Review & Comparison! OS TMNT 1 to Nick TMNT

013This is the day I would normally write a review about the newest episode of Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I would go on about the plots, characters, favorite scenes, and if I like or don’t like the changes made to characters in the show.  These are normally fun write ups sharing my inside view of the Nickelodeon series.  And while I wish I could say these are weekly, they’re not.  Nickelodeon every now and then takes a break, making us fans hold our breath just a little bit longer in waiting for the next installment of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  So what do I do?  I re hatch the old series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Today I’ll do a review comparison of the very first episode of the original series, comparing it to the first episode of Nickelodeon’s Ninja Turtles.  Hope everyone enjoys this read.

I reviewed and compared the Nickelodeon theme song to the original series theme song.  So I’m not going to start there.  This review will all be about the episode itself.  How April met the Turtles, how Shredder first saw the Turtles and the background story of the Turtles.  This will be the first of hopefully many review & comparisons.  As I’ll bring in the Next Mutation as the 4Kids series as well.

The original series first story was a five parter.  This was to be a stand alone story, with no series to follow it.  Giving this five parter a beginning, middle and end.  At the time Ninja Turtles were an underground comic for adults.  Playmates Toys was putting a lot of money into something they did not know would become successful, so they took a huge risk and ran with it.  Since this was a risk, they put everything into that first five episodes with writer David Wise and MWS animation studio.  The first episode was the introductions, with the Turtles making their first human friend, their history, and the threat of the Foot Clan.

Nickelodeon’s first story is a two parter.  Though the overall story lasts through the entire season of the show which is 26 episodes and maybe even longer.  The big difference here is that Viacom has watched the Ninja Turtles for over 20 years remain a strong franchise.  They were willing to take a bigger risk than five episodes.  During those twenty years Nickelodeon watched three series of the Ninja Turtles come and go.  All three getting fan followings.  All three selling toys.  And all three are still talked about to this day.  They knew they could sink some money into the Turtles and even if their show was not going to be a hit, they would still get most of their money back.  Knowing that their two parter to kick start the Nickelodeon TMNT series was just an introduction, not the full story they were able to decide what to introduce now and what to hold off on.  Which makes the very base for both of these series so different from each other.

We go in on a reporter who is talking about the crime of New York, three robberies being different from the normal.  With the clues leading to ninja as there are marks from a sword and a rope that was made in Japan.  She signs off as April O’Neil.  Once the cameras are off she talks to her crew, as they want to pack up and get out of this bad part of town. At this point we see someone is watching them on a monitor with blades upon his hands.  Back to April, she’s disappointed at first by their reactions, she fastly changes her mind as a crew of street punks come out after her.  During her escape she goes into a sewer where they surround her.  Just when things look dark, the Turtles covered in shadows come out to save her.  Once April sees her heroes are turtles she faints.  We pull back to see this is all watched on a screen by the Shredder.

This is how they started Ninja Turtles out in the original series.  We have 4 minutes and 25 seconds before we get any Turtle action in the show.  We’re introduced to April, Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady before our heroes join the picture.  April O’Neil seems to be the star of the show up to this moment.  Bebop and Rocksteady are mindless thugs out to kill April with their gang.  While Shredder is just quietly watching the action take place from his base.  All these key things which will play a role through this series introduced, before the Turtles.  What a way to show that they are more than supporting characters, but important to who the Turtles are from the start.  For me, the worse part of this all was the Shredder watching.  We never see cameras set up, the cameras are not on his men.  How is he watching them check out April after she fainted?  That troubled me even as a child.  If Shredder could watch anyone in the world he wanted, anywhere by the Technodrome why was this abilities of his, not used more?

Now the opening of the Nickelodeon TMNT series was different.  Where we are first introduced to the Turtles training with Splinter.  We see the Turtles having family time together before they have their first battle.  Then we see them go top side for their first time to see the human world. This is out of curiosity and wanting out of the house.  Not to protect anyone.  But to live.

The differences here for me is that we are seeing the new series is about the Turtles themselves.  None of the villains or even co-stars stand to shine up there with the Turtles for the introduction.  We do not learn of the Turtles, with the co-stars.  For me this is a big difference between the two series showing that they will not highlight the other characters as much as the original cartoon series did.  While there is no rush to introduce the other characters since they know they got a full series ahead of them with Nickelodeon.  It does give a different feel when the origin is not being told to a new face.

After saving April in the original series, the Turtles take her back to their home.  Where she wakes up and Splinter explains the history of the Turtles and himself.  How he is really Hamato Yoshi, he explains how and why he came from Japan to America.  How he ended up living in the sewers and four Turtles were dropped in on him.  He also explains about the ooze coming into the sewers changing them into what they are now.  He trained each of them.  April decides this is a story and wants to do a report on them.

