Comic book heroes always have some cool mode of transportation. Most notable is Batman and his Batmobile. But there is
also Wonder Woman and her invisible jet, Ghost Rider with his motorcycle, the Fantastic Four's Fantasticar, the Avenger's
Quinn jets, the X-men's plane, heck even Spider-man had a car in the comics! So of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
certainly aren't going to be left out in the cold. So what kind of high tech, command center on wheels did they get for their
new movie? A 70's era panel van. I guess Kermit was right, it isn't easy being green.
Packaging - 9/10The movie packaging graphics make yet another appearance on the box for the Party Van and to great effect. The dark colors contrast very well with the bright photos of the toy. There is no window to show the actual toy. But what I really like about the packaging is that the New York City street scene that is used for the background on the movie products is an almost perfect choice for a vehicle that would be cruising those streets. And the street sign themed graphics for the selling points tie into the product just that much more. (I particularly like the pedestrian crossing signal proclaiming that it "fits all 4 turtles!") The box also shows off several of the other toys available on the side panels. The only thing they did not do is show the passenger side of the van with the back door closed. That omission had me quite worried that they hadn't figured out how to hide the extra tire when the panel was closed resulting in a random tire hanging off of the side of the van. (It doesn't by the way.) The only other thing the box is missing is a real explanation of what role the van plays in the movie. I realize that some people can be very sensitive about spoilers, but the fact that Michelangelo has a part- time job isn't going to ruin the story for anyone.
Sculpting - 8/10I have to say that this is probably the best "Turtle Van" has ever produced. The exterior has very realistic design, particularly when compared to the likes of the Battle Shell. I really like the fact that for once there are full sized windows not only for the front seats, but for the rear door as well. The small details like the door hinges and handles are nice touches as well. And things get better once you open the van up. To start with, Playmates tried something very different with this van. The entire front end of the van flips open to provide terrific access to the front seats. They also stepped up the amount of interior detail, likely due to the fact that the flip open front makes the area much more visible. Access to the back is through a door on the passenger side. In the back, there are two captain's chairs as well as two panels of communication equipment. Unfortunately, there is no means provided to keep the figures in the chairs. One of the best parts of the Party Van is the scale. It is a bit small compared to the Turtles. But for once there really is plenty of room for all four Turtles without them being crammed together. At this point, there are two things I wish they had done to really put the score over the top. The first would be to add some wear and tear to the sculpt. A few dings and dents would have made it a more realistic and accurate to the movie. The other possibility which is really a pipe dream would be to have a working sliding side door and rear doors.
Paint - 3/10The paint work on the Party Van is almost nonexistent. Instead, almost all of the decoration is provided by decals. In some areas like the front seat, that is fine. But the stickers on the exterior were never designed to compensate for being applied over uneven surfaces. The result is that many of the larger one are already coming off near the edges. And any attempt to resecure them has resulted in multiple wrinkles in the decals. I have zero confidence that these stickers are going to last on the van for the long term. Had Playmates not elected for the cheapest solution and either painted the signage onto the exterior or at least used better quality materials like a dry transfer, this wouldn't have been an issue. If they eliminated that issue, they still fall short just on the amount of surface area covered. In the movie, the entire side of the vehicle is covered. But the toy has a lot of 'clean' areas. Still, that could have been dealt with a simple paint wash.
Accessories - 6/10Cowabunga Carl's Party Van comes with eight disks to be used as ammunition and a removable Cowabunga Carl turtle head. The removable head is a nice touch. It does allow you to partially recreate Michelangelo's Cowabunga Carl disguise. I say partially because he is still missing the oversized nunchuks. And if I'm not mistaken, he had an oversized fake zipper on his chest to make it look like he was wearing a full costume. But the head is the most important part. However, it does suffer from three major drawbacks. The first is the weight. It weighs almost as much as an entire figure. Sticking that much weight on top of a figure makes them very unstable. Making it lighter would have also allowed the head to bounce a bit more when mounted on the van as it did in the movie. The second issue is that the head is constructed of at least four different pieces. They all fit together securely, but there are large seams left just behind the face and along the sides. The final problem is that the head isn't really designed to accommodate the bandanas that the figures wear. You can try to stuff the bandana up into the head before putting it on, but then you risk damaging the bandana. So until they make an actual Cowabunga Carl figure, you'll have to accept the bandana hanging out around the neck. The eight disks included are about 1.25 inch across with a slight lip along the edge and no other sculpted detail at all. Each has one of four different stickers applied to make them look like a pizza. I'd love to see them do actual, sculpted pizzas. But then they would have to be painted instead of using a sticker.
Play Value - 7/10The Party Van offer only a single action feature, the firing disks which are triggered by pulling back on the Cowabunga Carl head. The range is limited since they are launched just an inch up off of the ground. But if you tilt the van back, you can get a fair amount of distance. To load the disks, there is a hatch between the front seats that can be flipped open for loading. It is a somewhat inconvenient location since you have to open the front of the van each time. But it does allow the figures to "interact" with the loading mechanism, or just sneak a snack during long drives.
Value - 8/10The Cowabunga Carl Party Van has a lot going for it. The very reasonable price tag of $20 is one of its selling features. For that price you are getting a fairly large vehicle that can easily interact with most if not all of your good guy figures at once. It offers you an admittedly imperfect means of recreating Mikey's Cowabunga Carl persona. And if you have seen the movie, you also know that the Party Van plays a marginally significant role in the final conflict. But even without that, the Party Van makes a nice display piece too (except for the stickers).
Happy Hunting:Many stores are cutting back on their stock of TMNT movie merchandise. And the Party Van is one of the items that is often dropped to save space. But it is still fairly common. I picked up mine at Toys R Us. But I have also seen it recently at Target and Walmart. It is also available online from KB Toys.com, Amazon.com or Target.com Though Target is the only store selling it for $20.