Episodes 01 & 02: “Rise of the Turtles”
Aired: Sept. 29, 2012
Cast: Jason Biggs (Leonardo), Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Sean Astin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), Hoon Lee (Master Splinter)
Like so many other people around the world, TMNT was like a religion to me during my childhood. So whenever I hear about a new take on my four favorite amphibians, I get very nervous. At first glance, I cringed a bit at the CG animation, and the extremely light nature of the previews, fearful of just how much the show was going to tailor to the small children. But on September 29, Saturday morning, I sat in my pajamas with a big bowl of cereal, just like when I was eight-years-old, ready to be optimistic about these new heroes in a half-shell. And I was quite happily surprised.
No time is wasted getting to the action and introducing our heroes. I was relieved to discover the classic character archetypes of these characters are completely intact. Leo is ever the ambitious leader, Raph is still rude, Mikey makes the jokes, and Donatello still does machines. The classic spirit of the turtles original fans grew up with is relatively unchanged. It’s still very light, which is okay, because it’s a kids show, and I even laughed at some of the gags. Ironically, though, not one of my giggles came from Michelangelo. His humor and goofy attributes are extremely infantile and even annoying at times. But then again, I’m not exactly the show’s target demographic.
The story didn’t revolve too much around the origin of the turtles, but enough for new viewers to understand how they came to be. As the gang turns 15-years-old, Splinter decides it’s time they visit life outside of the sewers, and we follow the turtles through the culture shock of the streets of New York, and the first time they discover pizza. We meet young April O’Neil and some familiar villains as a genuinely intriguing conspiracy unfolds around the turtles.
Hands down, my favorite part about the show is the animation. There’s a beautiful stylistic mixture of 3D and 2D animation that melds together wonderfully. The dark purple color pallet of the NYC backdrop really compliments the turtles’ vibrant shades of green. Some of the design choices, like the heavy influence of anime-like facial expressions and emotion indicators, I’m not a big fan of, but overall, the animation is flawless and looks very cool.
To all the 1987 TMNT fans, no, you’re not crazy, and yes, Raphael’s voice is coming out of Donatello’s mouth. The amazing Rob Paulson returns to TMNT, but this time sporting purple instead of red. And it’s not just a rehash of his Raphael, he does a good job at making his own Donatello. The cast as a whole is fantastic. Jason Biggs (yes, that guy who did the naughty thing with the pie) is a convincing Leonardo, Greg Cipes’s over the top silliness as Mikey is accomplished, but I would have liked a bit more gruffness from Sean Astin’s Raph.
I really like this show so far. Of course the veteran fan inside me will always wish for that dark, black and white original Eastman and Laird TMNT animated series, but I’m happy to see the kids of this generation have a light and fun TMNT to grow up on like so many of us did 25 years ago. And I very much appreciate the nod to the original series in the new show’s opening. I can easily see myself becoming a big fan of this series.