Growing up as a kid, I guess I got unreasonably attached to a lot of “things”. At first, it was Ghostbusters, then it was Ninja Turtles, and then it was Sonic the Hedgehog. There were a lot of other pitstops along the way between those, of course (Thundercats and Jurassic Park, to name a few). But the point is, I really loved the Ninja Turtles.
The old 1980’s Turtles cartoon is really hard to go back to nowadays, though. It is on the edge of an era where cartoons existed as 30 minute toy advertisements, and it’s full of embarrassing cornball humor. I put in an old VHS Tape a few years ago (Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers) and couldn’t even make it all the way through the full episode. The 1980’s TMNT lasted all the way up until the era of Disney’s Gargoyles in 1995, when the show was “retooled” to make it darker. It died shortly after; though toys continued to be made all the way up until at least 1998 or 1999. Fox and 4KIDS rebooted the show in 2003, and that is where most of my lasting memories of “a good Ninja Turtles cartoon” were made. It was more serious and more focused on plot, leading up to a brand new movie in 2007. Unfortunately, 4KIDS was generally pretty inept, and after a comment made from their CEO about how kids should not be encouraged to read, especially not read comic books, one of the original creators of TMNT left the show and it quickly declined in quality shortly thereafter. The rights to the show were eventually sold to Nickelodeon, who have spent the better part of three years creating this new TV series.
So how was it? As a manchild of discerning tastes, it was not as bad as I was expecting. Clips they had been releasing online leading up to this premiere seemed crazy embarrassing, and while that stuff is still in the show, it’s only a very minor piece. The rest of the episode was almost like a love letter to TMNT; to the point where the show’s own identity had trouble coming through. My primary takeaway was that this was combining all elements of previous Ninja Turtles media; it takes bits and pieces of the comics, movies, and previous two cartoons and blends them all together to form something new.
The Turtles’ origin, for example, is right out of the 1980’s cartoon: Splinter was a dude carrying a fishbowl full of turtles out of a pet store and some ooze transformed both him and them. The way the origin is told brings to mind the first Ninja Turtles movie, however, with Michelangelo interrupting Splinter’s story with “That’s us, heh!” asides. Themes of family and teamwork are strong, and the Utroms - the little brain aliens Krang was a part of - are referenced very, very early in a way that is reminiscent of the 2003 4KIDS TMNT.
Writing seemed mostly pretty good, and even had me laugh out loud once (Splinter’s hesitation to let the Turtles leave the lair and go up to the surface is good stuff). I’m not entirely sure about the animation, though - I know that CGI is generally pretty expensive, so it makes sense that the animation itself isn’t very smooth. The animation style recalls something I’ve been seeing more in CGI, where characters don’t animate so much as they “snap” to poses. It gets the job done, but it doesn’t look very smooth.
One oddity is that you can see elements of something I did not expect - everybody, including me, really hated when Michael Bay turned up not too long ago and started talking about a Ninja Turtles movie he was involved with and how he was making them in to space aliens. It’s way too early to tell, but there are definitely suggestions of that line of thinking in this cartoon - the intro sequence deliberately starts in space and pulls back down to earth, and the ooze that transforms the Turtles is of Utrom origin. I think that was always the case in the comics and the 2003 4KIDS cartoon, but there’s definitely wiggle room for them to drum up some story about how the Turtles are part of an alien race.
They’ll be airing the full one-hour premiere tomorrow, but I don’t know if I am going to watch it. This new show seems inoffensive, but is maybe not for me. That’s fine; it’s probably not for me, but at least so far it seems that it is in good hands.