One thing that has made it increasingly difficult for me to write reviews these days is that I’m often reviewing a character I’ve reviewed before. For me, the appeal of a review is often discussing the history of the character or the franchise, my own childhood memories and so forth. I’ve already covered all that for Leo and the rest of the TMNT in two previous reviews here and here, so I refer you to those if you want the flavor text. This review is going to get down to brass tacks.
The Turtles always seem to bring out the best in Playmates Toys, and for the TMNT’s return this year – with a brand-new cartoon on Nickelodeon, the new copyright holders for the brand – they’ve gone all-out. In addition to new toys based on the cartoon (I’ll review one of those later), Playmates is also celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original cartoon with a line of super-articulated figures in the style of the 1980s Fred Wolf cartoon: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classic Collection.
As of right now there are only four figures in the line (the four Turtles), but Playmates has said the sky is the limit if the figures sell well. But will they? While Masters of the Universe Classics thrived as a subscription service (at least until this year), Thundercats Classics swiftly died at retail. While it appears the Turtles’ new cartoon-based figures are selling well, it’s less clear how popular the Classic Collection is proving to be.
Packaging: The packaging is a fun throwback to the memorable design of the 1980s figures (“Green Against Brick”). It features heavy use of the Fred Wolf cartoon designs. It’s bright and colorful, and while perhaps not as sleek and eye-catching as the new figures’ packaging, it’s still appealing. However, the lack of one of those old “Vital Turtle-tistics” bios on the back is a disappointment.
Design & Sculpt: The sculpting, which was done the entire line by Dave Cortes’s Cortes Studio, is an amalgam of the Turtles’ look from the 1980s cartoon, style guides, and the vintage figures. I’m not sure why it has one strap across the torso, since the character had no straps on the cartoon and two straps on the toy; it’s either based on a style guide or Playmates wanted some consistency with the new cartoon’s toy line. I like the strap, so personally I don’t mind, but diehard cartoon fans might be disappointed.
While I like the figure’s sculpt, it’s not perfect. The head seems a bit large, but far worse is the back shell. It’s enormous, and in profile it looks like Leo’s wearing one of those retro-Turtles hipster backpacks. I’m not sure why it’s so big, unless it was partly to allow for the ball-jointed torso. It causes some balance issues, necessitating the use of the stand for many poses.
One of the reasons for the initial failure of the Thundercats Classics line was the figures’ huge size – at eight inches, they were even taller than MOTUC He-Man. Oddly enough, Playmates seems to have made the exact same mistake here – Leonardo stands over six inches tall and is half as wide. He’s barely shorter than a MOTUC figure. Maybe the size made engineering the articulation easier, but it’s going to make expanding the line a tough sell – Shredder will stand nearly nine inches tall! The size honestly makes me wonder whether Playmates really plans to expand the Classic Collection, or looked at the failure of Thundercats Classics and decided to do these as a one-off.
Plastic & Paint: There’s very little paint on this figure. With the exception of the bandanna, teeth, strap holding the sword scabbards and the belt buckle, everything on this figure is molded in that color, including the plastron (front shell). Having everything molded in color does give the figure a toy-ish look, but that’s a perfect match for the cartoonish style of these figures.
Some of the other figures in the line – particularly Donatello – have suffered from “derp” pupils in their eyes, but my Leo seems to have been spared this fate – his eyes just barely look normal.
Articulation: There have been rumors of bad blood between Playmates and NECA regarding the Turtles license; I wonder whether Playmates consciously decided to show up NECA in the articulation department here. Leonardo features a ball-and-socket head, ball-and-hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, ball-and-hinge wrists, individually-hinged fingers, ball-and-hinge thumbs, ball-and-socket torso, ball-joint hips, swivel thighs, double-hinge knees, ball-and-socket ankles, and individually-hinged toes. Wow.
While I wouldn’t call any of the joints loose, the weight of the figure – particularly the shell – make it difficult to stand on its own. It can be a bit tricky to get the weapons to stay put as well, due to each finger being articulated separately.
Still, these are the most poseable Ninja Turtle action figures ever made. On the other hand, the NECA Leonardo can easily hold on sword in both hands, something this figure has a hard time with.
Accessories: This is where Leo most disappointed me. One of the most appealing aspects of Leonardo are his trademark ninjatō. The swords that come with this figure are just too short.
He also comes with a set of crossed scabbards that plug into a hole in the back of his shell, and his manhole-style display stand.
Quality Control: When I opened my Leonardo, his foot popped off, but I was able to pop it right back on.
Overall: I have very mixed feelings about the figure. I love the articulation, and the quality of the figure is high. But I was never really a fan of the 1980s cartoon look (even as a kid, I preferred the badass Mirage version of the Turtles) and I really dislike the figure’s large size – and then there’s that back-breakingly huge shell and the tiny swords.
I have to concur with Newton Gimmick – the Nickelodeon figures just seem more fun, somehow. But again, more on that in a later review.
Where to Buy: