Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States. Each year I’ve been trying to do a story for someone that I’m thankful for in my life. There’s so many out there that it’s never easy to just narrow it down. I decided to do something a little different this year. Instead of a person, I have a company that I am very thankful for. This company introduced me to my passion for TMNT through their products. They’ve brought me many hours of joy and happiness in my life and has recently helped my family while we were going through a very rough time. I am so thankful for Playmates Toys and all they’ve done through the last 26 years of my life.
When Playmates Toys entered my life, I did not know the name of their company. All I knew was that there was this toy that was different from all the other toys that I knew. It had my attention. Now that I think back to that day, in October 1989, there was no real reason for me to be so drawn to the toy as it fell out of the coffee tin. I saw new and interesting toys all the time, though I normally go after the ones I know. That tin had He-Man, Thundercats and Ghostbuster toys. There was just one Ninja Turtle Toy, a Michaelangelo. He had his different weapons on his belt, not the nunchucks. He just stood out to me. I insisted on playing with the strange toy and so began my TMNT fandom. To this day, I don’t know why the one toy made such a big difference to me.
For the first few years, I just collected my toys based on character, images on the packages, the books inside, and ads that I saw from TV. And even though Playmates Toys was listed on each packaging, it did not stand out to me. All I knew was that I loved these toys, flaws and all. I would laugh about Shredder’s chest not having a shirt. We painted up undercover Donatello toys to have all four Turtles in their undercover coats. I would roll my eyes at how goofy the Channel 6 characters came out to be. But these toys remained something special to me. True the cartoons, movies and comics all helped keep me looped into the fandom, but the toys were what brought me in.
I remember in 1991, I started to try and read magazine stories about the Turtles. I wanted to know about the behind the scenes. I learned about Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and how Palladium RPG Books introduced them to Surge Licensing and how Surge brought in Playmates Toys. I learned that Playmates Toys had a big role in making the Ninja Turtles cartoon even come to be.
At that moment, I realized how important Playmates Toys really was to most of the entire fandom for Ninja Turtles. How each of the people who took part in that chain of events deserves equal credit for the success of Ninja Turtles. The creators, Eastman and Laird, brought life into the Turtles, which caught the attention of Kevin Siembieda from Palladium Books, who then got a hold of Eastman and Laird, starting up the TMNT RPG books. Kevin Siembieda shared his passion with Mark Freedman, who owns Surge Licensing. Kevin Siembieda helped Mark get in touch with Eastman and Laird, who convinced them to take him on for licensing. Mark got a hold of Playmates Toys, who didn’t just make the Turtle toys, but funded the entire first five episodes of the original cartoon series. Now ask yourself, would you know of TMNT if it wasn’t for any of these people here? Together they brought TMNT into the mainstream to be the amazing characters that we’ve all grown to love.
Playmates Toys kept becoming more a part of my home, as I collect the toys as they come out. The toys are seen through my room and even through the rest of the house. I was thrilled when they stayed on after the big changes in 2000 with Ninja Turtles and even more excited in 2009 when I learned that Playmates Toys would remain the toy makers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Viacom. This meant so much to me, that the company which helped the Turtles become what they are today is still there, bringing new stuff to the table for the fans who follow them.
Through my travels, I’ve had the honor of meeting people behind the company. Starting with a man name Michael back in 2007. We did email prior to meeting in person, as I was upset that the Turtles were a no show to an appearance at two different Toy R Us that I went with my family over five hours away. I knew the three areas where the costumes could’ve came from so I sent each company an email saying how the Toys R Us were set up and fans were there. But the Turtles did not show. Playmates Toys replied saying how they’re sorry, and thought that those two cancelled out of the tour. It was their mistake. They sent me some toys as an apology. I thought that would be the end of my contact with them since I did not know any of them personally. It was to my surprise when Michael found me at New York Comic Con in 2007 and started to hang out with my friends and I for the day.
When 2009 rolled around and I learned earlier that year that Michael was no longer with Playmates Toys, I once again thought that any connections to the company were now done. I went on enjoying my fandom, and remained friends with Michael as he’s a fun and nice guy to know. He always makes me laugh and he likes to pick on me for Totally Obsessed, by doing the line “Follow Your Heart”. I do not make friends just because of where they work. It takes an awesome person for me to want to remain friends, and he is a totally fun and amazing person.
It was in 2012 when I met Pat Linden of Playmates Toys at San Diego Comic Con. I asked about doing interviews for Cowabunga Corner and got the honor to go to Playmates Toys and interview Pat in their TMNT room. I got to meet many more members of the crew from Paula, John, Karl, Jeff and many others. Everyone I’ve met at Playmates Toys has been very nice and wonderful to talk to. It’s always a pleasure getting to hear their insights of the toy lines and sharing my feedback, good and bad, of the toys that have hit the market.
Since 2012, I’ve kept contact open with Playmates Toys. It’s always great to see them at events. I enjoy getting to look at the booth at Toy Fair and love when we can do interviews for Cowabunga Corner. This is a great group of people, bringing forth toys for kids that can be enjoyed. And while there are some that one may not find favorable, there are many toys that they release that are just outstanding for a children’s toy line. This company does a lot for the fandom and keeps making toys worth buying.
For the past three years, my family has been going through it rough and it seems to keep getting worse for us. In 2013 my sister broke her neck, my Great Aunt fell and hurt herself, and my dad had a triple by pass. While in the hospital, they found cancer in my Great Aunt. We lost her in early 2014 and the family realized that with my dad’s health we could not afford to keep the family house. We started to move into my Great Aunt’s Mobile home, which is too small for all of us and our stuff that was in the house. While working on getting things sorted out on what we’re going to do, a flood happened that just took any and all hope away from us. I can not stress the depression that I felt in Fall of 2014, as my mother, Phoenix and the fandom was the things that kept pulling me forward. My con family at Youmacon 2014, helped pull me out of that depression.
In a last attempt to save the house, I started a GoFundMe in early 2015. The goal needed to save the house was more than I figured we could raise, but any amount would at least help take the stress off of my family in the end. Doing a fundraiser thing of any type is hard, while you have the supporters you also get the people who want to rip you apart for asking for help. While the GoFundMe did not save the house, it did knock down what we owe on it, and took some of the stress off of my family. And the people who made the biggest dent was Playmates Toys.
I remember when I first saw their donation, I broke down in tears as I could not believe it was real. The company that introduced me to one of the things that’s helped me the most in my life, the company that fills my room with products, the company that has so many amazing folks that I see as friends came through and tried to help save my family in a major way. I still tear up thinking about this, as I can’t help but be extremely thankful for everything they’ve done. Playmates Toys made 2015 a bit brighter for my family and made the transaction of losing the house a little easier.
If not for Playmates Toys, I do think that Cowabunga Corner would’ve closed up under the pressures from these past few years. Though thanks to the wonderful people at Playmates Toys, I am inspired to keep moving forward with the blog, with the fandom and with living to still work to fulfill my dreams. It just takes one kind gesture to help someone who’s down on their luck, and they really went above and beyond.
Twenty-six years of my life Playmates Toys has played a huge role in inspiration, friendship and support. For this, I am thankful to have them in my life!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!