There’s been so many iterations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but one of the most well remembered (and best, if we’re being honest) is the 1990 live action movie. Unlike the sequels, the original movie wasn’t afraid to get a little dark and a lot weird (the Foot Clan is essentially a child thief trafficking ring in this telling… like I said, WEIRD). And Jim Henson Studios’ Ninja Turtle costumes were incredible, making the absurd concept of a talking, six foot tall mutant turtle something believable and packed with character. In terms of this strange franchise, the live action movie is about as good as it gets.
That’s why I was STOKED when NECA first revealed their movie inspired Ninja Turtles toys. They were packed with screen accurate detail, incredible faithful to Henson’s costumes, with lots of relevant accessories, enough articulation that they could probably pose better than the actual dudes in the costumes, and unique face sculpts which matched each Turtles’ personality. The only problem? Due to Playmates Toys’ restrictive license on the TMNT brand, NECA could only release their amazing movie Turtles in 18″ quarter-scale. Who’s got room for Turtles that big, honestly?
But due to some deft licensing work on the back-end, NECA has managed to release a few great sets of TMNT toys as convention exclusives, and once I saw their Arcade and Animated Turtles box sets, I knew it was only a matter of time until they released 7″ versions of the fantastic movie sculpts. Fast forward to Comic Con 2018, and the movie Turtles box set became the centerpiece of NECA’s exclusive offerings.
Inside a window box and slipcover that replicates the artwork from the movie’s vintage VHS case, there’s a lot to unpack here… literally! The set contains all four Turtles– Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael– each a perfect scaled down version of the previously released Q-scale sculpts. Everyone includes their signature weapons (including functional sheaths for Leo’s katana and Raph’s sai), an alternate wind-swept bandana tie, an alternate set of hands, and some great communal accessories including the damaged can of TCRI mutagen that transformed the brothers when they were babies, and an in-scale pizza, sliced eight ways, packed in a cardboard box that looks suspiciously like Dominos from the era.
Each figure’s face is an entirely unique sculpt, matching their on screen appearances perfectly. And the expressions enhance each figure’s personality, from Mikey’s wide-eyed smile and Raph’s scowl, to Leo’s focused look of concentration and Donnie’s calm and collected resting face. The figures can hold their weapons quite well, and the alternate hands allow them to communally enjoy their pizza, or strike several other character-appropriate poses, such as a commanding finger point from Leo to the team, or double thumbs up for Mikey.
The incredible paint work on the Turtles’ scaly skin is intricate and quite realistic, even on these smaller sized figures. I love that the scale and freckle pattern is unique to each character, further distinguishing them beyond their multi-colored bandanas and individual face sculpts.
Apart from these distinct features, the Turtles’ main bodies are a shared sculpt, which is accurate to the movie and a way for NECA to reuse some tooling. Since I never purchased the larger movie Turtles, the 7″ figures marked the first time I got to interact with these bodies, and holy cow, are they well designed. We get double jointed elbows and knees, expertly masked beneath the Turtles’ pads, a ball jointed neck with a great range of motion, and even an ab joint hidden behind the figures’ rubber shells. This allows you to shift the figures’ shoulders from side to side and front-to-back, and while the joint may seem subtle, it goes a long way in opening up posing options for these guys.
I don’t think there will ever be better action figures based on the first TMNT movie than what NECA has done here. They’re a highlight of any toy collection, whether you consider them Ninja Turtles figures specifically, or genre movie figures in general. Sadly, due to Playmates’ restrictions, NECA was only allowed to release this box set at SDCC, but if you missed them at the show, I would strongly encourage you to track them down by any means necessary.
If I have one complaint about this set, it’s more conceptual than specific. This is the fourth time NECA has released a new iteration of the Ninja Turtles in 7″ scale, and each set has basically covered the same four core characters. While I like the diversity of styles between the Mirage, Arcade, Animated, and Movie Turtles, I’d love to see NECA pick a lane and release more characters from one or more of these corners of the TMNT universe. At this point, I can’t see them being very interested in any other incarnations of TMNT’s history, but we now have four well established paths for them to continue exploring with future toy releases. We’ve seen prototypes of the Dimension X video game set, which would bring Slash, the Rock Soldiers, and Leatherhead to the game line, but beyond that, will we see more? And what avenue will NECA be most likely to continue? As long as future figures are as well done as what we’ve seen from NECA so far, I’ll wait to see what else they have up their sleeves, eager to add anything and everything to the collection.