Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Return by Jerry Whitworth
While most buzz regarding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been about Michael Bay’s upcoming feature film reportedly making the heroes into aliens (with much controversy), Nickelodeon (home to such action programs as Legend of Korra, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, and Power Rangers: Samurai) has an upcoming animated series based on TMNT employing CGI (it should be noted, the film and television series have no relation). The third animated television series for the franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet again reboots the series again combining elements from past iterations but with a modern twist. Few details have been released but leaked images, previews of the upcoming toyline from Playmates, and a panel at MCM Expo London Comic Con have given us some hints at what’s to come.
The basics are still there: four turtle brothers mutated into humanoids, trained in ninjutsu by the mutant rat Splinter in the sewers of New York City, and who are exposed to the world in their teens. Leonardo stills acts as the leader, Raphael is still the wise-cracking hard ass, Michelangelo is the party animal, and Donatello is the techno-geek. Some dynamics that have changed is that it’s going to be played up that the Turtles are teenagers, so gone are the tall, muscle-bound heroes, and also that brothers fight and argue but still love each other. To add some variety, the Turtles will still have different colored headbands to help differentiate them, but Donatello will also have a gap in his teeth and Raphael a crack in his chest shell. Also changed are the Turtles’ weapons, where Raphael will still carry his trademark sai (hand pitchforks), images alternate with showing Leonardo as either carrying katana (samurai longsword) or ninjato (ninja medium sword). Donatello has been pictured with his trademark bo staff, but also with a naginata (halberd) and sansetsukon (three-sectional staff), where Michelangelo seems to have branched out into various chain weapons, from his traditional nunchaku (flail) to also manriki-gusari (weighted chain) and kusari-gama (sickle and weighted chain). To add authenticity to the action, a ninja master was employed to demonstrate taijutsu (combat skills) techniques for animators who sketched demonstrations which they used for staged action for the series. Also, as with many animated action programs today that incorporate comedy, anime elements will be included in the series such as exaggerated features and emotions. The voice cast will include Jason Biggs (American Pie series) as Leonardo, Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings series) as Raphael, Greg Cipes (Teen Titans, Ben 10: Alien Force) as Michelangelo, and Rob Paulsen (1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Donatello.
SPLINTER AND APRIL
Likely the most changed of the reveals thus far, gone is the image of Splinter as the elderly, frail mentor of the Turtles who only involves himself in their battles when the situation is most dire. Instead, Splinter is younger, taller, and physically imposing. Described as a personal conflict between Splinter and Shredder, the villain actively seeks out the Turtles mentor from the series start. Splinter is also more of a teacher in ninjutsu to the Turtles, in place of simply describing many things to the teens, he physically instructs them and actively battles the Foot clan. Few details have been released regarding April O’Neil save it was decided to make her a teenager as well because, on reflection, it didn’t seem logical to have a 30+ year old woman being the Turtles best friend (not to mention a teenage April may appeal more to the show’s target demographic). The Turtles will come to meet her when they have to come to her rescue. Splinter’s voice will be supplied by Hoon Lee and April by Mae Whitman (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Young Justice: Invasion). While fan favorite Casey Jones will be absent from the first season, indie comic book hero the Flaming Carrot will make an appearance.
The primary villains revealed thus far are Shredder and his Foot Clan and the Kraang. A combination of the franchise’s alien race the Utroms and the villainous Krang, the Kraang are small, blob-like aliens that appear as brains with tentacles. The Utrom were generally an intelligent, kindly race introduced in the original comic series (and whose mutagen was responsible for transforming the Turtles) save that in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, one of their number was Ch’rell, an intergalactic criminal that used a robotic body on Earth to become the notorious Shredder (picking up the title from a demonic entity he helped defeat on Earth), nemesis to the Turtles. In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, Krang was the villainous ruler of Dimension X that had a similar appearance to the Utroms that was the Shredder’s master and employed a powerful robotic suit able to alter its shape and size. For this latest series, the Kraang are a malevolent race of beings out to conquer Earth and employ robotic suits to battle their enemies (as well as verbally communicate with humanoids). Little has been released about the Shredder and the only detail divulged regarding the Foot is they operate as a large force, at least two Foot ninjas will be present whenever they appear. Shredder will be voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson (2011 Thundercats, Young Justice, Transformers: Prime, Green Lantern: TAS) and the Kraang by Nolan North (Young Justice, Batman: Arkham City, G.I. Joe: Renegades). Other confirmed characters are Baxter Stockman (voiced by Phil LaMarr of Young Justice, Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers: EMH, G.I. Joe: Renegades), Karai (voiced by Kelly Hu of X2: X-Men United, Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice), Leatherhead, and Rat King.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will premier on Nickelodeon in Autumn 2012.
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