Saturday, February 16, 2013
Turtles Forever Was Right
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been re-watching the 1987 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon for the past couple of weeks. I just finished the fourth season last night, and while I plan to keep going, I think I've seen more than enough by this point to write this. I know a lot of people in my generation who grew up with the 1987 Turtles don't like to hear this, but "Turtles Forever" was 100% on the nose. Anyone who disagrees probably hasn't seen the show since before their first pubes grew in.
Let me preface this, I do not hate this show. In fact, I've been enjoying my re-visit to it, even if on a more ironic level. I was six when this show premiered, and like everyone in my generation, I ate this shit up. I had all the toys, I remember being so happy when I received the Technodrome for one of my birthdays. I loved it. I also remember going to see the first movie in theaters and being confused as to why Splinter was always a rat, why Hamato Yoshi was someone else, and wondering where Krang was. I remember reading some of the comics at a comic store and being somewhat shocked at the differences.
Like most people my age, I grew out of it. "Batman the Animated Series" came next and blew it out of the water, and... I always believed the nostalgic cut off is twelve. After that, you (hopefully) become a little more discriminating.
I remember when the 2003 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" premiered, and many people my age flat out hated it. I checked it out and, to my surprise I liked it. I liked it a lot. It won't make my Top Ten Animated Series list or anything, but it was very good. Great in places, sadly terrible in other places. But when I found out that Peter Laird had much tighter controls over this series than he had with 1987 (where his control was non-existent) it made sense. The 2003 series did feel a lot more like a labor of love than the 1987 series.
Let me describe an episode of the 1987 TMNT series. A new, and powerful macguffin is broadcast to the world by April O'Neil on Channel Six. Shredder and Krang make plans to steal it so they can power up the Technodrome, the turtles fight them, April gets captured, Bebop and Rocksteady act stupid, April is rescued, Shredder does something ineptly stupid and blames Bebop and Rocksteady for it, the turtles all go get pizza. Wait, I think I described just about every episode of the 1987 series. It was very formulaic.
The 1987 series also had no story editor to speak of. They did have an Executive Story Editor, but I did some research and found out that was more about getting whatever toys into the script they wanted to promote. Once again, I'm not saying tight continuity and story arcs are the only way to do a show. But the first episode of season four and the last episode of season three are supposed to take place minutes apart, they were both written by David Wise and even I wondered how he couldn't keep track of his most recent script. I'm not angry about it, don't get me wrong, but I am raising an eyebrow. There is nothing in this show that could make me angry, except for Zack the Fifth Turtle... where's JMS and his truck when we need him?
I've seen people bitch and moan about "Turtles Forever's" treatment of the 1987 series, and as I said, the show is right. In fact, "Turtles Forever was right" became something of a mantra my friend, Pterobat, and I would repeat to each other as we re-watched these episodes, often at the same time. People complain about April being attacked by a giant banana and leprechauns in "Turtles Forever" and while I haven't seen a giant banana yet, does it really matter? The show had all sorts of crazy shit. A giant cheese monster in one episode; a giant plant monster they distracted by having Mikey dress up as a girl flower to seduce it; it had a magnet that can be set to antiques; it had a bunch of alien Elvis clones tickling people with feathers; it had Splinter save the Turtles lives with mothballs and saying "Sometimes if you wish hard enough for something to happen, it just might come true"; I could go on and on and on. Again, this isn't me saying the show sucked for having these things, but don't say the giant banana was out of place. You can't.
I've heard people say the 87 turtles running around without disguises was slander, and... good god, no. They were outside in broad daylight without disguises way more often than they ever wore disguises. Way more often.
I remember when people said Leonardo was always serious, and the 87 turtles were way too pizza obsessed. Um, they were always pizza obsessed in the show, all four of them. In "Corporate Raiders From Dimension X" when business leaders all over the city are being kidnapped, Leonardo has no interest in investigating until he learns the CEO of the world's largest manufacturer of pizza dough was among them. Yes, Leonardo. Never mind they also did an episode where he ran away from home after having a nightmare about Shredder stealing the city's supply of cheese danishes. Okay, he was also an early riser, so "Turtles Forever" was wrong about his waking up and asking "is it noon already?" So, "Turtles Forever" was 99% right.
The show is kooky and extremely stupid. It loves its status quo and makes love to its formula every day. If I'm being rough on it, don't take that as hate. If I hated it, I would have jumped ship on this re-watch before the end of the first season. But I can only take so much of it before I feel like way too many of my brain cells have been murdered and I put on an episode of "Gargoyles" to get them back. I don't think "Turtles Forever" was trying to be mean spirited in its honesty, because, despite everything, it was 87 Donatello and Bebop and Rocksteady who saved all of existence from destruction at the hands of the Utrom Shredder. But that being said, I am so glad people like Greg Weisman and Bruce Timm matured cartoons well past what this was. And before anyone says anything, I am aware of the Red Sky seasons, I haven't gotten there yet. I admit, I am curious, but I'm not particularly excited about them either.
Oh, and how come the 1987 turtles always called each other by their full names? You'd think the goofy turtles would be all over fun nicknames.