Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuts September 17, 2018 on Nickelodeon from director Rob Paulsen (TMNT Royalty) and executive producer Andy Suriano (Samurai Jack). The series stars the voice talents of Omar Miller, Ben Schwartz, Josh Brener, Brandon Mychal Smith, Kat Graham, John Cena and Eric Bauza.
I’m one of those oldschool TMNT fans who thinks the 2012 animated series is the greatest incarnation of the Ninja Turtles EVER MADE. EVER. I’ve talked about that before – and you can read why HERE. But Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is what some fans may consider too much of a drastic change… Not only in appearance, as Raph is bulkier and looks more like the villainous Slash than he ever has before, but also in tone and plot, because Raph is also for the first time – the LEADER of the group. That title usually belongs to Leo, but this time Leo happens to be even more of a goofball than Mikey it seems, even taking a giant faceplant and getting a severe beat-down in the first episode after being over-confident and far from prepared.
Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a bizarre and at times uncomfortable adjustment for someone who grew up with this franchise. But after seeing the first episode after Nickelodeon released it early on YouTube, I’m far more intrigued than I initially was and that’s because the comedy is spot-on. Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is FUNNY. People are comparing it to Teen Titans GO but I’m not getting that, I’m seeing more comedic beats that I’ve seen before on fantastic animated series like Voltron: Legendary Defender. The show is very well written and self-aware which really works. Josh Brener’s Donny will talk about the silliness of new locations that the turtles stumble upon and he steals the first episode with his lines. Ben Schwartz as Leo is also very entertaining even though this isn’t the Leonardo that all of us middle-aged dorks grew up with. Even Omar Miller knocks some great jokes right out of the park, including a hysterical bit about how their team needs a name – something like “MAD DOGS!”. The nonsensical humour jives very well with the Turtles franchise and although it’s different than any other version of TMNT, it steel feels like the Turtles we all know and love, which is all I was asking for – to keep the spirit of TMNT alive and well despite the shake-ups.
The animation…My god the animation style is brilliant and absolutely stunning during the action sequences. Producer Andy Suriano comes from Samurai Jack, so we were all expecting some solid fight scenes, but I wasn’t prepared for just how fluid and fantastic they would look. There’s a lot of battles in episode 1 and they were all some of the best TMNT throwdowns in franchise history. They’re that good. Although I’m not sold on John Cena’s villain yet, his powers and moves looked REALLY cool in the episode’s climactic battle royale. My kids loved the episode and they all agreed that the fights were among the best they’d ever seen in a TMNT animated series and we’ve seen them all.
If I had one major gripe, it would be Splinter. I was able to get past Leo being an arrogant bro-type and Raph’s gigantic appearance, but Splinter turning into a TV-binging lazy loser was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. In his one and only scene in this first episode he refuses to leave his chair and passes out after eating junkfood. I was weary of his appearance which looked more like a hamster than a rat, but now i’m really concerned about this character’s personality. Splinter has always been the rough and tough ninja master, but now he’s a washed up gerbil who looks like he would get a kick out of fart jokes. The voice is great with Eric Bauza, but the character overall doesn’t make sense to me, especially since all the turtles themselves are already so undisciplined.
This introduction into the series is all about exploring new places and meeting new characters, including ones we thought we knew before but we now get to see some really interesting twists on fan favourites. April for example – she kicks a ton of ass and I loved her attitude and personality – PLUS – we get to see the Turtles venturing into this new magical world that we’ve never seen before. I don’t know if there’s a solid plot to this intro, but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. That’s what I really loved about this first episode – seeing the Ninja Turtles beaten down – badly. Their signature weapons are destroyed and they’re forced to adapt and adjust to a new mysterious world with frightening and ridiculously tough villains. They get their shells handed to them by two mutated henchman. In one scene Mikey tries to use his nunchucks to escape a monster’s grip but instead repeatedly smacks himself in the face a hundred times. It’s hilarious, but he looks like he’s never been in a fight before. Hell – none of the turtles looked like they really knew what they were doing in the initial brawl and that confused me. But I also understand what they were going for – this was a cleansing of sorts for everyone’s aging TMNT palate. We are exploring new worlds, new villains, new dynamics in storytelling – both visually and conceptually and I really had a fun time checking out a show that I did not have the highest of expectations for. Like it or not – Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles captures the spirit of the franchise while exploring new and exciting possibilities.
Watch the entire first episode: