Everything Has Its Time and Place

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Turtles’ fan and for almost every stage in my life, there has been a series running for me to enjoy. Like most people born in the 80s, I was raised on the 1987 cartoon. As a preteen, I rushed home after school to watch The Next Mutation’s attempt at a live-action show (still a guilty pleasure for sure). I was overjoyed when our thirst was quenched by the underrated 2003 Fox cartoon. For five years, I religiously watched every episode of the 2012 Nickelodeon series. And while I have my reservations about some of the designs for the new 2018 Nick series, I’m very hopeful to see new life breathed into the franchise. I think the fans will catch on that many of the changes are most likely not permanent and perhaps even necessary to craft a story that we haven’t heard before.

When I think back on the 2012 series I often take notice of how my excitement for the series seemed to lessen over the last couple seasons, so I naturally assume that when I go back and watch the first season, my passion will reignite. Each of the many times I have started rewatching the series I have noticed that those first several episodes aren’t the ones that stand out to me. They aren’t my favorites. There are things from every season and story arc that I love, but my favorite parts of the show are when the creators were able to combine ideas and archetypes from other sources and other versions of the turtles. What is so strange about that is how those situations could be viewed as the laziest things the writers could have done - take an old character and make it a little more relevant, maybe toss a bit of the old theme song on a turtlecom. Perhaps I’m giving the writers too much credit, but those are the things that made the series for me. Whether it was “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids” and its direct references to Alien and self referential kinship to the 1987 series episode “Attack of the Killer Pizzas” or the remaking the bad guy from Big Trouble in Little China for their "A Chinatown Ghost Story” episode that took its title straight from Jack Burton’s mouth. I have to mention how I simultaneously applauded and rolled my eyes at the decision to not only have Jon Heder, who portrayed Napoleon Dynamite in the independent hit of the same name, voice the 2012 version of Napoleon Bonafrog, but also mimic his character traits, use lines from the movie and use music that could have easily been part of the score from the film. Though I am grateful that Nickelodeon made the call to not allow it to be the series finale and rather more of a “what if” story, I have to mention the bravery the creators showed in making “The Mutant Apocalypse.” It is such a beautiful love letter to George Miller and it is very easy to see the appreciation they have for the original three Mad Max films as well as the tonal influence of Fury Road. 

Another thing I praise about this show is the casting. Not only was the regular voice cast phenomenal, but the list of guest stars is dreamy. Renae Jacobs who voiced the original April cast as April’s mom? Danny Trejo as The Newtralizer? Ron Perlman as Armaggon and while we’re in the space arc, David freaking Tennant as Fugitoid? Whoever had the genius idea of casting Robbie Rist as Mondo Gecko? And the unforgettable (although I try) Gilbert Gottfried as Kraang Subprime.

One thing I think most adult viewers take for granted when comparing Nick 2012 with other incarnations of the turtles is the fact that this show was clearly made with them in mind. The level of violence e.g. Tigerclaw’s disembodied arm laying in the foreground of a shot or Shredder’s blades rising from the bottom of the frame as they pierced Splinter’s body, has never really been allowed in a kid’s show. Not even the 2003 series had violence like that and episodes that crossed that line such as the infamous Baxter Stockman episode (Google it), weren’t allowed to be aired. That is something that people are also not taking into account with their criticism of Rise of the TMNT. They are clearly trying to make a show for a different audience just as the 1987 show was for children and the violence was toned way down. That’s why we see things like Raph’s new weapons looking less threatening and why I think they are focusing on mysticism and magic like The Next Mutation did.

Nick’s 2012 TMNT has become my favorite turtle series. Though it will never hold the special place in my heart as the original cartoon, or have the blessings and guidance of co-creator Peter Laird as the Fox Kids cartoon did, it is a well crafted yet chaotic hodge podge of the best parts of all incarnations.

Let me leave my minimal review with these final thoughts: I believe the reason this show worked so well for the duration of its run is that regardless of what the fans may find to complain about, the creators were constantly paying fan service and they knew their audience. It wasn’t just 11 year olds and under. It wasn’t their parent’s who while watching it with their kids remembered the original cartoon they grew up with. They made the show for everyone who grew up loving not just the Turtles, but for all of us who stayed up late watching bad science fiction television, rented dusty VHS copies of B movies (even critically acclaimed ones) from their local video rental store, all the anime nerds and comic book nerds, and every one of us geeks who refuses to grow out of the things we love.

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Entertainment Earth