Here the fans learn the history with April, helping us relate more to the side character in the show.  We learn everything about Yoshi, why he came to the US and who Oroku Saki was to him.  And we see her even try to turn them into a story, like reporters would want to do.  This was a nice introduction for each of the characters.

I wish I could say that we saw this for the Nickelodeon Cartoon, though we see them save her.  We even see them bring her to her home.  But we never see her first visit to their lair, how she learns about their mutations, her meeting Splinter.  The new April O’Neil is kept so distance from us, that it can be hard to connect with her till later in the series.  Which makes the way the original cartoon handled this, the more favorable storyline.  Though the introductions may be different and one better than the other, only time will tell which character makes the bigger impact on the fans.

This is also the beginning of something that the original cartoon series got known for.  Turtles talking in the wrong voice.  Donatello does a jump in front of April when she went to take off to cover this story.  The mouth moves as Raphael’s voice comes out “Ah Ah Ah, did I miss something here, ain’t you up to current events lady, we just saved your life”.  These mistakes became a noticed thing through this series.  Where the wrong Turtle will speak.  Masks will flip colors.  Weapons will be misplaced and other artist slip ups.  This is something you will not see with the Nickelodeon series.  They are even working to make sure the Turtles are seen differently by making them each look a bit different.

The following day April’s boss is showing concern for her not coming into work.  Back in the sewers the Turtles are trying to figure out what to do with her.  The Turtles promises to get her story as long as they are left out of it.

This was a nice way of leading into why the Turtles are going on a mission.  They’re going to help her get a story so that they don’t become the story.  I do like this, since the Turtles were not going out to become superheroes it gives a good reason for why they’re out helping her.  In the Nickelodeon Cartoon April is the reason the Turtles start to really go out patrolling as well.  Her father is kidnapped by aliens, the Turtles promise to help her get her father back.  Which is why the Turtles are out doing nightly patrols over New York City.  Connecting April as a big part of the Turtle’s turning crime fighters in both the original series and the Nickelodeon series.

Shredder’s lair, shows the punks showing up and telling Shredder that they got beat by in a fight.  Shredder asks if they were Turtles.  Leaving the viewers wondering if Shredder knows of the Ninja Turtles already.

The Turtles are helping search for clues where they saved April from the punks.  Here they find a matchbook with “Ninja Pizza” written on it.  The Turtles decide they’re going with April to help get clues but also to enjoy some pizza.  They tell April they know all about Humans.  When she questions this, the reply is that they watch a lot of TV.  April realizes they’re in big trouble.

This was great.  Moving the plot along, having a reason for the guys to want to go.  And they share that they know about humans from watching TV.  This is a difference between the Original Series Turtles and the Nickelodeon Turtles.  Even though we know the Turtles watch TV in the Nickelodeon series, things that they should be able to pick up from watching TV and reading magazines is still new and fresh to them.  Like their first time finding pizza.  How many times a day while watching tv do you see ads for pizza?  I liked that in the old series it was clear they knew stuff, and was not sheltered away from the Human world just by being in the sewer.

April gets the Turtles out of the sewers to be greeted by an old lady with a machine gun.  She gets them coats and hats so it’s not as clear that they are not human, and walks them to where Ninja Pizza would be.  On the way she gets their name wrong as each of them say something to her.  They commented and interacted with people on the streets and get to Ninja Pizza.

This here is another big difference from the Nickelodeon Series.  New York, a thriving city during both day and night.  People are out walking around.  Cars are driving down the road.  While it is true, it’s not as busy at night, the city remains alive.  Their nighttime life has more activity than Detroit, Michigan during business hours.  There’s going to be people.  There is going to be life.  So one would think it would be easier to make massive amounts of people and cars for a CG series than an old animated series that needed every new character and scene to be drawn a dozen times.  Though the Nickelodeon animated series rarely shows us other people on the street.  Even their first time up, we see a pizza guy and then April and her father walking... no other humans. It’s different and one of the disappointments that I have with the new series.  Another plus to the old school show.

Once inside Ninja Pizza, the Turtles order food.  April is very much into her story.  Shredder is watching from a security Camera. He is not happy about how close she is getting.  April leaves the Turtles to enjoy their food and work on her story.  She finds Manhattan Security and checks in to the order given to Foot Soldiers given orders for their next job.  When April gets to a pay phone to report this she is kidnapped by Foot Soldiers.

