Since the mid 1980s, every new generation of kids has grown up with their own version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What started out as a grittier comic book property became much more kid-friendly when an animated series took off in 1987 and launched a somewhat less kid-friendly feature film adaptation that eventually steered more towards live-action cartoon territory with its big screen sequels. Since then, there has been a live-action TV series and two additional animated series. Now a fourth attempt at a new animated version of the heroes in a half-shell is arriving in September.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is Nickelodeon’s latest revamp of the popular mutant heroes, and this is quite a different approach to the signature characters than what we’ve seen before. As we learned at the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comic-Con panel, the show has some new supernatural ninja elements at play, slight shifts in personality traits, stylized animation, brand new weapons, and quite an impressive line-up of villains for the turtles to take on.
Here’s the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer that debuted during the Comic-Con panel:
As you can see, the turtles have been given quite a makeover. Sure, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael are still donning the signature colored bandanas fans are used to seeing, but the brothers look much different from each other. That’s partially because they’re each different kinds of turtles: Raph is a jagged-shelled snapping turtle, Leo is a red-eared slider turtle, Donnie is a soft-shell turtle, and Michelangelo is a box turtle.
On top of that, the animation style is much more stylized, with a lot of jagged edges and sharp angles. It has a style reminiscent of Samurai Jack, and the fast-paced nature of the action in the show echoes that vibe as well. That’s not surprising since the show is produced by Andy Suriano, a character designer on Samurai Jack, along with Ant Ward, a supervising producer from the previous iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Outside of their physical traits, which include unique pads, belts and other warrior accessories, the turtles also have a little bit of a personality shake-up. Here’s how each of the turtles have been described:
- Raphael (voiced by Omar Miller), as the oldest and physically biggest brother, he is now the leader and his enthusiasm and bravado puts him front and center for most of their bizarre adventures
- Leonardo (voiced by Ben Schwartz), the self-professed ‘coolest’ brother possesses irreverent charm and a rebel heart
- Donatello (voiced by Josh Brener), an unflappable mechanical genius and tech wizard whose ninja skills are second only to his coding
- Michelangelo (voiced by Brandon Mychal Smith), the youngest brother, an artist and awesome skateboarder with a wild colorful, and imaginative personality
While some of the staple traits of the turtles are still firmly in place, such as Michelangelo’s wilder behavior and Donatello’s penchant for tech wizardry, Leonardo and Raphael have changed up a bit. With Raphael being the leader – an imposing, larger turtle much more sizeable than his brothers – Leonardo is left to be more of a Han Solo or Star-Lord type of character. Admittedly, it’s a bit jarring when you hear Leonardo cracking wise and not being the one keeping the rest of the turtles in line, but this series also sticks to the idea that they’re still teenagers, thereby all still coming into their own as warriors. Speaking of which…
The Turtles Have All-New Weapons
Along with a new look, each of the turtles also has a new weapon. Gone are the traditional katana, bo staff, sai, and nunchaku wielded by the four brothers. Instead, each of the turtles now has a weapon tied to the idea of a ninja being something akin to a supernatural force. Producers Suriano and Ward wanted to bring this Japanese fantasy element into the series that allows them to bring something fresh into the familiar world of ninja turtles.
Raphael wields two tonfa in battle, though it’s not clear what powers they have beyond sparking electricity. Leonardo carries an Odachi sword which has the ability to create portals. Michelangelo has a kusari-fundo that he swings around and turns into a flaming ball, seemingly with a mind of its own. And finally, Donatello has a techbo, which is like a Swiss army knife of a weapon chock full of different gadgets and abilities. He also wields a new mystical weapon at one point, but he can’t control it, so he goes back to his trusty techbo.
The First Black April O’Neil and a Wackier Splinter
We’ve already gotten a first look at the younger, spunkier April O’Neil voiced by Kat Graham. She’s the first black April O’Neil in the history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise (or is she?), bringing some much needed representation to the table. This version of April isn’t shy about getting into action alongside the turtles, even if she’s not the most skilled warrior. Still, she makes up for it with ambition and blind courage in the face of danger. But we’ll talk more about that later.
Meanwhile, Splinter has changed a bit from previous incarnations. For the most part, Splinter has been a stoic leader, sometimes coming out of his shell to “make a funny,” but this version will certainly be a little wackier. Voice actor Eric Bauza said this Splinter is like if you took his voice for the villain Tiger Claw from the most recent iteration of TMNT, and threw him in a dryer. As far as looks are concerned, he looks like if “Danny DeVito and Mr. Miyagi had a baby.”
— Ethan Anderton, Sweaty at SDCC (@Ethan_Anderton) July 19, 2018
A New Rogues Gallery
There wouldn’t be anything for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to do if there weren’t any villains. This time there’s an eclectic array of villains, and what’s impressive is the voice talent being brought in to bring them to life. During the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comic-Con panel, the roster of voices for some of the villains in the series were announced, and it might be enough to get some of the grown up turtles fans to turn their heads.
First up, we already know that John Cena (Blockers) is playing the primary villain named Baron Draxum. He’s a mutant warrior and alchemist who is hellbent on protecting mutantkind and spreading their dominance by turning humans into mutants. He resides in a place called the Hidden City. But he’s not the only villain the turtles have to tangle with.
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) will voice a character named Big Mama who was described as a crime boss not unlike Jabba the Hutt. Meanwhile, Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten will voice a beefy, deadly pig chef named Meat Sweats. Then there’s Flight of the Conchords star Rhys Darby voicing Hypno-potatmus, John Michael Higgins (Pitch Perfect) as Warren Stone, Tim Simons and Sam Richardson as a couple of minions named Huginn and Muninn, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as Alberto, Jorge Gutierrez as Ghostbear, and Fred Tatasciore as Repo Mantis. And on top of that, there’s a new Foot Clan, with TMNT veteran Rob Paulsen (who is also this show’s voice director) and Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain) voicing two of the four clansman shown.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Footage
Finally, at the end of the panel, we were given a sneak peek at a scene from the pilot episode of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Not only did it showcase the stylish, fast-paced action that comes straight from Samurai Jack, with a clear anime influence, but it also showed the dedication to comedy between the brothers, not to mention their interaction with the villains. It’s even more exaggerated than it has been in previous entries.
At times, there will be moments where very cartoonish traits appear. For example, the turtles get all doe-eyed when they see the shiny new weapons they get to wield. In this specific sequence shown during the panel, upon first seeing the Ninja Turtles, the mutant villain Baron Draxum takes a moment to soak in how beautiful these mutant warriors are, and his point-of-view turns into an almost “Dream Weaver”-like moment from Wayne’s World.
There will be fans of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who may not like this approach, but I can see this appealing to kids in a big way. And honestly, the comedy on display in the series isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s a little slapstick since there’s so much action and it’s geared towards kids, but there are some genuinely funny moments too. Still, it’s the swooping action and frenzied pace of the show that makes this an intriguing evolution of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And it’s all bolstered by this outstanding score provided by Matthew Mahaffey, which has some 8-bit techno video game flair.
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premieres on Nickelodeon on September 17, 2018, but there will be a sneak preview of the entire first episode on Friday, July 20, 2018 at 9:30pm (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.
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