Monday, June 25, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 1990 and 1991 (Playmates Toys)




It's been over three years since we visited Playmate's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in our original post. Years three and four (and beyond) have been a long time coming, and we're happy to revisit a toy line we have been so fond of over the past few decades. Let's jump right in!

By 1990 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were huge. They had a monthly comic book series, a daily cartoon, a movie (with a sequel in the works), toys (of course), a role playing game, and even a full blown concert tour - "Coming Out Of Their Shells," which was sponsored by Pizza Hut. Turtle Mania was a fast traveling train that surely wasn't going to derail any time soon.

Playmates continued to support and produce the TMNT line with its latest toys and accessories. The third year, while not as strong as the prior years, was certainly larger. This time around, Playmates even produced variant figures. It would also mark the beginning of what would become an overabundance of variations to the turtle figures themselves (see year four for further information).


Leo the Sewer Samurai, Mike the Sewer Surfer, Don the Undercover Turtle, Raph the Space Cadet


The first variant figure was the new April figure which now sported a version that had a white "Press" badge on the front left side of her shirt. The figure was also produced without the badge.


April O'Neil (no press badge), April O'Neil (with press badge), Fugitoid, Mondo Gecko, Muckman and Joe Eyeball, Mutagen Man


The most notable and easy to spot variant figures are those of Ray Fillet. The figure comes with three different color variation vests.


Napolean Bonafrog, Panda Khan, Pizzaface, Ray Fillet (yellow vest), Ray Fillet (red vest), Ray Fillet (orange vest)



Scumbug, Slash, Triceraton, Wingnut and Screwloose


Two larger sized bugs were produced for the series that were also intended to be vehicles of sorts.


Killer Bee, Needlenose


The regular vehicles had a familiar feel to them, which carried over from the first and second series of figures (1988-1989). While they weren't necessarily things shown in the TV series, they definitely had a feel to them that was solid in the TMNT world.


Sewer Dragster, Turtlecopter, Sewer Party Tube, Sewer Seltzer Cannon, Sewer Army Tube



Psycho Cycle, Oozey, Mutant Module


Playmates introduced a sub-line into the series known as Wacky Action. These figures were "motorized" by way of a wind-up mechanism on their backs. Each figure had its own unique "action" when engaged.


Breakfightin' Raphael, Creepy Crawlin' Splinter, Headspinnin' Beebop, Machine Gunnin' Rocksteady, Rock N' Rollin' Michaelangelo



Sewer Swimmin' Donatello, Slice N' Dice Shredder, Sword Slicin' Leonardo, Wacky Walkin' Mouser


Though part of the Wacky Action line, these related vehicles kept their look and feel of the regular vehicles line.


Sludgemobile, Toilet Taxi


Series four (1991) became the beginning of the end for a lot of Turtle fans, but at the same time continued to rake in enough money that the series continued for several more years. The biggest problem with the toy line would quickly become an overabundance of figures based on the Turtles.

Worse was that the variations seemed to be no more than an excuse to produce figures. From athletes to soldiers to punkers and beyond, Playmates seemed determined to dress the Turtles in any fashion of clothing they could come up with. It was overkill at its best, and the beginning of an oversaturated market of Turtle toys.


Chrome Dome, Dirtbag, Groundchuck, Hose 'Em Down Don, Make My Day Leo, Sergeant Bannans



Space Usagi, Tatoo, Walkabout, Skateboardin' Mike, Wyrm, Zak the Neutrino


With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze in theaters, it was inevitable that figures would be produced - Though surprisingly, not many.

Tokka was produced with both an orange and green shell, though since you cannot see this variation by looking at the front of the package, we have only included a photo of the green shell version.


Rahzar, Super Shredder, Tokka


The first new sub series produced in 1991 was the Headdroppin’ line. The figures were designed to do exactly as they sound like they did, I.E. drop their heads into their shells.


Headdroppin' Leo, Headdroppin' Mike, Headdroppin' Don, Headdroppin' Raph


Mutant Military figures was the second sub-series of 1991. This depicted the Turtles as a particular branch of the military.


Lieutenant Leonardo, Midshipman Mike, Pro Pilot Don, Raph the Green Teen Beret


Rock'n Rollin' Turtles was the third sub-series of 1991. These figures depicted the Turtles in music genre appropriate garb.


Classic Rocker Leo, Heavy Metal Raph, Punker Don, Rappin' Mike


Sewer Sports All-Star Turtles was the fourth sub-series of 1991. These figures depicted the Turtles in various sports related gear.

While some collector's consider the prior mentioned Skateboardin' Mike to be a part of this line, you can see from the design of the two cards that it really isn't.

The line consisted of two sets, three with red boarders, and three with yellow for a total of six figures.


Shell Slammin' Mike, Grand Slammin' Raph, Shell Kickin' Raph, Slap Shot Leo, TD Tossin' Leo, Slam Dunkin' Don


Storage Shell Turtles was the fifth sub-series of 1991. It consisted of the four basic Turtle figures with a unique twist. Their shells could be open to reveal a storage area for their accessories which came packed in with each figure.


Storage Shell Leonard, Storage Shell Michaelangelo, Storage Shell Dontalleo, Storage Shell Raphael


Talking toys were a major attraction for children of the early 90's. Thus, the sixth sub-series of 1991, Talkin' Turtles were a huge success.


Talkin' Leonardo, Talkin' Michaelangelo, Talkin' Dontaello, Talkin' Raphael


If one thing was consistent with the Turtles toys, it was the vehicles. Much like the prior year, it stayed on par with the overall look and feel that fans had come to expect from the series.

In fact, two of the vehicles were so similar, that they just threw the Roman numeral II at the end of the name.


Turtle Blimp II, Cheapskate II, Leo's Turtle Trike, Raph's Turtle Dragster, Rocksteady's Pogocopter


Halfway through the release of vehicles, the boxes were redesigned (of sorts) to now show a much nicer image. Rather than depict a cartoony look, they now had a fantastic painted look to them.


Don's Kookie Carnival Card, Leo's Jolly Turtle Tugboat, Ninja Newscycle, Shreddermobile, Shell Top 4X4



Sewer Sub, Turtle Tank


It's important to note a couple aspects of the vehicles for 1991. For starters, the Sewer Sub and Turtle Tank have box variations. The ones not shown contain the same artwork, but a blue stripe with white stars around the edges.

Second, while the majority of the vehicles don't say so, there are some that are put of the various sub-series of figures. These are as follows;

Don's Kookie Carnival Car (Wacky Action)
Leo's Jolly Turtle Tugboat (Wacky Action)
Rocksteady's Pogocopter (Mutant Military)
Sewer Sub (Mutant Military)
Turtle Tank (Mutant Military)

Beyond that, the rest of the vehicles are considered to be part of the main toy line.

The Turtle line was definitely growing. The toys for 1990 and 1991 far outweighed the amount produced in the first two years, and each subsequent line would seem to only get bigger and bigger. We'll definitely be back to visit the Turtles again in the near future, but until then, thanks for reading.

Join us next time when we take a look at Batman: Mask of the Phantasm!

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