Sunday, December 4, 2011

25th Anniversary TMNT Figures!

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Back in 2009 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles celebrated their 25th Anniversary and they did so in the most spectacular way possible. Playmattes, the long time makers of all things Turtle related, re-released the entire lineup of original Ninja Turtle figures. Complete with original packaging, artwork, and figure designs. This set looks straight out of 1984 because they basically are. Thus making these 25th Anniversary figures one of the coolest re-issues I have seen in a long time. Today we are going to cover Leonardo as part of the 2011 Christmas Countdown! I have mentioned prior I was a huge Ninja Turtles fan growing up. I have lots of fond memories of opening up these exact figures during many Christmas's of past. Technically you could argue that this isn't really a holiday article but I know an entire generation of people my age will be able to make the same connection with these and Christmas mornings that I currently am. So sit back and enjoy this nostalgic trip down memory lane!

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I have a few of these Anniversary figures but today we are going to start off with Leonardo, the leader of the turtles. While not my personal choice for favorite, I am more of a Donatello kind of guy, this Leonardo figure seems like the most logical place to start. As you can see these are the figures that we all remember from the late 80s and early 90s. The same slightly crappy build quality, with the same inability to stand because of bizarre feet designs, the same general lack of articulation. And you know what I would not have it any other way. When I covered the re-issue Scare Glow figure during the Halloween Countdown I gave it high praises because it was an improvement in every possible way over the original He-Man figures. Maybe it is because I am not quite as "emotionally attached" to the Masters of the Universe line as I am the Playmates Turtles Figures, but I am really thankful that they didn't re-imagine or re-interpret this set. I am fine with these things being exact duplicates of the originals. Even if that means looking at them by today's standards and seeing all the inherent flaws with the original designs.

I feel like it would defeat the purpose of a 25th Anniversary re-release if they updated and fixed everything. At that point, they would become just like any other new TMNT toys being made. These manage to feel like something special because of the flaws that have been kept in them. Like the crappy weapons that are included with every toy. Using modern casting and coloring techniques they could have very easily updated Leonardo's weapons to make them colored correctly, added in more detail, and not have them included on that weird plastic "rack" thing. But that would have ruined half the fun of owning these figures if they did that. The weapons still suck, they still probably don't fit in the figures hands, and you still have to spend twenty minutes trying to bend them off that plastic rack of doom. But you know what, it is all part of the charm of owning exact duplicates of these figures of old.

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The boxes original artwork has also thankfully been kept in tact. When I write these articles I sometimes feel like I spent to much time writing about what packages look like and sometimes not enough about the actual item itself. But in this case how can I not? I really do have to sit here and gush over how fantastic the artwork is on these toys. In my opinion it is the nicest toy package that has ever been done. If you know nothing at all about Turtles not only will the back of the box give you there entire back-story (which we will get to here in a second) but the front of the box just looks so damn cool that it is impossible to resist. I think a lot of these figures early success was because of how the package looked and not so much because of the toy inside it.

When I first spotted these on store shelves back in 2009, it was amazing how much they stood out. Next time you take a trip down the toy isle spend a couple extra seconds to truly digest the way everything looks. You'll notice that most packages are toned down, with darker colors in the background and lighter colors chosen for the text. This puts a much greater emphasis on the toys brand names. They do this so you can tell from a mile away if it is a Ben 10 display or some of the new Transformers toys. Toy companies would much rather you notice an entire rack of something and not each individual item that makes it up.

These Turtles toys call back to a time when stuff was made to look cool and to hell with how it looked setting next to everything else on the shelf. There are roughly five trillion different still images going on all over the front and back of this package. Everything from Splinter clawing his way through a brick wall to Shredder scaling the side of a building. We got turtles swinging weapons wildly and with zero disregard for whats going on around them. There are Foot Soldiers just sort of chilling out and a gigantic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles logo slapped on the front and back of the box. It is simply fantastic! There is a reason why I refuse to open this stuff, not because I think they are going to be worth something at a later date, I am honestly not worried about that one bit. No I would absolutely hate to tear open and throw away that piece of cardboard. It is a piece of art. Something that should be studied and admired, not tossed away and forgotten.

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Here is the top half of the back of the box. I never realized it until now but it is basically a four strip comic panel. Makes since considering the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started life out as a comic book first before later mutating into a toy line subsequent cartoon series. Anyhow this spot is going to teach you everything you need to know about the Turtles in a brief couple of seconds. You guys know the routine, some pet turtles get lost in the sewer and are found by Master Splinter, a powerful ninja masters. At this point Shredder, being the dick that he is, dumps some green ooze down the sewer and over Splinter which in turn mutants him and the four pet turtles into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Splinter into a giant rat. At this point the rest they say, is history. Its nice that they included this little bit of information on the back of the box, it really is. As technically the toys came out about a year prior to the cartoon series hitting airwaves the only way anyone would have known about the Ninja Turtles then was to have read the comic books.

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Below that we have the "business end" of the package, as I like to call it. This area has been faithfully re-created almost to a dime.  It is only missing a couple minor things, such as the formally included "Pizza Points" which I am not even sure how I remember at this stage in my life. Somehow I do, but not including them doesn't really feel like that big of a deal. I don't think there was a single kid alive who had the time or patience to collect and save those Pizza Points to ever redeem them for anything. I was a big time Turtles fan and I'm not even sure if I ever seen a catalog that said exactly what you could get with them. So not including them is pretty much only a minor detail missed.

Moving on what is important is that all eleven of the original first series of TMNT toys have been faithfully re-created. They even went so far as to include the original "Naked Shredder" who is sort of notorious for being one of the worst designed and least articulate figures in Turtle history. Which I always thought was kind of strange that Playmates would muck up Shredder, who other than Leonardo, had to have been one of the top figures that every kid would want. This specific version is the one of him not wearing any pants. It was odd as hell, even to an eight year old, as to why they would do something like that. Shredder was always very clearly wearing them in the shows. And as soon as you lost the included cape that came with his figure (which inevitably would happen about a week after you got it) you were left with a near naked, strangely posed Shredder. Playmates would later go on to design a version of him in full tights, though I am not sure if they ever released one that had better articulation in the original line.

The artwork and the figures have been re-created so faithfully that I almost wonder if Playmates has kept the original dyes that these were cast from all those years ago. It is the only possible way I can think that they could get this perfect of a representation all these years later. Be it I have not taken any of mine out of the box but I am fairly certain that if you lined up an original series one Leonardo along side a re-print 25th Anniversary Leonardo that they would be exactly the same. Of course I refuse to open any of mine but it would be interesting to see if anyone out there has just how close they physically feel to the original toys.

Either way I am a big, big fan of these toys. Seeing them sold back in stores all these years later was an awesome feeling that is not easily reproduced. The best part of these 25th Anniversary Figures is that while they were a little harder to track down than your normal toys, they were still mass produced in enough volume that you could easily pick up an entire set and not have to sell your house to afford it. Plus the wide availability of them (I was able to walk into Target and just buy them right off the shelf) means that while they hit the collectors market, there was undoubtedly some kids who wanted them to play with. The fact that an entirely new generation of kids got to experience these Turtles toys in the exact same manor that I did growing up. Well, that my friends is what this stuff is all about. It is why we are here reading this and it is why I am here writing about it.

If you guys liked this article. Please be sure to check out these TMNT Universal Studios Horror Figures from the 2011 Halloween Countdown!

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