Nickelodeon Turtles, Heroes in a Gak Shell

I will tell you that I know exactly zero people who found out about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being sold to Nickelodeon and didn’t have a strong reaction about it. Generally, the reaction from people, including myself, was surprise. Where did this come from? Isn’t TMNT celebrating its 25th anniversary? What’s going to become of our beloved childhood franchise? Reading comments on blogs and such, including Peter Laird’s, a lot of people think that there’s something wrong with the move. As someone who’s been around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for pretty much all of my life, I’d like to talk about it a little, and what the future might hold in store for fans of the series.

A lot of people around my age, when they think TMNT, remember the 80s series and its cowabungas and Krang and questionable pizzas. They’ll say the new 2003 and on series produced by 4Kids just isn’t the same as the original. Of course, the funny thing about this is that in the eyes of many fans of the ORIGINAL TMNT, that is, the Mirage Comics created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the 80s cartoon was a travesty. I think even Eastman and Laird regarded it in that manner for a long time, much like how Tomino Yoshiyuki saw the Gundam franchise. But just like Tomino, they came to terms with how, while the 80s series didn’t really live up to their image and intent for TMNT, it still possessed a lot of fine qualities which made it so memorable and enduring.

One of the franchise’s main strengths is that its core concept is hardy enough to be twisted and molded into thematically very different stories. The original comics started as a parody but eventually became their own gritty universe. The 80s cartoon was fun and light-hearted and encouraged kids to pick favorites and eat pizza, like what Naruto does with kids now and ramen. The 2003 cartoon was somewhere between the two, with an emphasis on both toys sales and character development, possibly best represented by the time the turtles all went into the future and stayed there for a really long time. The TMNT movies got progressively worse, and they had Vanilla Ice, but I know I am not the only one who thought Go Ninja Go was the greatest thing ever as a kid. So while I might cringe at the thought of Nickelodeon trying to replicate that 80s success today, an attempt which would require a LOT of changes seeing as the old cartoon is really a product of that era, I’m also confident that it’s not going to ruin the franchise any more than any of the other adaptations have sullied its name. And who knows? Maybe we’ll get another Avatar out of the deal.

On another note entirely, have you ever seen how the 80s cartoon portrays sushi? You’d think that it wasn’t animated by Japanese people at all! I get the feeling that when they were drawing it, no one told them it was supposed to be sushi. I wish I had a screenshot to show you guys what I mean.

5 thoughts on “Nickelodeon Turtles, Heroes in a Gak Shell

  1. Let me be the first, then, to register a solid “meh”. I’m engaging in a bit of spring cleaning and came across a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic from 1989, when I was a much bigger fan. Today I could hardly be bothered to read it. Was it fun at the time? Sure was! I even rewatched the TV series a few years ago. Fun.. but forgettable. The comic I just read was the same.

    At the last Comic Con I attended, there were these black-and-white TMNT figurines. I took a look at them and couldn’t see the appeal. It just seems like more nostalgia harvesting — “Will you still pay $25 to show how much you used to love something?”

    If Eastman and Laird think this is the best way to move on for them, I say more power to them! Being haunted by your failures is bad, but being haunted by your successes is much worse.



    • The memories and nostalgia towards TMNT I think hold a lot more weight than the actual 80s cartoon and merchandise itself, though going back and watching those old episodes is an interesting experience, especially when you realize how weird some things were.

      What I probably remember most from being in the midst of TMNT Mania was wanting to eat pizza so I could be just like the Ninja Turtles. You might (or might not) be able to relate.


  2. “They’ll say the new 2003 and on series produced by 4Kids just isn’t the same as the original. ”

    Thats absolutely true, the new series is several times better. Well, at least the first four seasons. Thats always the trouble, not knowing when to stop. The 80’s series should have stopped after the first season, thats the only worthy 5 episodes of all of them. The rest is less than garbage made with “special” kids in mind.


  3. Wasn’t the ‘original’ TMNT a sort of one-off comic spoof, paired with another even more forgettable one called Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters? And then it turned into – and then into – and then into – and it’s been making its way through the Seven Stomachs of Mass Media ever since. So arrival at this, stomach #6, comes as no biggie.
    Okay, I admit. I’m too old for this one.The tender feelings you have for your youthful cowabungas are probably like mine for Bugs Bunny’s best wisecracks –


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