25 Nights of Nineties Nostalgia: Turtles Mutations

Cowabunga dudes!, its TMNT Tuesday and let’s finish it off with a look at the tail end of the first toy-line with Turtles Mutations. Mutations started out with the cool gimmick of allowing kids to transform regular looking turtles into their favorite amphibious heroes. It was a pretty cool and simple concept and unsurprisingly it sold extremely well.

As with most successful ideas, the transforming turtles were expanded on. Other characters got origin telling toys, like Splinter going from karate master to giant rat, Beebop and Rocksteady turning from human to animal hybrid, April O’ Neil becoming a cheetah, and the Shredder going from a man without armor to a man with armor. This must have all seemed ridiculous at the time, but for wildly different reasons depending on the figure.

If you pay attention, you can see Splinter driving himself.
If you pay attention, you can see Splinter driving himself.

Playmates did not stop there, soon releasing toys of the Turtle cast turning into vehicles. Now Leonardo could be a fire truck and master Splinter could become the famous turtle van, for no reason. It made no sense and never came into play on the television show, but Playmates wasn’t concerned with that. This wasn’t just some one-off random occurrence in the history of Turtle-toys either, the sub-line returned for the toys based on the Cartoon Network show. Once again turtles could transform into ninja turtles or ninja turtles could turn into space cars.

The Mutations line came back again for a third time with the Nickelodeon series, with same start as always; with mundane turtles turning into the regular cast. Hey, clearly the formula isn’t broken. These toys are as well-received now as they have ever been. In fact, you can go into a toy store right now and find a ninja turtle that can transform into his signature weapon. That is right, the sub-line is continuing even to this today.

This may seems strange, but Turtles were among the most extreme toy-lines when it came to milking ideas for its characters. You didn’t see He-Man coming out with a baseball version of himself or a version of him that turned to Battlecat. In their own way, TMNT pioneered this idea that you didn’t have to stick to what you previously established. You could go as far off book as you wanted and still work for your brand (Take that, MASKNonPro’s EDITOR) . These figures were ridiculous, overused, and made no sense; but it didn’t matter. The Mutations were just fun and Playmates knew that was all anyone really cared about.

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Al Baldino is half bear, half owl-bear, which makes him some sort of terrible fraction no one wants to think about. He's a co-host on the Line Cutters every Wednesday at 7pm EST.