Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - the Movie
Raphael and Foot Ninja

Playmates Toys has been responsible for more long running, successful action figure lines than any other company.  Now, before you hurt your brain coming up with all the reasons why I'm wrong with that statement, let me make my case.

Sure, Hasbro has had Joes and Star Wars.  And the animated Batman line did well for them.  But let's not forget that they acquired Kenner, so much of the history - and success - of the latter two lines was the result of a acquisition for Hasbro, not their work.

Mattel had He-man. And that's probably all we need to say.  Mcfarlane has Spawn.  Bandai has Power Rangers. Everyone has at least one, some two, but Playmates has three major lines that spanned years and hundreds of characters - Star Trek, Simpsons, and...Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

With the new TMNT film coming in 2007, Playmates is gearing up with a new movie themed line.  One of the keys of this new line is a larger scale, and possible additional articulation, something that's been a complaint with many collectors of the current line. These figures are just starting to trickle into stores, and the first series contains Mike, Raph, Don, and Leo of course, along with April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and Splinter (the Good), and Max Winters, Karai, Spider Aracknor, the Jersey Devil and a Vampire Succubor.  Oh, and the only bad guy I found on the shelf for this review, a Foot Ninja. 

The previews of the film don't look too bad so far.  Of course, old school fans will find plenty to hate, but the Turtles are such a classical cool idea for kids that this film (done well) may just be the thing to launch them all over again as a major force with the under 10 crowd.

I saw all four Turtles on the peg, and picked up Raphael.  Casey, April and Splinter were also there, as was the Foot Ninja, so I snagged him for the review as well.

Packaging - ***
The packaging is bubble/cardback style, which should be no surprise, but the graphics are a snazzy sewer green.  The style is more realistic, without actually reaching 'real'.  They've placed the photos of the four turtles themselves at two separate depths on the bubble/tray, so that there's a bit of a 3-D effect as well.

Sculpting - ***
Okay, so we haven't actually seen the movie yet, so exactly how accurate these figures are is up for debate.  From the posters though, Raph's design and proportions do look extremely accurate.As is probably not a surprise, they aren't super detailed, or uber-realistic, but do have a nice, classic feel to them.

The shell in back sports the most detail for Raph, but there's some nice texturing on the front of the shell as well. Raph has a pretty traditional expression, with his mask trailing out behind his head.  The sculpt works pretty well with the articulation, and the increased scale is a big plus.  Raph stands 6" tall.

The Foot Ninja stands about 6.5" tall, and is a very cool design, with a sort of insect-like feel to his ninja appearance.  Again, there's very little detail here, very much in line with an animated style.

It's worth noting that Raph's proportions look much better to me than they have in recent years.  He doesn't have the usual pinhead that has plagued the character from time to time, and the muscular structure of the legs looks solid, yet still reptilian.

Both figures stand great on their own of course, and both have hand sculpts that work well with the various accessories.  It's also worth nothing that Raph has two loops in his belt that allow him to carry his weapons while doing other things with his hands.

Paint - Raph **1/2; Ninja ***
This is mass market paint work, and fairly average mass market paint work at that.

Raph is cast in the green plastic, and his is a bit darker than some of the other heroes on the half shell.  They did a pretty good job getting the green of his torso, limbs and head all to match, and most of the cuts between colors are very clean. He does have some slop around the eyes and mask, the only real small detail areas on him.

Like Raph, the Ninja is cast in the predominate color, black.  The smaller areas, like the eyes and armor highlights, are a little cleaner than the work on Raph.

Neither of these figures is a color extravaganza, but one's a ninja and the other is a turtle - what would you expect?

Articulation - ***
For regular buyers of TMNT figures, some of the new articulation (knees and elbows for example) has already been showing up in the Fast Forward line up.  And while these figures are an improvement over what was available, say, a year ago, they still have some deficiencies.

The most notable is the necks. A ball joint would be really useful for these characters, and Raph actually has one.  It's just extremely limited in its range of movement due to the design.  The ninja only has a cut neck, although making it a ball would have been fairly easy.

Raph does have ball jointed shoulders, with joints on both sides of the ball, which really helps the arm poses.  He also has pin elbows and cut wrists, along with pin knees and ball jointed hips.  Unfortunately, the hips are only jointed at the torso, so while the hip can rotate around the torso, the leg itself can not alter its direction in relation to the hip.  The hips do have a decent range of movement though, unlike the Ninja.

He has the ball joints at the torso as well, but because they are so deep in the body, they can really only turn like a cut joint.  This was a huge disappointment for me, since the ninja needs deep leg stances for any really interesting poses.

Fortunately, even though he only has cut shoulders, elbows and wrists, he can reach far enough toward the center of his body with both arms to hold any of the weapons in both hands. A cut waist and pin knees rounds him out.

Neither of these figures would rate a super articulated score, but they can hold a ton of poses considering the number of joints.  These are a good example of doing a lot with a little, and had they improved the neck joint and the hips on the Ninja, they would have rated another half star.

Accessories - Ninja ***1/2; Raphael ***
Both figures come with a decent assortment of accessories, although I found Raph's to be a little less useful than the Ninja.

Raph has a pair of sai's, which fit into his hands in either direction quite well. These have always been his weapon of choice, so their inclusion makes perfect sense. He also has a pair of dumbbells, and these fit in his hands well too. Just the thing for those turtle workouts!

The Ninja has two swords, one of them designed to fit in the supplied scabbard that fits on his back. The scabbard can be removed, but it's tough to get back on all the way.

He also has a nifty shield, with a handle designed perfectly for his hands.  The handle is even designed to rotate, so the shield can be held at any position relative to the hand.

Finally, he also has a kama, which can be held in a single hand or both hands, due to the decent arm articulation.  With multiple weapons to attack the turtles, and a cool shield for protection, you can see why I found his accessories the better of the two.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
The added articulation - while not perfect - does add to the play value here.  Throw in some great accessories, and some extremely sturdy figures that can withstand hard play, and you have a nice combination for fun.

Value - ***
Seven bucks each means they crack in there at a moderately low mass market price point, where many figures in this scale are going for a buck more. The added accessories, along with additional articulation, means a better value than even recent Turtles.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Zippo.  These guys will stand up to most anything, and the odds of there being much variation in paint or quality is pretty small.

Overall - ***
With the movie not due out til the end of March, it was a little surprising to see these already on the peg.  Then I remembered that it's Christmas - what better time to get the product out?

The biggest plus for me is the increased scale for the turtles.  These figures have more bulk and fit in better with other current lines, and I think the overall proportions are much nicer as well.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Ninja ***1/2; Raphael ***
Fun Factor ***1/2
Value -  ***
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
I've seen them at Meijers, but I'm betting Target and Toys R Us have them soon.  Since these are mass market releases, the mass market stores are your best bet.

Related Links:
I haven't reviewed a lot of Turtle stuff, but I do have a guest review of the boys, and some of the bad guys.

Keep scrolling down for more photos!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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