I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. There will never be a better time to grow up. We got the best toys, the best shows, the best food, and all of that is now gone. And one of the single best things to come out of that era is the concept of a Ninja Turtle.
Sure, the Ninja Turtles are still around, but they’ll never be back to the extent that I witnessed firsthand. I was there every step of the way as they hit phenomenon status, and I’ll still be there when they eventually fade away for good.
Currently, they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. This means very little for most of you, but you may have seen the classic action figures reissued with the 25th anniversary logo stamped on them bundled with an episode from the original cartoon. I have no need for either of those because I got the Turtles when they were new.
The Best Action Figures Know What Kids Want
The original figures stand at near-perfection next to G.I. Joes. I honestly don’t think we’ll see an action figure line go to the lengths the Turtles went ever again. Over the course of ten years we kept getting new figures for the Turtles, but once you cover the four Turtles, Splinter, April, Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady, what more is there to bring out?
Naturally, vehicles and locations.
The Turtles’ Party Wagon remains one of the finest action figure vehicles ever built. It could carry all the Turtles, had multiple accessories, and could have a figure sit on a spring-loaded seat that swung out. That’s just plain cool.
But once you get the basics out of the way, where do you go from there? New variations of the Turtles, such as Leonardo in football gear, Michaelangelo dressed as a clown, Raphael in an army uniform, or Donatello as a D & D style dwarf.
Things just went insane.
I actually have a Farmer Mike figure that came with a tractor. And I loved it. I loved every single new figure that came out despite how absurd they became. Star Trek Ninja Turtles? It happened alright.
As a kid I was able to see past the obvious marketing campaign and just enjoy the figures because every new figure really did feel new. They’d always come with an assortment of weapons and gadgets that were totally different from anything else I’d gotten previously. And vehicles weren’t restricted by sense. Anything could be a vehicle and anything could be a figure. There was nothing too absurd, and that’s the way we liked it.
The World Changes
Eventually, the original cartoon was canceled, so no new figures for a while. The live-action series on Fox spawned some new figures, but they didn’t last long. I did actually really love the new figures and snatched up the main characters once again. However, they couldn’t pull off variations in the same way. They just didn’t make me want to purchase a Turtle that looks the same exact with pants and a skateboard.
A few more years go by and then another new series comes along. More toys surface and fail to impress me. I’d pick up a new figure and say, “Meh, they just aren’t the same. My originals are better.” The nostalgia factor kicked in so hard that I couldn’t shake it off.
Classic Ninja Turtle action figures hearken me back to a better time filled with Nintendo cereal and Doug and Disney Afternoons and everything that was good and right with the world. A world where toys were creative and made to last. The new figures are just…there.
A Ray of Hope
I’m happy to say that they have released some new Ninja Turtle action figures that I HAD to buy. Take a look at the figures based off the original comics. They’re awesome; there are no other words to describe them. I received the set of 4 for Christmas. You can pick them up for a little over $40 at Amazon, though they’re getting harder and harder to find now.
We may never get back to an age where action figures could release the same characters in new outfits and make kids really, honestly want to buy every single variation, but at least there are the classics. You can buy a classic anniversary reissue for around $10 in stores; they are almost cool as the original.
But don’t forget to look at garage sales and flea markets, too. Best figures ever for under a $1. The Golden Age is still out there, but it requires you to go looking a bit.
Oh, and remember: Cowabunga!