Hey gang, Valkor here. It was a sad, sad day when creator Peter Laird handed over the reins to one of the most popular comic book/animated series to date – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, over to Nickelodeon. I'd followed the Turtles from their comic book roots, to the popular animated series, a trio of live action films, that god awful live action series, the CGI film, and finally back to animated television series, which not only took the TMNT back to their comic book roots, but also ended with the now classic episode "Turtles Forever", bringing together old plus new and everything in between. When it was announced that Nickelodeon was working on a CGI series… I was a bit skeptic at first. But if you haven't caught the new series then the folks over at Paramount Home have you covered with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Rise of the Turtles DVD.
The new Ninja Turtles series is heavily influenced from the original late 80's series, but also grabs elements from the live-action film as well as the comics. In this version the Turtles, Splinter, who was once a man named Hamato Yoshi and is now a rat, has raised four baby turtles within the sewers beneath New York City, teaching them the ways of the ninja. Their mutation was caused by a mysterious ooze that broke when Hamato Yoshi was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And since he had just come in contact with a rat, then that is what he became. And the turtles, having been in contact with a human, took on human characteristics such as walking upright and the ability to talk. Each turtle was given a name based off of a famous renaissance artist – Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. This new series of TMNT takes the mean green machine to a whole new level by differentiating the turtles not just by their weapons or bandanas, but also in their appearance such as Raph having a chipped up body to show his ruggedness or Donnie having a gap between his teeth. Splinter has been given the most drastic change; no longer is he small or frail looking, now he looks taller, more masterful, very imposing. April is roughly the same age as the turtles this round and our boy Donny has a little crush on her. Shredder's face appears pretty scarred, kind of like it was in the first live-action film, only much worse. and finally Baxter Stockman gets to keep his original comic book appearance; I'm really glad that didn't use Baxter/fly from the 80's series. I really hated that guy. Oh there's also there's no "cowabunga!" this time around. Now the Turtles shout "booyakasha!" I'm feelin it... a little. ok a lot!
Fresh out of the sewers the turtles face a new yet similar foe, Kraang; much like in the original series, Kraang is a brain in the stomach of an android, only now there's more of them and they're all called Kraang. Of course their number one nemesis – the Shredder, makes an appearance, though in this DVD set, he has yet to meet and battle it out with our ninja heroes.
Rise of the Turtles is a single disc DVD featuring the first five episodes of the series. Highlights include:
Rise of the Turtles (double-length episode) – The turtles have just turned 15 years old and their one wish on this day is to hit up the surface. However, fresh from the sewers, the Turtles get caught in the middle of a kidnapping of a scientist and his daughter – April O'Neil. Their first battle is a disaster and the bad guys escape with their prize. Now it's up to the mean green machine to help save April, battle it out with a new robotic enemy – The Kraang, and fight against a new mutant foe – Snakeweed. Oh and there's pizza!
Turtle Temper (Valkor Favorite) – Raph is in need of serious temper control. On top of that, the Turtles are videotaped by a guy named Vic (Louis Black), fighting off the Kraang. Vic threatens to sell the video, exposing the Turtles. But when three of the four go to retrieve the video, Vic is abducted and exposed to the mutagen turning him into "Spider Bytez".
New Friend, Old Enemy – Sure they've got April now, but Mikey is looking to make more human friends. So April introduces him to the internet where Mikey befriends martial artist Chris Bradford. Unbeknownst to Mikey, Chris is actually a secret henchman for the Shredder, and he's been sent to NY to find Splinter (Hamato Yoshi).
I Think His Name is Baxter Stockman – The Turtles are grounded for skateboarding in the lair and are not allowed to go top-side for a week. However, against Splinter's wishes, the Turtles go anyway, bringing along Donny's new invention – the T-pod (an advanced mp3 player). Along their route, they have a run in with Baxter Stockman, former employee of TCRI, who was fired after spilling toner ink. He's wearing a pretty beat up suit, but after getting a hold of the T-pod, things start to look up for crazed inventor.
Metalhead – Donny is tired of having to fight with a stick, so Splinter allows him to use technology in his next battle. Using one of the fallen android bodies of the Kraang, Donny creates Metalhead – a remote controlled turtle bot. But during battle, Metalhead malfunctions with a Kraang brain taking over, now Donny must rejoin the fray to not only save his brothers, but to put down Metalhead before he goes completely haywire.
Extras on the disc include six "making of" animatics, which showcase some of the scenes in storyboard, primary, and final form. Finally you get a karaoke version of the newest opening theme song. Booyakasha!!
What can I say, the mean green are back on the scene. Nice touch Nickelodeon, taking things back to the original series, but also adding those extra elements from other series as well. Plus giving each turtle their own unique look. One of my favorite touches is the eyes and how they switch from comical eyeballs to the sinister whites when they're in ninja mode. From what I've seen of this latest series, not just from the disc, but catching the show on Nick – the show embraces everything that is Ninja Turtles – past and present, combined to create one amazing new series. Even the theme song is reminiscent to the late 80's series, but more There's loads of action, it's very entertaining, and tons of fan service (Mikey saying "That was us" when Splinter is telling their story, harkens back to the first live action film). The CGI is pretty good and nicely detailed. The stories, while they do follow some continuity, are not as good as Young Justice, but still not bad. But the one true testament to the series, which had they gotten wrong, would have been the disaster. And that's the voice work. Great job! It's on par with the 2003 series and Mikey (voiced by Greg Cipes), is the star! Jason Biggs as Leo is an unexpected surprise and he's actually pretty damn good. Welcome back Rob Paulsen, who originally played Raphael in the original 80's series, he returns in the role of Donny; I was weirded out by it at first, but he really does a better Donny than he did Raph. Sean Astin aka Samwise Gamgee among other famous acting roles takes on the voice of Raph and embiggens everything about the character (that's right I said embiggens). Hoon Lee tackles the voice of Splinter/Hamato Yoshi, definitely reminiscent of Peter Renaday, but with a stronger Asian voice. Perfect! Thus far, after viewing this DVD and a few other eps, you can color me impressed with this latest TMNT outing.
The series has one fatal flaw; so both Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi are present and both are from Japan. However Hamato Yoshi is the only one with a Japanese accent, while the Shredder is more Americanized. Guys… really? Ya couldn't get an Asian guy to play the role, or even someone who sounds creepy Asian? Not hatin on Kevin Michael Richards, but he sounds like a very generic bad guy. Can we pull a Lucas on the voice work and have the role of Shredder redubbed?
The Shredder sans mask; ok so we don't get to see him full-faced, but what you can see of his mug ain't pretty.
Rise of the Turtles DVD will be available on Feb. 26th and if you haven't caught the series yet, then here's your chance. Plus check your local listings to find out when the show is airing, because right now it's out of this world awesome! The DVD and series features great voice acting, nice work on the CGI, overall entertaining and fun. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving Rise of the Turtles a 4.5.
Booyakasha! Valkor out!