Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings a new Look, new dynamic, yet somehow the same turtles – Rise of the TMNT Review
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the fifth series of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premiering this fall on Nickelodeon, with the first 5 episodes available online via the Nickelodeon App or Website. The announcement and reveal of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (RotTMNT) was met was some noticeable criticism, particularly on the look and tone of the new series. RotTMNT takes a noticeably cartoonish and younger-skewing approach, which is a contrast to the original comics, but arguably the general approach the Turtles have been going for in all their television iterations. Some people have even gone as far as to say this new iteration has ruined their childhood… I am not in those camps. In general, I take a fan approach and am always willing to see the direction a franchise I am a fan of is going, and if I don’t like it I always have the section I like and hope for the return of what I do like down the line. But as a content creator, and a person with melanin, I tend to not feel ownership and privileged over my fandoms and try to respect the work that goes into things. -End snide commentary on toxic fandom- Luckily, like the amazing professionals they are, the creators, cast, and crew behind Nickelodeon’s RotTMNT are here to continue and contribute a new chapter in TMNT history. And if you have a problem, talk to Omar Miller:
The first 5 episodes of RotTMNT are no available on Nickelodeon’s site and app. The premiere episode being a standard 21-minute-ish episode while the other 4 are 11-minute-ish episodes., which appear to be parts A & B of the broadcast episode. The total runtime is the equivalent of three 30-minute TV shows.
The Turtles stumble into a mystic underground world where they meet Baron Draxum (voiced by John Cena) who has a plan to create mutated creatures. Using new glowing weapons they found in Draxums armory the Turtles are able to stall him a bit, though Draxum does get away and his mutation spell has been cast throughout New York. It is also strongly suggested the Draxum is the one who caused the mutation of the Turtles.
The Turtles are aspiring to become great ninja heroes, so they decide to take a case worthy of their Ninja prowess. Which they decide is taking down paper thieves. Little do they know that these thieves have a special ability of folding paper into soldiers and bringing them to life. These paper thieves have fire for hair, and have a foot painted over their faces.
April needs help at work when one of the animatronic birthday singing machines breaks down. The Turtles come to help… well Donnie comes to help, the rest come for free pizza. Donnie decides to upgrade the animatronic, and chaos breaks free as it takes its programming in an entirely wrong direction.
The Turtles are trying to capture a magician hippo, unaware they are being lead to traps by a revenge-seeking news anchor who was mutated into a worm.
Mikey & Donnie have their own little adventure trying to buy the Jupiter Jim Moon Buggy from the mutated junkyard owner. The episode features Mikey & Donnie becoming repo-men for Repo Mantis.
***Editor’s Note*** Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my Rise of the TMNT Review, know that I am coming from a place of extreme bias. As a 3-year-old, I was asked if I loved my mom or Ninja Turtles more, and I broke my mother’s heart. I am also in the belief that the IDW TMNT on-going series, is currently the best on-going comic series out. So, my Turtle reviews may need to be read with a handicap.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an entirely new and unique approach to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that is unlike any of the iterations and interpretations to date. The Turtles have an entirely new dynamic, for example, Raph is the leader, Splinter is a couch potato, and April is often leading the charge. It is jarring how different it is, yet at the same time, it feels right at home. This is not the Ninja Turtles we grew up with, but it is definitely an amazing interpretation that I think is in tune for children of today to grow up with.
Rise of the TMNT brilliantly written. The opening scene of the pilot sets up shady transaction with the Turtles preparing far off in the distance for a drop-in. The Turtles then do a short montage of their gear and preparation then hop on the zip-line to drop-in. The camera then shows the Turtles zip-lining over the shady transaction scene and group canon balling into a rooftop pool. The opening scene is the perfect embodiment of the show. It glides over the dark and heavy to go right into the fun. That’s not to say the heavy isn’t in the show, but it is secondary to the joy and antics of the Turtles. In the same episode, the Turtles fail to stop an evil plot, but at the same time has Splinter calling Donatello “Purple One.” The ramifications of the Turtle’s failure is realized in other episodes of the show, while never being made abundantly obvious. The larger connecting story is embedded within the bite-size stand-alone episodes, allowing audiences to pick up any episode without worrying about while also rewarding those who follow the show consistently.
An added benefit to the cartoon/short form stories, it will allow for a lot more individual and team-up adventures to take place. Which is something I feel the other series never had the chance to do because they usually focused on the group. Yes, every turtle would get their own arc and develop, but usually get sections of an episode instead of whole episodes dedicated to them. The short form allows them to take pieces out and place them wherever and whenever without worrying about detracting from a larger narrative. It won’t have to tie in, but when it does tie it, the pay off will be that much better.
The only downside in the episodes, and it’s a big one, is the lack of Master Splinter. He has about two scenes in 5 episodes. That’s criminally too little Splinter.
The voice cast is of Rise of the TMNT is great! This new cast puts on a fantastic performance that is truly worthy to carry-on the TMNT franchise. Which, when you find out the cast is directed by Rob Paulsen, it’s no wonder the cast is able to deliver such a strong performance so early into the show. If anyone knows a thing about being a Turtle, it is definitely Rob Paulsen. Not to pick favorites, but Kat Graham and Omar Miller’s April and Raph performances stand out to me because of how different they are from the live action portrayals I know them from. I don’t think it’s possible to relate Graham’s April to her performances in Vampire Diaries and her Whose Line Is It Anyways? episode. And Miller sounds like someone from the Sopranos. It always amazes me how animation allows for actors to be something that you can completely disassociate them from. Though after seeing Graham Cosplay as April, it’s impossible to not associate them.
The final touch, that brings it all together, is the design and animation of the series. After 2012’s CGI interpretation, Rise of the TMNT brings us back to hand-drawn animation. This version is easily the most vibrant and cartoony looking version of any of the TV series. The thick edges and more squared/shapely designs remind me of shows like Johnny Bravo and Batman the Animated Series. You have strong distinguishable designs, splash with fun and vibrant colors that work for action and fun. I personally really like the designs of the turtles, because Rise of the TMNT gives each turtle extremely distinguishable looks. Each Turtle is a different species of turtle, and their designs reflect that in shape, color, and general design. I nerded out pretty hard over their shells being so unique and reflective of their species.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a master collaboration of old and new Turtle pros, but is 100% comprised of Turtle fans. This show wasn’t created to ruin anyone’s childhood or ruin the franchise, it’s literally the opposite. Rise of the TMNT is a new generation and new direction for our mutated heroes, one that is meant to pay homage to the old, but also invite a new generation to become fans of the franchise and share in Turtle fandom with us. I do admit, the direction of the series is jarring, considering how dark the previous series got and where they are in the ongoing comics. But that’s what’s great about the Turtles, there’s something for everyone. You want the more grown up and dark turtles, read the comics. You want something you can watch with your little nieces and nephews, you got the show. Or if you want just some light-hearted, beautifully animated, cartooning, it’s perfect for that too. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles takes the beloved franchise in new and different direction than most are used to or expecting. Though it is undeniably different, the heart and soul that makes the Turtles such fan favorites is well embodied and will likely make a whole new generation of TMNT fans. And hopefully, 30 years from now, some of those fans will be able to complain how that new version of Turtles is ruining their childhood. My Rise of the TMNT review gets a 4.0/5.
*The only reason my story score is so low is due to lack of Splinter. Watch our interview with Eric Bouza, the voice of Master Splinter, and you’ll understand why I’m so disappointed we don’t get much of him in these 5 episodes: