Long one of indie comic's biggest mainstream successes, about a year ago the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise changed hands from Mirage Studios to new corporate owner Nickelodeon. Naturally, the kids network wanted a new cartoon to cash in on its new acquisition, so now this summer action figure fans are being treated to a brand-new deluge of Turtles product to sync with that forthcoming media tie-in. And I for one am not complaining, for between the new animated line and the larger-scale Classics assortment, longtime toy license holder Playmates is producing some of the best TMNT figures ever. And though collector prejudices would favor the six-inch line, I want to make it clear that it's the smaller figures that are the real must-haves.
When Playmates unveiled the new TMNT toys at Toy Fair back in February, I knew I had to pick up some of the animated figures. Sure, the Classics figures boasted loads of articulation and sculpting that hewed closely to the heroes' depictions in the 1980s cartoon. But there was something about the new Nickelodeon designs that was very appealing, somehow even more so than the vintage-inspired line. The wait for the figures to hit stores only served to build up my anticipation. Though projected for release in August, they actually started hitting store shelves a few weeks before. Given Donatello is my favorite of the four Turtles, he was naturally my first purchase for myself (I got a Leonardo for my brother beforehand). And yes, he's awesome.
The new cartoon line is in the five-inch scale, roughly compatible with toys released in conjunction with the great 4Kids series that ran from 2003 to 2009. The Turtles in the new series are younger than they have been typically been portrayed, so none of them are a full five inches in height in plastic form, just so you know. They're teenagers, after all. All your Shredder figures will tower over them, as they're supposed to do.
Donatello naturally comes with his signature bo staff, which can be easily holstered on the back of his belt. Like all the other Nick Turtles, he comes with additional weapons attached to a plastic sprue, just like the ones that came with Playmates' original TMNT toys back in 1988. He's got quite the arsenal -- counting his bo, Don includes five weapons!
The plentiful articulation and the sheer personality conveyed by the marvelously-detailed sculpt make Donatello a hard figure to put down. It's now my default Don, supplanting my original '88 version and the six-inch 2007 movie sculpt, both of which are great in their own ways. But this one has them both beat.
I had high hopes for these toys when I first learned about them, and they've more than surpassed them. Offering cool sculpts, respectable articulation, and loads of accessories, these are a great value at the standard $9 retail price. Almost overnight, Don here has become a serious contender for my figure of the year. This figure is so awesome I've already picked up his brother Michelangelo, and now have to restrain myself from buying the $30 Shellraiser vehicle to house them in. If you've ever been a Turtle fan (and if you were a kid in the late '80s or early '90s, chances are you were), buy your favorite ninja ASAP. And though I may be a little biased by character favoritism, so far it would appear that of all the five-inch Nickelodeon Turtles, Don here has been blessed with the best toy.