On Thursday via Facebook Live, and with considerable fanfare, Nickelodeon unveiled the character designs for their upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As a lifelong fanatic of “those turtle boys, [who] don’t cut ‘em no slack” I’m sad to say I was not impressed. Likewise, comments on the event’s post overwhelmingly suggest that my opinion is far from a minority.
The reveal confirmed that this new show will be in the overly-simplified, "thick line" animation style that's unfortunately more common these days than not. What’s worse- like a bad dream, inside a bad dream, that I can't wake up from; they seem to have they carried over a lot of character design elements from the 2014 and 2016 big screen Michael Bay embarrassments that were otherwise starting to finally fade from memory.
You’ll see what I mean below.
Now put a clothespin on your nose and let's dig through this garbage piece by piece .
As everyone knows, Leo is the Leader. That’s been true in every incarnation of the turtles that’s ever existed. So I’m sure that’s also tru- NOPE! Not on this show! Now he’s just “the self-professed, coolest brother”, which sounds so douchey that if I didn’t already know otherwise, I’d assume he was voiced by James Franco. Leo has a slight build that suggests he may eventually transition into Venus, the female turtle (not that there’s anything wrong with that) of the cringe-worthy late 90's show, TMNT: The Next Mutation. But far more upsetting than any of the aforementioned- Leo only has one sword now instead of two. How could anyone claim to be so cool with LESS swords? More swords = more cool! Everyone knows that!
On this show, Raph is the leader of the group. He is also now the big brother, both literally and by age. His over-sizedness and full head bandana stink of the Michael Bay movie design more than any other element. At least he lost the leather tiki skirt from the first movie, but probably only because it’d be inconvenient for them to animate it. The meathead vibe from Raph’s appearance is further emphasized by the fact he's the only turtle who has yellowed teeth in this art. I don't know about you, but I'm not following any leader that doesn't even brush his teeth.
Oh, and because apparently nothing is sacred to these people, Raph’s signature Sais are nowhere to be found. He has twin tonfas instead. As you can see, Tonfa is Japanese for “those sticks that cops hit people with”.
So to keep a running tally on signature weapons, that’s 1 missing sword and 2 missing sais.
Don has some gadgety eyewear on his head because without glasses how would you know he’s smart?! Again, we can thank the Bay movies for that lazy and hackneyed design choice. He looks to be the turtle that’s sized most normally, but for some reason his shell looks like a Lego brick. Please keep the Lego likeness in mind incase your kids should ever leave their new Don toy on the ground in an area you walking around barefoot. Instead of his usual bow staff, Don is holding something that looks like a giant novelty fountain pen. Is anyone else noticing a trend of missing weapons yet?
As you can see, Mikey is wearing knee pads, one of which has a smiley face and one that for some reason has an angsty face. I can’t think of a creative way to say how stupid that looks, it just speaks for itself. Since they’re assigning specific ages on this show, the scribbly kneepads combined with the fact he looks smaller than the others- it's a safe bet to say he’s filling the "troublemaker, youngest sibling" trope. This would also help explain his weird weapon that looks like the lovechild of a yo-yo and a medieval mace. He’s without his regular dual nunchucks, so, with the exception of one half of Leo's swords, that completes the disappearance of the classic weapons these guys had carried in every incarnation since 1984.
What in the hell is that thing?! Did they mutate a pig and a rat together? I've seen many a' comment online point out that this Splinter looks like a Ren & Stimpy character and I wish I could disagree with them. My first thought was that it looks like a really bad caricature of a different sensei, The Karate Kid's late, great, Pat Morita. To specify, I mean the now deceased Pat Morita in his current "midway through decomposing in the ground somewhere" state. Whatever description you choose to land on, I think we can all agree Splinter looks straight up horrific. In a week where the internet gave us “shower rat“, who won our hearts and showed us everything an adorable anthropomorphic rat could be, this is quite the opposite. If all rats looked like this version of Splinter I could better understand my wife’s high level phobia of them.
In 2018 when April O’Neil goes to the Doctor’s office, she checks the African American box on her forms. That’s totally cool, but she’s doesn’t look to be just a darker shaded version of the same April we’ve always known, she’s completely unrecognizable. There is A LOT going on there. If they were going for the hipsteriest possible hipster, they nailed it- complete with 60’s cat-eye glasses. I dug that look on Lisa Loeb, but April was doing fine without vanity eye wear. Ironically, this version actually looks way more like Irma, April’s obnoxious friend from the 80’s cartoon, aka the Kimmy Gibbler of the TMNT universe. April appears to be wielding Green Lantern’s baseball bat as a weapon which actually looks pretty cool. I just hope there’s an explanation coming for it that makes some sense.
Look, I’m a realist, it’s obvious from the style this show is probably meant for the little ones. I was hard on it because it’s the best way to mine some comedy out of a disappointing situation. When I’m feeling optimistic, I remind myself that Teen Titans has a similar animation style and still pulls it off because the humor is top notch. But even that thought is quickly squashed by me realizing the difference- Teen Titans uses the comic origins of it’s characters as the foundation for all their wackiness, whereas Rise of the TMNT seems to just be spitting in the face of their history. Case in point, the turtles are brothers, yet this show has specified each is a different species of turtle.
Despite all of this, I'll still give this show a chance to win me over. I know that all we’ve seen so far are stills and hopefully as more comes out, there’ll be reason to have hope. I've always been fine with updates and changes where they make sense, but the fact remains that so much about this show does not pass the smell test. It truly feels like they’re trying to change the "DNA" of the turtles brand. I'd say the time four baby turtles fell into a glowing green ooze, and mutated into human sized martial arts experts was the only DNA change these guys ever needed.