Friday, May 9, 2008

Clay Turtles

I've been thinking about things that would be fun to do for the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the TMNT, and, while I was out in my studio a few days ago, I saw something that inspired me.

This is a set of hand-painted castings of the sculptures done by the famous (and justly so) master of clay animation, Will Vinton, for a very cool animated commercial for a product which was called (if memory serves) "Pizza Crunchabungas". (Actually, I'm FAIRLY sure Will Vinton did the sculpting, but I could be wrong -- it might have been someone else working for his studio.) I had long been a fan of "claymation", as it was called, and it was a true thrill to have a TMNT product advertised with this technique.

The Will Vinton studio was nice enough to offer us (me and Kevin Eastman) the opportunity to purchase sets of these sculptures around the time the commercial was done. I don't know how many Kevin got, but I ended up with five (one of which I gave to my brother Bruce). The set in the photo here has had a prominent place on the display shelves in my studio since it was built in the late 1980's. (I didn't include it in the photo, but each set comes with a very nice clear protective Lucite box precisely fitted to the base.)

I really like these. The sculpting is a wonderfully energetic take on the look of the TMNT as established in the first TMNT animated show and toy line, and the poses are dynamic and fun. Looking at these things again got me thinking -- would there be enough interest out there to release facsimile replicas of these? I talked about it with Mirage CEO Gary Richardson, and he has begun the process of tracking down and talking to the right people.

What do you think?

-- PL


  1. I think that'd be a cool idea. I think a lot of mainstream people, when they think turtles, get an image simular to these statues in mind. However, since it would be geared toward mainstream people more, they would need to be affordable (like under $20 each)

    I love that Mikey has real chains on his 'chucks ;)

  2. As awesome as these are (much love for Will Vinton), I would not personally purchase them. I don't have the space for them and if they had the high price point I assume they would, they're not something I'd be able to spend that kind of money on.

    What I WOULD purchase is a nice photo print of the four.

    For anyone who's feelin' nostalgic, here's the Pizza Crunchabungas ad on YouTube.

  3. While I think these are really cool for what they are, I can think of a laundry list of TMNT product that I think needs to see the market for the 25th before these do.

    The problem is the size and price point, if you could get them considerably reduced in size and offer each one as a pack in for something like a DVD release (I know that has a whole mess with Lionsgate then) but hypothetically anyway, I think that would be a nice upsell with out being crazy expensive, think like the size of Star Wars Galactic Heroes. A little larger than the Mini Mutants figures.

    Or even as indiviuals, if they were small and cheap enough. I just think they would appeal to such a niche market that they may not be worth what the licensing fees from Will Vinton and the manufacturing cost would make it worth your while.

  4. The first thing I think of when it comes to statues is the TMNT Vol. 1 #1 stateus from Playmates that mimics the first page of the comic. So, obviously, I'm like "That's gonna be really expensive." That's why I never was able to get those. Instead I waited a few years and the NECA figs came out instead.

    However, if it could be put out there for cheap, I'm sure people (especially mainstream people) would totally get into it. If it can't be made cheap, just produce a limited amount and let the hardcore OT fans grab 'em up.

    But, to answer your question in a simple way: Yes, I'm interested.

  5. That's just too cool looking. I love the look of the figures, and wouldn't mind seeing other characters done in that style as well....

    Sadly, I think they look a bit more accurate to the OT toon turtles than the official toys where :).

  6. Thanks for sharing Pete,
    And very cool to have you blogging now! I'm glad you're here, it's very long over due, would have loved to have you around during the time Vol. 4 went way and the movie came out but oh well. :)

    My thoughts on this would be while it's cool you're expanding ideas related to the old cartoon, I would much rather see your efforts and those of the other people at Mirage working on a line of Action figures much like the NECA ones based on the Old Cartoon, way to many cool characters never got the plastic treatment they disserved.
    I encourage you to do this nothing but good things will come from it, While I'm a big Mirage fan I'm also an old toon fan and even fan of the movies you folks did with the Jim Henson Company so NECA movie based figures would be Golden in many peoples eyes.
    I think the line should be called something like TMNT: Mutant Universe {much like the Archie source books) or something like that.
    But seriously it's all about highly detailed action figures in nice packaging, Mirage has always been about being different to me, everything the turtles did was different from other series, and I don't think that should be any different today.

