Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles is a solid collection of the first six episodes of Nick’s fantastic new series.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become ubiquitous as of late. As a child in the 80s, I collected every toy, watched every TV episode and movie, and possessed a myriad of licensed products featuring the amphibious, anthropomorphic quartet. Creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird definitely hit the jackpot with this franchise, which I’m happy to see has returned to the forefront of pop culture as of late – beginning with 2007′s animated film and continuing into Nickelodeon’s fantastic new TV series.
Back when Nick’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series began airing in late 2012, I have to admit I had some reservations about it. Everything about it, from the stylized look of the Turtles, to the rap intro song, to Jason Biggs of American Pie fame being cast as Leonardo’s voice rubbed me the wrong way. But by the time I’d gotten through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise Of The Turtles‘ six episodes, the new series’ humor, action, and strong writing had completely won me over. Much to my surprise, this has quickly become one of my favorite incarnations of the Turtles, and the risky decisions that I mentioned earlier have become part of the show’s charm and unique identity. Even the new theme song has grown on me (I know every word of it).
It’s quite obvious that the creators of Nick’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a fondness for the source material. The show features plenty of callbacks to the 1987 original series while simultaneously keeping things fresh for a modern audience. For newcomers this DVD is a great starting point, as it’s a full-on origin story taking viewers through the events of the Turtles’ and Master Splinter’s mutations, to the source of Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki’s rivalry, all the way through to their first slice of pizza and introduction to April O’Neil. There are some significant liberties taken with the canon, such as April being de-aged to around the Turtles’ 15 years old and being a scientist’s daughter as opposed to a news reporter, as well as Krang no longer being a singular villain, but rather a race of enemy aliens known as The Kraang.
The Turtles’ personalities are thankfully left intact; Leo is still the strong, stoic leader, Raph is the hot-tempered muscle, Mikey is the comic relief little brother and Donnie is the brains of the operation. While the blocky CGI animation style may be a turn-off to some, it definitely grows on you, and the use of other artistic elements such as matte-painted backgrounds, comic-style storyboard flashbacks as well as subtle anime quirks make for a well-rounded visual presentation.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise Of The Turtles has thus far had a “monster of the week” format, where in each episode a random baddie is transformed into a monstrous form via the Kraang’s mutagen. This format has worked well to keep the series engaging, with the Turtles constantly in over their heads against unfamiliar enemies. All of the episodes on Rise Of The Turtles are compelling, featuring plenty of wisecracks and strong character interaction alongside well-choreographed and smoothly animated action sequences. Thankfully, the guys at Nick have come up with plenty of creative ways for the Turtles to use their weapons without being overly violent.
Strangely, the packaging lists the show as being presented in Full Screen, when it’s actually shown in 1.78:1 animorphic widescreen. Overall, for a standard-definition release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise Of The Turtles looks fantastic, with strong blacks, vibrant colors and only a few instances of color banding. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix is solid, and all of the dialogue is well-recorded and always clear, even when the soundtrack and atmospheric noises come in heavy.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise Of The Turtles only has a few extras on the disk, unfortunately. There are six “Making Of” Animatics, showing the episodes’ evolution from storyboard to rough draft to completed CGI, and a theme song karaoke video. That’s it. Pretty disappointing, as I would have loved to see the cast talk about their roles or maybe some behind-the-scenes footage, or at least a commentary. I guess that’s being saved for the eventual Blu Ray release of the full season.
The DVD comes in a clear case with an embossed sleeve. A collectible poster is inside, and on the inside of the cover is a character sleeve for Leonardo, including a biography. I’m assuming that there will be a different Turtle featured inside the case for each of Season One’s DVD releases.
Similar to Nick’s new Avatar series The Legend Of Korra (I’m currently watching the Book One: Air Blu Ray and will have a review up soon), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an excellent show that people of all ages can enjoy. There’s plenty of juvenile humor, but there’s also plenty of great character development, dialogue, and truly kick-ass action sequences. Every episode even has a strong moral to the story with some sage advice from the wise Master Splinter. Overall, this is an extremely entertaining series for old-school Turtles fans and newcomers alike, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise Of The Turtles is a solid collection of the first six episodes.