Nickelodeon’s revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has turned out to be an incredible success, with second and third seasons of the show ordered within weeks of the initial episode airing. It’s easy to see why, as the Turtles’ recipe of action, humor and charm has managed to stay fully intact with this reincarnation. Following up on their release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown, which featured the final twelve episodes of Season One, Nick has released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem, collecting the first six episodes of Season Two.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem’s six episodes showcase a great cast of voice talent. Featuring Jason Biggs (Leonardo), Rob Paulsen (Donatello – and the original Raphael from the 80s cartoon), Sean Astin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), Kelly Hu (Karai) and Josh Peck (Casey Jones), everyone here does a solid job and fills their roles well. Peck makes his series debut on Mutagen Mayhem. Special mention needs to go to Hoon Lee and Kevin Michael Richardson, who are perfectly cast as the voices of Master Splinter and Shredder, respectively.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem sees the four brothers rushing to recover 63 canisters of mutagen that have accidentally been dropped all over New York City. Unfortunately for them, new threats have already sprung up as a result of the ooze, and the Turtles come face to face with a number of them in this DVD set. “The Mutation Situation” sees the group becoming a bit over-confident in their abilities after defeating Shredder and the Kraang, but their celebration is cut short by the arrival of new enemies in NYC – including a mutated Mr. O’Neil, creating tension between April and the Turtles.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem’s first episode,“Follow The Leader” has Leonardo struggling to keep his brothers in line, as they begin to disobey his orders. But when a new army of robot Foot soldiers enter the fray — able to predict and adapt to all of the Turtles’ moves — Leo learns that following orders isn’t always the best way to get things done, and that being unpredictable can have its perks. “Invasion of the Squirrelanoids” pits the Turtles against a terrifying new foe – mutant squirrels that reproduce inside a host, evolving into an even more horrifying form — an obvious homage to the classic Alien horror films. Frankly I found this episode, as well as “Mikey Gets Shellacne” — where Michelangelo rubs mutagen on himself and begins to mutate into essentially a giant zit — a bit too gross and disturbing for children. And the horror film references seem out of place to me — it’s not something the Turtles have been known for previously. And Casey Jones’ redesign — it’s definitely going to take a while to get used to. I’m used to a musclebound badass in a Jason mask, not a kid with a whole row of missing teeth that isn’t any bigger than April.
“Mutagen Man Unleashed” sees the transformation of the kid formerly known as The Pulverizer into Mutagen Man, who Donnie thinks may be the key to finding a cure for April’s father — a retro-mutagen. Unfortunately, Timmy is after April, and the Turtles have to team up with Casey Jones and employ some stealth and diversionary tactics to keep her safe. “Mikey Gets Shellacne” — while overall a pretty disgusting episode — sees the double-mutation of Dogpound into a much cooler, creepier, skeletal form, Rahzar (fans of the 80s movies will remember him). Finally, “Target: April O’Neil” has the Kraang and Karai sending a new robotic creation after April, and she gets closer to Casey while trying to avoid the Turtles as much as possible. But when Donnie and the Turtles save her once again, she realizes that she’s been treating them unfairly. As an aside, I really enjoy the shows that the Turtles watch, echoing what’s going on in their lives — last season it was Space Heroes, and Mutagen Mayhem sees the debut of a 70s Voltron-esque series.
Unfortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem is really light on extras, but that should be expected if you’ve picked up any of the previous releases. The standard “Mutation of a Scene” shorts are here, showcasing how an episode comes together from storyboards to rough CGI to final render. Besides six of those, there’s a very short extra titled “Channel 6 News Report: Creatures of the Night”, which features reporters talking about the mysterious sightings around town lately. I guess that the really good extras, like commentaries, cast interviews and full features are being saved for the eventual Blu-ray release.
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem is a solid DVD set with six interesting, funny episodes, although a few of them weren’t quite my cup of tea and may be too disturbing for children. Still, it’s a strong collection for fans of the series, but you may want to watch the episodes and use your own discretion before letting your kids see them. A few more extras definitely wouldn’t hurt, either. While Mutagen Mayhem is likely my least favorite TMNT set released thus far on the whole, it’s still TMNT, and there’s no denying that the two hours of entertainment on display here is still leagues above most other kids’ TV shows today.