The endless march of time brings change. Evolution. Mutation. If a creature is to survive, it must adapt. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are such creatures, having managed to remain relevant since they burst onto the scene in 1984. Spawning a line of toys that chronicles their evolution, from comics to cartoons and live action to CG movies, the legacy of TMNT lives on in the hearts of toy collectors of every age.
Today we put that legacy to the test, pitting the original TMNT toy line against the newly re-imagined Turtles of 2012. Welcome to Toys in Time, the series where we compare classic toy lines to their modern counterparts and see which one comes out on top!
SCULPT AND PAINT
The original TMNT figures ooze character. The Turtles sport fierce grimaces, stout bodies, and muscular limbs tensed into fighting positions. Bad guys Bebop and Rocksteady are total brutes with hulking features and over-sized heads, chock full of ugly detail. Shredder and his Foot Soldier hunch menacingly, the Foot Soldier cutting an especially dynamic pose. April and Splinter are the least interesting in this regard, with Splinter looking more like a cat toy than a karate master.
My first reaction to the new Turtles was “YES! These are even better than the originals!” Leo, Don, Mikey, and Raph have been slimmed down in the body and given more human proportions, though the arms and legs taper outward into chunky hands and feet. The overall effect is more lean and agile. It’s an appealing look, but what the new figures have sacrificed is personality. They’re a little less… “Turtley.” Color-coded arm and leg bands are gone, along with the individual letter that used to adorn each Turtle’s belt. This left me feeling a little nostalgic for the old guys.
Shredder and his Foot Soldier have been somewhat sanitized as well, now standing bolt upright with no movement or purpose. They look cool and more realistic than their ancestors, but I’m not ready to concede that “more realistic” equals “better” in this case. Kraang (new spelling) with his new Terminator-like chassis is my favorite non-Turtle character in this first wave of figures. Splinter and April remain awful and boring respectively.
This is no contest. The new guys make the originals look more like Turtle statues than action figures. Rotating ball joints at the shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips mean that New Leo could put Old Leo down on his shell in a hurry. Thankfully, the joints have been integrated in a way that keeps the bodies looking organic rather than mechanical, as some over-articulated figures tend to do. The joints seem sturdy as well, so there should be no objections to the added range of motion. These guys are ninjas; they should be able to bend their arms and legs.
Each Turtle still comes with a pair of primary weapons and a parts tree filled with various secondary weapons. One nice change is that Leo and Raph get grey-colored accessories that represent their metallic weapons more accurately. Mikey’s nunchucks continue to be annoying, as the “chain” portion of the ‘chucks isn’t really flexible. Even as an adult, I can’t resist trying to bend the chain, knowing full well that the weakening plastic will turn white and eventually break. Some things never change.
The new figures may have traded a bit of their soul for slimmed down, super-articulated physiques, or maybe they’re just products of natural selection. Action figures who can barely move their arms and legs died out a long time ago, but their multi-jointed descendants live on. I love the new figures for their gritty, modern look and their infinite posability. If not for these traits, we may not even have a new TMNT line to be talking about right now, but the in-your-face comic character of the originals is undeniable. Embrace the change, but respect the past. Mutate. Survive.