Reactions: The new TMNT ‘toon

Whoa, have I been out of the loop. I drift out of the TMNT fandom for a month, and I miss out on a bunch of news about the new direction of the franchise.

For those who haven’t heard about it from other sources, here is a breakdown of the new information, written by mega-TMNT fan Rosemary at her blog.  Go visit!  She has a bunch of pictures and descriptions.

Things to note:

Splinter:

Rosemary: Let’s start with Splinter. His new design is COMPLETELY different from anything that’s been done before. He is quite tall and wears a much more traditional kimono than he’s ever worn before. Personally, I like it. And from the little tidbits that we were given, I really think Splinter’s story has potential to be one of the strongest things about the new series.

Splinter’s origin is based on him being the human Hamato Yoshi in Japan. Human Hamato Yoshi has/had a daughter (not clear on what happened to her). In Japan, he and Oroku Saki/Shredder were rivals and after a battle Shredder believes his nemesis to be dead. But Yoshi fled to New York, where, of course, his life got even more interesting. When Shredder learns that Yoshi is still alive, he comes to New York and brings lots of badness with him.

This was the most promising bit among the various story details, and one that really hints at what Nickelodeon had been talking about when they announced that this would be an all-new take.  The bit about him being Hamato Yoshi, obviously hearkens back to the original cartoon, but the bit about him having a daughter really is a game-changer, and something that actually completely unexpected and new.   Even if she never appears (and the chances of that are rather nil), it’s now established that the turtles aren’t his first children.  He’s tried to raise one before, and his experiences doing that will naturally affect how he treats the turtles.  Lots of potential here.

Utroms/Krang:

Rosemary: The Utroms are now known as the Kraang. […] The suits [their traditional exosekeletons] serve a double-purpose. One, is because they can’t survive in our atmosphere, and two is that the suits can project a holographic human form. As the series progresses, it sounds like these robotic Kraangs will become part of Shredder’s Foot army (and since they’re robotic, the Turtles can be more violent on them within the constrains of children’s television).

This is like °_°, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it yet.  For one, renaming the Utroms “Kraang” is a tacit acknowledgment of two concepts’ similarity, and it makes sense from a name recognition point of view.  On the other hand, naming the entire race after Krang also makes it seem like there’s no plans for our favorite pink blob to appear as an individual character, which in itself brings forth mixed feelings, since a) Krang was awesome, and b) Krang was awesome mostly because he and the Shredder made for a great comic duo in the original toon: if Shredder is going to be badass here, there might not actually be room for Krang as we know him, and if that’s the case, perhaps its best that any Krang-like character we see be named something else.

On the other hand, I’m not sure about the prospect of the Utrom/Kraang as a whole working for the Shredder, although I’ll withhold judgment until I see how it’s executed.

April O’Neil

Rosemary: April has been completely redesigned as a 16-year-old teenage girl. The Turtles meet her when they rescue her and her parents from being kidnapped by the Kraang (or Shredder? not exactly sure), presumably for their mutation experiments. This is from the actual first episode, which is not the “pilot” we saw, so we really weren’t told any more details about how that plays out, but it obviously ends with April becoming a regular visitor to the Turtles down in their Lair. As the series progresses, she will be studying with Splinter to become a kunoichi – female ninja. Oh, and Donatello has a HUGE crush on her. HUGE. It is one part weird, and one part adorable. It sounds like this may be a short-lived crush and not an on-going part of the series, although – like with everything else – I can’t say for certain.

This reminds me of a pitch the WB had made for a TMNT series before 4Kids got the rights for it, and my opinion of the concept of April as a peer has not improved.  Like with Splinter, it’s a radical change; unlike with Splinter, it’s one with the serious potential to change the character into one that is April in name only, particularly depending on how involved her parents are in her life. Also, given the fact that it went unmentioned, I’m assuming that April will once again be Caucasian here, which is a tad disappointing; I’d been thinking of late that it’d have been nice if they’d taken a cue from the early comic books and made her African-American/of African-American descent.

The other big change is Don’s crush, which brings back an element emphasized in the original movie but not much in either cartoon series.  While I liked the two characters’ bond with one another in the 4Kids cartoon, I’m not happy with the idea of him actually crushing on her–I prefers my turtles asexual when it comes to humans.

Baxter Stockman

Early pro: he’s still black.  Early con: His personality seems more akin to that of his original toon incarnation than the second.

Rosemary: On their way, they come across a man wearing a weird metal “suit” trying to break into a building. The man is Baxter Stockman. The Turtles watch him for a bit, laughing at him because his attempts at breaking in aren’t going so well and his “suit” is more clunky than it is intimidating. They eventually show themselves and beat him up, leaving him in a dumpster.

[…]

[During a latter fight against Baxter and his souped-up armor] Leonardo goes back to the bee hive they had run into the previous night, grabs it, and shoves it into Baxter’s suit through the face mask. Baxter, who is completely sealed inside the suit, gets stung by many now-angry bees.

Not exactly threatening, it sounds like.  Even his souped-up armor is more accidental than something he came up with.

Casey Jones

What’s planned for Casey, on the other hand, sounds pretty cool:

Rosemary: And while Casey Jones is not a part of the picture for the moment, expect him to eventually be. While it is not currently planned for him to be part of season 1, he will likely brought in for season 2. Although, Nickelodeon seems open to bringing him into season 1 if, while during the writing process, a particular need for Casey to be around comes up. And while we won’t likely be seeing him, prepare to see signs from him, as it is planned to have graffiti tagged by Casey be part of the background. When we do finally see him, he is planned to be a bit older than April, 18-20, and due to the limitations of television CGI will have short hair.

And finally, a bit of weirdness:

Rosemary: Overall the Turtles’ designs looked great. My biggest problem was that somewhere down the line they all grew a third toe. Not the exaggerated heel that has sometimes been referred to as a “third toe,” but an actual third toe up front. None of the art we had seen before arriving at Nickelodeon had a third toe. And the walkway up to the studios had been decorated with a bunch of two-toed green footprints. So there were no early signs that something was “a-foot” (hah!) with the toes. When I started noticing it throughout the 2D animatic I thought this was just some weird mistake happening. But then I also noticed it in the 3D model we were shown. And then we were shown the action figures, which had three very distinct toes on each foot. Now it seemed clear that it wasn’t a mistake.

This is, of course, purely superficial, which is why it’s the change that bothers me the most.  Unlike bandannas, skin colors, height, and whatnot, the amount of toes has always been consistent, so seeing this apparently-arbitrary change bugs.

So, in conclusion…

Well, I think it’s clear that Nickelodeon is taking the franchise seriously, which is a good thing.  I also think it’s clear that they meant what they said when they announced that they’ll be taking it into new territory.  What we’ve seen so far is interesting, with several intriguing bits, and no deal-breakers.  I’m really curious to see what the final product will look like, so I guess mission accomplished, Nickelodeon.

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