Tag Archives: viacom

Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012 Turtle Figures Collection 6-Pack

I guess it’s been a long time coming that I touch some 2012 TMNT action figures.

Playmates Toys has been the master toy license holder for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for as long as I’ve been aware of TMNT. In the 80s, the toy line produced by Playmates was excellent: fun sculpts, imaginative characters, crazy set pieces, and tons of vehicles. It was a great companion to the animated series airing on television five days a week and it was a huge reason the TMNT franchise became as big as it did. As the property cooled off and moved on from the old show, Playmates was the one constant that remained. When the turtles jumped to live-action for The Next Mutation, Playmates went with them. When they came back in 2003 with a new animated series, so did Playmates. And it’s been that way for over 30 years now with no end in sight.

Right now in 2022 we’re living through a dry spell for TMNT multimedia. The comics are still going strong, but there are no new episodes of a TV show airing on television and no feature film is set to hit theaters this year. Often times when a toy maker enters into an agreement to be the master license holder for a property there are various stipulations in the agreement that need to be satisfied in order for the agreement to remain valid. One such common stipulation is that new product has to be shipped at set intervals since whoever actually owns the property (in this case, Viacom) stands to make money on units sold and wants its property to remain in the spotlight with consumers. I don’t know if such a clause exists in the license that Playmates holds, but it would certainly explain the vast amount of reissues that have been shipping over the past two years. Rereleases of the vintage figures showed up at Walmart last year while new variations on the Classic Collection figures from 2012 have been available at comic shops and as part of some bizarre two-packs with Cobra Kai. For fans and collectors, some of these reissues have been welcomed, but some have not. The quality has been suspect at times while other releases have left fans scratching their heads wondering just who actually wants some of this stuff?

If you like gimmicky packaging then Playmates has you covered.

I’m mostly in the camp that doesn’t place much value in the recent Playmates releases, but one such bundle did finally get me to pull the trigger. The 2012 animated series that aired on Nickelodeon is one of the blind spots for me as a toy collector. Prior to that series, I had dabbled in basically every line Playmates released. I also watched that 2012 series as it aired and really came to love it. I saw the toys on shelves at various big box retailers and I thought they looked fine, but I just never felt compelled enough to pull the trigger. It was a line aimed at kids, and the Classic Collection did arrive that same year and largely scratched my itch for new TMNT product, so I felt comfortable passing on it. Now though I’m re-watching the series with my kids and I’m being reminded how good it is and Playmates made it really easy to grab some of what I had missed.

6 figures for 50 bucks – can’t argue with the value!

The latest bundle of figures from Playmates centers on the 2012 series. For 50 bucks you get a fancy box decked out to resemble the Shellraiser from the show that contains six, carded, action figures inside. If you’ve been following the Playmates reissues this kind of packaging has become common as they’ve done movie turtles, toon turtles, and even sports turtles in this same style. Once I saw these sets arriving in the hands of collectors I felt comfortable to grab one myself. Some of the others have been rather lackluster, like Bebop having solid black legs and the movie turtle reissues lacking the soft, rubbery, form of the vintage versions so it was hard to predict just what the 2012 reissues would look like. And in general – they’re fine. They’re pretty standard reissues and largely get the job done, but they do have their issues as well.

First of all, the box is pretty neat. It comes in a rather plain, white, slipcase with green font and a Playmates logo on it that basically just exists to protect the inner box. The interior box is fairly sturdy and the art looks great. There’s a turtle on 3 of the sides while Donnie is on top in the gunner position. The turtles are designed to resemble the toys and not the show and there’s even a handle on top of it should you feel the need to bring this to your buddy’s house. Each end is taped closed so you’ll have to break out a knife to get into it if you don’t want to rip tape off. Once opened, the figures can be found stacked 3×3 with some tissue paper wrapped around them. All 6 cards arrived in good condition. They’re the standard blisters from the line sold at retail only the cross-sell on the back has been updated to feature just the six figures in this set: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, Splinter, and Shredder.

While I had to warm up to the look of the CG in the show, the actual designs for these turtles clicked with me right from the start.

