When images from the upcoming animated series Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ first made their way online, a lot of TMNT fans were unhappy, immediately venting the equivalent of “not muh Turtles.” To be fair, the series looks like a radical departure from previous animated shows and draws visual inspiration from the recent live-action films, which were divisive, to say the least.
As is the case with most reboots, the internet wrote off Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before an episode had even aired. Inevitably, Nickelodeon noted the reaction and released five episodes online before the show’s official release date in September. The network didn’t need to do this, but it’s an obvious attempt to convince fans to give it a fair shot.
Whether it works or not is another story. However, you should at least take up Nickelodeon on its generous offer and check out what the series is about, because it’s exactly what the franchise needs.
Yes, things are different — Raph is the leader of the pack and the other Turtles have received minor attitude adjustments. The animation style also takes the heroes in a half-shell back to 2D, drawing influence from anime and Teen Titans. And to top it all off, the stories are wackier, venturing into magical territory and introducing a bunch of crazy characters for viewers to get acquainted with.
Bottom line, though: It’s doing something different and we should respect it for having the courage to do so. While the previous animated series all had their high points, they were all derivatives of the original 1987 show. A pepperoni pizza might be tasty and a suitable go-to dish, but you have to experiment with something new after a certain point. This is what Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is: a new flavor of TMNT.
Nickelodeon was always honest about what Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be. Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami said the following back in March: “The Turtles is a property that has reinvention in its DNA, which keeps it fresh and relevant to every new generation while satisfying the demand from its adult fans. Turtles has been an incredibly important franchise for us since we reignited it five years ago, and we’re excited for the new series to take the characters in a different direction with more humor, a younger and lighter feel and all-new dimensions to explore.”
Lest we forget, the 1987 series was also a significant departure from the source material. It holds a special place in the hearts of ’80s and ’90s kids, but it wasn’t what the Turtles were all about in the Mirage comic books. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s initial vision was darker and more akin to Daredevil and Frank Miller’s work than a Saturday morning cartoon. Still, without a shadow of a doubt, the original animated series stands out as the peak of Turtlemania — and it achieved this distinction by choosing to be its own beast.
Much like Teen Titans experienced a shift (and fan resistance) when it morphed into Teen Titans Go!, the same can be expected here. It’s new ground and it might feel slightly unfamiliar at first, but once you get sucked in, it’s a new type of Turtle Power. It’s not easy to let go of the nostalgia and feelings associated with fond childhood memories, yet Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could be for a new generation what the ’80s series was for many of us.
The green skateboarding brothers who danced with Vanilla Ice will always exist, but isn’t it time to see them reimagined for the 21st century rather than remain stuck in the past forever?
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stars Omar Miller as Raph, Ben Schwartz as Leo, Josh Brener as Donnie, Brandon Mychal Smith as Mikey, Kat Graham as April O’Neil, and Eric Bauza as Splinter. It is scheduled to premiere on Sept. 17 on Nickelodeon.
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