Retro Toy Review With Trent: Playmates TMNT Casey Jones from 1989
LEGO Masters Season 2 contestant &
host of the Toy Power Podcast
It’s 1990. I wait patiently, ticket in one hand, Casey Jones action figure in the other. I shuffle into the packed cinema, knowing that this is going to be one of the most incredible experiences of my young life so far. I am about to witness in all its glory the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles break free from their cartoon shackles and be depicted in live-action.
Now, to set the scene for my fever pitch level of anticipation. Back in 1990, there was no internet. You couldn’t simply watch the trailer on demand. I recall vividly my brother explaining the video clip he had seen at a friends house, which actually showed the turtles! I was so desperate to simply catch a glimpse of them, I woke up at 4:00 am to tune into Rage with the hope of seeing the same clip... all to no avail. But none of that mattered now because I was about to see it in all its glory on the silver screen.
No property hits crazed-mania levels without an associated toy line. And Ninja Turtles stayed true to that formula that was birthed by Star Wars in the late ’70s. So popular were these toys, shoppers would descend on newly stocked toy isles and clean them to the bare bones like a plague of locusts through a wheat farm. Children dove head-first into isle display, pegs were stripped bare. To say collecting the four turtles was difficult would be an understatement, but it gave some of the secondary characters their time to find a way into the shopping baskets and into the hearts of children everywhere. And that is how Casey Jones came into my possession.
Manufactured by a relatively new player to the American market, Japanese toy company Playmates took a risk thanks to a tenacious pitch by Mark Freedman. Who would have thought a dark and gritty independent comic book could be turned into a kids-friendly property suitable for toys and other licensed products? Mark did. So we got a line of action figures that straddled their comic heritage but leaned into their new cartoon persona that would launch them into the big time.
"Put his blunt force trauma weapons in each hand, and smash him into the Foot Soldiers"
Casey Jones was the perfect character for the second wave. Once you had collected the turtles, Splinter, April, and the key bad guys, it was time to build your team. And who didn’t want a baseball bat-wielding, hockey mask-wearing vigilante with a penchant for street justice?
The figure itself came in at the same height as all TMNT figures, around the 5 inches. It was sculpted with a cartoon influence and was nicely painted with clean crisp colours, more in keeping with the brightly coloured animated series than the comics (noting that the first comic release was black and white, with colours being added for reprints down the track). He had no action features, instead, the play factor was all about being able to pose him. Put his blunt force trauma weapons in each hand, and smash him into the Foot Soldiers, Bebop and Rocksteady (Shredder would a little too difficultly and adversary for Casey). Impressively, beyond the regular 5 points of articulation, Casey sported wrist swivels which was critical to making sure he could launch Tatsu (or action figure stand-in for Tatsu) across the room with a swing from his golf club.
As was customary for action figures of the time, Casey Jones came with unpainted accessories. A golf bag that could be strapped onto his back, two beaten-up baseball bats (identical sculpts) and the aforementioned golf club. These were cast in turquoise, which was about as far away from reality as Playmates could have chosen but seems to work so well for a kids brain.
I think the overall aesthetic of this figure is truly brilliant. Playmates used his cartoon roots, but added details to the sculpt so that they were more interesting than what the animation offered. Casey has a wishbone hanging around a chain on his neck, various boxing wraps around his hands, and holes in his jeans.
As a child who grew up in the midst of Turtle-Mania, this figure was the embodiment of so many fond memories, and perhaps the marketing genius that we as impressionable 8 year-olds, were unable to escape. For me, the tag line printed on the back of the packaging became a mantra into my late teenage years. Something I have done lovingly for the last 20 year... collect them all.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way!
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