By "Pixel Dan" Eardley
The Heroes in a Half-Shell are back on the big screen with the release of Out of the Shadows. The new film brings many fan favorite TMNT characters to life in a film for the first time ever, including Dimension X dwelling brain-baddie Krang and the mutated Foot henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady.
Of course, with the launch of a new film comes plenty of merchandise for fans to gobble up. And while Out of the Shadows has given us an onslaught of new action figures for kids and collectors alike, this certainly isn't the first time the pizza-eating green teens have appeared in movie theaters. That also means there have been plenty of movie-based toy lines over the years.
So in honor of the new release, let's look back at the many action figures of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael based on their Hollywood flicks.
Movie Star Turtles (1991)
With the release of the second TMNT film The Secret of the Ooze came our very first movie-based action figures. That's right, the Movie Star Turtles that many fans fondly remember didn't actually get released until the second film. Word is that the first film was considered too dark and violent for Playmates Toys, and therefore they opted not to release toys until the cartoonier sequel came out.
In an effort to give the figures a more realistic appearance and feel, the Movie Star Turtles were made of a softer, more rubbery plastic that was textured. These figures feature quite a bit more detail than any of the previously released Turtles toys. The skin is spotted and the faces are much more expressive. One of the new details that has always been a personal favorite of mine is the longer, flowing bandanas.
They weren't perfectly movie accurate, but still felt like an upgrade when they were released. In fact to this day, many fans still think of these as being among some of the best Turtle figures released.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie III (1993)
The third film wasn't among my favorites, to be honest. I don't think I'm alone with that assessment. Regardless, I always enjoyed the Turtles' action figures that were released in the coinciding toy line. These versions feature a similar "realistic" look as the Movie Star Turtles, but this time are not made of the softer, "real-feel" plastic.
The most distinguishing difference, of course, is the armor. Since the film took the Turtle Teens to Feudal Japan, these new action figures give us awesome Samurai gear that is really nicely detailed. The armor features colors that fit each member of the team, and also have removable face masks...a feature that I particularly love. We even get the time-traveling lanterns as accessories. The film itself might have been lack-luster, but the toy line is actually pretty sweet.
The first-ever animated TMNT film was the team's first big screen return. In my opinion, this film is highly underrated. The action figures from this film were also quite a bit different from anything we saw released in the past. For the first time, the scale was boosted up to 6 inches. The Turtles themselves were also much leaner to capture their new animated appearance.
The scale and design difference also allows for an increase in articulation. Elbow and knee joints, along with swivels in key points allow these figures to be posed much better than the figures with pre-posed stances that Playmates Toys typically gives us. These also got released in a pretty great era for action figures, so costs hadn't quite skyrocketed up to typical $20 price point we see on this scale of action figure today. They also have good paint apps...even on the weapons!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
The first Michael Bay produced Turtles film gave us very different heroes. The new designs was arguable the biggest complaint about the relaunch from long-time fans. Despite this, the new look was translated to new action figures. And whether you like the new looks or not, I will say that these action figures were pretty nicely made.
Since the fab four are now sporting a lot of clothing pieces that means that the toys feature a lot more sculpted details. Since these were also pushed out to coincide with the movie's release, the paint deco also appears to be a slight improvement over the normal Nick TMNT figures also in stores at the same time.
They are pretty nicely made toys. They're just...ugly.
Classic Collection/Secret of the Ooze (2014 and 2016)
While the toy line based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series was enjoying success in the toy aisles, and the Bay movie toys were starting to hit, Playmates also decided to do something special for long time fans by releasing new figures inspired by the original 1990 film!
Part of their Classic Collection line, the 1990 Movie Figures were technically the first toys we ever received based on this film. The sculpts on these figures are pretty good, and definitely beyond anything Playmates Toys had really given us in the past. The articulation was amped up as well, allowing for the most poseable TMNT movie figures from the company to date.
The biggest downside with these figures to me comes in the form of loose joints, especially in the fingers. This causes some issues in holding their signature weapons. Many fans also feel that the facial expressions don't really match the personality of each Turtle. These odd design choices have led to the more creative collectors to customize the heads by taking them apart and swapping bandanas to create a more appropriate look for each Turtle.
In 2016, the four Turtles were rereleased, now branded for the original film's sequel The Secret of the Ooze. While the overall figures were exactly the same as what we received prior, they benefit from having new paint deco, additional interchangeable heads, and some fun movie-specific accessories.
I still don't feel that these are quite screen accurate depictions of the Turtles, but overall these are still really nice TMNT action figures.
Out of the Shadows (2016)
And that brings us to the most recent film and its corresponding toy line. In the movie, the Turtles themselves still seem to have that large, almost monstrous look to them. The toys, however, have toned it down a bit. They are more brightly colored, aren't as over detailed with unnecessary clothing bits, and, well...they just look more like toys!
I really find these to be an improvement over the figures released for the first Bay film that more toy-like aesthetic they were given was the correct choice to make, as they definitely seem much more appealing. And while I'm only focusing on the brothers in this particular article, I'm going to go ahead and mention that this particular movie line has also given us some pretty rad play sets and a vehicle, so that's a definite positive as well!
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an enduring franchise. New cartoons, comics, and movies keep a constant flow of new action figures flowing into stores for shell heads like myself to grab up. If Out of the Shadows does well, which I have a feeling it will, we can likely expect even more films in the years to come...which means even more action figures. Give it a couple of years, and I'll be writing a follow-up article to talk about them.
Aside from potential new movies to look forward to, we also have new toys based on old Turtle movies coming soon! Until now, all TMNT Movie toys have been produced by Playmates Toys. That's all about to change once NECA Toys releases their amazing looking 1/4 scale 1990 movie figures. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's a great time to be a fan of the Ninja Turtles!
...even if the new movie designs are still ugly.
Check out more images for all these figures below in our GALLERY
and Until next time!