The classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line was famous for the number of variants of the Turtles that it included. And it is still
fairly infamous for how wierd, wacky or utterly strange some of those variants were. So I suppose that we should count our selves lucky that
the modern line has largely avoided that issue. But last year Playmates released a new series of figures with what at first glance seemed
like one of their wierdiest ideas in years: modern style Ninja Turtles with paint applications inspired by the classic cartoon designs.
They then stepped it up again with variants of the redeco Turtles that blurried the line between the original series one figures and the
redecos even further. Toss in a couple of mutants from the show, Monkey Brains and Napoleon Bonafrog, and you have the fourteenth series of figures.
Packaging - Redeco Turtles 4/10, Napoleon & Monkey Brains 8/10The new series of figures all come on the newer style cards. I like the updated design. The updated design gives plenty of space on the back for character information and showing off the other available figures. But there's a major problem when you come to the redeco Turtles. They use the exact same packaging as the series one Turtles! I don't just mean the graphics. The names, descriptions and even the bios on the back of the cards are the same. So at first glance, they seem like repaints of the series one figures. The only evidence that they are considered to be their own figures is the fact that they have been assigned new item numbers. It would have been so easy to explain the the reason for the redecos on the back and make it clear that they are not just repaints of the series one figures. By not doing that, they have created a huge amount of confusion among fans.
Sculpting - Turtles 3/10, Napoleon 5/10, Monkey Brains 7/10The redeco versions of the Turtles reuse the original, series one bodies. That seems like a very strange choice since those figures were not very accurate to the current show designs, there are certainly better versions available by now. I suspect they were used since they shared some design aspects with the 90's cartoon designs. But they aren't accurate to those designs either. So it seems like they took the middle road that didn't lead them to either destination, but left them stranded in the no man's land inbetween. The other two mutants are brand new sculpts of course. Napoleon Bonafrog is remarkably faithful to the design in the show. But they screwed up the texturing. He is suppose to be a frog. In the show he has very smooth skin. But the figure has textured skin that looks rough. So overall, Napoleon ends up looking more like a lizard than a frog! Monkey Brains is much closer to the show design. It's just a shame that they went with his initial appearance instead of the design he adopted when he returned and has kept ever since. Even ignoring the version of the character that the figure is based on, there are a few minor improvements that could have been done. His legs are quite short. In the show they were long, much like his arms. I'm guessing the shortened legs were deliberate to help make the figure more stable. But it is still a compromise. And the figure would have been more impressive looking if it hadn't been done. They also filled in the loops on all of his manacles. They should have been able to produce them with the centers hollowed out.
Paint - 5/10The paint work for this series is a step up from some of the recent TMNT figures, but still only mediocre at best. The redeco Turtles each have their knee and elbow pads painted to match their mask color. The eyes have been painted with pupils. And the initial version had each Turtle's initial painted on their belt. The paint work is reasonably well done. Though you may want to watch the eyes as they seem to be the area most prone to quality control issues. Monkey Brains turned out well. At first I was thinking that he was the best looking TMNT figure I had seen in this line in quite some time until I notice his one major oversight. They didn't paint his pants! He is supposed to have purple pants on. They are there in the sculpting. But they left them unpainted. That is really disappointing once I noticed since the rest of the figure looks so good. But on the plus side, the lack of paint isn't that obvious unless you know he is suppose to have pants. Finally there is Napoleon Bonafrog who manages to be simultaneously the best and worst figure for the paint work. On the positive side, he has a lot of detail work including the mud on his head, his watch and fanny pack. And of course there is the graphic on his shirt which is reproduced well on the figure. All of that is awesome. But there are a few issues with missing paint apps too. His eyes are not fully painted and they tend to blend into the rest of his head because of it. But the bigger issue is the lack of painted detail for his skin tone. None of the spots on his skin are painted and there is none of the color transition for his skin tones for his chest and arms other than the neck. Had he been fully painted, the paint work could have gone a long way to fix the issues with the sculpt so that he would actually look like a frog.
Articulation - Turtles 7/10, Napoleon 4/10, Monkey Brains 6/10The Turtles all have the same ninteen points of articulation as the first series Turtles. No surprise there, they are the same bodies afterall. And the joints all hold a pose well. Monkey Brains has just twelve points of articulation with rotating and hinge joints at the shoulders and hips as well as rotating joints at the neck, waist and wrists. Surprisingly, that small amount of articulation provides an impressive range of motion. I wish they had included an additional rotating joint in the upper arm and preferably at the ankles as well. Napoleon has just ten points of articulation: rotating and hinge joints at the shoulders and hips and rotating joints at the neck and waist. And unfortunately his articulation is not well designed. The hinges for both his shoulders and hips seem to be positioned ninty degrees off from where I would expect them which makes the arm motion awkward. And even when the sculpt could have hidden more articulation such as his wrist, there is none. And without those joints and the added range of motion they could have given him, Napoleon has a hard time striking a usable pose or adjusting his balance.
Accessories - Monkey Brains 0/10, Others 4/10Monkey Brains is the only figure to not have any accessories in the series. Napoleon comes with just one, his spear. It is nicely sculpted, but quite awkward for him to wield it. The redeco Turtles each have the same accessories as the series one figures. There is one odd change, the intial releases added a small plug to the parts tree so that they can attach to the plastic tray in the packaging. That was then dropped for all of the variants of the redecos that I have. Otherwise the weapons are the same as the series one releases.
Value - Turtles 3/10, Napoleon 4/10, Monkey Brains 7/10Retail price for the Ninja Turtle is still $9 in most stores. It's fairly impressive that they have been able to hold the price down like that for so long. That's something that I don't think Playmates gets enough credit for. But just being cheaper than average doesn't make a figure a good deal. Monkey Brains is a fairly solid figure in every regard though. And I always like being able to expand the roster of characters in a line. So buying him is a no brainer. Napoleon Bonafrog on the other hand is plagued with issues to the point that he almost looks like a completely different version of the character. If I thought that there was any realistic hope of seeing a better version of the character later, I would suggest skipping this version. Unfortunately that is unlikely and this is probably the best we are going to get. And then you come to the Turtles. And honestly I still can't quite figure out why they were produced in the first place. It's not like they are bad figures, but Playmates already has better versions of the Nickelodeon Turtles in production. And they can certainly do a better rendition of the 90's Turtles than just printing an initial on the belt of a completely different Turtle design. So these may wind up being one of the wierdest Turtle variants that Playmates ever produces simply because they don't stand out in any significant way.
Happy Hunting:Currently the movie Out of the Shadows has just been released in theaters, which means that the movie themed toys and merchandise is dominating store shelves. But the regular, basic assortment figures are still shipping as well. I have not paid much attention to whether the redeco Turtles are still shipping in the most recent assortments, but both Monkey Brains and Napoleon Bonafrog continue to pop up on a regular basis. So finding them should not be much of a challenge.