Let’s talk about the turtles first. They were the main reason why I decided to grab this as the other two figures were almost irrelevant to me. Like past Playmates lines, these turtle figures are more inspired-by the show they hail from and are not aiming to be true recreations. They’re all generally much rounder in appearance and each turtle is a unique shade of green, as Playmates often does. Leo strikes me as the most neutral as far as his shading goes while Raph is definitely the darkest of the four as his shade of green skews more blue. Michelangelo has a lot more yellow mixed into his coloring while Donnie comes across as more pale. Each turtle has their own unique mask with the traditional color assignments while the kneepads and elbow pads are brown. There is an ever so slight variation to the shade of brown for each turtle and each one also features athletic tape around the wrists, hands, fingers, and feet. Leo’s tape is an off-white while the other three brothers all have brown tape, except the hand tape which is the same across all four. Raph and Mikey’s tape is a pretty close match in shade to their knee and elbow pads, while Donnie’s is noticeably lighter. Each turtle also has a unique belt for storing their weapons with both Leo and Donnie having a shoulder strap.

I’m not going to display them with the box, but I suppose I could.

These versions of the turtles are actually not the 2012 releases, but the updated 2016 reissues. The main difference between the two is that Playmates re-sculpted the feet to resemble the show. These turtles have the all-white eyes of the 2012 release, but the eyes are painted to be much larger and extend outside of the actual sculpted portion. They don’t look as clean, and the paint in general isn’t great. There’s a lot of slop around the masks on my Leo and Donnie while Mikey’s doesn’t appear to be painted all the way to the edge of the sculpted part of the mask. Mikey also has some of the white from the teeth on his chin. Donnie is by far the worst of the four though as his mask was not painted well at all. The rear of the mask is almost all green plastic with much of the purple applied to the top of his head by mistake. It’s a bummer. To my surprise, the gold on his belt buckle is rather clean so he at least looks passable from the front.

That is a brutal attempt at painting Donnie’s bandana.

I never expected the paint to be much to write home about as it’s the sculpt that interests me most with these guys. It’s a very fun look for the turtles and it’s a look I much prefer to that of the actual show which tended to give the characters these blocky looking muscles. Each turtle is individually sculpted which is actually pretty standard for Playmates. They probably expect to sell so many of the base turtles that they’re willing to sink more money into each one. The texture of the turtle flesh is well done with some featuring bumps, scaling, and cross-hatching to add a touch of realism to otherwise unrealistic designs. Somewhat unique to this iteration of the turtles at the time is the fact that each turtle had a distinct shape. Donnie is the tallest at about 4.625″ with Mikey the shortest at an even 4″. Donnie’s head also has an egg shape to it (fitting) with Raph being close to his shape while Leo and Mikey have comparably wide heads. Raph also has a unique crack in the plastron of his shell near his left shoulder. Donnie is the only turtle with a closed mouth expression which is a bit of a surprise since his model in the show had a gapped-tooth smile. They’re all good sculpts and I’m very charmed by them. The only thing holding them back is the paint and some of the materials as the belts have a very plastic look to them and the accessories do as well, which we’ll get to.

I would caution against storing Mikey’s weapons in such a fashion.

One thing Playmates has never been known for is articulation, and these guys are mostly more of the same. They’re certainly more articulated than some of the past iterations of the brothers, but obviously way less than the Classic Collection. Each turtle has the same articulation: ball-head, shoulder ball-hinge, elbow hinge and swivel, wrist swivel, thigh ball-hinge, knee hinge and swivel. What is present at least works all right. The elbows bend about 90 degrees while the ball-hinges at the shoulders and thighs allow for a wide range at both. The only thing I don’t like is the peg in that shoulder hinge which is pretty ugly and really odd. I also wish they had articulation in the ankles as that would really help in posing, but I’m also not surprised to see such a thing missing.

Everyone comes with extra, unpainted, weapons because that’s how Playmates likes to roll.

The accessories for these guys are also pretty standard. Each turtle comes with his signature weapons: swords for Leo, sai for Raph, bo staff for Donnie, and nunchaku for Michelangelo. The weapons are cast in colored plastic. Leo and Raph’s weapons are gray while Donnie’s is brown and Mikey’s is a more orange-brown. They look okay, but it would have been nice to see some paint. Mikey’s ‘chuks are also all plastic, and while they are flexible, stress marks will quickly form on the chain portion if they’re bent and stored in his belt. All four turtles store their weapons on the rear of their shell and it works fine excepting the issues with Mikey’s ‘chuks. Raph’s right hand also features a wider gap between his fingers so he can do the sai grip with the blade between his fingers just fine. In addition to the standard weapons, each turtle also has a weapon rack with extra stuff. Leo has a much longer, tachi-like blade here while Mikey has his chained sickle offshoot which his nunchaku basically transformed into in the show. Donnie has the bladed variant of his bo here as well and Raph has some strange, broken, sai where each is missing one of the side points. Raph also has some hooked weapons, Donnie a chained weapon, Leo various kunai, and Mikey multiple styles of shuriken. The other three also have their own shurikens and Leo also has what looks like a chisel or something. I like the variant weapons that Don and Mikey feature, while the extra large sword for Leo is cool too. Mostly though I assume people display their turtles with their traditional weapons and that’s probably what I will do as well.

