The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show debuted this weekend and I have been eager to share my opinion of it. Nickelodeon recently purchased the Turtles and this is really the first fruits of that purchase. Fans of been pretty nervous because this is the first show that did not have any direct involvement from Peter Laird or Kevin Eastman and It’s the first turtles TV show to be completely produced in CG. Some interesting liberties have been taken with the source material but at its core Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle show should please most fans of the shellbacks.
One of the highlights of the new show is the animation style. Each turtle has their own both physical traits and personality characteristics that are colorfully demonstrated in both the voice acting and the character design. Donatello’s tall and has gapped teeth, Raphael is strong and has a chunk missing from his plastron, Mikey is dumb and has freckles and Leo is played like a teacher’s pet eager to please his sensei. The individual character traits are highlighted really well in the premiere. Things like eye color (a first for the TMNT) and physical differences add emotion to the animation. Nick did a good job splitting the difference with the eyes. Classic comic TMNT (and the 2003 TV show) don’t have pupils, but Classic TV show TMNT do. In the new show, their pupils aren’t visible in high action scenes. This does a great job of setting the mood for action sequences. When the pupils disappear asses are about to be kicked. Nickelodeon’s treatment of the turtles as characters is very much in line with the personalities they have always had.
Unlike the 2003 show this origin story has Splinter being a human prior to his mutation. This is different from the original comic book where he was a rat but it’s in line with the origin from the original television show. Splinter’s character has yet to really be fleshed out, but during the entire premiere episode he has a very dry humor and possibly got the biggest laughs of the episode. Another character that’s only lightly touched upon is April. It’s established that she’s a teenager, and that her father has been kidnapped, but we don’t know much else about her…at least not yet. The Shredder makes an appearance at the very end, but Casey Jones is nowhere to be seen. There’s only so much you can fit in the premiere episode so you can’t really hold any of that against it.
The most interesting liberty that they’ve taken with the story so far is the Krang. Instead of there being one character named Krang, the Krang is a race of aliens that are basically just Utroms. From what we can tell they’re evil but historically Utroms have not been evil. The Krang do not appear to speak English but since they are brains in the bellies of robots, the robots speak English for them. This was one of my favorite jokes in the entire episode. The speech patterns of the Krang are very “find and replace” with nouns and verbs in a very elementary approach to grammar. It’s hard to explain, but the humor payoff is a huge. The Krang seem like it completely passable enemy and secondary character group as long as the stories built around them are strong enough. I believe the Krang will actually make the show funnier and possibly scarier than the previous TMNT shows. Also, the Krang are voiced by Nolan North, win! It’s more important that they get the turtles right than it is to stick to the original formula.
This episode picks up the story on the Turtles’ 15th mutation day (the equivalent of a birthday). It’s established that they have never left the sewers and have been raised by Splinter. After convincing Splinter to let them visit the surface, the story really picks up. Each turtle is given their opportunity to shine, but Michelangelo really steals the show. Everything from his mind being blown by his first bite of pizza to his discovery that the Krang are alien brain dudes in robot bodies really plays into Michelangelo’s over-the-top humorous demeanor. Characters like Michelangelo really have to be treated with care because they ride the line of being hilarious and obnoxious. The Michelangelo in the 2003 show, while fun, often strayed into the obnoxious category. Hopefully that mistake is not made by Nickelodeon.
A new enemy dubbed Snakeweed fell flat for me. You probably already know his back story. A generic thug gets accidentally mutated by the same mutagen that mutated the turtles. This time the generic thug is mutated into a plant. I haven’t done my research but I’m pretty sure this is the first time in Turtles lore that a character has mutated into a plant. That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that he has no personality yet. Side, characters like to Bebop, Rocksteady, Hun, and even Erma had distinct personalities, so hopefully this is fixed in later episodes. I also didn’t find his mutation all that intriguing.
As much of a fan as I am of Rob Paulson’s work in the original turtles show, casting him as Donatello in the new show is a mistake. His voice works perfectly fine but every time Donatello talks all I hear is old-school Raphael. New viewers aren’t affected by this, but all old fans will probably agree that with a seemly endless number of voice actors they could have gone with Paulson as Donatello is the wrong choice.
Probably the thing that bothered me the most about the new series, and no I’m not going to say the turtles having three toes, was the slight tinges of anime thrown around that turtles expressions. To try and add emotion to certain facial expressions Nick they decided to add accent marks around their faces much like you would see in a Pokémon cartoon. I really wish that this was done in a mocking or self aware way, but that is clearly not the case. This dislike probably comes from my hatred of anime as a whole, and there were different tinges of anime in the 2003 show…I didn’t like them there either.
There are things that personally I did not like about Nick’s new show, but overall, as a huge turtles fan I’m proud that this show is what is representing the franchise going forward. Unlike purists I’m actually excited to see what changes they have made to the fiction. The IDW comic is a great example of how to take an established idea and go crazy with it. I’m sure Nickelodeon isn’t gonna go crazy but hopefully the changes they introduce are awesome.