By Phantom Troublemaker
After the problems I had with NECA’s Quarter Scale Batman¸ I felt like I was done with this range of products. For the price, they need to be darn near perfect, and that Batman wasn’t. Plus, this size toy just takes up an awful lot of space. In general I’d much rather have a greater quantity of smaller scale action figures.
But then NECA went and made one of my favorite characters of all time from one of my favorite movies of all time and I had to pay attention.
I don’t read action figure reviews for things that I intend to buy because I don’t want them to influence my own potential review. If there’s one thing that I find appalling, it’s regurgitating someone else’s opinions from the internet. I never want to do it, even unconsciously. So I avoid toy reviews. Since I really didn’t have any intention of buying this guy, I read some reviews and the bottom line was that all of the issues I had with Batman and that were keeping me from picking up Donatello had been addressed.
Then I saw Donatello in person in FYE and he took my breath away.
I HAD to have one. But I didn’t want to pay the MSRP +$20 price that FYE was charging, so I went to the retail heroes at my Local Comic Shop to see if they could still order one through Diamond. And here it is.
I suppose this is something of a spoiler for how the review turns out, but I’m going to save the story of how much I love the 1990 Ninja Turtles movie for the intro of Raphael or Leonardo. I’ll also wait to talk about how the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Turtles are still massively superior to any CGI productions.
Donatello is and always has been my favorite Ninja Turtle. He’s smart and he’s unabashedly nerdy and I identify with that. He also has a dry sense of humor, even more so in the live action movie. Corey Feldman did a phenomenal job voicing him and was sorely missed (by me) in the sequel. He did return for the third film, though.
The best way I can describe my first impression of this figure is to say that it appears to be a scaled down prop replica of the movie suit. It appears to be darn near perfect.
NECA’s quarter scale figures come in big, clunky window boxes because what the heck else are you going to put them in? They weigh a ton and are pricey toys that need solid protection. The cardboard is very thick and sturdy, as is the clear plastic window. The graphics are lifted directly from the movie poster and look great. What really jumps out at me is the presence of the “Nickelodeon” logo amidst the 1990 movie dressings. It’s the first time I’ve seen that. Back in 1990, Nickelodeon didn’t own the franchise, so it’s weird to associate this version of the Turtles with Nick.
The back features both action shots of the figure and a group shot of the movie Turtles. Everything has the green nimbus that was common in the marketing for the movie. My favorite part, though, is the NECA logo, which is designed to mimic the Family Home Entertainment logo:
FHE was the company that distributed VHS collections of many of the biggest cartoons of the 80s, including GI Joe, Transformers, and of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So this is a nice touch.
There’s also a blurb about the movie and Donatello in particular.
I thought I would have a problem with the soft goods parts of the mask. The sculpted mask looks great, with wonderful, expressive detail around the eyes and dark washes of paint. Which is why I suspected the fabric ties hanging off the back would bother me. They obviously don’t match up, but the contrast isn’t nearly as stark in person as it is in these close-up pictures. And the ability to drape those parts however you want for posing is well worth the aesthetic difference. Plastic ends simply wouldn’t have worked.
Donnie’s eyes have a glossy, wet look and solid paint. From certain angles the left eye looks off, but it’s the shape of the mask.
That look on Donatello’s face is one of my favorite toy expressions ever. I know I always talk about preferring neutral looks, but this is too perfect (not that I’d pass up an accessory pack with extra heads if it was offered). This is essentially the look of a guy that has to deal with people that aren’t as smart as he is constantly. I see it every time I look in the mirror.
HAHA! I’m kidding. Or am I?
It’s so lifelike and so real that I halfway expect his mouth to start moving. The sculpt of the skin over the entire figure captures perfectly the texture of the movie Turtles. It isn’t overly knobby and thick like some releases. And the paint is simply phenomenal. There have been a few releases of the movie Turtles over the years – most recently from Playmates Toys – and none have every gotten the look right. I actually bought those Playmates Turtles just because they seemed like a good deal for twenty bucks, but the lack of paint and texture on the skin bothered me too much. I took them back.
Donnie’s skin has a staggering amount of paint. In addition to the spots of pigment – which are much more subtle than what was on the original Playmates movie figures from the 90s – there are washes and spots of highlighting throughout the entire figure. This is one of the best and most involved paint jobs I have ever seen on an action figure.
The entire shell is a separate piece that moves around to facilitate the articulation. It isn’t actually attached to the figure anywhere, it simply sits around the body of the figure. This was a brilliant choice, as it gives the arms, legs, and upper torso a much greater range of movement than you’d expect from a figure of this size and design. Donnie’s bandolier is also separate. It has a sculpted fastener and a little silver nub that I assume is movie accurate. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I’m glad it’s there.
The back of the shell is intricately sculpted and features all of the whorls and ridges you’d expect from a turtle shell. The excellent paint job brings it all to life. The back of the bandolier features sculpted stitiching on the side and fabric loops designed to hold Donatello’s Bo staff. They’re slipknots that tighten and loosen and they do effectively hold the staff in place. This was another great design.
The elbow pads and wrist bands look excellent. The sculpts are spot-on, but the paint is what really sells it. In the movie, the brothers’ gear looks well-worn and aged. The combination of sculpted divots, nicks, and folds with dark paint washes makes these look almost exactly like the movie counterparts. Plus, they’re all designed to conceal the surprisingly useful points of articulation.
The kneepads are executed just as well as the upper padding. I think Donnie’s feet are slightly larger than they should be, but it’s in service of giving the figure added stability and I’m okay with that. The sculpted toenails have a bit of a different paint color and a wash around the edges. I didn’t mention it above, but his fingernails are the same. You’ll see close-ups of those in a bit.
Donatello comes with his Bo staff, a slice of pizza, the TCRI mutagen canister, and five extra hands.
The Bo staff seems a bit longer than the one Donnie uses in the movie, and if so that’s okay. It always seemed a bit short to me. The wood sculpt is excellent and the twine grip wrapped around the middle is much more detailed than I ever realized. The staff fits nicely into Donatello’s hands and into the bandolier:
All of Donatello’s hands are a thick but pliable, soft plastic. I was surprised at how easy it is to move the fingers and thumbs to get them to interact with the accessories. They also switch out quite easily. The pegs are sturdy and once you loosen them up a bit the joints move well. The paint on the hands varies a lot – you’re not going to find two left hands with matching paint jobs. But I don’t care.
This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the finest slice of toy pizza I have ever owned.
This mutagen canister is not as dramatic as others we have seen throughout the history of the Ninja Turtles, as it has a simple crack in it rather than being straight-up busted in half. The sculpt and paint are great and that crack is excellent. The jaggedness is very natural and it really does look like it goes right through the outside.
Donatello has a staggering number of meaningful joints for a figure this large and heavy. I’ll run them down since this is the first review of one of these:
Head – ball joint, but you have to be firm with it to loosen it up. It’s sturdy, so don’t worry too much. Be careful, but don’t worry. It has a great up and down range and a little bit of side-to-side; as in cocking his head either way.
Shoulders – hinged swivels with more range than I expected. I was hoping they might have hinges on the pegs to make up for the lack of bicep swivels – which would have been ugly and I wouldn’t want – but I could still get most of the poses I wanted.
Elbows – double hinged with swivels at the top. The elbow pads restrict the range a bit, but are worth it for how much they conceal the joints. And there’s still a decent enough bend.
Wrists – swivel hinges. The depth of the bend is nice and is only slightly hampered by the wristbands. But since they conceal the joints so well, it’s okay.
Upper abdomen – rocker joint(!). the entire upper body is situated on a sort of ball joint within the shell structure. This means that it has an impressive range of motion both back and forth and side-to-side. I didn’t expect this joint and was quite pleased with it.
Hips – There’s a hinged ball in there and the thighs are on a peg and can swivel. I’m not always great at explaining joints, but these are similar to the hips on Masters of the Universe Classics figures. The hinges are ratcheted, which help the figure stand up. I wish there were a couple more ratcheted hinges, particularly the ankles.
Knees – double pivots covered by the knee pads. They can’t achieve deep bends, but they’re good enough for me.
Ankles – I was afraid these would be the same kind of crappy peg joints that NECA puts on their other figures, just bigger. I hate those and they’re the one thing that always bothers me about the company’s releases. But these are very good joints that have a great range in every direction. I do wish they were a little tighter. Right now I’m sitting at work worrying that Donatello is ever so slowly leaning over to the point where he’s going to fall off of the shelf onto the floor and explode.
Excuse me – I need to call my wife.
I am very impressed with this figure’s articulation. There’s more than I expected and it all works far better than what I would think was reasonable for a figure of this size. Add a nice stash of accessories to that and you’ve got a giant action figure that’s more than just a display piece, which is what toys this size usually are – glorified statues.
It’s tough for me to claim that this action figure isn’t perfect, so I’m not going to. I love it. I feel like someone at NECA must love that 1990 movie even more than I do because this is one of the most fastidiously designed and engineered action figures I have ever seen.
I know a hundred dollar Ninja Turtle isn’t for everyone, but if you were wondering if it was worth your money or not, it totally is. This is one of my new favorite toys. If I had room on my desk, he’d be taking up residence permanently. As is, Donatello isn’t even staying in the Phantom Zone. He is going upstairs with some of the fancier stuff.
5 out of 5
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