Friday, September 21, 2018

SepTMNTber - Turtles Forever and Trans-Dimensional Turtles

Before I even get started, let me say I absolutely love the idea of these two shows and wish more cartoons did this – each one crosses over the then-current cartoon with the original cartoon and even the comic versions of the Turtles.  Both stories are fairly similar, someone creates a dimensional portal gun and the different generations of turtles meet, make fun of each other, and team up to kick ass.

In Turtles Forever, which was released as a stand-alone movie featuring the 2003 Turtles (thought it was planned to be part of that series), their Shredder is searching for a way to kill every version of the Turtles by finding the Prime universe, the one where all other Turtles dimension was started – the Comics dimension.  Three separate versions of the Turtles team up – the 2003s, the 1986s and the comics – to defeat Shredder.  The best part for me was the different Raphaels making fun of each other; 2003 Raph makes fun of the 1986 one for being lightweights compared to the more mature 2003 Turtles, only to be ridiculed by the much darker comics Raph.

Trans-Dimensional Turtles matches together the 2012 Turtles with their 1986 counterparts – switching from 3D to 2D versions and back as they travel between the two worlds.  They face off against two Krangs, and we find out that the 1986 Krang was banished by the 2012 Krang for his ineptitude.  The best bit again is the jokes thrown back and forth between the two generations of Turtles – old Raph gives new Donnie some lip about his weird voice, both of which are provided by the same voice actor.  Though they travel to the comic dimension, they don’t interact with those Turtles – instead that short scene is animated as if they were jumping between comic panels to mimic the two different animation types.

Both of these shows are so well done and full of nostalgia – the character designs match perfectly with the older shows and all the available voice casts come back to reprise their roles.   It’s obvious to any fan of the Turtles that these shows are made with a lot of love and respect for the source material.

As a fan of both TMNT and Transformers, I wish so hard that we could see this kind of crossover for our Robots in Disguise.  Imagine Opimuses and Megatrons from across the multiverse joining together to clash against some massive threat like Unicron!  Get on this Hasbro!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)

After the success of 2007’s TMNT, Nickelodeon acquired the Turtles license and decided to follow suite with a computer animated series.  As the third TMNT cartoon series, they basically threw everything into a blender and we ended up getting a story starting with the Utrons, an alien race of living brains that ride around in robot guts.  Sound familiar?  Though they first appeared in the original comic, they didn’t appear in the cartoon until later in the 2003 series.  Obviously Krang was patterned after them in first cartoon, but I don’t think the name of the race was ever mentioned.

The cartoon starts out before the Turtles have ever breached the surface, staying in the sewers and eating worms and algae cake.  They appeal to Splinter to let them go to the streets and he finally relents.  Upon reaching the surface, they wreak some havoc, inadvertently scaring a pizza delivery boy and stealing the pizza he left behind.  Thus their love of pizza was born – I’m actually kind of glad to see how that started.  There had to be a scene somewhere about the first time they had it - it's hard to imagine how  a full pizza could have ended up in the sewers in the earlier cartoons.

They witness April and her father being kidnapped by the Utroms and intervene, almost rescuing her but the Utroms escape with both O’Neils.  It's interesting to see here that their first real fight ends in a loss for them - in both previous cartoons, the Turtles meet April when they save her from a threat, but here, they lose and she is kidnapped.  They later rescue her but the story follows their attempts to get back the father.  I only watched the introductory two-parter, so I’m not sure why they were targeted, but I will admit it’s weird to see any of April’s relatives, or seeing that she’s only a teenager in this series.  Even weirder is seeing Donnie’s crush on her being as big as it is.  I’m glad it’s not all the Turtles flirting with her, but seeing Donnie completely in love with April is just kinda wrong.

I admit, I am not a fan of the voice cast at all.  Leo and Raph and voiced by Jason Biggs and Sean Astin respectively, but considering how big their names are, it’s practically a waste as both are unrecognizable and against type.  Greg Cipes plays Mikey, and even though his voice does fit Mikey, all I hear is Beast Boy from Teen Titans and it’s distracting.  But worst of all is Rob Paulson doing Donnie’s voice.  I know he played Raph in the original series, and I’m glad to hear him make a return to the show, but why Donnie?  It doesn’t fit at all for me.

