Three Animated Series and Counting: Is the new Ninja Turtles Series a Welcome Addition?

Out of all the series/franchises of my childhood, the one that’s withstood the test of time has got to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the series has been integrated into American pop culture by this point, if one were to take somebody who’s never heard of the series in their entire life and try to explain the gist of it to them, they’d probably tell you that Snakes on a Plane would have a better chance of getting an animated adaptation than this… whatever you want to call it. And yet the series has been reborn multiple times, coming in varying waves of popularity and adjusting to the pop culture times as necessary. Having just aired the premier of the new Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon today, it leads one to ask just what does a reboot—especially a reboot of a popular franchise—have to do to get on the right footing?


The Turtles franchise originated with the darker-in-tone comics published in 1984 and created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. However, it wasn’t until the 1987 animated series that the turtles finally hit the mainstream, spawning all the signs of a cartoon making it big, from t-shirts, action figures, lunch boxes, etc. And for the longest time, and with the exception with a live-action movie or two, the ’87 series was what most people point to when hearing the name. So when rumblings of a reboot series that took a darker tone closer to the original comics was in the works, people were (and probably still are) split. How could something as ridiculous as genetically altered turtles named after Renaissance artists and know ninjutsu ever become more than a comedic cartoon from the ‘80s?


Well regardless of what anyone thought, the reboot series aired in 2003 to relative success, as far as I’m concerned. Not only was there a good seven years between the end of the ‘80s series and the start of this new one, but its ad campaign made a point not to make it something to be compared to the old series with. Rather, it was seen as a separate entity entirely, taking the most basic of aspects that made the ‘80s cartoon a hit (colored bandanas, turtle-centric catchphrases, and the like) and giving it a unique enough spin that to actually compare the two would be unfair for both sides. I specifically remember someone in an interview for the Ninja Turtles movie fresh off the heels of the ’03 cartoon saying “This isn’t your older brother’s Ninja Turtles” which speaks volumes as to how one should approach each new iteration of the series.

It’s now been three years since the end of the second Ninja Turtles cartoon (though similar to the ‘80s cartoon, I might tack on a couple more years since the series went under the radar in later seasons) and we are now entering yet another era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; another era of kids losing their ever-loving-shit over anthropomorphic turtles; another era of kids liking Michelangelo best; another era of just… turtles. But is it even worth it at this time?

At this point, I’d say it’s about time a third incarnation of the series make its way to TV. This not only marks the third generation of Turtles, but a possible third generation of new fans to get into the series. A large enough gap has been made since the last iteration to clearly distinguish itself, and the previous wave of Turtles popularity has subsided enough to not make any conflicting waves with this new show.

Now, I’m going to deviate just a bit for comparison’s sake and bring in the Spider-Man franchise—another slice of American pop culture that’s been around for years. The sheer amount of Spidey TV series that have aired over the years is enough to warrant the existence of its Wikipedia page, so please bear with me. The animated Spidey shows that ran between the ‘60s to ‘80s can all be lumped together, mainly due to them all having a similar tone as well as animation style, with the latter series clearly being made with reference to its older counterpart. Jump to the two ‘90s series, which while stylistically different from each other, again held a similar overall storytelling style that lumped them together as one. All these series were made with a particular aesthetic in mind, which in turn influenced fan opinion as to which series would be lumped together.


Finally, enter the two new Spider-Man animated series (the 2003 MTV movie-tie-in series doesn’t count by anyone’s standards) made in 2008 and 2012, respectively. The 2008 series is considered by most fans to be the defining television series that unfortunately wasn’t able to live as long as it should have due to the copyright for the adaptation switching from Sony back to Marvel. On the other hand, the 2012 series, while different in every aspect, just comes off as something released in bad taste having been announced shortly after the end of the 2008 series. Some people may say to exclude such unfair outside circumstances when comparing the ’08 and ’12 series, but popular opinion says otherwise. To have something so stylistically different after the plug was pulled on the series prior is just something fans can’t get past.

Would this suggest that fans of either of the previous Turtles series become incredibly wary about this new one? Finding an answer entails having to pick apart the Turtles fanbase.

Let’s be honest; at the end of the day, it’s somehow easier to justify the existence of a franchise where a guy in a red/blue onesie fights crime by shooting silly string, especially when you’re comparing it to a franchise where “ooze” inflicted turtles use their ninja skills as taught to them by a giant rat against the forces of evil. That said, while I’m not fully immersed in either the Spidey or the Turtles fanbase, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that most Turtles fans are aware of how ridiculous the series foundation is and at this point is open to any type of adaptation as long as it doesn’t involve introducing a fifth turtle member to pull in female viewership.

Upon watching the hour premier of the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, its tone seems to take a middleground snuggly between the ’87 series and the ’03 series. Jokes are lighthearted and the turtles seem more innocent when exploring the world outside their sewers, but action scenes are beautifully choreographed, even giving the ’03 series a run for its money. On top of that, flashback scenes are told in a rather comicbook-style manner, and even the series’ title logo is incredibly reminiscent of the original Eastman and Laird comics. So while this new series may not be trying to push any boundaries in television, it has taken an excellent job so far in terms of treading familiar grounds in a unique way while taking just the right amount of references from previous incarnations to give previous fans something to look forward to.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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