I’ve gotta admit, I’m a snob. My Ninja Turtles are the real Ninja Turtles and nothing is ever going to change that. The four colored amphibians of my youth are the end all and be all of Turtle canon. ‘Nuff said. Even as a kid, it kinda rubbed me the
wrong way that in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, someone seemed to have skewed some of the facts about the Boys of Pizza. Particularly, the origin of Splinter…but that movie was pretty amazing overall and I just accepted that sometimes movies are going to get it wrong.
This was the way I lived my life (my life as a Turtles Fan that is), or at least it was until I was a teenager and I was able to get my hands on some of the original Mirage Studios stories that started the franchise. To my shock and surprise, that first printing of Ninja Turtles was almost exactly the bare bones story of the movie (softened somewhat to have less stabbing of the Shredder). So, shocked was I by this revelation that I started to reconsider all sorts of things in my life. I grew my hair out, picked up a guitar, and started writing songs to express the anguish in my heart.
Several years later, after I had time to heal, there was a cartoon out again called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which touted the Heroes on the Half-shell for a new generation. I was glad to accept this show fully into my heart. The designs were simplistic, yet meaner looking, and the Turtles actually had a bit more attitude, but April was more like her comics counterpart and Casey Jones played a large role in the show, which I really liked. The popularity of this show was followed by a movie that actually (somewhat) continued the narrative of the show and comics of my youth in the simplistically named TMNT. Though computer animated, the movie was action packed and fun. But, in the end, neither of these interpretations really captured the light-hearted ninja romps of my childhood.
When the second-generation TMNT show was wrapping up, the creators culminated the show with a crossover entitled “Turtles Forever” that served as a crossover between the 1 first-generation cartoon and the second. I have to admit that I was giddy and excited (even as a married man with a child on the way) to watch this movie when it came out as a Saturday morning special. It was done well, with due deference to the zany and outlandish campiness of my Turtles while also showing the softness of the new ones in respect to the source material, as the movie involved the Turtles of multiple dimensions joining forces to stop a common Super Shredder. It was fun.
Then, recently, some rumblings started coming of a new totally CGI Ninja Turtles cartoon around the same time as the now scrapped and back to square one Michael Bay movie was announced. With what we were all hearing about the Michael Bay joint, it was fair to assume that the planned cartoon on Nickleodeon was going to be just as misguided, and many of my fellows in the Cult of Splinter took an immediate adversarial perspective on it. We didn’t like the character designs, we didn’t like the theme music, and we didn’t like the original Raphael voicing Donatello. No sir, we didn’t like it.
But, I have to admit that after having just watched the first episode, it’s pretty good. I endorse it as a part of the legacy of the Turtles. It was a fun romp, full of referential Turtle humor that was respectful of the older generation and fully accessible to neophyte kids ready to cry for merch. It was well written, with action and humor, and good pacing for an hour-long pilot episode. Both my two-and-half-year-old son and me were engaged by this treat on a Saturday morning. The animation was actually good and the full CGI looks good. Everything was well done and enjoyable, from Splinter’s shadowy design, the Shredder’s voice (though while we’re on the subject, the original Raphael/Yakko Warner voicing Donatello is a little off-putting at first). There are infusions from the comics, the original and newer cartoon, and the movies—but only enough for familiar elements. This show seems to have an approach and spirit all its own. If you were wary of the show’s authenticity…well, it might still tank, but judging by the first episode, as a Turtle Head all my life, I endorse it. Give it a shot. If you love and understand the wide interpretations of Turtles throughout the franchise’s history, you’re bound to appreciate the show.