Oh yeah, can’t forget about the other two…

If this contained just the four turtles, I’d be fine with it. 50 bucks for four figures in a specialty box is a decent value in 2022, but we do have two other figures to talk about. First up is Master Splinter. Unlike the turtles, he is a straight re-release of the 2012 figure and he basically looks the same. He’s about 4.5″ tall so he’s a little shorter than Donnie despite being taller in the show. He’s also pre-posed like the classic figures with knees bent so he’s actually taller, but functionally not. He’s also way more basic than the turtles. Remember how I said Playmates seemed inclined to sink more money into their turtles? Well, they’re definitely not for the supporting characters as Splinter is barely more engineered than his vintage counterpart. He just swivels at the neck and elbows with ball-hinges at the shoulders and thighs. There are no knee or elbow hinges or even wrist swivels. He does have one additional point of articulation and that’s a swivel at the tail which comes unassembled in the box.

I guess he’s just always going to be looking up.

If Splinter is to be a statue then he’s going to have to make up for it with the paint and sculpt, and unfortunately that’s really not the case. The paint is fairly clean on this guy, but I’ve never liked the mix of white, brown, and black on his face. His legs and body are also gray which seems odd, but they’re not really visible so I guess it doesn’t matter. His left eye doesn’t appear to be aligned properly so he’s a bit goofy looking. I also wish Playmates used a different shade of white for his exposed teeth as they just blend in with the white fur around his mouth. He does have wraps on his forearms which are gray while the exposed fingers and tail are pink. He has one arched foot which is annoying, but he at least can use his tail as a third leg. The kimono is soft plastic, but aside from the black buckle there’s no paint on it which is a bummer. He looks like a toy wrapped in a fruit rollup. His lone accessory is his walking stick which is cast in a semi-translucent green plastic so it at least looks interesting. Otherwise though, he’s a dud and not something I would have bought outside of this set.

Eh, I guess he kind of scales with the turtles.

Our last figure is the sworn enemy of Splinter and the turtles: The Shredder. He’s better than Splinter, but not as good as the turtles. Like Splinter, he’s a 2012 reissue which is a bit of a bummer because Playmates would do a version 2 that was much better. He is at least sized appropriately at a tick over 5″ and his chest is broad and barrel shaped. He’s also fairly on-model with the show. Like the rest, the paint isn’t great. The chest, sleeves, thighs, belt and part of the boots are painted and it’s all fairly uneven. His eyes are also painted white and look pretty terrible. The armor bits not painted are cast in gray plastic and they look fine. The forearm blades are retracted and Playmates declined to include an extended variation which is also a bummer, but true of the 2012 release as well. I do like this look for Shredder as he’s quite menacing, this just isn’t a great interpretation of it.

Shredder at least has some size, but those statue-like legs are just so bland.

The articulation for Shredder is also lacking. His head is locked down to just a swivel while the shoulders and thighs are the same ball-hinge joint the turtles have. He also has hinged elbows and a swivel at the wrist and waist but nothing at the knees. It’s odd to not have at least have a boot cut and I feel like with better articulated legs I could deem this one acceptable. I do applaud Playmates for putting the shoulder pauldrons on hinges so that Shredder has more range at the shoulder, but that’s about it. He doesn’t make up for the lack of articulation with his accessories either as he just comes with a sword and a pair of shuriken. The sword fits rather loosely in his hands which drives me nuts, plus I don’t know if he ever used a sword in the show. I’d much rather he just have extendable blades for his forearms. The updated Shredder Playmates released had a removable helmet, cape, and hinged knees and the forearm blades were sculpted to be extended. He couldn’t retract them, but I’d rather they be extended than not.

Let’s sneak in a comparison before we put a bow on this one. Everyone likes to compare to the ’88 figures, so I’ll switch things up by comparing 2012 Leo to 2003 Leo (left) and 2007 Leo (right). It’s a shame that when Playmates added painted weapons to the 2k3 line that it didn’t become standard for all future lines.

This boxed set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures mostly does what I want it to do. I don’t particularly care for Shredder and Splinter, but at least Shredder has decent shelf presence. I mostly just wanted the turtles and I do like these sculpts and designs, I just wish my Donatello in particular had been painted better. I’m torn on if I prefer the 2012 versions to the updated 2016 ones too. I like the new feet, but dislike the wider eyes on these ones. Still, it probably would cost me more than 50 bucks to acquire a set of 2012 releases so I’ll take the trade-off. By getting these I’m also more likely to dig out more of my vintage stuff to better display my collection. As for the rest of this line, I don’t know if I’ll add to it. I do like the Metalhead that was released, but nothing else comes to mind. Maybe I can talk myself into that 2.0 Shredder. Otherwise, I’m content to let it be unless NECA or someone else wants to take a whack at the 2012 series with more of a collector mindset. I would certainly welcome an alternative to the Revoltech releases, but for now, this should suffice.

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Seasons 1 & 2

51KRQ4AZ4SL._SY300_It’s probably safe to say that there has never been a more controversial Nickelodeon show than Ren & Stimpy. Conceived by John Kricfalusi and his team of writers/animators at Spumco, The Ren & Stimpy show was a throwback to the days of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones when cartoons didn’t need a message or contain any sort of educational content. Beyond the format, there were numerous controversies behind the scenes as well as Spumco was slow to deliver new episodes and John K. was constantly fighting with the censors at Nick over the content of his show, eventually leading to his firing with Nickelodeon/Viacom still holding the rights to the characters. Because of this, seasons 1 and 2 of The Ren & Stimpy Show are easily the seasons held in the highest regard by cartoon fans as they’re the only two series creator John K. worked on. The show would last another 34 episodes after John K’s firing and would eventually be revived in the new millennium when the rights reverted back to Kricfalusi as the short-lived Adult Party Cartoon. Kricfalusi’s right-hand man, Bob Camp, remained onboard with Nickelodeon and there were some good episodes released in season 3 and beyond, but the best was definitely contained in the first two seasons.

Ren & Stimpy was another take on the venerable cat and dog genre of comics and cartoons. The two were designed to play off each other with Ren being the smart, cunning, and less conscionable one, and Stimpy the dim-witted, good-natured character. There was no continuity from one short to the next allowing Ren and Stimpy to hold-down whatever kind of job fit the mood of the short, live in any part of the world, or just plain exist in a more ridiculous version of reality than the next. Sometimes they lived in a house, sometimes a trailer, sometimes a tree, though usually they were poor and sometimes even homeless (as was the case in the pilot). Spumco’s addition to the genre was more gross-out humor, more surrealist imagery, and just out and out lunacy. Save for perhaps Marvin The Martian, most Loony Tunes shorts occurred in reality with anthropomorphic characters. There were different rules for physics, and firearms certainly never functioned as intended, but there did seem to be clearly defined rules. The Ren & Stimpy show shunned such rules. Ren, in particular, seemed to lack a definite form as his face and body would constantly change shape to suit the scene. Expression was important to John K. and his characters often exhibited new and interesting expressions, with Kricfalusi allegedly demanding his animators not repeat expressions in subsequent cartoons. The backgrounds often lacked form and were more interested in surrealism. The pilot, “Big House Blues,” is probably the best example of this. Whether it was by design or to keep costs down, I’m not sure, but it added a unique dimension to the show.

Backgrounds weren't always clearly defined and often used to evoke a certain emotion.

Backgrounds weren’t always clearly defined and often used to evoke a certain emotion.

Aside form the presentation aspects, The Ren & Stimpy Show differentiated itself from other programs of its day and past with its own brand of humor. Violence was a staple of the program with Ren often getting irritated with Stimpy and resorting to slapping him across the face while berating him for being a “fat, bloated, eeeediot!” Even the characters would react to a situation in a violent fashion with their eyes bugging out impossibly far and their brain smashing through their skull. The show also delighted in poking fun at its audience by creating parody commercials for children’s products that really weren’t that far off from the real thing (I bet 90% of the viewing audience wanted some powdered toast). There was also plenty of gross gags throughout the show. The gross humor is probably what the show is remembered for best over 20 years since its debut. If it wasn’t Stimpy’s hairballs making you gag, it was the close-up still shots of characters like the fat lady from “Fire Dogs.” These hyper-detailed, unanimated sights, were another unique feature of the show often utilized to show just how ugly the world of Ren & Stimpy was. There was plenty of scatological humor as well surrounding used kitty litter or even Stimpy’s personified fart.

It should be pretty obvious at this point that The Ren & Stimpy Show was not for everyone. For those of us who grew up with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, it wasn’t such a radical departure but the inclusion of the gross elements turned off a lot of the older generation. Kids like gross stuff though, well, some do. I was probably the right age when the show premiered for it to leave an impression on me. Sometimes the humor was over my head, and it took me several years to notice the not-so-subtle homosexual innuendo between the main characters, but for the most part I got it and it worked for me. And now when I re-watch it, it’s almost better because a part of me is surprised at just how much made it to air and how Ren & Stimpy couldn’t exist in today’s world. Seasons 1 and 2, in particular, hold a special place in my heart. I watched the show until the end, but these episodes are the ones I remember the best and the ones I enjoyed the most. If I were to make a top ten list of my favorite Ren & Stimpy cartoons, all ten would likely come from this set.

The show often utilized highly detailed still shots to illustrate gross imagery.

The show often utilized highly detailed still shots to illustrate gross imagery.

The first DVD release of The Ren & Stimpy Show took awhile to arrive, and when it finally did it was greeted with a mixed reaction. Not because of the episode selection though. Sorted in their original air date order, the episodes span the best of the era. There’s “Stimpy’s Invention” and its memorable “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” sequence. There’s the visit from Ren’s cousin Sven and the absurdity of that ending. The trilogy of Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy are here as well, along with other notable episodes such as “Rubber Nipple Salesmen,” “Fire Dogs,” and “In the Army.” This set basically could be titled the John K. era, and while John K. proved with the Adult Party Cartoon that he didn’t exactly possess the golden touch, the show was at its best when he was in control and voicing Ren. His Ren is a little more sinister sounding than Billy West’s, who voiced Stimpy and would voice Ren for season three and beyond (he also voiced him in a couple of season two episodes, though I am not certain why). The show embodied those surrealist elements more freely under John K’s watch and following his departure the show focused in more on the gross aspects. It lost a little bit of its soul, but I suppose that should have been expected.

The show created other stars other than just Ren and Stimpy, probably none no bigger than Powdered Toast Man.

The show created other stars other than just Ren and Stimpy, probably none no bigger than Powdered Toast Man.

This DVD set’s biggest selling point was the inclusion of the original pilot and the infamous “banned” episode, “Man’s Best Friend,” starring George Liquor. Emblazoned in bold letters on the cover of the DVD is the word “UNCUT” designed to grab the attention of any who see it. What isn’t explained, is that the word only applies to a select few episodes. By the time this DVD was created, Ren & Stimpy were airing on the Spike network in conjunction with the new Adult Party Cartoon. The Adult cartoon was cancelled almost immediately, but Spike continued to air what it dubbed the “Remastered Classics” of old Ren & Stimpy cartoons. Unfortunately, the television landscape had changed and Spike demanded more time for commercials so these remastered classics were less remastered, and would have been more appropriately titled as edited for time. These new masters served as the basis for most of this set and some things were lost. “Ren’s Toothache” seems to be the biggest casualty as much of Stimpy’s oral hygiene sequence is missing, which was an excellent example of the show’s use of sound effects to create an uncomfortable reaction. The other big victim is “Haunted House” and its removal of the insane Bloody Head Fairy. Basically, the cover is a lie and a pretty cheap trick to attract attention. It’s for that reason I actually waffled on buying this set until recently when it was down to around ten bucks. I don’t regret my purchase, but it still bugs me that many of these episodes have been edited and aren’t the episodes I saw as a kid.

At least we now have “Man’s Best Friend” and didn’t have to resort to the internet to view it. It’s not the best episode of Ren & Stimpy, but it’s a solid B+ affair with perhaps the show’s most violent sequence. It’s also nice to finally see the unedited version of “Big House Blues” and the full scenes we’ve been seeing in brief clip form during the show’s opening sequence for years (specifically, Ren drinking from a very gross looking toilet). There’s some bonus content in the form of a brief documentary on the show’s creation and around half a dozen commentaries. Because the show was only a half hour, this set is the type you can basically blow through in a weekend, but it will be a pretty good weekend.

%d bloggers like this: