The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have come a long way from their pop culture dominance of the late 80’s early 90’s. With a slew of successful video games, cartoons, movies, and comic book series, the franchise seemed to only trend up with no slowing down in their future. Where can we document their first descent from fame? In 1992 New Line Cinema decided to make a sequel to their hit live action Turtles franchise with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” the first of the franchise to not use Jim Hensons Creature Shop.
After the film bombed with both audiences and critics, Mirage Studios enlisted the help of “Saban Entertainment”, the successful production company that spearheaded Power Rangers , VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs, to create “Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation” as a loose sequel to the film franchise. Saban’s show is mainly notable for three things: being overwhelmingly bad, a crossover with the Power Rangers and the introduction of Venus, a new female turtle. Venus was met with disdain and vitriol from all directions and her existence was short lived following the cancellation of the show.
This example, along with many others entwined with the TMNT’s history begs the question: “Why can’t anyone get this right?” Fast forward to the present. Nickelodeon, now the current owners of the franchise and responsible for Michael Bays disastrous involvement, have given us a sneak peak of their new show “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. Yet again, the reveal is met with less than stellar reviews. Apart from an awesome voice cast consisting of Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Omar Miller (8 Mile, Ballers), Josh Brener (Silicon Valley), Kat Graham (Vampire Diaries) and John Cena, the animation is a complete deviation from the TMNT that we know and love.
This new iteration gives us more scrawny and lanky turtles with the exception of Raphael, who is now, for no apparent reason, the leader of the group. Perhaps the worst offender, however, is the portrayal of Master Splinter, who looks to be a cross between Kung Fu Panda and Pokémon.
The Ninja Turtles are not a hard product to bring to market, we have told the “powers that be” what it is we want. I believe there are 5 design elements and 5 story elements that will make a successful TMNT show and I’ve detailed them below.
5. Personalities can be portrayed through the actors and story elements not through superficial clothing, like Donatello’s broken glasses or a pukka shell necklace for Michelangelo.
4. Raphael does not need a bandage on his chest or a piece cut out to show that he is “hard.”
3. Initials on the belt buckles.
2 Simple bandanna and knees and elbow pads should be a neutral color.
1. No noses.
5. Donatello should be smart, Raphael angry, Leonardo wise and Michelangelo goofy. Leonardo’s wisdom always means he’s the leader.
4. April is a reporter and gets herself in to trouble.
3. Violence is not always the primary function of the show, a moral of the story is always beneficial.
2. Pizza and hilarity always need to be involved.
1. Shredder is the main villain. Krang is good but Shredder is the Turtles what Dr. Doom is to the Fantastic 4.
I am interested to see how many parents will allow their children to watch this show? Because, at this point in time, it appears that Nickelodeon believes that this is the product that we want, not the immensely popular product from the 90’s. Someday, hopefully soon, a day will exist where a Kevin Feige type person will come and fix this whole thing. Until then, The Ninja Turtles will be underutilized. Maybe I should send in my application to Nickelodeon for a job?