A toy Michelangelo the ninja turtle plays a scaled down TMNT arcade machine

Never pay full price for late pizza.

Two GRoundchuck figures showing the differences between the common and variant

The 1991 Groundchuck Variant and Common from Playmates’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Line

Groundchuck was a part of the 1991 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles releases from Playmates. The figure is pretty close to the character that debuted as a part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon in the Planet of the Turtleoids, Part 1 episode, which debuted on August 31, 1991. I’ve had two of them for a number of years now, each with some small differences, and it’s time to document which Groundchuck is the variant and which is the common.

A page from the Playmates 1992 catalog, uploaded to Flickr by Vaughn Michael

The scan is from the 1992 catalog because, for some reason, no one has a reliable scan of the 1991 version. I’d do it myself, but the only versions available for purchase online are currently selling for hundreds of dollars, and that seems like a bit much for me to satisfy my curiosity about what the first photographs of the 1991 figure line look like. If you’re a wealthy benefactor who wants to open a brick-and-mortar or even a digital museum, let me know, and I’ll do the work.

Bottom of Groundchuck's left foot from 1991
The bottom of the figures show a 1991 copyright.

One of the things that I regularly think about when it comes to the Playmates figures is how the designs came together and if the action figure or cartoon design came first. In this case, the 1990 season of the cartoon finished airing in December, and I assume that Groundchuck was in the 1991 Toyfair catalog, which was ready in February.

From Turtle Soup – Designs From The Classic TMNT Years, scanned by Tokka and posted to Flickr.

In terms of design, we know that Groundchuck was originally named Bulleye thanks to David Arshawsky’s Turtle Soup – Designs From The Classic TMNT Years zine, released in 2009. While I can’t find that zine available for sale at the moment, David Arshawsky has other zines for sale, including some of his TMNT work.

A commercial from Playmates introducing Groundchuck

Bullseye is a name that makes complete sense, looking at the design. Once the names were locked down, Groundchuck and Dirtbag were forever paired. NECA’s two-pack of cartoon figures included them as a pair, and they were dual bosses in Shredder’s Revenge.

Splash screen from Shredder’s Revenge

Let’s talk about the variants! There were two versions of the figure. From what I can tell, the figure received two different paint jobs and one other minimal change in the molds. You can see the detail in the two gifs below (if you watch them spin long enough, they might remind you of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase). The hair is green on the common, and the left shoulder pad is painted flat green, whereas the variant has silver hair and a yellow bull skull on the left shoulder pad.

The gifs are causing some issues with the coloration of the shoulder pad, but it matches the blue used for the rest of the figure. You can see the colors a bit better in the image below, which shows the shoulder pads and the hair paint jobs. It’s interesting, as the green hair adds color to the headpiece while the yellow skull adds one color to the shoulder pad.

Closer detail of the shoulder pad and the hair paint jobs.

There’s one other difference I almost missed when I was taking the photos of the differences, and you’ve already seen them in the post and probably missed them. The feet are numbered on the bottom of the variant figure, and on the bottom of the common figure, there are no numbers. It’s such a small detail I missed until I thought I was done detailing their differences.

You can see the common figure doesn’t have numbered feet, and the variant does not.

One last thing is that the paint job from the 1992 catalog isn’t what made it to the final figure. You can see the paint job is much more detailed in the catalog. This is an interesting detail, as this image was released in 1992, the year following the release of the figure. I assume this is a hand-painted prototype, as you can see many additional painted details.

Groundchuck is a figure that I’d love to see from the Super7 Ultimates line. NECA released a cartoon Groundchuck paired with Dirtbag in 2021, but I’d love to see the figure actualized in the original vision.

Groundchuck has seen a number of injustices since 1991. Why we haven’t seen him in a re-release is baffling, but I know that when Playmates released their 1993 catalog, they included Dirtbag but omitted Groundchuck. In 1994, Playmates greatly expanded on the figures included in the card backs of the TMNT figures but omitted Groundchuck, and they also left him out of the Toyfair catalog.

I hope this is the most in-depth look at the 1991 Groundchuck variants available. When I searched for an answer to this question, I ended up on a Reddit post from a decade ago, and it turns out I was the post’s author.

There were two Groundchucks in 1991, and the variant is the one with the yellow skull on his left shoulder pad and silver hair.