Poe’s Review > Leonardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classic Collection, Playmates)

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.

[raven 3.5]

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    Kind of a weird thing I noticed. I only have Donatello and Raphael but Donatello's shell looks huge compared to Raphael even though it's the same sculpt. Looking at the Leonardo pic and looking at the turtles I have in hand makes me realize that the added strap along with the weapon and weapon holster just adds too much to the overall shell look, making it too big.

  2. GalvaTRION

    I have to concur on the BAF Krang. Have the next series be Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, a Foot Soldier and April- who would come with Krang's torso and Krang himself to ensure people buy the 'girl figure.' I think I'd strangle a puppy if it'd make Playmates acquiesce to that. Or. I dunno. Just pay for the toys when they come out…

    Anyway. Good review. These toys are surprisingly solid and incredibly articulated, but one thing that makes me laugh… every one of their faces are a little… off. They don't look action-ready, they just look nonplussed. I love that my Donatello's eyes are completely askew, my brother and I had a good hourlong laugh-fest pretending that Don had been shot in the head and was never the same again. Or that he was in a passion-fueled madness. Or just angry drunk. And the other turtles are tired and frustrated with him, given their annoyed facial expressions.

    This is the ONE time that I've been happy with an effed up figure.

  3. I want a Shredder, Casey Jones and some Foot Ninjas. Excellent review Poe.

  4. If they go balls out in the future (which they won't) in I want a BAF Krang.

    Based on the size of the Turtles I do believe Playmates designed these as a one off set of four and have no plans, no matter how well they sell, to expand the line. Pretty sure the whole rep at NYTF saying that they'd consider expanding the line if they sold well is really just marketing speak for "shut up and buy these, nerd" lol.

  5. I haven't bought a TMNT figure since I was a kid (I think the last wave/year I was in on included Metalhead and the rock-bodied General…Traag? Not sure). At any rate, after reading reviews and looking at photos, this series reached right out and grabbed me by the inner ten year old, and I've got all four of them now via Amazon.

    Frankly a part of me hopes the line doesn't expand – I'd be ok with just the four turtles. Even if it should, I'd make it a point not to go beyond absolute core characters; Splinter, Shredder, Casey, April. Oh, and also maybe Bebop and Rocksteady. Dammit. This is trouble.

    I do worry a tad bit about long-term joint tightness, however, I've been able to find a sort of sweet spot for all their weapons, and loads of cool poses – but I will usually take all the articulation I can get, though I realize other's mileage re: articulation vs sculpt may vary.

    • Nuker

      Ha! I'm probably with you on that one. I'm also kind of hoping they don't go pass the turtles. Sure Playmates probably maximized its investment by obviously using the same tools and molds for all 4 turtle bodies, but developing the supporting cast might become problematic. The other players in the show of course feature the less homogenized look of the Fab Four. While they might be able to get away with tooling a human male buck for both Shredder and Casey Jones, and maybe do the same for Bebop and Rocksteady to some degree, those four characters looks are so incredibly different against each other there would have to be more extensive sculpting and tooling to make them all look right. Also the scale issue would probably make this more difficult. These human figures and the other mutants would probably have to stand 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 in. just to look in scale with the turtles. That's a lot of plastic! That's probably something even a company like Playmates would hate to take a risk on. And honestly, if they are not going to be able to do a show accurate Shredder like I have always wanted to see then I don't want them to do it at all. I'm definitely happy just having these four turtles right now.

  6. Agent 86

    I do find some of the other choices a little odd, like the shoulder straps. I'm A-OK with these figures being a mix of the cartoon and the original toys, but if so, why wouldn't the straps for Leonardo and Donatello be accurate. And from vague memory, the mouth expressions for Leonardo and Raphael match the original toys, yet Michaelangelo comes with an odd "closed mouth" expression (which may have worked well for Donatello) while Donatello uses Michaelangelo's expression.

    The coloured weapons for Leo, Raph and Mikey also seem odd, especially when Don's staff doesn't have purple wrapping. The turtles didn't have colour coded weapons in the cartoon or the original toy line.

    At the end of the day, I'll be buying everything that Playmates make in this line as I can't resist cartoon-accurate turtles and their friends and foes. I managed to easily pass on the 2003 line and only grabbed Raphael from NECA's line, but these figures are irresistable.

  7. Agent 86

    Great review. I'm still waiting for my TMNT Classics to arrive, but reviews like this are just increasing my anticipation.

    I am a little concerned about the size. While I think any future "humans" in this line being around the size of the MOTUC figures would be acceptable (especially as, from memory, Shredder was barely taller than the turtles in the original line thanks to his toilet pose) it is a shame they didn't go a little smaller with the turtles to enable them to accurately scale any future human characters.

  8. 3B_

    I was initially looking forward to these, but after seeing the new show figures, they one me over with their "realistic", almost live-action-inspired design. I picked up the set from BBTS and haven't looked back. They are really nicely done and are just plain fun to play with. You should certainly give them a look!

  9. The_Fun_has_been_Doubled

    Hopefully they won't force the Possible Shredder in the vintage "I'm going to take a massive dump" pose.

    • GalvaTRION

      That forced squat always bugged the hell out of me when I was a kid.

  10. dayraven

    we must have different definitions of "barely" as to me, i see a full head of height on the he-man over the leo… to me, that's a substantial difference in height. does this make leo too big to the stand 1/12 scale? yes… but not monsterously so like lion-o was.

    i suspect, as time goes by, that more and more of us will be keeping those clear rubber bands that motuc come w/ for securing turtle weapons into turtle hands. seems a lot of people talking about these figs are already noticing weapon drop issues w/ the articulated hands. i'm a happy camper w/ my NECA turtles, but if this classics set gets beyond the four turtles, i will probably jump in for a casey, splinter, shredder, foot soldiers, beebop, rocksteady… the basics though i would suspect, and i might be wrong, that the future figs won't be "in scale" i suspect the intent is a line that are all the same size. don't ask me why i think that, it's just a hunch, but there it is. i suspect shredder will be exactly as much taller than leo as the crest of his helmet requires.

  11. clark

    I bought all for turtles from the basic line the second I saw them, and planned on getting at least Leo or Raph from this series.

    However, when I saw them in stores I found their size a bit off putting, and there seems to be too many joints packed into the body (a swivel hinge thumb?). I’m worried these will flop around like rag dolls after a little bit of play.

    So I skipped these for now. I think neca has all the necessary articulation to get the poses you want, while these have the old toybiz marvel legends mentality of cramming joints everywhere possible. On top of that, I was never a big fan of the 80s animated look either, and always liked how the vintage figures looked more like the mirage comics than the show.

    For now I’ll skip these. Great review though, with super pics, thanks for confirming I can wait to try and get these for a deal.

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