It's time for something a bit different today. Earlier I reveiwed Jakk's Pacific's second attempt at a giant Ninja Turtle figure with their
Collossal Leonardo figure. But Jakk's also managed to work the Ninja Turtles into some of their other product lines as well. I stumbled upon
one of those last fall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle packs for their 3DIT line. The 3DIT line is a line of build it yourself action figures that
are sold in the craft section of toy department along with a molding machine. You are suppose to load the skeleton of the figure into the
molding machine and melt wax to fill in the gaps on the skeleton. Then you can add stickers to create your own cube headed action figure. Some
of the sets even include weapons. The need to melt wax seems like a needless waste of time and effort as well as a potential mess. But I'm
guessing they had to do that so that they aren't considered actual action figures which would violate Playmates' license. So when I saw some of
the sets on clearance, I decided to pick them up and check them out.
Packaging - 8/10The 3DIT Character Creator sets come in three, six and nine figure packs. All three sizes share a similar packaging design. The white boxes have the green sprayed background colors on the front with all of the figures included in the set shown. The back of the boxes show the unassembled contents as well as a few photos showing the creation process using the 3D Molding Machine. The design is fairly simple, but it does a great job of showing both the completed figures and the actual parts and pieces included in the sets. The latter is important since not all of the sets include the weapons and accessories. So it's nice to see exactly what you're getting in advance.
Sculpting - 4/10The 3DIT figures all use the same body blank. The body, limbs and head are all molded with ribs and gaps to give the wax that you are suppose to apply someplace to adhere. Ideally, once you apply the wax, you get a figure that looks like a Minecraft character with cubes for heads and very angular body parts. That's the ideal. But even if you're careful, there's a good chance that you might end up with an air bubble creating a pock hole in a random spot.
Paint - 2/10Each set includes a different colored skeleton and a matching wax stick for each character. But due to issues with the molding process, you will almost always get a mix of colors. Each figure also includes a set of stickers that wrap completely around the head and cover the front of the torso, arms and legs. That will hide a lot of the issues, but then the ones that are still visible along the sides.
Articulation - 4/10The 3DIT skeletons have seven points of articulation: ball joints at the hips and shoulders and rotating wrists and neck. That's not a lot of articulation, but the range of motion afforded by the ball joints is quite impressive. I't just a shame that they didn't use the same ball joint for the neck as well.
Accessories - Basic Pack 1 1/10, Basic Pack 2 2/10, Mega Pack 4/10, Deluxe Pack 5/10The skimped a bit on the accessories. The basic sets (3 packs) include two shells for the Turtles but no weapons. They didn't even include Shredder's shoulder armor. And Shredder without any blades is something that just shouldn't exist. The Deluxe set provides the best set of accessories with all of the Turtles' signature weapons and their shells. But that still leaves nothing for Leatherhead or the Krang. The Mega set comes with four alternative weapons for the Turtles (a bow, a dagger, a kama and a staff with a blade on the end). It also includes Splinter's cane, Slash's mace, and Shredder's shoulder armor. It's nice that the set has a decent amount of accessories, but it still seems wrong when the Turtles don't come with their default weapons as well.
Molding Feature - 2/10In theory the 3D molding function is an interesting idea. Let kids make and decorate their own figures sounds like a cool idea. And it works a lot better than I thought it would. I was concerned that the wax would be soft. It is a bit softer than the types of plastic usually used in action figures. You can even trim down any extra flashing with just a plastic scraping tool included with the molding machine. But once it has been trimmed, you would be hard pressed to tell it isn't plastic.
But the reality is that these figures are plagued with problems both in the concept and the execution. In terms of the execution, you only get one shot at molding the figures and if you get an air bubble or the wax doesn't get into an area, there's no means included to repair it. After completing all the figures from the sets I bought (roughly 24 in total) I did experiment a bit with repairing a few that didn't turn out well. I was able to melt the wax with a stick lighter without generating so much heat that it would damage or melt the mold or skeletons. So using this I was able to take scrapes of excess wax and fill in small gaps and even mold half of a torso that hadn't received any wax while in the molding machine. But I don't think to many parents are going to want to encourage their kids to play with open flames to make repairs. But once you get the hang of making the figures, the final results are sort of cute.
The biggest issues come from the fact that they cut corners on the molding machine. First of all, there is no way to clean it out fully after you create a figure. And the wax sticks contain more wax than is needed to mold one skeleton and slightly more than the machine can melt at once. So unless you happen to be molding multiple figures in the same color (and none of the sets has multiple skeletons/wax sticks of the same color) you are going to get multiple wax colors mixed together. And you will either need to extrude a lot of extra wax into each part of the mold to use up the excess (and of course you have to then clean all that excess wax after it has cooled) or do as I did and after every few figures load the mold into the machine empty and inject the excess into mold. By the end, I had four extra, head shaped cubes of wax. The molding machine has a serious design flaw itself: you have to load another wax stick into the machine to force out the wax for the one you are making. It is such a weird design issue that when I went to make the first figure, I couldn't see the preloaded stick and ended up with the wrong color skeleton loaded. And I'm not alone. While making all of the figures I had time to kill and watched several Youtube reviews of the system, and they all ran into the same issue. And the need for a second wax stick creates another issue. You are always going to be left with one incomplete skeleton whose wax is loaded into the machine and no way to force it out into the mold. And the final issue is that the molding process is really slow. It takes ten minutes to warm up the wax. Then when you have injected the wax into the mold, you have to wait for it to fully cool which according to the instructions takes fifteen minutes before the machine will allow the door to be opened. In practice, it can take 20 minutes or longer depending on the room temperature. Add in the time to remove the figure you have made and clean out the extra wax and it takes fourty-five minutes to make a single figure. And in the end, you have a generic figure that isn't that different in shape than the original skeleton anyway.
All this is quite disappointing since as I said, the concept has a lot of promise. And I don't just mean theoretical promise. Jakk's did in fact make a system that uses a plastic skeleton and wax to produce a decent little figure. But you spend almost an hour to make a generic figure that is basically just a slightly bulked up version of the skeleton. If you got a unique mold for the characters so that the final product actually looked like a molded figure, that could have been worth all the effort. And a lot of the issues with the machine could be remedied with a simple heat resistant plunger that would allow you to push all of the wax through without using another stick of wax. But as it stands, it's way too much effort to end up with a poorly colored, generic figure.
Value - 2/10The basic size, 3 packs of figures sell for $8 each. The deluxe six pack is $15 and the mega pack sells for $20. If you could actually get the figure packs and use them for that price, it wouldn't be such a bad deal. But you also need to purchase the $40 molding machine and invest hours of time to actually make the figures. And what you end up with just isn't that great. Maybe if the only competition was Playmates' figures and you wanted something a bit smaller, these could make sense. But as it is, I would much rather spend $7.50 for a two pack of Minimates at Toys R Us that look better and come with a number of accessories.
Happy Hunting:The 3DIT machine and packs are available from both Target and Toys R Us stores. Though Target did not carry the Mega pack and now has the Deluxe pack on clearance. So it appears that they will only be carrying the basic sets going forward. So Toys R Us is your best option. They are even expanding the range of 3DIT products that they are stocking with sets to make small animals targeted towards girls. If you don't have a Toys R Us store nearby, they do have the sets listed on their web site as well.