DVD Review: Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (The Complete First Season)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was my go-to cartoon growing up in the ’80s. I loved the shows, dressed up as Donatello for Halloween, and owned just about every possible figure that was made available. Oh, how your childhood memories can deceive you! Yes, the four turtles brought me lots of joy when I was younger; however, upon revisiting the old series not long ago, I couldn’t help but cringe. Yes, many cartoons from the ’80s don’t hold up very well today and Ninja Turtles is one of them.

Now, almost 30 years later (yikes!) Nickelodeon has revived the half-shelled heroes once more — and this time they’ve truly nailed a timeless tone. The 3D animation with anime influence may not be for all, but the chemistry between the characters can’t be denied. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael have always been teenagers — but now they really act like them! They fight, bicker, disobey their father, goof around and prank one another constantly, and yet they continue to grow as a team while doing so. It’s a superb dynamic that really gives this show a unique voice and perspective compared to the others.

Another plus is that each character isn’t just held to their old routines. Yes, Leo is still the leader, Donatello is still the brains, Raph is still the angry one and Mikey is the joker. Yet, each gets his time to shine throughout the season in unique and fun ways. And while it may be a bit bias because Donnie was always my favourite, I love the fact that they made it so that he’s the character with a crush on their human friend, April O’Neil. It just adds layers to a character who’s usually just there to provide the turtles with a few technological advantages.

Like many shows (and movies) aimed at kids these days, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles targets parents just as much. Okay, some may not become as addicted to it as me to the point where you’re driving all around the city at night trying to collect the action figures after seeing the first few episodes…but it’s still not just for kids! The jokes are things that adults will likely enjoy if watching it alongside their kids, which is always a bonus over the alternative of having to suffer through something that’s not entertaining in the slightest to anyone whose age has hit double digits.

For example, my wife has never liked the Ninja Turtles, so when I told her to give the show a shot (before I’d watched an episode myself) she reluctantly agreed. I’d say it took about two episodes before she was pulled in, but now she’s hooked and laughs out loud constantly during each episode. Yes, the show is that good. There’s loads of action, and a solid story that arcs throughout the entire first season; however, it’s really the humour that ties the show together. If each episode were just 20 minutes of fighting the Foot Clan and arguing then it’d get old fast — and you can forget converting your wife or girlfriend if that were the case. But as it stands, each episode comes out swinging with fresh jokes and lots of entertainment value.

I’m not really sure who this review is targeted towards. There are Turtle fans who may have been unsure as to whether or not to get on board with this new Nickelodeon direction — to whom I say, go buy this box set now — and then there are non-fans who may just not be interested. To those people I say, give it a shot! What’s the worst that could happen? This set comes at a fantastic price on certain websites that truly can’t be beat.

And then there are parents who may be curious about the series and whether or not it’s appropriate for their kids. Well, there’s a lot of roughhousing between the turtles, as well as picking on one another with a playful banter; but I wouldn’t say it’s a bad influence. If anything, there are lessons to be learned from most episodes. Splinter is trying to teach his sons how to get along in the world, and how to get along with one another, so the pros definitely outweigh the cons in that department. That said, everyone views things differently, so it may be best to watch a couple of shows before introducing your kids to it, depending on their age.

It’s also good to note that if you bought the previous DVD releases of this series that getting this box set would be redundant, as it’s literally the first three individual DVDs that were released packaged together (Rise of the Turtles, Enter the Shredder and Ultimate Showdown.) There’s no real added incentive to double dip, which is a good thing! For those who held off for the box set, don’t feel like you wasted your time, as in most cases you’ll save money going this route – you’ll just have to wait longer for the final packaged release.

In the end I cannot recommend this series enough! Whether you’re an old-school fan, or someone who never had any interest in the Turtles before, I’d say pick up this box set and give it a shot. There’s just so much fun to be had here that once one episode ends, you’ll find yourself craving another and another, just like a hungry Turtle craves pizza. Booyakasha!

The audio and video look really great for this DVD transfer of the show! Many have posted wondering why it wasn’t released on Blu-ray as well, since the show is available in HD; however, it looks really good here, so try not to let that sway you too much (and that’s coming from a Blu-ray enthusiast.) The audio is also fantastic, with dialogue, music and sound effects all coming through flawlessly!

On the special features front, well, there’s not too much. There are a few fun little things, but you’re mainly picking this up for the show itself.

Rise of the Turtles Extras:

Making of Animatics – There are six making of animatics, which basically show you the various storyboard stages that the show goes through before it’s finalized. It’s interesting, but it can be a little boring at times too – mostly if you’ve just watched the episodes they’re highlighting.

Theme song Karaoke – This is a good addition, as the Turtles have a new theme song this time out! It’s a catchy, fun song that’s definitely a bit tough to learn at first! It doesn’t help that each episode doesn’t start with it, so you’ll be lucky to hear it one or two times per disc!

Enter the Shredder Extras:

The Mutagen of a Scene – This is more making of storyboard stuff from this part of the season.

Tales from the Lair Part 1 & 2 Animated Comic Books – This is a fun read, that’s basically a comic book on your TV.

Ultimate Showdown Extras:

Mutagen of a Scene – Four more making of storyboard featurettes from this part of the season.

Tales from the Lair Parts 3-6 Animated Comic Book – Here are three more parts to the story started on the previous disc.

The box set as a whole also comes with a small preview of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History book. It’s quite small, and only has a handful of pages, but it’s enough to wet your appetite for the book if it ends up appealing to you – which is the point of adding this extra in the first place.

If you’re looking for a great Christmas present for someone special this holiday season that loves this sort of stuff, you can’t do much better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First Season!

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Present Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First Season. Running time: 625 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released: October 07, 2014.

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