When I first heard about the new Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, I was admittedly skeptical. Watching a small sneak peek on YouTube my initial reaction was that the show looked like a video game, and graphically resembled the abomination 2007 film release, TMNT. I prefer not to acknowledge its existence in the Ninja Turtles canon.
Regardless of my initial impression, watching the re-boot was inevitable. “Eh, what the shell,” I thought. Might as well DVR the first episode at least. So I threw on my Donatello Snuggie, poured myself a cup of French press coffee, and dusted off my 1987 Ninja Turtles TV tray. Since then, as when I was a kid, watching “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” has become an integral part of my Saturday morning routine.
The first differences you’ll notice are undoubtedly the theme song and animation. While watching, try to keep in mind that the show is an update, not a replica of the original. The new theme song is a hip-hop piece with slightly different lyrics. Presumably they altered it to fit an era when pop-rap is more popular than rock power ballads. It still goes through each of the turtles, explaining what each specializes in, and even preserves the original intro of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Heroes in a half shell, Turtle Power!”
As to the animation, hand-drawn cartoons are such a rarity these days that the CGI shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Sure, I’d have preferred hand-drawn graphics, but I’m willing to concede changing times. After all, the most important part isn’t presentation, it is on-screen portrayal. Thankfully, the turtles are pretty much the same as in the original series. They devour pizza, make corny jokes, have the same distinct personalities, and stumble through the episodes true to their goofy, fun-loving roots.
If you’re familiar with the original storyline, there are some slight alterations. Splinter’s history is a little different, while generally staying the same. His mortal enemy is still Oroku Saki, aka The Shredder. As in the original series, Shredder controls a group of ninjas, the Foot Clan, which he sends to hunt down the turtles and Splinter. It seems like most of the memorable heroes and villains will at least make an appearance, albeit in altered roles. Unlike the 1987 series, April O’Neil is not a news anchor, but the teenage daughter of a scientist. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of this change, but I don’t really dislike it either. I guess I’m kind of neutral. Krang, the brain, is not one character but now an alien race which resides in robot bodies. Although the Krang lack Pat Fraley’s distinct high-pitched voice from the 1987 iteration, the new series compensates for this by lending the race an automated, computer-like speech pattern.
Other villains crop up, both old and new. Baxter Stockman makes a re-appearance, alongside several new malicious mutants. The new series adds Snakeweed and Spider Bytez, a plant and spider respectively. Each of their episodes shows the transformation from human to mutant, and features the Ninja Turtles providing a nickname.
Voice actor Rob Paulsen’s return to the franchise kind of sums up the new show as well as lends it some credence. On the 1987 series, Paulsen voiced Raphael and while he doesn’t appear in his original turtle form, he does grace the screen as Donatello. Same turtles, different audience and times. Overall, the show isn’t as good as the original series, but if we are honest with ourselves, nothing will ever be. This comes about as close as any re-boot. If you want to relive some totally radical awesomeness from your childhood, check out this worthy series. I mean, if is good enough for one of the original turtle voice actors, is good enough for any fan. And if you’re jonesing for your fix of the original series, you can pick up every season on dvd separately or the soon to be released complete collector’s set which comes packaged in the Turtle Van.