NoisyDvL5 from itsalltrue.net has graciously provided us with an awesome retro look at one of the old Playmates TMNT figures! SPOCKATELLO!
When I found out The Daytime Ninja was featuring a TMNT Week, I wanted to write something for the occasion, but I wasn’t sure what. There’s plenty of new product to review, but I wanted to do something a little more fun or unique from what some of my fellow contributors might be working on (I say that now, hopefully I don’t find myself wearing the same dress this week). When I’m in doubt, I head down to the toy cellar and look for inspiration. When I ran across a box of Playmates figures, it struck big time.
Amid the return of TMNT to store shelves, there’s been this inevitable Classics vs. Nickelodeon discussion. Which of the two new lines better? They appeal to such different parts of the collector brain that I don’t know if there’s a good answer. While the Classics have that all-too familiar “pinnacle” feel for sculpt & articulation, the Nickelodeon versions seemingly do more with less. I think the reason for that is a simple one, the fun factor.
TMNT toys have been some of the most fun to follow along with since they hit in the late 80s. They set the tone for a quirky renaissance of ridiculousness that lasted well into the 90s. Thinking about the dire stakes our 80s figures were really fighting for or how “serious” collecting has overtaken the toy aisles in the last decade, it really makes one long for the years of the Mutagen Man, Ray Fillet, or Napoleon Bonafrog. Are we even allowed to say “Bonafrog” anymore?
But one of the most fun & cool things I remember about Playmates’ original line was when the main characters crossed over with Star Trek. This type of toy crossover is basically non-existent phenomenon. It took years to get Hasbro to mix the peanut butter & chocolate of Joe & Transformers (and they’re still not quite doing it right), but Playmates seemed to have no problem mashing up their two greatest lines back in 1994.
How I first heard about these figures has been lost to time, but they were the coolest thing then and they’re still pretty cool now. As I said, just the fact these exist is unique and insanely cool, but looking at them through my “toy reviewer” goggles, there’s a lot to like. For the life of my I couldn’t find Kirk/Leo for the pictures, but all four figures share most of a new “Trek Uniform” body.
There’s just something funny about the clothes stretched over the shell. There is some variation, Medical Officer Raphael features short sleeves and a standard pair of TMNT lower arms, but First Officer Donatello is most notable because his right hand features the traditional Vulcan salute, well as best as a two-fingered turtle can anyway.
Above the neck, each figure has a unique head sculpt blending the turtle with their Trek counterpart. Of all the head sculpts, First Officer Donatello is again the most notable – a turtle with ears! It’s just looks right even though it’s technically wrong.
As the figures are blended versions, so too were the accessories. The phasers and communicators were borrowed from the proper Trek line, but Playmates did make new tricorders that had big enough straps to fit over the larger TMNT figures and a new base that combined the classic Trek logo with a turtle shell. Pretty cool. Additionally, each Turtle received an updated, technologically-enhanced version of their classic weapon. In First Officer Donatello’s case, that means a “Pon Farr Battle Bo”.
If the figures weren’t fun enough, the back of the packaging gave any young mind plenty more to chew on with silly quotes like “Doctor, it’s not logical to dislike pizza” or making fun of Donatello not showing a hint of emotion until Engineer Mikey tries to take the last slice.
This type of toy mash-up is something that just can’t happen enough if you ask me. I’m a bit hypocritical because I haven’t forked over the second-hand prices for the SDCC exclusives Transformers repaints of Joe vehicles, but I do think they’re as awesome as non-transforming Transformers can be. I am particularly excited for Mattel’s upcoming Dark Knight Returns Batman figure which appears (so far) to be completely MOTU Classics compatible. He won’t have a cool He-Man back story, but that’s the shelf he’ll be hanging out on at my house and I’ll be sure to come up with a good reason.
While we’re enjoying a brief resurgence of toy mash-ups, they don’t quite blend as well as these two exceptionally different properties did back in the day. I think a large part of that goes back to what I said in the beginning – TMNT was a toy line about fun & silliness to start with. Playmates took that line is so many directions that it’s still hard to believe it. I have fond memories for the unique characters and the ridiculous versions of the main guys all the same. I don’t know what Playmates has planned for this Turtle resurgence, but vehicles like the Shellraiser and upcoming figs like Metalhead & Fishface leave me hopeful for a fun future.