Monday, June 9, 2014

RR Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Cowabung- I mean.. "Booyakasha"!

They're back, in an all-new animated CGi cartoon for a whole new generation to enjoy!

*This review partially recycles an edited version of one of my previous parody comics.

Name: Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Season 1 released as the 3 DVD-sets: "Part 1: Rise of the Turtles", "Part 2: Enter Shredder" and "Part 3: Ultimate Showdown"
Directed by Ciro Nieli, Joshua Sternin & J.R. Ventimilia
Original run 2012-13
Genre Action/adventure comedy/scifi animated series

It always surprises me how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has lived through and evolved so much over more than 25 years.

Everyone's familiar with the Ninja Turtles, in one form or another. For most people their first memories of it might come from the original Eastman & Laird's comic book series, while for most of the others it might come from the 1980s cartoon series. And even for some others the action figures or the first live-action movie adaptation might be their first impression of the series as a whole.

Nevertheless, it is considered noways an iconic franchise that easily counts thousands of fans worldwide. As such TMNT evolved a lot over the decades and has always been present to this day, one way or another. Even if the series was probably less talked about nowadays despite a 2007 CGi film trying to revive the flame.

Finally there also was a fairly decent and popular 2003 animated series that concluded with an impressive franchise-spanning epic "Crisis"-like crossover film.

Since then the series was actually purchased by Nickelodeon from its original co-creator Peter Laird.

What came from that was a fairly successful comic book relaunch at IDW and an upcoming rebooted film franchise in the hands of Transformers director Michael Bay. And this following television series, the Turtles' 3rd big cartoon series!

Inspired by the likes of recent success such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aka TMNT (2012) is a similar modern animated series produced by Nickelodeon Animation Studio.

This all-new series like the previous 2007 film iteration also employs computer-generated graphics.

After the 2000s cartoon series which was darker, more adult and closer in tone to the original Mirage Comics series, Nick's Turtles marked a return to a family friendly tone. Back to a brighter colorful direction with plenty of great humor.

Honestly when it was announced it had every single ingredients to have any fan doubting the final product...  But it turned out fairly well much to everyone's surprise.

This is a revival done right.

The series mix up a lot of elements from the TMNT canon, mostly taking bits here and there from any of the past Turtles series.

The complete Season 1 has only been spread through 3 different releases so far.

The first DVD set covers only 6 episodes from the entire first 26-episode long Season.

It introduces us to these new Turtles.

The crew behind the show seems to be having fun reinterpreting these old familiar concepts and introducing several new ideas, cherry-picking across the entire franchise. Mostly taking stuff back from the original animated series and the Mirage comic books from its creators first and foremost. Focusing on making these new versions of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello easily relatable, very much "human" and grounded.

As they just celebrated their 15th anniversary, the Turtles are now "all grown up" and finally want to explore the outside world from down where they live, in the sewers. They might just be "Teenagers" but they're also full martial art experts each mastering a different ninja weapon.

It's time to finally fight some crime!

The old mutated rat Splinter, their father figure deems them responsible enough.

Over their in the streets of New York City they end up meeting a young April O'Neil, the daughter of a renowned scientist the "Kraang" aliens seem to have abducted. The Kraang being inspired from the old Utrom aliens from the comics, with a bit of the overlord alien Krang from the old cartoon.

There's also The Shredder lurking in the shadows of the city, planning to take over the city with his Foot Clan army.

The mutagen is back and used as a driving plot device, creating much of the new foes the Turtles encounter every new episode.

Like I said bits and elements taken from the different incarnations of the Ninja Turtles here and there. The show seems to take a more scifi take than any previous incarnation. Subduing the "Dimension X" over the alien/space-based tone of the original comics.

The show employed at first a "monster of the week" formula to establish the ground for larger story to come.

But behind the scenes the "family" element is still front and center as it always should.

This reboot sees the brothers fighting and making up, kicking butts and laughing later on.

It's action-packed, there's a lot of fights.

Splinter is presented here as a more imposing figure.

The second DVD-set covers the next following 7 episodes.

The focus changes for the larger battle to come as theSseason moves forward, instead of the usual mutant monsters.

The threat of Shredder isn't taken as just a joke this time around, anymore. It sets up the stage for the end of this first Season.

Shredder is fully considered as a big threat, not as easily dispatched in a garbage truck as he was in the first film or the original first Mirage issue.

The Turtles are also a lot more competitive as their sibling rivalry is more explorer.

There's a lot more genuine laughs this time.

As the show continues it is much more focused on continuity over the last remaining 12 episodes featured in the last double-disc DVD-set.

Ending this First Season as a more refined serialized series.

During this first year we get to see a lot of familiar faces from the likes of the Rat King, Metalhead and many more! Along some all-new creations from simple mutants to others like The Pulverizer - a new take on this old concept of a big Turtle fanboy turned villain.

They also attempt giving April a bigger role in both the overall plot (her father's connection with the Kraang) and as a teammate (learning ninjutsu).

Some nods are given here and there to Splinter's human origin background as Hamato Yoshi. Picking up his origin from the 80s cartoon while combining elements from Eastman and Laird's series.

It's a fantastic new series, really!

I personally enjoyed its take on the Turtles while providing a fun new adventure/action comedy cartoon!

Now it's far from perfect, but the groundwork is pretty well executed!

And there's some little details you could nitpick.

