Watch the series intro above!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "Rise of the Turtles" Series Premiere
Studio: Nickelodeon
Episode Premiere Date: September 29th, 2012

Synopsis: When Splinter allows his teenage sons, the Mutant Ninja Turtles, to visit the surface for the first time, they discover that the surface world isn't as simple as it first appears.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "Rise of the Turtles"
Series Premiere Review

By James Harvey

To boil it down, the new CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is just a ridiculously fun blast. From start to finish, it was packed with great visuals, a solid story, and excellent character work. Without question, Nickelodeon will definitely have another hit on their hands.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesCelebrating the 15th anniversary of their mutation, explained in a stylish 2D flashback, our heroes – Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael, are eager to go up and experience the surface world. After expressing much concern, Master Splinter eventually relents and allows them to ascend. Naturally, the Turtles quickly find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy with scientists, aliens, and a familiar batch of ooze. The Turtles use their abilities for the first time and find they still have quite a bit to learn if they’re going to become the effective crime-fighting team they are destined to be. Now, much more happens than that, and there’s at least one story beat that caught me by surprise. The released clips are only a taste of the fun this show has to offer.

While drawing inspiration from the wealth of various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles interpretations over the years, it’s apparent the main draw is the classic 1980s/90s Fred Wolf series. While long-time Turtle fans will definitely be able to pick out plenty of the obvious nods, it’s great to see this series trying to strike out on its own so quickly. In fact, it easily surpasses the quality of the original 1980s series. Fans looking for a light-hearted fun take on the mythos I guarantee there is no better take than this right here, so far. The writing is just top-notch here. The jokes all work, whether the snappy dialogue or occasional visual gag.

All these jokes, all the dialogue and action beats, are successful because of the exceptional character work and pace put into the series. The characters are quickly defined, but not rushed. The dialogue is telling, but not overbearingly riddled with exposition. The designs make each character feel unique to each other, but also instantly relatable. The designs even match their personalities perfectly. Raphael’s battered shell echoes his tough demeanor. Michelangelo’s design is vey youthful and innocent, a perfect reflection of his more immature (for lack of better word) personality. Donatello’s tall and lanky design nicely plays off his geeky leanings. And Leonardo … well, he looks like the leader of the group. And, honestly, I have no qualms with Splinter’s design. A bit of a departure from previous takes, but it looks just fine.

Michelangelo deserves a shout-out. Easily the least…enjoyable character in the previous animated takes, this rendition is by far the best. He’s just so likable, with a very energetic and upbeat persona. Even when caught in some pretty rough spots, his playful personality comes through. I imagine he’ll end up being the breakout character for the series. Voice actor Greg Cipes is perfectly cast as Mikey.

As to what should be no surprise, each of the Turtles are nicely cast. I initially had doubts with the likes of Jason Biggs as Leonardo and Sean Austin as Raphael, but it’s a genuine surprise at how well it all works. Is it any surprise, though, with Andrea Romano as voice director? Rob Paulsen is a bit to get used to as Donatello, as I have a hard time breaking him away from his turn as Raphael from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, but hopefully that will change in time. His voice does fit what they’re trying to do with the character, so it’s not a drastic struggle by any means. The supporting cast, so far, sounds solid across the board. However, Kevin Michael Richardson sounds like Kevin Michael Richardson – not Shredder – in his brief appearance in the two-part series opener.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It’s easy to tell that Nickelodeon has pumped a fair amount of money into this series. It looks like it has a considerable budget, the fluid animation and facial animation an obvious mark. The stylized take on New York looks fantastic, the background at times coming off as CG-enhanced comic art (and I mean that in a good way). The CG humans look a bit plastic, but by no means is that a negative strike. They fit well into the overall designs of the world and not awkward in the slightest. In fact, they at times look more cartoon-y than the mutated creatures. And, in the overall tapestry, everything comes together perfectly. Characters fit in with their surroundings, designs are stylish and help extenuate personalities (even with the robots, believe it or not), and everything blends together without any hiccups.

The hour-long episode itself, dubbed “Rise of the Turtles,” is a great introduction to this reinvention of the Turtles franchise. Every character gets a few moments to shine, allowing for the cartoon to show off both its great animation and clever dialogue. Nary a character goes to waste. While some only get a handful of seconds to make an impression, those short-sheeted here are promised future episodes (or at least such an impression is given) for expansion. There are a few flashbacks that will have fans just chomping at the bit to see specific plot-threads move forward. April O’Neil’s character gets an unexpected twist for why she’ll be hanging with the Shelled Foursome. Even Snakeweed, a baddie the Turtles find themselves tussling with, had ample exposure and even good reason to dislike the Half-Shell Heroes before he faces off against them.

Quite frankly, there are no real obvious flaws or disappointments to be had here. There’s not one thing I found disappointing in the entire hour opener. Those expecting a rehash of the 4Kids-era Turtles will be let down, given the more light tone to be found here, but I find this CG-enhanced take on the Turtles to be completely respectful to the source material and just fun, fun, fun. Its quality stuff here, folks.

Watch the hour-long series premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this Saturday morning 9/29 at 11:00 a.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon.

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