Who knew such a beloved franchise could spring from such a stupid idea?
The concept of four turtles, mutated by a mysterious substance and trained by a rat in the arts of Ninjutsu…is kinda’ weird. In-fact, just reading the words TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES out loud sounds ridiculous. However, from the epic comic series that started it all, to the legendary Saturday morning cartoon show (with all the films and toys in-between), we have been captivated by these four green superheroes for over 25 years.
Now we start a new phase of turtle-fandom with a reboot by none other than Michael Bay at the helm. Today, we got our first glimpse (via a production stills leak) of what the new turtles will look like on film. While I’ll hold my thoughts on the new designs and the reboot (Mr. Bay specifically) till the end, let’s talk a bit about the many faces of the TMNT through the years.
Eastman/Laird Comics (1984)
This was the first iteration of the turtles, but actually one of the last I saw. My first introduction to the series, as I’m sure was with many of you, was the cartoon. The comic series featured a very different version of the turtles. A darker, grittier take that harkens back to film-noir rather than the bright colors we saw on TV and in stores.
Classic Cartoon (1987)
This show needs no introduction. It officially gave me my first addiction in life, as getting every turtle toy on the planet inevitably became my life’s work. This show was panned by some for its campy feel, as it took liberties with the source material (like giving each turtle their own colored bandana). The bubbly animation was far removed from the comics, but gave the turtles a kid friendly look. Love it or hate it, you can’t slice off a bigger piece of pop culture than this when talking about the TMNT legacy.
Live-Action Films (1990, 1991 and 1993)
The original turtle film took us back to a darker tone and drew heavily from the original comic series. We saw turtles who cursed, a dirtier New York City and a bad-ass Shredder (who was portrayed more as a straight forward villain rather than a bumbling idiot). The rubber suits used for the film (even though you can see the seams in many shots) were great and extremely well done for the time. The sequels opted to incorporate influences from the toys and cartoon show, thus suffering greatly in the process. Secret of the Ooze was still a decent flick if you were a kid in the 90’s, but even as a youngster I knew Turtles III was horrible. The Next-Mutation would go on and use many of the elements found in the live action films, but was ultimately unsuccessfully.
Animated Returns (2003, 2007 and 2012)
In the 2,000’s, we saw a return to animation. First it was the Fox series that moved towards a more mature, stylized presentation. Sporting a slight anime flair, the show would reintroduce many of the core characters with new canon. Then, an animated film (that was a fun return to the franchise after many years), paid tribute to many iconic staples from both the TV and film series. The Nickelodeon show (which is currently in its third season) once again grounded itself in a more kid-orientated feel (with Rob Paulson returning to voice Donatello). For me, none here recaptured the charm of the original. Then again, I am a grown-ass man now, so maybe that’s the problem. However, Turtles Forever was pretty sweet.
Theatrical Reboot (2014)
And now we come to the latest outing for the turtles. The recently leaked production images gave us our first look at the upcoming Michael Bay version. I had been skeptical after rumors and supposed “concepts” started appearing online over the last several months. However, after laying eyes on the official designs, I can say that this turtle fan is pleased. They obviously had to do something different to bring the turtles into the 20-teens, so I was willing to give up that bit of my childhood for the sake of making a good film. While it’s impossible to read tone or any real substance from the images, my optimism for the project has just risen by a factor of ten.
However, there is one element that still worries me. A force of nature that has already swept through another of my child-hood memories (and left it in shambles). I’m talking about Michael Bay. I can already see the Transformers-esque influence bleeding through in the new turtles film. The leaked images of Shredder look a lot like he’s the love child of Megatron and a toaster. Let’s hope this time around Bay can stay a little more faithful to the source material than he did with Transformers.
That is, unless you like the idea of a Turtle van decked out in red and blue flames.
Turtle Power Update:
Sorry dudes. Looks like the studio doesn’t fancy anyone peaking behind the curtain just yet, as they’ve sent cease and desist letters to multiple sites instructing them to remove the images. We’ll keep you posted if we hear more. Until then…party on Wayne. Wait, wrong show.