Poe’s Point > A Few Thoughts on the New Ninja Turtles Cartoon

I’ve watched three episodes of the Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now, and I’ve made a few observations.

–The show is geared toward a younger audience – definitely younger than the 2003 series, at least, though probably about on par with the 1980s cartoon. More on that in a moment.

–There’s something both modern and very weird to me about the way the show is done in 3D CGI, and yet there are little anime-style touches like the “cross-popping veins“, eyes going blank with rage, etc. I suspect it may be as appealing to kids as it is a bit off-putting to an old cranky lawn-defender like me. (I did get used to the CPV on Teen Titans, but it’s weirder in 3D.)

–The way the Turtles move, and their facial expressions, are all well done. There’s a wonderful speed and freedom of movement to the Turtles this time around. But the sometimes the CGI seems a bit low-budget to me, reminiscent of something from the early part of the decade.

–The roundabout manner in which the Kraang robots talk was funny exactly once.  Make. It. Stop.

–I have mixed feelings on the show’s character development. It’s been doing a good job with Raph (a character I’ve never cared for) and Donatello, but neglecting Leo and Mikey a bit. But they’ve got time to get there.

–The monster designs have left something to be desired, in my opinion. They all look kind of like something from Grim Fandango mixed with Scary Godmother.

–The “remixed” 1980s opening seems like it was done by a marketing committee. Rapping in cartoon intros wasn’t cool in the 1990s and it’s even less cool now. I’d rather get the original track played over the new graphics. Seriously – compare them and tell me which one gets your blood pumping. And get off my lawn.

Since the new show began sending out images and videos, I’d been thinking of it as perhaps the Batman: Brave and the Bold to the 2003 show’s Batman: The Animated Series (with the 1980s cartoon being…I’m not sure what. Maybe the 1960s Batman live-action show?).

But I don’t know if the writing of the new show is up to the quality of BB&TB, which worked in some great tongue-in-cheek humor from the very start. Of course, that show improved as it went on, and perhaps this one will too.

But right now, TMNT 2012 is just not working for me. I hate to be negative, but I find the plots boring. Maybe it’s just that the show is still developing the characters, and it’ll take time before the writers feel comfortable enough that their audience understands the dynamics that they can start getting a bit more creative with the stories.

I don’t think the problem is just that I’m an old grump; I absolutely love Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, for example. And TMNT’s executive producer, Peter Hastings, was a writer, story editor and producer for Tiny ToonsAnimaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, so I know he can do work I enjoy.

It could be that the writers are avoiding the urge to write for both parents and kids, focusing entirely on kids instead. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I’m expecting too much of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

What do you think? Am I completely off the mark on this one?

Comments now closed (20)

  • Do you have a cane to wave at kids as they step on your grass? 😉

    If it gets children into the property to sustain a toy line for a few years; then I have no problems with it. Over all the show doesn’t bother me, I dont mind it at this point. It is something I can watch with my little one other than shows like Go Diego and the likes.

  • i dont think your off the mark, but in the same token the real lack of depth is kind of refreshing in a world/media where everything gets pretty convoluted
    it can be lame and extremely silly, but so far i like it for what it is

  • I thought this show looked horrible from all the early looks but I knew I would have to watch it cause I got my kid hooked on TMNT. As I sat with him and watched it I was converted over. I really like this new show and as much as I like the old theme I think this is a good one too.

  • Just to be clear, I think the new toys are fantastic. I'm just not getting drawn into the story of the cartoon yet. Again, maybe it'll happen. And again, I suspect if I had my own kid and he was enjoying it it would make a huge difference.

    But I will never like that theme more than the 1980s one. And not because I'm nostalgic and grumpy. I just think the old one's peppier and isn't, I don't know, trying so hard.

  • I dunno, I have really enjoyed it so far. Yea it's obviously aimed at kids, but shouldn't a cartoon be?

    I think a lot of properties would have a longer life (say for instance Thundercats or GI Joe) if they were more kid focused and less older fanboy focused.

    I will agree the Krang speak is going to get old fast.

    • Thundercats and G.I. Joe Renegades are fine examples of listening to fanboys rather than having a key market in mind. Instead of worrying about fanboys the main focus hould be children as that is the main focus of toy sales.

  • Gotta say I disagree with you Poe, on almost every level, except the Kraang's speech. They have played it up too much.

    That said, it's still very much up in the air. We're 4 episodes in (honestly it's more like 3 with the first one being a two parter) and I was a bit torn after the second (technically third) episode. It seemed like we were going to go to a monster of the week format very quickly.

    But episode 4 really changed my opinion. Things started to show focus and there was a clear overall story arc, which I wasn't sure was coming.

