Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series 1

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It's been a few years, but the Turtles are back once again. Following the sale of the property to Nickelodeon last year, it was pretty obvious that we were about to see yet another rebirth of the franchise that started as a one-off joke a quarter century ago. And of course, a new television series also means new toys. And Nickelodeon has hit the ground running in hopes of making TMNT one of the biggest properties for the coming holiday season, so there are a lot of new toys including figures, vehicles, giant figures and even a new Turtle Lair playset. I'm going to need a bigger toy room!

So first up on the review block is series one of the basic figures which includes nine figures. Of course we are getting the four Turtles and their master, splinter. They are joined by April O'Neil to fight Shredder, a Foot Soldier and Kraang, the new show's version of the Utrom from the 2003 series. (It's too bad that they didn't swap out Kraang for a couple of mutant stooges. It would be 1987 all over again.)

Packaging - 8/10

Playmates has done a nice job designing the new packaging. Graphically they borrowed heavily from the new show. The small size of the packaging means that there isn't much room for character art which is limited to a single image of the four Turtles on the bubble insert. Thankfully the garish color scheme of the 2003 line is gone. In its place the background has a purple city skyline at the top warming to a green backdrop behind the figure. The back of the card has a character description and bio card as well as photos of all of the figures in the first series. Overall, I really like the new design. It's simple but very much in keeping with the look of the new show. But there are two issues. The first is that the cards are quite small, which could be an issue as the line progresses. Already they ran out of space on Splinter's packaging for the instructions to assemble his tail. That isn't a big issue. But with future figures they haven't left any room to showcase special features. The second issue which is going to affect MOC collectors is that the oddly shaped cards means that you have a lot of corners to get bent or otherwise damaged. I didn't have too much trouble finding an undamaged set to keep in the packaging since they have been stocking fresh figures. But most of the figures on the pegs were already showing signs of damage. Keeping a set of these figures in truly pristine condition is not going to be easy.

Sculpting - Shredder 3/10, Turtles 5/10, April 6/10, Foot Soldier, Splinter & Kraang 8/10

There is a lot to like in the first series of figures. But there are a couple of significant issues with most of the figures in terms of their accuracy to the show. And of course, this being Playmates, scale is and issue as well.

The best of the series is a tie between Splinter and the Foot Soldier. Both are quite accurate to the show. Splinter is too short and perhaps a bit too thick at the torso. The Foot Soldier one drawback is the bent position of his left foot. Because of it, he is one of the least stable figures and unless he is positioned standing on the ball of his left foot, his toe is constantly curling into the air.

The Kraang figure is a noble attempt at a very difficult character design. The robot bodies used by the Kraang in the show are very slender in some places. It would be all but impossible to replicate it properly in plastic without the figure breaking apart under its own weight. But the figure does replicate most of the design elements of the character as closely as possible.

April and the four Turtles are all very nice figures. If I hadn't already seen multiple episodes of the show, all of their scores would have been several points higher. All five figures have a nice level of detail. And after 25 years of toys, it's kind of cool to finally have a series of figures where the four Turtles' sculpts aren't all interchangeable. Each Turtle is a slightly different height and has slightly different designs for the shells. Unfortunately the head sculpts for all five figures are off. April's head is FAR too round. The heads for the Turtles on the other hand are not as round as they are in the show. The masks are too thick. In the show, they lay very flat against the Turtles' faces. Finally, the sculpt for the Turtles' feet are wrong. The final design in the show still gives then three toes on each foot, but they are very close together, like an elephant's foot, which gives their feet a very pronounced, round shape. All of these issues are likely the result of changes made to the character designs after the figures went into production. I'm sure that future figures will correct some of them. Already we have the Leonardo figure from SDCC that has the feet corrected. But you aren't likely to buy multiple versions of the regular Turtles, you might want to wait to buy a later set that is more show accurate.

Lastly we have the traditional big bad of the TMNT world, Shredder. Much like the Turtles, Playmates came pretty close to the final show design with this figure. The head is too squat/round and the armor bits are a little too large. Shredder's arm and leg armor in the show is bulkier than past incarnations. But on the figure, the combination of making them even larger and then shortening and rounding off the blades results in a figure that looks less like the ultimate ninja bad @$$ and more like a person wearing a mediocre cosplay costume.