The designs of the Turtles are pretty decent, but I don’t think I’m a fan of the anime style reactions, mostly seen on Mikey. That is definitely personal opinion though, since I know they’re pretty popular in current cartoons.  My favorite part is the new intro that updates the original’s theme with more hip hop lyrics.  I’m so glad to see how much of the old intro they incorporate into it.  Overall, I’d say this is my least favorite cartoon of the three I’ve reviewed so far, but considering how great the other two are, I’d still recommend this one to any Turtles fan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SepTMNTber - Top 5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Rip-Offs

In the wake of the original Turtles cartoon’s success, there was a glut of shows featuring anthropomorphized animals with crazy sci-fi origins.  Whether they’re created through science or aliens from (or on) another planet, these guys all owe their creation to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Though none of them achieved the success of their forefathers, there’s no denying they were just as weird.  I never bothered to watch these in their original runs, seeing them as inferior imitations, and I’m not bothering to watch them much more now, only watching the first episode of each shows for this list. 

Street Sharks
I’d wager this is the most well-known show to follow in the Turtles’ path and stays as close as possible to the original formula.  A scientist working with integrating aquamarine animal DNA into human genes, his evil partner uses it for evil purposes, and the scientist’s four sons need to rescue him.  They’re injected with shark DNA and turn into the Street Sharks.  That’s about all I got from the show – the four brothers have the most generic personalities – one’s lazy, one’s brainy, one’s athletic.  I’m not sure what the last one’s trait is, and I don’t think I caught a single name of theirs.  As Street Sharks, they swim through the streets causing thousands of dollars in infrastructure damage, while eating anything that gets in their way.  They all talk in the same 80s surfer lingo as the Turtles, but with shark references.  Artistically, this show’s a mess.  The animation is terrible, the designs are dull, and there’s a weird Seinfeld-style riff that goes through the episode.  And what’s with the misplaced environmental message? “Jawsome?” No, far from it.

Biker Move from Mars
I feel like when this show was created, the writers tossed some dice in a box and went with what came up.  Biker Mice from Mars is about as basic a concept as you can get; The planet Mars is populated by mice people and was taken over by Plutarkians, which look like big fat bipedal fish.  They escape the planet on a ship that looks like a big motorcycle, crash on Earth, and make friends with an April-like repair garage owner.  The leader of the Plutarkians, which commanded the bikers’ ship to be shot down, is also somehow a huge business owner on Earth at the same time.  I’m not sure how that worked out, but whatever.  They’re on our planet trying to steal all the resources like they did on Mars, and somehow decided to start in Chicago.  I guess with all the other crap that goes on there no one would know what they’re doing?  There’s a bunch of terrible 80s references – the big bad of the episode is a total rip-off of the Terminator and they even crack a Turtles joke.  Have some respect, you young upstarts! 

Bucky O'Hare
Before I get started, I know Bucky O’Hare existed as a comic about 5 years before the Turtles comic even came out.  But if it weren’t for the Turtles’ cartoon, I don’t think Bucky would have ever made the step to animation.  Of all the cartoons to come in their wake though, I think this one is the best of the bunch.  It’s got a serious tone, in the middle of a war between the United Animals Federation and the Toad Empire, with much of the show’s humor coming from their foot soldiers.  Bucky pilots the ship, the Righteous Indignation, freeing slaves with his crew.  Bucky is a green hare and ace pilot, Deadeye Duck is their gunner that bears a huge resemblance to Daffy except he’s got 4 arms, and Jenny is a telekinetic cat. Where the story loses me though, is when their engineer is lost during a warp drive accident, they open a portal to Earth and recruit a nerdy kid to take his spot.  This show would have been way better if Earth wasn’t involved, in my opinion.

C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa
As soon as I started this show, I not only got that it was inspired by the Turtles but by Bravestarr as well.  In fact, not only is the main character played by the same guy that did Bravestarr’s voice (Pat Fraley), he’s using the same exact voice.  It’s a Wild West show that takes place on a different planet populated mostly by bipedal cows, though other humanized animals exist there.  The C.O.W.Boys follow the Code of the West – that’s why the COW is an acronym – which is something they repeat so many times in the first episode I got sick of it.  While we got no real intro to the Street Sharks, this show makes sure you know their names by singing a song that introduces them right after the intro song does.  While the story isn’t particularly bad, there’s nothing real special here, made worse if you had watched Bravestarr before it.

Road Rovers

If you looked at the other cartoons on this list, you’d notice most of these cartoons are pretty low-rent.  The animation’s adequate, the writing stale, the creativity almost non-existent, but you can’t really expect more than that because none of these are from big studios.  But what if someone like WB did one?  You’d get Road Rovers – a superhero cartoon about dogs that get superpowers and crack a whole lot of jokes.  Coming out around the same time as Animaniacs and Tiny Toons, this show obviously doesn’t take itself seriously.  Five dogs are summoned by a ghost or angel or something and are sent out to save the world from other dog-related crimes.  The characters are all stereotypes or imitations of celebrities, their powers are goofy, and the schemes they prevent are just kinda dumb.  But it’s what you expect from the studio that made Freakazoid.  It could have taken itself seriously like Disney’s Mighty Ducks, but I'm not sure anyone would have wanted that.

Monday, September 17, 2018

SepTMNTber - TMNT (2007)

When I found out the Turtles was going to be getting a brand new movie in 2007 and it would be fully computer animated, I was so stoked.  It had been probably fifteen or so years since I'd seen the Turtles - the original cartoon had finished its run after 9 seasons (of which I think I only watched about 5) and the Secret of the Ooze was the last movie I watched.  Keep in mind, I was clueless about the 2003 series.

So when this movie came out, I was so excited.  I saw it in theaters and once it came out on home video, I watched it on my first date with the woman who would become my wife.  Even if the movie sucked, it would still be special to me, but I'm glad I don't have to worry about that.  Going through college for a computer animation degree when this movie came out, I was totally ready to ditch the suits and get to an animated movie. 

The designs of the Turtles themselves are a little weird for me, with their faces being somehow flat, but the animation is pretty great.  I'm glad they decided to go the route of everything being animated instead of live-action with animated Turtles, like Transformers got the same year.  Man, what a year with two of my favorite cartoons from my childhood getting big screen movies.

The movie starts kinda where the 2003 series left off with Shredder defeated.  Without a big enemy to focus on, the Turtles start to drift apart.  Leonardo goes to Central America to finish his training, Raphael goes to patrolling the city for criminals every night, while Donnie and Mikey get actual jobs - Donnie's in tech support and Mikey does birthday parties as "Cowabunga Carl."

April, who is now living with Casey Jones and is an art dealer working for a billionaire named Max Winters, goes to collect a piece and convince Leonardo to return to his brothers.  After saving two citizens from a militia attack, Leo takes April's advice and goes back to New York.  Mikey and Donnie are excited to go back to defending the city, but Leo's immediately berated by Raph for leaving them.  Splinter forbids them to fight until they can do so as a team, but Raph leaves anyway.  Leo also finds out about the Nightwatcher, a vigilante who hunts criminals with extreme violence.

Meanwhile in April's side of the story, she brings Winters a statue, completing a set of 4 figures wearing animal-styled armor.  Winter brings the statues to life, revealing that they were four generals that had been turned to stone and he was their leader, the immortal warlord Yoatl.  With their return, a portal is opened that releases thirteen monsters into New York.  His plan involves capturing the monsters and opening a new portal that would remove their immortality, as he resents his eternal life.  The generals, having just returned to life, aren't keen on his plan and start to plot against him.

So here we are with two huge different stories and you might say Winters's part has nothing to do with anything in the Turtles' history.  There's never been South American demon generals or portals to any dimension besides X.  And to be honest, I love it. We're not rehashing previous stories here, telling a new story that fits the Turtles well without conflicting with other stories.  We still have the Foot Clan here, led by Shredder's adoptive daughter, Karai, but instead of hunting the Turtles, they're working with Winters to capture the beasts.

And here's where the Turtles come in - they're finally allowed to go out and patrol the city and they find a Sasquatch fighting against the Foot.  They're still not supposed to fight but Raph jumps in and the others follow.  It's a great fight scene, lots of action, and it's cool seeing them kick ass against this giant monster.

Raph and Leo fight some more, Raph takes off and Leo goes out looking for him but comes across the Nightwatcher.  After watching him fight another one of the monsters, Leo confronts the Nightwatcher for his violence ways, revealing him to be Raph in a not so amazing twist.  They have a brutal fight on the rooftop, which ends with Leo's swords broken and Raph moments away from killing him. 

Raph realizes what he's doing and runs away, which lets the Generals capture Leo, planning to use him in the place of the last monster and sabotaging Winters's plan.  The rest of the Turtles go to rescue their brother while April (who now knows ninjitsu as well, did I forget to mention that?) and Casey pair up with the Foot Clan to capture the last monster. 

Overall, I think this movie is fantastic.  The animation is great, the action is fast-paced, and I'm glad they ramped up the schism between Raph and Leo to its natural conclusion.  Originally, I wasn't a fan of seeing them always fighting going back to the first movie, if not the comic, but I've accepted it, so to see this final battle between them was pretty satisfying..

The voice cast is a mixed bag with some high points.  Max Winters is played by Patrick Stewart, Chris Evans pre-Captain America is Casey Jones, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays April.  For the longest time, I thought it was Freddie Prinze Jr as Casey, the couple playing together like in Scooby Doo.  The Turtles themselves are played by established voice actors, with Nolan North being the biggest name as Raph.  I'm really surprised they didn't stunt cast the Turtles, but I'm glad they didn't as their work was well done. Kevin Smith plays a weird cameo that I still don't understand the purpose of.  It does bring up a point that the humor in the movie is a little off.

If you're a fan of the Turtles, you owe it to yourself to watch this.  It's the last good Turtles movie we got, far superior to the newest movies.  Even though it goes in a completely different direction than the Turtles' have gone, I certainly prefer it to changing the stories we know like the Bay produced ones.

Friday, September 14, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)

I'll admit, this show passed me by when it came out.  At the time, I was in the Air Force and working on my own creative projects and didn't have time to watch much in the way of cartoons, and what I did see was generally on Cartoon Network.  Still I caught some of the network shows.  I watched the new He-Man cartoon and a lot of the shows designed by Jeff Matsuda (The Batman, Jackie Chan Adventures), and my personal favorite of the lot, X-Men Evolution.  But somehow this new Turtles series just eluded me.

With the rest of SepTMNTber, I had to give it a watch and I decided to go the route of my Villain Retrospects and check out the first three episodes, just to get a taste of it without going down the Turtle hole, as it were.  And what I discovered is that I really missed out on a good show.

But first, let's talk about that horrible theme song.  For some reason they went against the trend of the early 2000's and had an actual intro song instead of some techno or orchestral music.  I think that was a huge mistake, especially as it had to compare to the far superior theme to the original cartoon.  I mean, why not just update that song?  Why not incorporate parts of it at the very least?  Instead we get "Turtles count it off!" whatever that means.  There's 4 Turtles, we get it, jeez.

Next, I'm looking at the art style, which definitely fits in with the more angular designs and darker colors of its era.   I love the fact that the Turtles took after their original toy designs and got different colored skin and shells.  It's such a cool touch that I wished could have been in the original.  Their white eyes remind me a bit too much of Batman, but it makes sense.  Batman's influence doesn't end there as so much of the show is bathed in black shadows, which suits the Turtles well since, you know, they're ninjas.

The Turtles all fit their respective attitudes, with Raph retaining the angry, rebellions personality, which has him fighting with Leo a lot.  Maybe someone that read the comics could tell me - was Raph always like this, or was it something they came up with for the first movie and everything else just kept it going?  Splinter remains almost the same as his previous incarnation except keeping the origin from the movie (or comics, I need to pick them up someday, but not for SepTMNTber).

April does go back to her comic role as Baxter Stockman's lab assistant, but her introduction to the Turtles remains the same - saved in the sewers, faints, etc.  She's lost the yellow jumpsuit but retains the red hair.  Baxter gets an update from the original cartoon, now he's confident to the point of arrogance, which I certainly prefer.  Shredder makes a few brief appearances in the three episodes I saw, but never in his bladed armor, only wearing a robe and issuing orders to his minions.

Voice work is pretty good, though I don't recognize any of them actors besides Michael Sinterniklaas, who plays Dean in the Venture Bros.  Overall, I think this entry in the Turtles' history shows great promise and I do plan to watch more of it.  I loved the art style, and that there seems to be an overarching story instead of just standalone episodes.  I wish I had caught it as it had come out because I missed a fantastic show that would have kept me hooked.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

After the success of the live-action TMNT movie, there was a whole slew of other live-action Turtle projects floating around.  One of the biggest (and definitely worst) was the Coming out of their Shell Tour rock show, which I will not be covering this month because I prefer to keep my sanity.  Another one came from the minds behind the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Haim Saban, and if you’ve ever seen a Power Ranger show, you still wouldn’t have a clue what was awaiting you.

Before I get into the show, I have to give some credit to the Turtle suits.  Obviously, they’re not going to be one the same level of quality as the movies. Their heads aren’t full of the servos and transceivers and mechanics to move their eyes or lips, but their mouths still move correctly.  The Turtles each wear different styles of bandannas and wraps to differentiate themselves more. Overall, these costumes look way better than those singing monstrosities.

Of course, the main thing anyone would notice when seeing anything about the show is Venus De Milo.  Yes, they made a fifth turtle and this one is female.  Frankly, I’m all for it.  I have no problem with them trying something new, and it made for some real interesting material instead of the same dynamic playing over and over again. 

The story starts with her and her master talking about an evil in another dimension trying to break into ours.  She’s inexperienced but when her master is killed, she finds the next master capable of combating this evil – Master Splinter.  When she meets the Turtles, they’re amazed that there’s another one of them alive, and besides being female, there’s one other difference between them and her.  She’s a Shinobi, a master of the mystic arts.

