I’ll just get it out of the way now: I love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe not every incarnation, but I’m a big TMNT fan. It goes almost as far back as Star Wars. Half this article would be wasted in a futile attempt to accurately explain how much those goofy heroes mean to me. To sum it all up, I will show you a very old video of me, on the news, in line to see Santa, telling a reporter I intended on asking him for “Neenja Tuhdles.” The video/audio suck, but whatever.
Reboots are interesting things. Far too often they turn out to be infuriatingly bad, pathetic cash grabs. Every so often though you get a Batman Begins – a group of exceptionally talented people coming together to rework a classic mythology and breathe into it new life. Such a rare and splendid thing has occurred with the teenage mutant ninja turtles.
The characters have been rebooted a few times already. In 2003 there was the darker and more earnest take. The late ’90s saw the live action Power Rangers influenced series, The Next Mutation, featuring the first female turtle Venus. You could consider the CG animated 2007 film a reboot, but it really serves as another sequel. Hell, the original 1987 series has some reboot-ness to it being that it was based on a much more adult comic book and mutated into little kid crack.
I bring this up to demonstrate why I had zero expectations for the new 2012 series. Ad to that the asinine concept of Michael Bay producing his own Turtles film, and I was ready to suppress all memory of the turtles. Not to say the other shows were bad. The 2003 series was actually pretty awesome, but it definitely felt like it was made for a different generation. There wasn’t the same free spirit as the original. I always got the feeling they were more concerned with creating a cohesive universe you could take seriously than going as far out as they could.
Basically, I didn’t understand why we needed another show.
Well, now I can safely say that I needed this show.
From the opening sequence (shown below) I was hooked. The titles tell you everything you need to know about the creation of the new series. Yes, it’s a modern take. Yes, it’s CG. But it honors EVERYTHING which came before by begnning with the original show’s intro and transitioning to bits of the 2003 series intro with references to the live action movies, the final shot coming directly from the cover of issue one of the original comic, while making it all seem fresh and new. This intro gives me chills every time. (I included the version with the lyrics so you can rap along…I do it…all the time.)
There is so much to love about the new series. On its own it is a solid, entertaining show with fantastic story progression, character development, and world building. Had you never seen any of the previous incarnations, this would be a worthy introduction. Everything about it is top notch. I especially love the voice acting. Having Rob Paulsen back, this time as Donatello instead of Raphael, is just fantastic. Any time you can get Rob Paulsen doing anything, I’m there. (No joke. I even watched one of the Tinker Bell movies because he did a voice.)
My favorite way to explain the show is, “Take every version of the turtles, pick out all the commonalities, fuse them together with new wit and modern technology, and you have the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
As a long time Turtles junkie, the show is a brilliant new entry. It’s legitimately funny, chock-full of references to the original show (like the turtle cell phones, or T-Phones, with the original theme song as the ringtone), excellent new takes on classic characters (Rat King is genuinely creepy. April O’Neil is more integral than ever), and great respect and love for the world, the fans, and the legacy that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The first season has done an amazing job of laying the groundwork to build an immense world of fantastic characters. Over the course of 26 episode the Turtles begin to grow into the pizza addicted, gadget wielding, robot bashing, masters of ninjutsu, we’ve always known and loved.
The show is so good that I may just have to visit Santa this year and ask him for some Neenja Tuhdles.