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Looking Back on the TMNT Action Figures Pt. 3: We’re in a Scary Place

Posted on the 30 November 2014 by House Of Geekery @houseofgeekery

So this is the final installment of this little series, created from a spark of nostalgia that turned into madness. We’ve seen some insane things previously. The theory here is that the poor designers were forced to meet the massive demand for all things turtle related while limited by the small number of cast members. To remedy this they made…things. Unnatural things. And as the 1995 batch is about to teach us…

94 Pizzatoss

…unsettling things.

This foursome are the ‘pizza tossing’ turtles, and I presume that they fling regurgitated foodstuffs from their gaping torso cavities. Nothing can explain those facial expressions though. Perhaps someone slipped some acid onto their slice.

We also had these guys with…hair…

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And the results of random bits of anime toys being jammed all over the spare pieces.

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It would appear that the designers have reached the paranoia stage of madness and reflected this in their work by equipping the turtles with tinfoil hats.

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We can ignore the crotch plates. Those would suggest that the turtles had genitals.

For this next image I will assume that the designers had a big argument about whether they were going to make Village People turtles or Transformer turtles. After a lot of hair pulling and biting this was the combined result.

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Nothing says realism like the disembodied head of a ninja turtle jutting out of a bulldozer.

Also out in ’94 was the ‘Egg Cracking Turtles’, a series of regular turtle figures that came in big plastic eggs that you would crack open to reveal the turtle inside. Clearly they have given up on ‘interesting gimmick’ and gone with ‘gimmick’. It also appears that some communications got crossed and the designers thought the turtles would be laying the eggs. Just look at those faces.

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Only slightly less creepy than the flashing turtles.

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Hands away from the crotch area please fellas. As with previous years there was an attempt to get on board the trends of the time with Polly Pocket/Mighty Max knock-offs…

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Apollo 13 was getting some serious marketing at the time, so naturally we needed to bung the turtles into NASA type suits. I’m sure that the Ron Howard helmed Tom Hanks historical space drama and a Saturday morning cartoon about ninja trained amphibious teenagers had lots of cross over audiences.

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And if you think that’s the most gimmicky thing they could come up with, then you didn’t see the Star Trek turtles.

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The Universal Monster range from the previous year must have been a surprisingly good seller because they trotted them out with the less known creatures.

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Then presumably for shits and giggles they also designed some fantasy types characters. I’m not sure what inspired this Conan themed line but…it happened.

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This brings us to 1995, the year that they had not only lost their minds but their will to create anything new or interesting. This was the stage where they started pouring green plastic into an old moulds lying around the factory. Fat ones!

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Skinny ones!

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Ones that…um…what?

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Yeah, no idea.

We’d reached the point in time when Japanese influence was starting to play a role in children’s animation, and TMNT was certainly not immune to this trend.

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95 metal1

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At least, I’m assuming they are influenced by Japanese animation rather than having leftover accessories stuck on old stock. There was one concession to the trend of turtle cosplay we’ve grown to love/fear up onto today. The ‘adventurer’ set, or possibly another round of ‘strippers’.

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Or maybe the tripping balls set. What’s going on with their faces?

Amazingly I’ve got something downright awesome at this point. Not in an ironic way either. Jim Lee, legendary comic artist, had a set based on his designs.

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1996 will prove to be an interesting year, as it was the year that the original TMNT animated series came to a close. The action figure line would continue for another year after this. They’ve been churning out every idea possible, and even those that should be impossible. Or at least illegal. So what can they drag out for their penultimate year?

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Sigh. Ninja turtles is giant robot suits are fine. Totally cool. But when the robot suits are giant heads of said turtles with the actual turtles peering out of the transparent skulls they become creepy.

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These ones may seem like your basic terrible TMNT toys, but the limbs are stuffed full of springs to make them flail around. Because kids love springs.

mini turtles

Now with these ones you may be wondering why the badly dressed turtles have smaller turtles sitting under them. They’re actually more Polly Pocket/Mighty Max knock offs with the turtles themselves opening up to reveal the play set. Hey, that could be kinda neat! Unless they look…

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT THE FUCK! Why is he sitting inside his own scooped out head cavity?!

Right, fine. I’m not having fun any more. I’m scared. I’m scarred. My childhood is crying. If they continued this madness a full year after the cartoon had wrapped they must have resorted to producing TMNT sex toys.

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Oh you bastards. You went and did it. With Leonardo giving me that leery look I can’t think what else they could be. The less said about Shredder’s facial expression the better. They’ve been doing this for a decade and they have made sex toys.

What? They’re turtle themed Stretch Armstrong toys? Oh. Still doesn’t explain Shredder though.

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Also dinoturtles. Fuck it, why not. Just let the nightmare end. Ok, one more.

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So these ones…you take of the shell and they’re all skinny underneath, and each one represents an element or something. I don’t care. This journey has been freaking weird. They have taken every genre trope known to man and blended it with TMNT to make a nightmare cocktail. Cowboys, soldiers, robots, astronauts, cops, Transformers…they were driven to madness by the unquenchable demands for merchandise by the braying public. Every single toy put on shelves had the tears of the designers melted into the plastic.

For all the madness, lunacy and downright disturbing ideas, I would like to acknowledge the work of designers. It cannot have been easy working under the unrelenting demands and we did love these things when we were kids. I still have my original Mouser from 1989, the only one I could get with my pocket money, and my son plays with it now. So thanks for that.

Also thanks to http://tmnttoys.com/ for starting me down this path.

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