When our favorites from childhood are “revamped”, “revived”, “updated” or whatever word the marketing team uses this time around, we are inclined to go into the reboot (if we go into it at all) with serious trepidation. We expect to be disappointed–it’s all the “same” material getting a makeover for a new audience. It’s someone else’s turn to play with our favorite toys, and as it turns out we don’t want anything to do with the new model.
This is how I felt when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was updated by Nickelodeon. My dreams had already been squashed by the “reboots”–both failed (Rainbow Brite never made it past the new prototypes) and smash successes (I’m sorry. I can’t handle the new My Little Pony) –of franchises that I fangirled over before fangirling was a thing. This was what I expected with TMNT–sad, strange new versions of my favorite turtles who would poop all over my fondest memories of Saturday morning cartoons.
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Imagine my surprise, when one Saturday morning I turned on the television and, half an hour later, found myself upset I hadn’t jumped on the new TMNT bandwagon as soon as the show was announced. Here’s why TMNT is getting it right:
1. The show hasn’t undergone a major redesign. Yes, the animation style is dramatically different, but the turtles are pretty much the same, and the world they live in is still gritty, underground New York and New York City scapes. Very VERY little about the show’s original aesthetic has changed, and where it has changed, there’s a reason for it. The newer animation often incorporates comic book or anime style elements, which add dashes of comedy to the show and separate it from the classic in a good way. Even Rob Paulsen, who was the original voice of Raphael, has returned as the new voice actor for Donatello. Which brings me to my second point–
2. The Voice Acting Cast is PHENOMENAL (and lacking in baby-face). In addition to Paulsen (who is famous for plenty of other voice acting gigs, including Animaniacs…), TMNT has Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings) playing Raphael, Jason Biggs (American Pie) playing Leonardo, and Greg Cipes (Teen Titans) rounding out the famous four as Michaelangelo. These men show that the producers were smart–they didn’t go for the newest voices in the biz, nor did they go for the most contemporary choices. What this team reveals is that the producers had us, the original target audience, in mind without clutching desperately to days gone by. Cipes is the arguable exception to this rule, although the shows that give his resume the most “star power” are still cartoons that the old guard tends to celebrate (Teen Titans, Clone Wars) as much as our classic faves.
3. The Writers know what they’re doing.
If 2012 TMNT were exactly like 1987 TMNT, then there’d be little to no point in creating a show again. Instead, the newest cartoon takes the whole TMNT universe, as it has unfolded since the 80s, into account when telling the newest version of our heroes’ story. The parts of the world that have changed (what little there is), incorporate elements of the storyline from graphic novels or comics rather than starting from scratch or perverting the original into some grotesque…erm…alien…version of things.
In fact, the commercials for the new “Booyaka” movie include Donatello proclaiming loudly to an alien villain, “At least we aren’t stupid ALIENS”, which I am firmly convinced is Nickelodeon’s way of giving Michael Bay a gigantic middle finger.
With a television show that is balancing the new and the old Ninja Turtles so perfectly, it’s a sentiment they deserve to express.
Revisit your childhood with new episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every Thursday at 8.