Heroes in a Half-Shell

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The first topic I wrote for this blog was about the new animated show TRON: Uprising. Which, by the way, is shaping up very nicely and I’ll do an article about it at the end of Season One. To return to this theme, I thought I’d write about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. It started on Monday on Nickelodeon, which, thanks to my house mate, I can watch for the first time in my life! So, I’ve been catching up on a lot of Kids’ TV and loving it.

I’ve known a little bit about the new turtles show before now, y’know, like that it was coming. But overall, I entered it without knowing what this take on the heroes four would be. Suffice it to say, I am very impressed!

The first two episodes are a double part story, dealing with the Turtle’s first trip to the surface. By the end of the episode, we have been introduced to April O’Neil (who is a teenager as well rather than a news reporter), the Krang, a new Snake-Weed monster, and The Shredder himself. The story is very basic and pretty standard, but it serves a purpose, and that purpose is the fantastic animation. The show is computer animated, but rather than going for the smooth, shiny look the 2006 film took, this series takes a very comic book-ey style. The characters are kind of made up of flat panels, and it makes them look a bit like they’re cut out of card. This really works, especially with some of the visual gags and expressions the animators use. In general, the animation is very funny, just the look of it. The character models, the way things move, everything is a bit humorous. It makes for some great visual comedy, and when this is combined with great writing and laugh out load gags, we’re onto a winner.

The four turtles themselves are very well realised, each with the personalities we already know and love without any big surprises. I like the way they’ve approached Leonardo, making him kind of goofy as well as the by-the-book leader of the team, but if any character is worth a specific mention, it’s Michelangelo, not because they do anything new with him, but simply because they write the classic Mikey so well. He’s very funny and easily the highlight of the episode. What’s really nice, is that they really do feel like teenagers, whereas at times in other shows there’s no real sense of this. Splinter the rat is also brilliant, and looks quite unlike some previous renditions of the character.

There is a moment when Splinter is telling us a bit about his past, and 2-dimensional pictures float across the screen – it is a credit to the show’s animation that this in no way conflicts or contradicts the rest of the style.

Another thing that’s great, and something I always look out for with Turtles properties (because I’m a massive geek) is the theme music! It is hilarious. Taking the theme song from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, it gives it a rap twist. It’s very funny, and I found myself quite delighted by it. LINK!

And, that’s a good word to use – the show delighted me. I genuinely enjoyed watching it, and wished it went on for longer. I’m really looking forward to seeing some more. The only problem that I can foresee, is that the stories may be very basic. But we’ll see.

Just generally, I’ve been really impressed with kids’ TV recently. With shows like TRON: Uprising and the excellent Legend of Korra (the squeal to Avatar: The Legend of Aang) kids’ shows have for me, been just as enjoyable as any live action shows I’ve been watching. Also, they’ve been smart. Korra especially, is a very smart show which approaches some issues that might be considered adult, such as discrimination, alienation and war. Taking a darker tone than the previous Legend of Aang (which was also excellent by the way, and absolutely one of the best kids’ shows ever made) Korra never shied away from anything, and never underestimated the kids it was aimed at. TRON is a bit simpler but still mature, looking at themes of oppression, freedom of speech and victimisation. Although it’s not quite as smart as Korra, TRON also doesn’t shy away from much, and also manages to show the dangers that normal people face in times of conflict, rather than just showing the fight between the lead characters. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is much lighter than these shows, aimed at a younger demographic I think, and it probably wont hit on quite the same issues, but it still feels smart. It’s comedy, and the comedy is well written, again not underestimating the young audience.

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