Retro Toy Review: Doctor El (Playmates TMNT)

The anthropomorphic animal theme ran rampant in the TMNT property (which I suppose is understandable given the main characters are mutant animals themselves). It seemed like every readily recognizable animal got its own mutant character, and it was only a matter of time before there was an elephant in the mix. But a simple anthropomorphic elephant wasn't enough for Playmates Toys... something else was needed to amp-up the wackiness. So they made the elephant a witch doctor and dubbed him Doctor El! But is Doctor El's wackiness too wacky? Let's find out!

Year Released: 1992
Company: Playmates
Size: 5"
Price: $2.25 loose complete from eBay
Packaging: Carded

I expect a fun and interesting sculpt with a vintage Playmates figure and Doctor El doesn't disappoint. Doc has plenty of cool "witch doctor" themed detailing that makes him an interesting figure to look at: he adorns himself with bones in his trunk, he somehow managed to get an arrow lodged in his leg, a mouse menacingly crawls on his foot, etc. I really dig the asymmetry of the figure, too. It seems like Doc was caught mid-mutation as half of him is human and the other half, elephant. In that sense, the sculpt tells a story in and of itself. But as with others in the vintage TMNT line, the paint apps are lacking and don't highlight the cool little details well.

Doctor El has a good range of movement: swivel neck, swivel trunk, swivel shoulders, swivel right wrist, and ball-socket hips. The trunk articulation is particularly cool in that when you rotate it upwards, it looks like Doc is bellowing his vicious battle cry!

Doc comes with Spooky Spear, Supernatural Safety Shield, Whodo? Youdo Wedoo Mask, and Bone Nunchaku, most of which contribute to the cool witch doctor theme. As with the sculpt of the figure, there are plenty of neat little details to discover in the sculpts of the accessories, like the Turtle face on the mask and the Turtle voodoo doll on the shield. And in a particularly cool twist, the spear can be inserted into the shield. I can do without the Bone Nunchakus, though. Nunchakus, bone or not, are more ninja than they are tribal.

Doctor El seems to be one of the less-common TMNT figures, so he can sometimes command a higher price on eBay. Still, if you're diligent you can pick him up on the cheap; this sample was only $2.25.

I expect a good deal of wackiness with my classic TMNT figures. While an anthropomorphic elephant isn't particularly wacky in and of itself, the witch doctor theme gives him a fun personality and makes this a cool figure that holds its own on the TMNT shelf.

Come to think of it, I have way too few elephant-themed figures.

Doctor El is exactly what I expect in a classic Playmates Toys figure. He's imaginative and colorful, with lots of cool little sculpting details and fun accessories, and he can be obtained for a price that even the most cost-conscious collector can justify. He's not quite at the same level of imaginative awesomeness as Muckman, but he's in the same ballpark.

Related Links:
Doctor El Style Guide Art
A cool custom-painted Doctor El by tOkKa

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.