    Please don't ever stop blogging, putting the TMNT upon the world, or inspiring young kids to become whatever they want in life, you're one of my heroes along with Kevin Eastman and many others at Mirage, you're one of the reasons besides Jim Henson that I've stuck with doing art for so long even when I don't make much of a living from it.
    Btw I'd really like to see you get back behind the old pencils on some issues ;)

    Oh well enough rambling! I hope you read this and that you feel encouraged enough and see how the long time fans feel.
    All the best!
    -Vaughn Michael

  7. Eggcellent idea, Vaughn.

    Especially considering these NECA statues are super poseable as to get almost any reaction out of them, as shown by Tokka's photo's.

    Accurate toon figures based on the old show done by NECA would be cool :).

  8. The commercial you're referring to remains one of my all time favorites, and I'm fortunate enough to have it recorded to old VHS tape somewhere around here.

  9. That would be really cool, I loved Will Vinton with the California Raisins. Got a collection of those from the 80's.

    It sounds like a piece for those of us who are collectors.

  10. Afraid I have to throw in with the crowd that says "Yes, those would be awesome, but no, I can't afford it."

    --LBD "Nytetrayn"

  11. Dear, Peter

    First of all, you're one of my biggest heroes, second of all these look awesome, and I would love to purchase replicas as long as they were perhaps scaled down and maybe more around 10-15 bucks a piece. I was just chiming in to say that I'm DELIGHTED that you love claymation turtles because I don't know if you know it or not, (I tried to get ahold of you through but me and one of my friends were working on a claymation short film based on your original comic book designs two summers ago, but had to abandon it due to time constraints, however, we were able to sculpt a leonardo maquette along with a few other items. Here's the link to it's homepage just go to photos to see the pics of our prototype we sculpted. And by the way, if you could spare the time, let me know what you think! E-Mail me at Thanks again, your contribution to our culture is one that will never ever be forgotten.

  12. I'd get em if they were in my price range. Say around $10 - $20 each. That's reasonable enough especially for claymation figs as adorable as those are!

    They kinda look like the Toon figures with the spinning heads that came out years back.

  13.>> (( Vinatge " W. V. " puppets are in the 1000s of Dollars. ))

    Along with you guys.. that commercial was very vivid and extremely memorable ..

    A rather studded Shredder is featured at the end of the commercial coming out of a sewer hole.

    ..recall that specifically.

    I'd love to see that Claymation puppet.


    The snacks themselves were the stuff of nightmares and could easily be used in large quantities to fix potholes around the city and ground into a fine paste for sealant and solvents. Ughh fact that is the only reason why i still have some unopened bags, they were like eatin' Crunchabungas from the bowels of hell itself.

    Interesting, it was the same company that made 'em ,also ade cat and dog food.


    oiii ~~**.. >v<


  14. Seems like a pretty cool idea, but somehow, reproductions of claymation models doesn't scream "TMNT is turning 25!" to me... Now maybe if they brought back Crunchabungas at the SAME TIME... :P

  15. Don't listen to them Mr. Laird! Where do I sign for pre-order? These are awesome!

    I remember you posted these in your old "blog" on the planet racers website. It seems like a lot of people would like these if they were affordable.

    I think I was talking to Steve Murphy or someone at Mirage that said you guys would like to get TMNT product in vending machines. This seems like the perfect thing to shrink down to about 2" and put in plastic. Then you could sell them in vending machines. Just an idea, but then kids and all sorts of people would enjoy them, and I think they'd fit in with those old california raisin toys that were about 2-3".

    I'd buy full on statues though. Is it possible an imitator could do Rocksteady/Bebop/Shredder/Krang to go with them though?

    Love the blog, thanks Pete!

  16. If they were decently priced action figures of that style, than most likely, yes. Statuettes... have a lower chance. I have loads of wall space but no shelves to speak of. Hell, if they were $10-15 action figures, I'd buy two of each - one for my wall still on the card, and one to keep out of the package! By the way, I like how you're giving us a chance to weigh in on this matter ^^ Bravo to you, Mr. Laird.

  17. Wow, these look awesome! I would definately be interested in purchasing these, and I'm sure lots of other fans feel the same way! :)

  18. I probably would not have a desire to add these to the collection either, unless like others have said, they were priced on the cheap. I picked up the Playmates statues, and I'm more than happy having those as the center of my TMNT collection. But these are nice, and the commercial is SUHWWWEEEEET.

  19. Well, I don't know how many, but I'm sure there are those out there who would like to buy such figures.

    Heck, I might myself, though I was never a fan of the old toon. Still, you never know.

    Sorry, but both Raph and Don sharply reminded me of the CA Raisins in that one shot. ;) I still think, however, that the figures look very cool!

  20. Those are sweet. I know if the price was right I'd get one to display. I do kind of find it funny that Mikey's name is actually spelled correctly on the plaque.

  21. I did not buy the recent NECA toys -- I'm sure I will -- but these I would pre-order in a heartbeat. I saw a picture of these years ago and thought they were the coolest things ever. I even think the more casual classic TMNT cartoon fan would buy these before the NECA figures.

    Of course, I am a hardcore fan of the black and white Turtles -- but didn't we all grow up with the cartoon? Not to mention the vaguely pizza taste of Pizza Crunchabungas! I remember being sort of disappointed in the art on the Crunchabungas package because the Turtles looked "creepier" than the Wil Vinton claymation Turtles.

    Do a limited edition set, I'll buy two!!

  22. Those are really cute, and as you say, they seem to *move* just sitting there. I'd probably buy them if they were offered, especially if they weren't too expepensive. I still want to complete my set of the cold caste statues, and it always seems like I can't quite justify spending that much. I will someday. Alas, Leo is only child until then

    As for the 25th Anniversary "big thing", I know the one idea for some kind of animated feature had to be dropped, but I'm still clinging to the hope that something might be done along those lines. I'm so in love with the cgi animation (don't snarl at me, all you live -action aficionados!) because in that medium we finally got to see the guys *move* the way we know they are supposed to. I would love to see some kind of, I don't know, maybe a handful of little vignettes, or a series of shorts. It wouldn't require all the lengthy scripting of a feature length film, and one could even use some bits; funny/poignant/important/classic moments from either TMNT or Tales ....maybe?

    Okay, that's my pipe-dream. Sorry to ramble so, but I was granted an inch so of course I hijacked a mile.

  23. And I can spell "expensive". Really.

  24. Ok.. just saw the ad for the Crunchamungas. Kewl ad! Wish I'd seen it on tv but alas back then I lived in Germany where AFN (the only channel I had) was comercial free.

    One of the many TMNT food items I never had the chance to eat. :/

  25. "Kevin "Jester" McGill said...
    Those are sweet. I know if the price was right I'd get one to display. I do kind of find it funny that Mikey's name is actually spelled correctly on the plaque."

    Hah! That's pretty funny -- I didn't even notice that. Well, I'm glad someone at Will Vinton Studios was on the ball and spelled it correctly, unlike Kevin and me back in 1983. -- PL

  26. Maybe on a smaller scale they would be affordable? I think they are extremely cute, although I tend to like my turtles a little more "Hard Core" as the NECA figures are.

    Not only do I remember the Pizza Crunchabunga snacks, I actualy ate them......along with those Ninja Turtles Hostess pudding pies....

  27. Maybe something akin to those recent He-Man "Staction" unarticulated statues at action figure size would work?

    --LBD "Nytetrayn"

  28. It is amazing that so much work was put into a simple snack food commercial. The 1990s certainly were a golden age to be a kid! (or a kid at heart)

  29. I'd be really tempted to buy these depending on the price but I have a feeling they'd be pretty expensive. I guess it would really depend on the price before I could make a finally decision. But I absolutely loved that commercial back in the day.

  30. I'd buy them if there $10 for the set and they were sized to fit on a birthday cake.

    I don't think the fans, during this economic recession, want to keep buying more turtle variants. I think we'd like a Slash, The Justice Force, and such before we get another Mikey.

  31. I think you should release them as a very limited collection Pete. They will dissapear in a hurry! ;o)

  32. I loved the claymation turtles, and I would definitely want to own a set of these. However, I'm in the same boat as a few of the other fans. I couldn't afford the Playmates statues, and I really wanted one of those. If these were released within the $20-$40 range, than I'd probably pick up one or two. But if they were priced the same as the Playmates statues, then I'd sadly have to pass.

  33. I favorited the video Rose posted the link to before. It really cracked me up!!!

    I think seeing those statues mass produced would be a cool thing!!!

  34. I still say Action figures of the old toon and Archie Comics characters are long over due.

  35. How about some licensed TMNT Stikfas? Reproductions of the W.V. sculpts with shredder looming behind would be great. How about re-releasing reproductions of some of the original merch such as the iron-ons or the Dark Horse lead miniatures in the first few Mirage Vol.1 comics?

  36. -->> Peter, i just found out these were sculpted by a gentleman names Robert Terrell who worked at the W.V. studio ! !