Looking Back On the TMNT Action Figures Part 2: Further into Madness
We’ve already looked at the first couple of years worth of TMNT toys that were released in the late 1980s, and how the designers had clearly lost their minds trying to meet demand while stretching the limited range of characters out into unique sets. No doubt 1992 saw much more sensible, canon sets of figures.
We’re of the flying start. Mickey looks like he’s going to eat some children while dressed as a clown, Raph has clearly been roped into fulfilling someones fantasy weekend and is not comfortable with what he’s being asked to do and Leo is all to aware that no-one accepts his explanation for the confetti. What else did they release this year?
Well, they weren’t done with random military uniforms.
Then there’s the Western set complete with not one but two offensive racial stereotypes. And Donatello as a stripper.
Plus there’s Californian types, because that was a whole thing that year.
And the Olympics were happening. They had nothing to do with turtles, but fuck it…
Jesus Leo, put the gums away. As always the best they have to offer comes in the form of the main series.
Clearly the first thing we need to address here in the three variants of April in the front row. Technically they’re called ‘Ninja Newscaster’, ‘April’ and ‘Ravishing Reporter’ but we’re going to call them ‘Cavewoman’, ‘April’ and ‘Hooker’. That ‘ninja’ outfit is only going to be of use if you’re trying to blend in with a pack of zebras. Then there’s the items you get with the ‘ravishing reporter’.
Ninja File Sai, Lipstick Nunchaku, Compact Ninja Star, Katana Blade Curling Iron, Make-Up Brush Battle Bo. See girls, you can be a ninja by hiding make-up in your weapons!
Beyond that the other ‘take an animal and stereotypes and jam them together while giggling softly’ approach has reached some strange places. ‘King Lionheart’ at the back there seems to have fallen out of Disney’s Robin Hood.
Why is there a king in medieval armour in a series set in modern New York? Monty Moose is a new level of Canadian stereotyping and the only thing stranger than him is the fact someone online is featuring this action figure in a photo story.
The biggest continent doesn’t get left out of the racial stereotyping marathon, with India and China both getting represented in Doctor El and Hothead.
What even is that guy? A dragon? At least he isn’t an ant.
Or a merman.
Yes. It’s a merman. The most popular show of the 90s was about ninjas and robots and…a merman.
1993 proved to be an interesting year as well. In some ways they tried to move back to basics in replicating the style of the TV show they were supposed to be basing their line on.
Sure the turtles look like they’re coming out of a lobotomy performed with a spade, and they’ve scrabbed the barrel enough that they have to use April’s co-workers as ‘action’ figures (with filing paperwork action!), but they’ve got characters we can name.
Not like these things.
So robot Bebop and Rocksteady and Mona Lisa, a lizard love interest for Leonardo in one episode that I remember and then…what looks like a bunch of rejected character ideas from what I assume were public service announcements. Look, we can guess what they were promoting:
Hey kids! Don’t play with matches!
Don’t rob banks!
Don’t…cheat at basketball? With your vulture thing?
Don’t…don’t…holy shit, really? I thought we were all about political correctness during the 90s and we still produced this fez wearing camel?! Well, there was one thing we could do right in 1993…
Turn everything into fucking trolls. And Transformers. I don’t think I saw this episode.
But they weren’t so stretched for ideas that they started turning out Universal Monster Turtles. And by that I mean they totally did.
And superheroes because being awesome mutant ninjas aren’t enough.
Also cavemen. With dinosaurs.
As batshit crazy as these things are, at least there’s an element of badassery to it all. Monsters, dinosaurs, superheroes…they have some place in cool Saturday morning action cartoons even if the dinosaurs have eye masks. So why the hell did they make farmers?
More than anything else though, 1993 will be known as the year that they turned April into a furry action figure.
And that’s all I can deal with this week. We’ll wrap it up next time.