    And I love the new theme, but I've loved it for a while. I think it's catchy, as all Turtles themes have been, but this one isn't as grating after a while as the 2K3 theme eventually got. When Leo bobs his head with the tune, I want to put on my bandanna over my eyes and do a jump kick. The theme gets me excited.

    And while I did recently pick apart a variety of inconsistencies with this show that I did find annoying, it was all very minor stuff that I certainly wouldn't have cared about as a kid and am willing to overlook as an adult so long as the other aspects are played up well. I think Episode 4 was the strongest episode yet and while there were a handful of "kid" elements, I think adults could easily watch it and not feel like they were watching a kid's show.

    There's a ton of the Teen Titans dynamic at work here (no surprise most of the crew worked on that) but it's different enough and more organic to me. I dunno, I'm diggin' it, but I'm aware that it could fall apart if it gets too much into monster of the week territory.

  • My wife and I grew up reading and watching TMNT in the 80's. Safe to say we're huge ninja turtle geeks! We absolutely love the new nickelodeon TMNT cartoon.

  • I'm enjoying the new TMNT.

    We're only three episodes in, but I'm looking forward to some more character development for Donatello and April. Especially April. Her father has been kidnapped, yet she just "appeared" in the turtles lair in the most recent episode, sitting around reading a magazine. We didn't even see her "introduction" to the lair and Splinter. And while I don't expect the character to be crying about her father ALL the time, instead of reading a magazine, it would have been great if she'd been working with Donatello on his computer to try and track The Kraang's movements.

    I've also been disappointed by the designs of the evil mutants to date. Stinkweed/Snakeweed was a bizarre combination of insection and plant with exposed flesh and heart and Spiderbite was just a dull beach ball with four spider legs on his head. The turtles casual attitude towards the mutagen, its effects on humans (and animals) and the overall "grand plan" of The Kraang is also baffling.

  • I love the new series personally, it seems the first few weeks are establishing characters and setting up eventual recurring enemies. As far as character development goes, it seems the first episodes (following the premiere) are taking one character as a focus character. First was Leonardo, then Raphael, this past week was Michelangelo and next weeks will probably be Donatello.

    Personally I'm looking forward to the upcoming episodes, and figure that the series will soon get a strong story-arc built up…seriously this Shredder seems to be downright scary…once they get a strong groove going, the series will definitely improve (ala Teen Titans, which started out meh…but really got better as episodes continued).

  • I'm digging it, and the new theme reminds me of some Power Rangers themes I've heard.

    Also, 60's Batman or Superfriends is about right for the old cartoon.

    The white eyes I think are less anime influence and just more of a throwback to the versions of TMNT which used that style, but without going strictly for one or the other.

    And if this isn't doing it for you, check out IDW's comic. It's doing its own thing, and pretty well from what I can tell.

  • I have the same issue with the cheap feel of the animation… I also feel that the world lacks depth from an aesthetic standpoint, and all of the characters besides the Turtles don't really do anything for me.

    I am however, LOVING the comedic back and forths between the four main Turtles. They're hilarious, and I am particularly digging the new Donatello.

    On a semi-related note, I absolutely ADORE Scooby Doo: Mystery Inc. It's phenomenal, hysterical, and surprisingly (And effectively) dramatic when it wants to be.

  • What do I think, Poe? I think the 2003 series spoiled me. If they're not going to try and top that, then I'm done with the Turtles. I'm sick of this "dumbed down for the kids" attitude so many shows take. And then turn around and use as an excuse when the show isn't good. I bet there are even kids that wish it wasn't so dumb.

    • I agree. I like the 2003 TMNT show much better. This show is VERY childish, to the extent that I have trouble enjoying it. Mikey is way childish and annoying (unfortunately, he's been that way in most modern media).

  • Thank goodness people are liking this! I'm an animator in the video game industry and it is really not cheap to produce that quality of animation. Little touches like their runs having their arms behind them and how fluid the motion is while still being very punchy and cartoony amazes me.

  • I'd say you're being a little too guarded. I know how you feel, the promotional imagery alone had me eating my hats with rage and while my fiber intake was way up I eventually ran out of hats and hat to face the show. I begrudgingly watched the first three episodes at nickelodeon.com and was amazed by how easily it managed to manipulate my angry old man radar.

    I had a lot of fun watching the show. I felt the Turtles are effectively portrayed as a bunch of teenage doofuses learning about a world full of new things, the enemies are absolutely nuts in a way that makes me weirdly nostalgic for the bonkers TMNT stuff from the old days and seeing mikey's brain explode eating pizza pretty much set the pace for the show's personality in general. It's spastic, easily distracted by shiny things and strangely compelling like following a drunken relative to watch them out of concern and take blackmail photos for later.

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