Paint - Splinter 2/10, April 7/10, others 5/10

April is the sole stand out of the first series when it comes to painting. It's not that she is that elaborate of a figure, but each limb has several paint applications for the various parts of her outfit as well as paint for her eyes and hair. And it all looks good. Splinter on the other hand, is really screwed up. There are no quality issues, the colors are just wrong. Most of his face is painted white with a few black hightlights while it should have been black with just a few white highlights. And the fur for the rest of his head is red instead of brown. If it weren't for the fact that Splinter is the only rodent in the show, you would have a hard time telling this was suppose to be him. The paint work for the rest of the figures is decent, but falls short of being impressive. But the quality seems to be fairly consistent. I have only one figure with a problem, a small, stray mark on Leo just above his plastron on the front.

Articulation - Turtles & April 7/10, Kraang 2/10, others 4/10

The articulation for the first series of figures varies quite a bit. The Turtles manage to pack an impressive 19 points of articulation onto their small frames:
  • ball jointed neck
  • rotating and hinged shoulders
  • rotating and hinged elbows
  • rotating wrists
  • rotating and hinged hips
  • rotating and hinged knees
For such short and stout figures, that is fairly impressive with no articulation wasted. Shredder lacks the knee joints and only has a rotating neck, but adds a rotating waist. The Foot Soldier copies Shredder, but doesn't have hinges at the elbows. Splinter is even more limited as he lacks the wrist joints or elbow hinges. April has 12 points of articulation: double jointed hips and shoulders, rotating forearms and waist and a ball jointed neck. The Kraang has a measly five joints: ball jointed neck and shoulders and rotating hips. Overall the quality is pretty good. There don't appear to be any loose joints. I am a bit disappointed in Splinter, Shredder and the Foot Soldier as there really is no reason why they had to forgo some of the articulation that is missing from those figures, particularly for Splinter and the foot soldier's elbows. Finally there is the Kraang. On one hand, I understand that the sculpt is so slender that including joints at the knees, elbows etc... could have caused breakage issues. But those joints are not that much smaller than those in a Mobile Suit in Action figure for example. So it can be done. And when you already have the joints present as part of the sculpt anyways, it is not like they would have had to hide the articulation.

Accessories - Turtles & April 4/10, others 3/10

If the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line has a weakness, its the accessories. Each of the Turtles come with their signature weapons and a small parts tree with a handful of extra weapons as does April. None of the accessories are painted. And of course the extra weapons need to be trimmed from the parts tree and any excess plastic removed to even use them. Splinter has his translucent walking stick and nothing else. The Kraang comes with two styles of guns. Shredder and the Foot Soldier come with throwing stars and swords (two for the Foot soldier and one for Shredder) This is the weakest assortment of accessories I've seen for a series of Ninja Turtle figures since the original figures in 1987. They aren't bad, but Playmates has shown that they can do much better.

Value - April 9/10, Foot Soldier & Shredder 7/10, others 6/10

The basic TMNT figures are selling for $9 to $10 apiece in most stores. With holiday sales coming up, you should be able to another Dollar or more off the regular price. But even at full price, they are a pretty good deal particularly compared to other lines. In truth, the biggest drawback for Splinter, Shredder and the Turtles is the likelihood of better, more show accurate versions coming out in the future. With April, the Foot Soldier and the Kraang, the chances of multiple versions of those characters is probably much lower.

Happy Hunting:

Do you know a store that sells action figures? Then they probably carry the new TMNT line. Toys R Us, Target, WalMart and Kmart all carry them both in stores and online. And all of them seem to be stocking them in fairly large numbers for the holiday season. So the only challenge may be finding a store where they are not already sold out.

Leo carded Leo card back

Don carded Raph carded

Mikey carded Splinter carded

April carded Kraang carded

Shredder carded Foot Soldier carded

2012 and 2003 Leonardos

Leo and Splinter

2012 and 2007 Foot Soldiers

Don vs Foot Soldier

Leo front and back Leo close up Leo weapons Leo sword storage Leo fighting stance Raph front and back Raph close up Raph weapons Raph holding sai Michealangelo front and back Michealangelo close up Michealangelo weapons Donatello front and back Donatello close up Donatello weapons Turtle height comparision April front and back April close up April weapons Splinter front and back Splinter profile Splinter 3/4 view Splinter's staff Kraang front and back Kraang close up Kraang accessories Kraang holding alien Kraang with guns Shredder front and back Shredder close up Shredder weapons Shredder and Splinter Foot Soldier front and back Foot Soldier close up Foot Soldier weapons Foot Soldier swords