Could 2016 Be The Year Of Turtle Power?!?

by Jay Cochran
February 29, 2016
By “Pixel Dan” Eardley

New York Toy Fair is always an exciting time of the year for toy collectors. It’s the only time we see every toy company from the biggest to the smallest come together in one place to share their product plans for the year. Toy fans follow the news closely and drool over all of the new items on display from our favorite companies or for our cherished properties, while at the same time making a mental budget to try and figure out how we’re going to afford it all.

It really is exciting. In this day in age, there are very few surprises any more. For the most part, gone are the days of walking in to the store and discovering a new figure that you had no idea was coming. So getting to see these reveals at Toy Fair each February is almost as close as it gets to that old feeling of pure joy when discovering a new action figure.

Its why even as someone who now spends time running from appointment to appointment at Toy Fair, that’s still the one thing that makes this event so fun and exciting to me. It’s even more exciting when a property that you hold near and dear to your nostalgic heart has a really good year. This was one of those years for one of my favorite childhood joys: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

TMNT has been doing very well since it’s relaunch by Nickelodeon, and we’ve seen plenty of new action figures, playsets, vehicles, and more from various companies for several years now. But this year felt extra special for this collector, because it feels like we’re going to be seeing some of the very best TMNT toys yet thanks to a few new companies dabbling in the license.

Let’s go ahead and start with the mainstay in the TMNT toy world. Playmates Toys had an entire booth dedicated to the green teens just as they have in previous years. I genuinely love visiting this booth each year, because it’s a lot of fun seeing the wide array of product that they create for the various markets. The products range from their Half-Shell Heroes line, which is aimed more at the toddlers, to the hilarious new interactive toy Talk-To-Me-Mikey, which I think will be a big hit with kids this holiday season.

But their Basic Action Figure line is still probably the most important TMNT product to most fans and collectors. It’s been very successful with kids, which is the target audience, but there is a collector following as well. I was a bit surprised to see that the character selection wasn’t quite as big this year as it has been in previous years. Leading up to the event, there’s been a lot of question from collectors asking about the fate of certain figures that were supposed to be released but never were. I learned at the show that figures such as The Creep, Ice Cream Kitty and the other sidekicks, and Savanti Romero have all been put on hold. The one bit of good news out of this, however, is that Muckman will be released 4th quarter of 2016! I was certainly happy to hear that, as myself and several other fans were really worried that this character would never see the light of day.

Aside from that, the other two figures I personally found exciting were Armaggon and, at long last, a human version of the fan-favorite character Karai. This figure is a bit of a victory for fans of the Nick series. I don’t think Playmates Toys had any intention on releasing her until the fans cried out. I’m certainly happy that they listened to us on this one. Here’s hoping they can get the other “lost” characters put out eventually as well.

Now if you’re a long-time fan of the TMNT franchise and the kid-friendly toys from Playmates aren’t your cup of tea, this is where Toy Fair gets really interesting. It seems after all this time we’re finally getting figures from a few other companies that are targeted specifically at the collector market. What’s great about this is that we’re getting some incredible toys based on parts of TMNT history such as the original cartoon series. Enter Tamashii Nations and their S.H. Figuarts line.

We got our first sneak peek at these glorious action figures last year at New York Comic Con, but Toy Fair is where we finally got to see the final product. Seeing these in person, my jaw nearly hit the floor. If you grew up with that cartoon like I did, then these are the figures you have been waiting your whole life for. While we’ve seen Playmates Toys tackle the cartoon look not that long ago, Tamashii Nations really got it right here. These look like they jumped right off the TV screen. They also feature better articulation and much cleaner paint applications. Of course, the price is also higher than a standard mass release retail figure, but that’s to be expected.

So if you’re like me, then you’re already hoping that this line will include more than just the four Turtles. The world is so big with a ton of animated characters that would make excellent action figures. So of course, I mentioned this to the Tamashii Nations representatives at the show. That’s where they dropped the exciting news that there was a good chance that we’d be getting more characters in this line-up due to the strong reaction they are already seeing from the Turtles! I was asked what characters I personally would like to see. Immediately, my mind went to Shredder, but I also tossed out Krang and April. As they smiled and nodded, the awesome folks at Tamashii Nations said that Shredder and Krang are already the two most requested figures. So keep your fingers crossed on this one! It really sounds like we have some exciting news heading our way, possibly by San Diego Comic Con!

NECA Toys may have been my personal favorite surprise of the show, however. Randy Falk dropped the bomb that NECA would be doing a line of ¼ scale TMNT action figures based off the original Jim Henson costumes from the first live action movie! The sculpt and paintwork on the Donatello that was on display were mind blowing. I cannot wait to see the rest of the Turtles in this line-up! And while ¼ scale figures may not be what everyone was wanting (I prefer the 6” action figures myself,) Randy heavily hinted in an interview with me that there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing TMNT action figures from NECA Toys at smaller scales, citing that there were many surprises on the way! My mind is already wandering thinking about the possibilities! Movie figures at the 6” scale? Maybe there will be a Turtle in their NES video game line? Or the ultimate: the rest of their cancelled Mirage Comics line finally seeing the light of day? I may be way off base with those guesses, but I’m certainly excited to see what’s next!

I definitely cannot end this report without mentioning the amazing job being done by Mattel on the new MegaBloks TMNT line. This new series of building sets and mini figures just launched at the beginning of this year, and I’ve already loved everything they’ve been doing with it. But I was wowed by the new stuff shown off at Toy Fair. This line is one giant love letter to fans from all eras of this property. Their sets include offerings from the Nick cartoon, the classic cartoon, the Half-Shell Heroes line, the upcoming live-action movie, and even the Mirage comics! And they are all in the same scale! How often do you ever see anything like this in the toy world? Just look at that Technodrome!

So whether you prefer “Booyakasha” or Cowabunga,” Toy Fair was really exciting for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans this year. There was something for almost every era of the brand, and it all looks great! The worst part about all of this is going to be finding the space to display it all! I need a bigger Lair.

Until next time!
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