I particularly enjoyed seeing old familiar faces newly rendered through this series. But some new designed original characters don't look that great in comparison...

It's probably this new show's only real downside. The way they come up with some of these new character designs sometimes...

While the redesign of previous existing characters are much stronger in my eyes, the new faces aren't that original. Even as simple toys I'd imagine they could have done a lot better....

But overall it's a pretty good new cartoon!

With a stunning art direction. If the animations and backgrounds of the city lacked a bit of polish in the first season (looking specially empty, for NYC!), since then they have already improved quite a lot of it in the Second Season running now at the time of this review.

The character models look stunning if a bit over-exaggerated. The action scenes look great, well choreographed an much better than the rest.

Also well worth mentioning is how this time the Turtles do actually feel pretty young and teenagers.

They took special care in crafting the new version of the Turtles, giving each Turtle different little details and distinct personalities.

I always felt that in every single incarnation of the TMNT since Eastman & Laird's series they always get one of the Turtlles completely wrong..

Usually one of the guys always gets the less treatment. In the original live-action films, it was Donnie (they probably had to down-play his scientist side due to Corey Feldman playing his voice). And in the old original 1980s cartoon it was probably Raph' in my eyes (turned from gritty loner into comedic relief).

But here it finally feels like this is the first real incarnation since those Mirage Comics to got all of them right!

Leo is the all-around leader and has the basic overall "Mutant Ninja Turtle" shape. Raphael has more edges, chips taken off his shell and a damaged dirty headband. Donnie's bigger, has a leaner build and a gab in his teeth. And Mickey is the younger one, smaller with freckles and all.

What Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has going for it is a fantastic great voice acting provided by a surprising good Jason Biggs (as Leo), my favorite being ex-Goonie Sean Astin (doing an incredibly great Raphael), the always fun Greg Cipes (Michelangelo) and finally rounded by veteran voice actor Rob Paulsen (who originally played Raphael in the 1980s show doing this time Donatello - showing how better and more suited he is for that character instead, sorry long time fans!). We even get Karai voiced by Kelly Hu!

Finally there also is Nolan North doing most of the background voices, mostly the Kraang.

Mikey has the more comedic role this time, but he also is the more grounded entry point-character.

Fans of Casey Jones will have to wait until Season 2 to see the masked (teenage) vigilante, though.

This new 2012 show takes a lot of visual cues from modern animes (think Teen Titans) with some expressions and details visually directly taken from likes of Scott Pilgrim.

There's also some great use of old school retro-looking (although "cheap") 2D animation used for the in-story cartoon series the Turtles watch on TV, in their lair. Often used as a parallel narrative for the week's new situation. It started as a Star Trek spoof on Season 1, but would be replaced for a Mazinger/Super Sentai-type anime series in Season 2.

Like I said, it's a pretty fun fantastic new show.

My only beef with it being some of the character designs.

When redesigning previously existing characters it looks great (Metalhead, Karai etc), but when they have to come up with some new characters of their own it can be particularly bad (I'm thinking of Fishfaced here and the unsymmetrical awful design of Dogpound who thankfully was finally recified in Season 2 into Rahzar)...

There also was one specially cheap episode near the end of Season 1, probably trying to cut down costs to a minimum, the entire animation took place in an empty building basement..

Overall, it's a great new TMNT cartoon, off to a fantastic start!

Even the fun opening theme remix of the old cartoon opening will get to you after a rough first impression.

Each Turtles has a great identity of their own, lots of familiar characters get all new stories!

Sadly to date there hasn't been a complete Season Set release on the part of Nickelodeon, but these 3 DVD-sets should suffice for now. Nick just started releasing sets of the Season 2 right now along airing the new episodes, maybe around the (god awful-looking) new live-action movie from Michael Bay we'll finally be treated to full season set, hopefully.

The series is already fairly popular, no wonder for such a stunning series with a fantastic strong cast of voice actors!

It has fun humor and plenty of action for everyone to enjoy.

This new series is already spawning its own inspired-products, from a line of inspired comics and a video game so far (as well as one awful "off-model" spinoff game, the less said about it, the better..)

A well Recommended series!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Felixes!


  1. Love that they put more emphasis on the teenager aspect, as that was something I felt never shown off exceptionally well in every other series beforehand. Either they act silly or eat pizza to show that they're teenagers, but really not really, you know?

    Other than that, a great show! Beat my expectations by a hundred fold. Though I guess the only gripe is April and Karai, in not that they're bad characters, but more that I forget that they're both April and Karai, yeah? Casey is still Casey, but both these characters are bit too different from previous iterations. Though Master Splinter is done exceptionally well, he's probably my favourite version of Splinter.

    1. I'm just glad we finally got a new iteration of the TMNT where they actually seem to get all 4 Turtles this time! Despite my nostalgia for the 1980s cartoon, Raph was badly represented there. And then it was Donnie in the live action films that got seriously mistreated. And in a way, Mickey was seriously underused in the 2007 CGi film.

      But here they all feel like the genuine Turtles, all 4 of them!

      I can't speak of this new version of Karai - despite being *SPOILERS*'s daughter - because I simply adore her cute design. April and Casey though, well I wasn't a big fan of their teenager's self, but they kinda grew on me over the later episodes.

      I wouldn't mind Nick taking a bit from IDW comics though. (bring in Old Hob! City Fall! Alopex!)