The Turtles find themselves in a position they had never been in before – rivals for a love interest.  Granted there was some competition for April’s attention, but it was never treated seriously in previous works.  We find out that Turtles aren’t actually related, brothers in the social sense but not biological.  It’s a new way to look at them that the creators go even further with in a later series.  Since they’re not related, none of them are related to Venus either, so she’s fair game, which is a terrible view on life, but whatever, at least it isn’t interspecies.

Of course, being an early Haim Saban series, being released around the same time as Power Rangers Turbo, the series was full of special effects but light on budget for them.  Venus’s shinobi powers were full of blurry sparkles and other effects that were just there to take up space.  It had its share of cheesy costumed monsters, as the Shredder (who looked pretty cool) is put out of commission early on and replaced with the Dragonlord, your typical Power Ranger-style monster.  There’s also plenty of new vehicles, with the Turtles receiving motorcycles and a flashy Turtle-themed Hummer.  I still miss the van though.

Speaking of Power Rangers, there’s a crossover with them!  I don’t think I need to watch it, but it’s interesting seeing the two series together.  Totally makes me wish for other crossovers.

Overall, from the handful of episodes I watched, I didn’t see any major problem with what they were doing.  It could have been loads better, of course, but there are so many ways it could have been worse as well.  I’d check it out for the novelty of it, but it’s not worth going through the whole series.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

SepTMNTber - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III is the black sheep of the Turtles trilogy and I’m not exactly sure why. I know it’s a departure from their escapades fighting the Foot Clan and there’s no Shredder, but I’m not seeing a major difference in quality here.  The Turtles still look good, and it retains its trademark sense of humor, and most of the cast is the same – they even brought back Elias Koteas as Casey Jones and Corey Feldman as Donatello.

I’m not here to talk smack about the movie because I don’t hate or even dislike it.  If that’s what you want, you should check out Cinemassacre’s figurative and literal bashing of the movie. I do have major questions on why they decided to do what they did, but it’s not enough to leave me disappointed or frustrated.

The main story we’re dealing with here is a relic teleports April into feudal Japan, and the Turtles must travel through time to rescue her.  It’s a time tested (pun intended) formula and it really works here considering a quarter of what the Turtles are is Ninja and that’s where it was born, if not when it was too.  They’re able to disguise themselves as the daimyo’s honor guard, rescue April, overthrow an Englishman’s plot for power, and go back to their own time.

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is out as the puppeteers for the Turtles, and their absence is noticed.  The Turtles still look really good and have the same functionality as before, but there’s a bit of life missing from them.  The voice cast is still at it and Feldman’s return is definitely appreciated.  It was weird hearing him as Donatello in the first movie, but after the bland portrayal in the second one by Leif Tilden, who was the actor in the suit as well, was doubly disappointing because of Donatello’s focus in the story.  While Feldman doesn’t get any breakout scenes In this movie, the recognizable voice helps elevate him a bit.

Since Raphael and Leonardo got the focus in the first movie, and Donatello in the second, you'd think this time Michelangelo would get some big scenes in this movie, but you'd be wrong.  I mean, they tried doing that with Mikey wanting to stay in the past, but he only got two scenes to talk about it, so it surprises you in the end.  I wish he got more scenes to show his desire to stay, slowly learning more about it and liking what he finds.  It's undercut thought because Raphael has the same progression to the same conclusion, so Mikey's decision doesn't stand out.

April plays a bigger role here than the second film, which allows Paige Turco to show she’s the superior April, looking like the cartoon and showing some attitude.  The Turtles are rubbing off on her – uh, that sounds gross after they schwing’d her.  I was pretty disappointed that Casey Jones got nothing to do.  Elias plays him with his typical bravado, but I’m not sure what the point was of having him play another guy in the past.  If he wasn’t tied to Casey Jones’s past, what’s the point?

My biggest problem with the film is that going to the past in Japan could have still been linked to the Turtles’ history.  The writers could have easily had the Turtles run into Uroko Saki’s or Hamoto Yoshi’s ancestors, or an early Foot Clan, tying in themes from current times.  Maybe the Turtles go full circle, helping to establish the Foot Clan?  Maybe some weird stories from Splinter’s past are finally explained by learning of their involvement with the Hamoto family?  As it is, facing off against some generic English trader and his crew and saving a generic Japanese daimyo felt pretty... meh to me.  And what was with that scroll showing the Turtles as some legendary demons.  What was that about?  It didn't even lead to any big revelation!  It's such a missed step that could have made this movie way better.