I was born in 1981 and like most kids of my generation I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even as a small child I knew they weren’t actually good. It was goofy, implausible and the bad guys seemed too incompetent, but it was an amazingly fertile ground for imagination games to thrive in. I made up countless characters to exist in their universe, I even wrote veiled fan fiction for school and took drawing tips from the cartoon’s art style.
When the latest iteration came out, I sat to watch it with my son. The newest version is 2D again, very much builds on the assumption that you know the Turtles canon and is fun, fun to watch, the characters are having fun, it’s making fun of it’s history…all kinds of fun. I don’t particularly like the sharp angled, squared off style, but points for making each turtle look extremely different, for example Raphael is a mountain of a mutant and even more roughed up than any previous incarnation, and the latest version of April O’Neal is black, tough and can finally defend herself from the get go. If anything she seems a little too eager to get into a tussle!
Version 4, the latest, is not actually the one I’m watching with my kids. There’s only one episode out so far and, as I said, it requires Turtles knowledge to really enjoy it or at least a more mature viewer than an almost 4 year old and his 1 year old sister. We’re watching version 3 and the failed pilot reboot I’ve been calling 3.5 umpteenth million times. The failed pilot is also 2D, animated in an adorable pseudo anime style where my only complaint is that they gave Donatello massive buck teeth that take his design from adorably awkward and geeky to just unfortunate. In fact, script wise my only complaint is that Donny comes off as a nerdy paraiah who no one really gets or respects, as opposed to the quirky geek whose contributions are appreciated if not fully understood. That said, it’s a cute 45 minute romp that ends with Bebop and Rocksteady becoming good guys.
Version 3 is done in 3D. It’s not my son’s favorite art, but the textures are nice and they get lots of expression out of the characters. It also introduces the new Bebop and Rocksteady who are a far cry from the morons of the original. They even made a crossover movie between version 1 and 3 showing how much those two had changed, how awesome they had gotten and, like the failed pilot, they also end up switching to team Good Guy! It’s fascinating to watch, not just that Version 3 is a genuinely good show, but in how much cartoons have changed from my childhood to my children’s and how much better they’ve gotten. Cheaper animation means character designs are more thoughtful, intricate and creative. All that effort that went into drawing can now go into scripts and since thankfully the censorship has calmed down a lot, fight scenes are actually exciting and have consequences.
I’m sure my parents felt the same way when I was little, but I must say in terms of media, wow, it’s a great time to be a kid.