You may recall my list of discoveries upon re-watching the first few episodes of the original 1988 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon -- seeing the show again was both nostalgic and heartwarming, bringing back memories of catching the show after school or on weekends. I'm hard-pressed to think of a cartoon that better defined my childhood, and then later, my early adolescence. "TMNT" was a special cartoon in that so many people from different walks of life could identify with it; oddly, a show about four mutant turtles and a rat managed to transcend boundaries.
Now, many fans of the original show are parents themselves, and I've heard several of them complain that Saturday morning cartoons just don't have the same appeal as they once had, or that their kids don't have the slightest familiarity with the Saturday morning cartoon routine. All of that will change this coming Saturday, September 29, when the new, refurbished "TMNT" premieres (on Nickelodeon in the U.S., on YTV in Canada).
Unlike the many other attempts at rebooting or remaking "TMNT" (in TV or movie form), this version doesn't suck, and I say that as a true fan. Don't get me wrong, this iteration is quite different and modernized in CG, but the creators didn't mess with the original formula very much. Basically, the old car has a new body, but underneath the frame is the same.
We've got the same cheesy humor between the turtles and ... well, every other character; the theme song is a slight variation (read: hipper rap/rock) and still gets stuck in your head; the turtles still fight Shredder and The Foot Clan; they still love pizza. All the elements that you remember from the original are there. This is not a reinvented show, and it's geared to appeal to both kids and parents.
The 26-episode first season has some pretty powerful acting chops behind it, too. The band of brothers is played by Sean Astin ("Lord of the Rings") as Raphael, Greg Cipes ("Teen Titans") as Michelangelo, Jason Biggs ("American Pie") as Leonardo and Rob Paulsen ("Planet Sheen") as Donatello. Interesting side note: Paulsen voiced Raphael in the original cartoon.
A new addition to the 2012 edition of "TMNT" is the Shellraiser (points for a creative name!). Built to run on either subway rails or city streets, the battle van is equipped with "Ninja Battle Boost" technology, including a spring-loaded cannon on the top and entrances in multiple places, perfect for surprise attacks. At least the creators added a new vehicle and didn't try to introduce a new character. We don't need a Poochie with the turtles, that's for sure.
Of course, this is 2012, so the social media aspect surrounding the relaunch of "TMNT" is rather intense. But even this stuff is cool. Marketers have banked the relaunch around Augmented Reality (AR), which basically means that, with your smartphone in hand, you can visit Wal-Mart, find the appropriate ad signage, point your phone at it, and the turtles will appear right in front of you in 3D form. You can even take pictures with whatever turtle you want, like you're actually in the cartoon -- and then upload them for all your friends to see. Even as an adult the prospect of this is fun and exciting (OK, stop laughing at me), so imagine what it's like as a child?
I will also let you know that the toys/action figures coming out for "TMNT" are bad-ass. Remember your crappy Ninja Turtles action figures from the '80s and '90s with the barely-movable limbs? Well, the new toys are bigger, better, and the action figures are ultra-flexible and much easier to stage intricate fights with. And yes, they're even offering mini plastic replicas of the turtles' actual weapons (safe for kids, of course) -- something I always coveted when I was younger.
I don't have any children, but I think I might still watch this on Saturday mornings, on the regular. Forget Memory Lane, I'll relive my childhood down in the cartoon sewers.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" premieres Saturday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. ET on Nickelodeon in the US and YTV in Canada.