Thursday, 7 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review TMNT Monkey Brains and Attila the Frog*

Yay I get to talk about the Turtles again! Oh, it’s these two…cancel that yay

Next up on the Reviewapalooza are two cheap plastic pieces of shit. 
Ok that’s a bit harsh, it’s true but it is harsh, I think to be fair to the toys  I need to separate the expectations of a professional ‘adult toy collector’ (hate that terrrrm), an amateur toy reviewer, a two and a half decade old TMNT fan and the target audience for these toys.
The ‘adult toy collector’ in me thinks things like ‘they couldn’t be bothered to cut the holes out in Monkey Brain’s belt?” “Really, there’s no accessories?” and “These are the only two figural representations of these characters ever and they both look like bootlegs?” probably while stroking a beard and wearing an ironic t-shirt. 
The amateur toy collector says things like “Attila doesn’t have any leg articulation at all? Not even swivel joints? For shame” “Monkey Brains’ paint apps are cack” and “the sculptor who worked on Monkey Brains clearly thinks fur and bark are interchangeable” probably while drinking Code Red Mountain Dew (which I don’t like, actually)
The two and a half decade old TMNT fan thinks “these aren’t as good as the original line, hell these aren’t as good as the 4Kids line” and “Monkey Brains looks a lot like some of those old vintage-era bootlegs like Heroes of the World Fighter – I like that” while wearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1 issue 1 t-shirt I do in fact own (I only wear ‘nerd shirts’ if they have Turtles of Sonic on them).
And the target audience says “Wow! Monkey Brains and one of the frogs!” “Attila’s tongue shoots out! Monkey Brains clings to anything! These are pretty fun” and “they’re not quite as good as last year’s figures though” while not quite understanding while April makes them feel funny.
As these aren’t collector’s figures I’m trying to ignore all but the last voice in my head, these aren’t for adults, these aren’t for us, now that doesn’t excuse them looking cheap (and they do) even compared to the previous waves or having weaker sculpts compared to the previous waves but I feel it’s only right to judge them in the right mindset when reviewing them.

And I am reviewing them so… both Atilla the Frog and Monkey Brains are new for 2015 for Playmates current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, their third (as Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation and TMNT were released under those names), beginning in 2012 and tying into the currently airing CGI cartoon on Nickelodeons (which is an official ‘Nicktoon’). Monkey Brains started turning up late autumn and Attila about November/December around here but Playmates have apparently decided that waves and series are for losers and the best way to release a line is to poop them out in dribs and drabs to keep kids on their toes, maybe it works but it makes the compartmentalizing part of my personality irritated, which amounts to they came out ‘recently’ and are still in stores at full price as I write this. 

Monkey Brains, alias Dr Tyler Rockwell1, is a new character introduced for the current Nicktoon, he’s a scientist betrayed and mutated by his partner (who subsequently becomes this comics’ incarnation of the Rat King because that character must have a different origin in each iteration of TMNT or else the world will collapse), his debut is very funny, especially the arse-kicking he hands Donatello. I generally don’t buy the new characters unless they have ties to pre-Viacom2 concepts, Rockwell’s tie is the Mutanimals, I’ve been a fan of the Mutanimals since Jagwar’s first appearance was reprinted in the UK (perhaps earlier) and Rockwell here is part of this cartoon’s version of the Mutanimals so I wanted him to help complete the line-up. he’s pretty crap, he’s a shitty sculpt that looks like he’s made of wood rather than fur, his head isn’t on a ball-joint despite being sculpted looking up meaning he cannot look down and when his two things being hanging from things and blasting people with his mind good neck articulation is a bit necessary. His biggest crime though is that he’s designed after his debut appearance complete with busted shackles when for a while now he’s been appearing in a redesigned form (including new gauntlets and helmet) which is USED ON THE FUCKING PACKAGING. This is probably a result of toys requiring as longer development time than the cartoons (the debut of this costume was aired in March) but it’s another disappointment on top of all the others and made all the more obvious by the current look, again, being USED ON THE FUCKING PACKAGING (seriously, just use the older character model).         

Rockwell has no accessories because fuck that shit removable helmets are for gays but he DOES have one saving grace, and that is his hands and arms are sculpted so he can and will hang off of an-y-thing. I use ‘can and will’ deliberately here because even since I’ve had him out of the box (which was Christmas Day, about a week as of this writing) he has hooked himself onto all manner of things I didn’t want or intend to hook him onto including: my headphones, two carrier bags, a Doctor Who box set and the Christmas Tree’s plastic stand. The little bastard is drawn to hanging on things like some kind of… monkey (well technically he’s not a monkey, he’s an ape) and always looks good doing it too. Here, I hung him on four of the nearest things to the section of my loft (attic) where I take my quick crappy pictures for these reviews:

None of them required any effort, any balancing, hell, any posing, he just seemed to naturally arrive at those appropriate poses all by himself and given that those objects are (in case you’re wondering) the top of the Chap Mei playset I use as my backdrop, the draws I keep my action figures in, a TV aerial and Godzilla he’s damn versatile. So cheap looking he may be but good at being a monkey ape he is also.

Attila the Frog dates back to the first heyday of TMNT, if you don’t recognise him that’s because the last time you saw him he was not ginormously fat, he was not blue, he was not wearing a crown, he was in fact wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt undone to show off his terrific frog abs. Attila is one of the Punk Frogs, created for the original Murakami-Wolf-Swenson cartoon series (the one you all remember and won’t admit was utter shit) debuting in the second season episode ‘Invasion of the Punk Frogs’ whereupon he was one of four Florida-born frogs specifically created by The Shredder to equal the Turtles, a plan that failed because a) the Turtles had had years of ninja training and b) the Frogs weren’t bad blokes. In those days the Punk Frogs all looked the same bar slight deviations in their skin colour and clothing designs – the same as the Turtles – a figure matching that design was released but under Genghis Frog’s name, Napoleon Bonafrog did receive a figure but it was with a different design, Atilla and Rasputin the Mad Frog didn’t get a toy. For the new cartoon the Punk Frogs were reimagined as a clan of human hating mutants living in a tree (of course) and Attilla, who never really had a personality in the original cartoon anyway, was turned into their Don Corleone-style leader which at least fit his namesake, now a wheezing fat bastard he had to be taught the value of not being a tubby racist prick by the TMNT. The new version of the Punk Frogs are not my favourite thing about the new cartoon, but it wins points for at least giving each of them their own look and personality, I really quite like the new Attila.

The reason I’ve wasted your time recounting Attila’s whole history is because there isn’t a whole lot to review, he’s a piece of hollow cheap plastic with ball joints at his shoulders and that’s it, I do like the gradient on his white stomach, I think it’s quite nicely done and I expect fairly tricky for a slave-labour wage Chinese woman to achieve at the factory but he’s still little more than an extra-sized Kinder Egg toy. His hind legs look painfully obviously stuck on and his crown and cape looks cheap without any paint, which I suppose is kind of fitting but still crappy looking all the same. His big thing is his extendable tongue and good on Playmates for giving him something to make him seem worth closer to £9.99 (yeah I paid a tenner for this, well no I didn’t actually, my mum did, one of the many benefits of Christmas – getting people to pay for things you want but don’t want to pay for yourself). The tongue makes me laugh, it just looks…rude somehow, I think it looks like a dog’s ‘red thing’ but even if you’re not so incredibly crude as to think that it still looks sexual somehow ,the way it pops out, and it makes me laugh. He is actually packaged to allow you to push his tongue out, there is a hole in the blister for it shoot out, and I spent ages doing this and giggling in an Entertainer with a friend of mine until his patience finally died and he hurried me along, shaking his head at the immature bastard he’d wound up befriending. I also quite like the head sculpt, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly accurate it is a nice angry frog face – the things you get to write when reviewing toys.

But an amusing action feature only goes so way and I do have to stop playing with it and admit he’s too small, he’s way to thin, he’s hollow, he’s got five paint apps (if you include both eyes and iris), he’s got two points of articulation and this all adds up to a toy that looks cheap and shitty, he looks like he came from the pound shop when in fact he cost £9.99 from Smyths Toys (still the best toy retailer in the UK). Again he has no accessories because Playmates clearly thinks they’re for wankers (remember when they used to release a TMNT figure with card full of weapons? Ridiculous zany crap like a mace made of a puffer fish or weaponized make-up?3 I miss those days) so I’ll just end this here then. 

So in conclusion these figures are cheap looking and lazy even for their line and they’re not worth the price - but they are still fun. Monkey Brains actually offers a lot of play value and a surprising amount of poses, especially with the multi-level playsets Playmates have put out for the line so far, Attila is less robust (I expect to see a lot of Attila’s with broken tongues in the bootsales/flea markets to come) but he has an action feature that can knock over other figures and that goes along way with kids. They’re not going to meet our standards as adult collectors and long-time fans but they’re not supposed to, it’s just a shame that Playmates can’t multi-task and have them appeal to both us and the kids. I’m happy to have them, I always enjoy getting TMNT for my Birthday ofrChristmas because it’s just so nostalgic but yeah, they’re cheap and crappy. 

1 He’s never used the codename ‘Monkey Brains’ in the cartoon and was only called it once in one of the Animated Adventures comics from IDW, Monkey Brains was the name of the episode he debuted in, in Playmates’ defence a fair few fans, me included, refer to him as Monkey Brains. 
2 Viacom own Nickelodeon and of 2012 they now own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to, so ‘pre-Viacom’ would be pre the Nickelodeon cartoon and the IDW comic book, and that shitty Michael Bay film.
3 I think what we might be seeing here is what happens when Playmates don’t have the Mirage team working with them. Remember that the original line was made up of characters nearly all developed with and designed by Mirage staff artists like Ryan Brown, Mike Dooney, Peter Laird, Steve Lavigne and Jim Lawson, as the years have gone on we’ve seen the Turtles figures get less creative and I wonder if this isn’t because they’ve had less and less of these people to help them out, in fact the lines with the least interaction with Mirage – Next Mutation and this one have been the least creative – hmm.  

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