Action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise have been produced by Playmates Toys since 1988. Staff artists at the Northampton, Massachusetts based Mirage Studios have provided conceptual designs for many of the figures, vehicles, and playsets and are credited on the packaging of the products they created.
Between 1988 and 1997, Playmates produced around 400 figures and dozens of vehicles and play sets. About US$1.1 billion of Turtles toys were sold in four years, making them the third-bestselling toy figures ever at the time, behind GI Joe and Star Wars.Influenced by the success of He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers, which had promoted toy lines with animated series, PlayMates worked with Murakami-Wolf-Swensonto produce the first Turtles animated series, which premiered in 1987 and ran for almost a decade.
Throughout the 1990s, Ninja Turtle action figures would run an extensive gauntlet of different themes and incarnations. Whereas Batman may have become known for hundreds of gadget-wielding action figures, the Ninja Turtles would become synonymous with dozens of historical and pop culture related embodiments; which would be replicated by Kenner in their “Legends of Batman” line.Varying concepts and toy trends resulted in the many examples shown below.
- Basic series figures taking on various looks; Leo, the Sewer Samurai, Don, the Undercover Turtle, Mike, the Sewer Surfer, and Raph, the Space Cadet. (1990) Also released with the basic line were the four turtles with Storage Shell. Each action figure had an opening back shell which could store the various accessories each figure was packaged with. Donatello would be released in 1990 and the remaining three the following year.
- Mutant Military – Different forms of military – Lieutenant Leo, Pro Pilot Don, MidshipmanMike, and Raph, the Green Teen Beret. (1991)
- Rock’n Rollin’ – Vibrant musical gimmicks; Classic Rocker Leo, Punker Don, Rappin’ Mike, and Heavy metal Raph. (1991)
- Sewer Sports All-Stars – Sport-themed figures with action features; Among others, T.D. Tossin’ Leo, Slam Dunkin’ Don, Shell Slammin’Mike, and Grand Slammin’ Raph. (1991)