Playmates Toys' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy line is certainly my favorite toy line, but it is not everyone's cup of tea.
Fortunately Viacom's ownership of the TMNT license has meant that they are getting other companies into making TMNT toys as
well. One such entry from last year was the addition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle license to the Minimates toy line.
If you have not run into a Minimate before, they are a line of block style figures similar to Lego mini figures which have
been around for almost a decade. While Minimates are mostly know for their comic figures from both the Marvel and DC Universes,
they have also covered a multitude of other comic, movie and video game licenses. For those that like the style, the Minimates
line has provided a way to collect a huge variety of varied properties in a single format. And now the Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles are joining the Minimates line-up.
Packaging - Blind Bags & SDCC Exclusives 5/10, Carded 2 packs 8/10The first series of TMNT Minimates is available in three different versions, each with at least one exclusive figure. The most widely available version is the regular blind bag figures. This assortment was available in comic shops and specialty stores and included the four Turtles, April O'Neil, Shredder, Foot Soldier, Footbot and an exclusive Mutagen Raphael cast in translucent green plastic. There is also an assortment of keyring figures which are also sold in blind bags. That assortment replaces April O'Neil with Kraang and includes Mutagen Michelangelo as the exclusive figure. And while they are called keyring figures, they are the same figures as the other two versions, but with a keyring lanyard included with each that attached to the figure's neck. Finally, the series is also available in carded two packs. All of the regular figures except for Kraang are available in the two packs as well as a translucent Mutagen Leonardo as an exclusive. I wish I could say that all of that variety was beneficial, but in the end I suspect it just breeds confusion. And even if you understand all of the variations, it still means you have to chase down figures from three different sources if you want to get all of the the figures in the series.
There are three different styles of packaging at play here. The simplest is the packaging for the exclusives which come in a simple, clear plastic bag with a sticker on one side. It is very simple, but for something that was just meant as a promotional give-away, it works. The only improvement that I would have liked to see would be for the label to have been in color.
Next up you have two variations of blind bags. Both share a basic graphic design with the four Turtles on the front, surrounded by a number of logos and banners. The back shows the nine possible figures in the assortment. It's one of the nicer designs I have seen for a blind bag. But it is still a blind bag which I really dislike. And ultimately it seems like a rather pointless frustration since you can identify which figure is in each bag quite reliably just by feeling them through the bag. They also screwed up the line up on the back of the bags. Mutagen Raphael and Mutagen Michelangelo are switched on the packaging. Mutagen Raphael is pictured on the packaging for the keyring figures and Mutagen Michelangelo is shown on the packaging for the regular assortment, but they are each in the opposite assortment in reality. It may not seem like a big mistake, but since you can't see what figures are inside, listing the wrong ones on the outside is making things even worse for customers.
The third option for series one is a set of the figures packaged in two packs in more traditional blister packs. The blister packs show off the included figures well, including the accessories. They even have the whole series (minus Kraang which is only available in the blind bags) pictured on the back of the cards. Really the only complaints I have are that the inserts cover more of the figures than necessary and the four Turtles on the upper right corner of the card could stand to be larger so that they would fill more of the space on the top of the card.
Sculpting - Turtles 5/10, April 6/10, others 9/10Much like the Lego mini figures from the past two years, Minimates are designed starting with a generic block figure body. Then by adding a few extra pieces each Minimate is made to resemble the intended character without trying to be perfectly accurate. How well they end up turning out varies from character design to character design and according to the your own tastes. Unfortunately the ones that translated the worst to this style in my opinion were the four Turtles. To Diamond's credit, that isn't for lack of effort. Each Turtle starts with the basic Minimate body. But they got new lower legs and new forearms and hands with sculpted pads and wrappings. Then each Turtle has a unique body piece that goes over the generic body to add the shell and the plastron in the front. Each has the proper belts and shoulder straps and storage for their weapons. Each one also has a separate piece for the mask. That is a lot of work for a Minimate figure. But it still leaves the Turtles with two issues. The first is the use of a cylindrical shape for the heads. That shape works reasonably well for normal humans. But the Turtle's heads are not the same shape as a normal human so the cylinder shape doesn't work as well for them. I don't mind it too much. But I know it really seemed to annoy some people. What I found more annoying is the bulk that the shells and plastrons add. It makes the Turtles fairly rotund. That may be fine for some of the incarnations of the Turtles, but it's not a good fit for the current cartoon version. The material at the top of the body which connects the front and rear sections together also means that there is no space left between the head and body for a neck. Finally, they didn't sculpt the crack in Raphael's shell. It is a small oversight, but an oversight none the less.
