It's a great time to be a Ninja Turtles fan. We have a new series coming out this fall along with awesome new figures to go with it. Not only that, but Playmates also saw fit to give us collector-friendly figures of the classic cartoon. As cool as they are, I hemmed and hawed about whether I should buy any of the Classic Collection Turtles. To be honest... the old-school cartoon just isn't my bag.
In the mid-80's, I was a huge fan of the Mirage TMNT comics. The original comics had crudely irreverent Turtles, unconventional plots, realistic violence, and awesome black and white artwork. My first issue was #8 and I was instantly mesmerized. After that, I picked up as many reprints and collections as I could find (even the blasphemously-colored graphic novels), reading them to the point of memorization. Then... the cartoon came out.
The Murakami-Wolf-Swenson cartoon (as it's apparently called nowadays) was a difficult pill to swallow for a Mirage TMNT fan. Shredder and the Turtles were sillier, Splinter was a mutated human instead of a mutated rat, and what in the world was going on with that Utrom? Still, I knew the cartoon was a necessary evil; it was the driving force behind the merchandizing blitz that produced the action figures and video games that were awesome enough for any Turtle fan to love. And it was so abstractly random that I admit it had a certain charm to it.
I decided to pick up one Classic Collection figure, at least. I opted for Don because he was always the best character in the video games. Admit it. You know he was.
The sculpt for Classic Don does a good job representing the cartoon's style. Initially, I found the face to be too stern, thinking that the Turtles were all just Johnny Smileys in the cartoon. But my friend Jason argued that they do have this stern expression in action scenes... which turned out to be true, at least in the episodes that I reviewed. The limbs and neck are too scrawny but Playmates did a great job capturing the look of the vintage cartoon regardless.
Classic Don has the Mirage-style elbow and knee pads (the cartoon pads were just straps). I would have preferred a pure cartoon Don, but the pads are a nice nod to the Mirage legacy. I was thinking that his green coloration would be inspired by the vintage figure as it is with Classic Collection Mike and Raph, but nope, not with Don. The paint apps are sparse but appropriate to the cartoony look of the figure. Still, I wonder how Don would look with some dark green MOTUC-style sprays to add depth to the musculature.
Donatello is about as hyper-articulated as he can get, at a whopping 34 points of articulation. I've often remarked that hyper-articulation can be problematic in that it breaks up the look of the sculpt and leads to stability issues, undercutting a figure's "toy" potential. Classic Don's points of articulation do make for some ugly holes (arms and legs) and segmented body parts (chest). I can overlook that... but the hand sculpts are weirdly distorted from accommodating the articulation and the articulated fingers give Don only the most tenuous grip on his bo. Although it's fun to add emotion to the figure by posing the hands, basic one-piece hands would have worked better.
Another questionable joint is the cut swivel-thigh. Its movement is handled by the hips, so I'm confused as to why it's there. It's not a big deal, just weird.
My most hated joints rear their ugly heads here: double-jointed knees/elbows, which break up a figure's limbs into three unnatural-looking segments. In Donnie's case, the elbow and knee pads do a great job alleviating that problem by making the middle segment seem less awkward.
It should be noted that the joints aren't particularly solid. Don's right shoulder is loose enough that it makes holding the bo problematic, and the other joints don't seem too far behind it in terms of loose-ness. If a kid played with this, it would end up flopping around like a rag doll within a week. Still, the figure is far more stable (in the sense that it has a better quality of plastic that makes the joints less prone to breakage) than the similarly-articulated NECA Turtles.
Despite my fussiness, I don't mind the hyper-articulation because 1) Donnie is more collectible than toy (twisted and evil) and 2) it's fun to put him in poses that have hitherto been impossible for any other Turtle figure.
Donatello comes with his signature bo staff and a manhole cover stand. I would have preferred more weapons, not to mention a Turtle communicator, but both the bo and the stand look great.
Donnie cost a good 18 bucks at a big box store. (I'm not sure which because Jason picked him up for me. Thanks, dude!) At a time when MOTUC are selling for $25 online, that's not too bad. But it's a difficult price to justify for a collector on a budget.
One thing that's awkward is that the scale doesn't quite work with any other line in my collection. Donnie measures up to a little over 6" in height. But the Turtles are only shoulder-height to humans in the cartoon, so this scale puts Donnie out of scale with both MOTUC and DCUC. He looks great with the vintage 11" Krang, though.
So as cool as Donatello is, will I buy the rest of the Classic Turtles to fill out the team? Probably not. Since the only unique parts are the heads and belts, I'd feel like I'd be buying the exact same figure over and over again. And for $18 each, these aren't figures to be buying willy-nilly. Still, I dig this Donatello, and I'm eager to see where Playmates goes with its Classic Collection line.