Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics DVD Review
Just in time for the theatrical release of the Michael Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, Lionsgate and Fred Wolf Films are releasing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics, which features the top ten fan-voted episodes from a TV.com poll. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael battle Shredder and his partners in crime in New York City, the Earth’s core, Dimension X and beyond in this action-packed DVD. This single-disk compilation is a must-buy for old-school Turtles fans, as it’s not only a great trip down memory lane but also packs some genuinely interesting behind-the-scenes bonus material.
Nearly every episode in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics collection has the insidious Shredder and his dimwitted henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady attempting to take down the Turtles and Master Splinter, and failing miserably. The pizza-loving Turtles team up with a washed-up superhero named Gadget Man, dinosaurs, an alien race of turtle people, and even Shredder himself, when he’s under mind control and believes he’s Michelangelo in the hilarious “Cowabunga Shredhead”, one of the best episodes on this disk. When I watched this series as a kid, I never noticed how sarcastic Raphael can be, and also how often the Turtles break the fourth wall, often referencing the fact that they’re in a cartoon. For instance, in one episode, Michelangelo asks Donnie why they have to go after a stampeding dinosaur that’s rampaging through New York City, to which Donnie replies, “Well, it wouldn’t be much of an episode if we didn’t.”
The animation on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics still holds up today, though time hasn’t done the picture quality any favors. The frames have plenty of scratches and faded color saturation, as well as some stabilization issues at times. Still, it’s not enough to detract from the fun of these 10 great episodes. It would be awesome to see the original TMNT series get digitally remastered at some point, perhaps in a Blu-ray release for posterity.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics has three bonus features. “The Turtles: A Ninjatastic Look Back” is a 20-minute, interesting mini-documentary that has interviews with the original voice cast, as they reminisce about the first casting and recording sessions, and what it was like to be part of a global phenomenon. Townsend Coleman and Cam Clarke talk about how the producers for the show couldn’t decide on who they wanted to play Leo and Mikey; it could have gone either way, and the decision came down to a studio recording time crunch. Cam and Townsend talk about trying and failing to impress kids with their Turtles voices, and Cam recalls phoning sick kids in the hospital as Leonardo to bring up their spirits.
There’s also interviews with three of the original storyboard artists (apparently all of the actual animation was done overseas, and none of these artists are interviewed). The artists reflect on what it was like to walk into a toy store and see their creations lining every shelf in the building, and reminisce about some funny behind-the-scenes moments. Finally, in “A Shellabration of Fan-Nomenon Sensation:: Devoted and Die-Hard Fans Speak!”, a few super-fans talk about the show’s cultural importance, and the impact that TMNT has had on their lives while growing up. One guy even has all four turtles tattooed on his body, including a signature from Kevin Eastman.
Overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics is a a compilation that just about any 80s kid will want to have on their shelf. Featuring 10 of the best episodes from 7 of the 10 seasons, as well as a healthy amount of bonus features, it’s also a great history lesson for the new generation of TMNT fans created by the 2012 Nickelodeon series.
- + Solid collection of episodes
- + Great bonus features
- – Picture quality is beginning to suffer