The Minimates bodies work better for the human figures. It is a bit underwhelming for April who now has the same build as Shredder, the Foot Soldiers and the Kraang. The Foot Soldier and Footbot share the same body, though the Footbot adds the two extra arms attached to the lower back. They do have a few unique parts, the upper arms and thighs to more accurately match the designs from the show. Kraang is just a regular Minimate body. But that works fine for the robot body. Finally there is the standout of the series, Shredder. With separate pieces for all the armor and cape and a removable helmet, Minimate Shredder is a surprisingly accurate to the show design.
Paint - SDCC Turtles 1/10, Mutagen Turtles 2/10, others 7/10The SDCC exclusive figures have no paint work. They are cast in translucent plastic with the eyes and mouths stenciled on. The Mutagen Turtles are cast in translucent green but they do have painted masks. They are a neat novelty, but the regular versions of the Turtles are much better looking. Actually, all of the regular figures look good and have a impressive amount of paint work. The quality can be a bit off, though there are no serious issues, just a little sloppiness around the edges.
Articulation - 8/10The Turtles each have twelve points of articulation:
Accessories - Turtles, April & Shredder 6/10, Kraang & Foot Soldier 8/10, Footbot 9/10Each of the figures from series one comes with a display stand. For the Turtles it is a manhole cover, while the rest get a clear plastic base. Each figure is also available as a keyring either in a blind bag or the carded two packs, in which case they will each have a chain with a split ring on one end and a string loop on the other to go around their neck. That is an interesting idea. But since the strip loop is large enough to slip off over the heads and the heads can pop off easily enough on their own, they really just seem like a good way to lose a figure. Then you get to the real accessories. Each of the Turtles comes with their signature weapon or weapons and a way to store them. April has her fighting fan. Shredder has a removable helmet. The Kraang has a laser gun with a blade mounted on it as well as a second Kraang which is a Minimate head attached to a base with six tendrils on it. The Foot Soldier comes with a long sword, a short sword and a sickle as well as sheaths for both swords. Finally the Footbot comes with all four arm weapons: spiked ball, saw, drill and scythe as well as a sword. The hand weapons attach in place of the actual hands, so he also comes with two spare hands in order to be able to wield the sword. That gives the Footbot a pretty impressive armory. I just a bit disappointed that he doesn't have enough hands for all of his arms. Still this is a fairly impressive set of accessories for all of the figures. They are fairly nice quality as well. They all have the appropriate paint work. (except for the Mutagen and exclusive figures which are cast in translucent plastic to match the figures) Michelangelo's nunchuks even have metal chains.
Value - Blind Bags & SDCC exclusives 5/10, Two Packs 8/10The blind bag keychains sold for $5 each. The regular blind bags should be about the same price, but since they are sold primarily in specialty stores, the price will vary a bit. The two packs sell for $7.50 each. So that obviously makes the two packs a better deal. Not only is the price lower, but you get the extra keychain accessories that the regular blind bags don't include and you know exactly what you are buying. Of course, if you want all of the Mutagen Turtles or a Kraang figure, you will still need to buy some of the blind bags. The San Diego Comic Con exclusive Leo and Mike promo figures are not available from the convention anymore of course. So the price will vary depending on where you find them on the secondary market. But the prices seem to have come down a bit from last year. You should be able to find them for $20 each or less. That's pricey for a Minimate in a simple plastic bag, especially since only two of the four Turtles were made. But it's not a bad price for a convention exclusive.
Happy Hunting:The toughest series one Minimates to find are the blind bag keychain packs which included Kraang and Mutagen Michelangelo. They were exclusive to Kmart stores. As of right now (end of April 2015) they are still available, though they are hitting clearance. Of course, finding the two exclusive figures is tough since they tend to be the first ones sold. (Another example of how blind bag packaging is more or less pointless since you can identify the figures by touch and pick out the one you want. It's just more difficult.)
The two packs were exclusive to Toys R Us and were sold both in stores and on their web site. They are still available on toysrus.com. The blind bag regular figures were available in specialty stores such as comic shops. If you can find them locally, that is the best option. That way you can try to pick out the figures you want by touch. If you can't find them, www.diamondselecttoys.com sells them by the case.