them that brings back some memories. The hinge is also well-hidden so that when their mouths are closed it’s almost hard to tell they can even open. It’s a cool feature, and I’m curious if NECA will attempt this with other movie figures, like maybe Secret of the Ooze versions?
Each turtle comes with his own instrument and hands designed to play said instrument. Leo and Mike have guitar-shaped instruments. I say “guitar-shaped” because the string count on each is irregular so neither resembles a proper instrument, but on stage Mike “played” guitar and Leo bass. Donatello has a keytar, which is fantastic, and Raph has some sort of electronic beat machine. Raph also has a second instrument, a green saxophone, as he played that on the VHS release. Of course, nothing is stopping you from switching the instruments around as they work with all of the figures. There are optional hands you can switch in and out if you desire. There’s two sets of wide open hands which are unique to this set and two sets of thumbs up hands which always come in handy during a performance. On the figures, Donnie has pointing hands, Leo loose gripping hands, Mikey tighter gripping hands, and Raph has loose open hands.
NECA did opt to include a few other accessories. You may recall some of the Turtles wearing “eye bling” on some of the promotional material for the show and those are here as well. Leo has this Star Trek-like thing and Mikey has an actual star. Each is included and can fit over the eye of any figure, they simply pop on or off, adding a little extra sparkle. During the original show, the Turtles would also toss these foam, disc, pizzas around and one such pizza is included. It’s appropriately awful looking and is made of a really squishy, pliable, plastic that works well as a foam substitute.
If you’re a stickler for likeness, then you might note that there are some things missing. On the actual figures, the stage versions all wore shirts tied around their waste. It basically amounted to a colorful strip of fabric, but none of the turtles are sporting that here. They also had microphones and stands during the actual production. I know, it makes no sense since they’re all wearing headsets. They wore those during the show too. There was little attempt to make the production look realistic since it was meant to amuse six-year-olds, though I am tempted to see if I can track down some mini microphone stands for my display.
If you were interested in making this set even more “special,” NECA also released an accompanying swag pack. The figure set retails for $125 and the swag adds an extra $25 to the price tag. It’s definitely not essential, but I ended up with one simply because the online order forced it upon me. For what it is, it’s fine. Inside the box is a t-shirt of the box art with “tour dates” on the back corresponding with San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con (which technically hasn’t been cancelled yet, but most assume a cancellation is coming). Also included is a backstage pass lanyard, a concert ticket (courtesy of that famous pizzeria, Pizza Roof), and a set of guitar picks. It’s cute, and kind of excessive, but if you’re a completist then you’ll likely feel compelled to grab both if the opportunity presents itself. If your set came from Target’s website, like mine did, then you won’t get the box the stuff comes in. They just stuff it in the shipping box, which is fine.
NECA’s Musical Mutagen Tour set is a comic-con exclusive done right. It’s goofy, silly, yet strangely endearing. NECA managed to perfectly capture the ugliness of those old costumes as well as the spectacle of the stage show. Whether you have good memories or bad of these guys, this set still manages to tickle the nostalgia bone and it’s just a riot to look at. I love the grandeur of it with the stage backdrop, the detailed instruments, the denim vests, it makes me want to put “Pizza Power” on repeat as part of the display. I suspect anyone who has the Arcade 1-Up Turtles in Time cabinet will probably set that thing to attract mode and try to find a space to display these figures alongside it. Had I gone for one of those it’s something I’d definitely be looking to do. And the good news is, that unlike most of NECA’s TMNT stuff, this isn’t something that should appeal to everyone. If it’s something that is for you though, then you’ll be happy to have it and hopefully you won’t have to go nuts trying to find it.