This is one of those things that one has to wonder about later in the Turtle series.  Here Shredder has all these businesses working for him.  Yes the Security company uses robots, but we’re seeing humans working for him as well.  Where do they all go?  Why does he lose a full block of businesses?  Is it the flood from later in this episode.  It was overkill putting all of these businesses in here only to never use them again.  Like when Shredder was sent back to Earth after their first trip to Dimension X.  This could've been Shredder’s fall back spot.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It is good to see the story moving.  It’s done in an interesting way and at least this time we see how Shredder is watching April.  The writing in this episode by David Wise is just truly amazing, as it keeps things at this great pace where one could just get wrapped up in the story and enjoy the jokes as well as the plot lines.  And scenes like this, where they need to give a reason for April and the Turtles to be split up, is a good example of writing skills and pacing.  He doesn’t go into showing her saying good bye and stuff.  He just had the Turtles make mention that she was gone.  This lead us to where she was, without a long break away from one area to the next.  Though this is the start of a long history of April being kidnapped by the Foot Clan.

The Turtles get their check and then go out looking for April.  They find leads to where she is, that get them to a rooftop where April is tied up.  Once up there they find themselves in their first fight against the Foot Clan.  At first they wear their coats and hats, till they realize that they’re fighting robots.  At that point the Turtles go into full swing attacking.  Shredder is once again watching the fight from monitors.  He realizes the Turtles are fighting using the style of the Foot Clan.  Connecting that Hamato Yoshi is still alive.  The Turtles end up pushing a wall down onto some Foot Soldiers and free April.  They see the Foot escaping to another building and follow.

Personally this is one of my favorite times watching the Turtles go into a fight for their first time against a villain.  Just like in the beginning where they don’t show themselves, they once again try to hide that they’re Turtles.  Staying in the coat and hats, till they realize it’s robots.  That’s when they come out of hiding.  This is not something we’re seeing at all in the Nickelodeon series.  The Turtles do not have a problem jumping into a fight as themselves even to strangers.  Like in the episode “I think his name is Baxter Stockman” the Turtles jump down to confront him as their selves.  This is only one example of the lack of being ninja like through that series so far.  So this fight was great.  And a good chance to show that the Foot has even more toys that are advance for humans.

The Turtles get to the other building and head in where they saw the Foot head in, but it’s empty.  Shredder is watching them through the monitors but this time they get to see tvs with his face on it watching them.  He turns it off as he realizes these are Hamato Yoshi’s Turtles.  He orders the Foot to the Technodrome.  The Turtles head downward to try and find whatever the Technodrome is.  Only for the Foot to open up some very strong flood pipes that fastly floods the building.  The Turtles have to retreat upwards as there is no leaks in this building.  Every floor gets flooded, they save April and bring her to the roof with them escaping.

This scene is great as we get to hear Michaelangelo yell “Cowabunga” for the very first time.  It’s a way to end the first episode without the Turtles finding Shredder or the Technodrome in their first real fight with the Foot.  Letting us know that the Turtles and April have gotten out of this mix only to be in a deeper one.

When the Turtles return home they show Splinter what the Robots wore and he realizes it’s the Foot.  Leonardo swears that they will find him and stop him as Mikey cracks a joke.  April has to pick back at the Turtles, if they take anything serious and they answer by showing themselves with pizza.  So April asks for a slice of the sausage and banana pizza.

A great wrap up.  The Turtles now know they are against the Foot.  Shredder knows these are Hamato Yoshi’s Turtles.  And April is starting to warm up to the guys as they keep saving her life.  This episode had it’s beginning, middle and end.  Which would get new viewers to want to come back for more.  Even though it left the story open for the next episode, you did not get that cliff hanger feeling that a lot of shows try to do when they’re doing a connected story line.  David Wise did an excellent job on this.  With Sue Blu doing the voice Directing and Fred Wolf behind the animation.  The show was an instant success.

While this was a success for those of us who grew up in the 1980’s, this same formula does not work on some of the kids of today.  A few years ago I tried introducing the these shows to some young boys, who liked the 4Kids series much more.  They were 2 and 4 years old.   And then this year I tried to introduce the original cartoon to a young girl about 3 years old, and she rather watch the Nickelodeon series.  They can tell by watching which shows were made for them, and which ones were not.  Seeing the reaction of these children really surprised me.  It just shows that there is a slight change through the younger generations as the years go by.  We can not presume that just because we liked something as children that the kids of today would like the same thing, the same way.

This cartoon though made a major change in the Ninja Turtles history.  As it introduced the Turtles to a whole new fan base, many of which remain fans to this day.  This is also the introduction to many things that have remained true with TMNT in other medias.  The Turtles having different colored face masks.  The Turtles loving pizza!   The use of the word Cowabunga!  And Splinter being Hamato Yoshi.  All four of these things was in this one episode, which is where they first appeared and have been with the Turtles now for over 20 years!

Now some credit the personalities of the Turtles to the Cartoon series.  While yes the cartoon did help define some of the stuff we know.  We had a grounding for them in the original Mirage Comics.  Leonardo was defined as the leader early on.  Donatello was working with a computer chip thing in issue two and excited with the mousers.  Raphael had his temper, to where he almost hurt Michelangelo really bad in the Raphael Micro Series issue.  And Mikey was light hearted.  Just not the surfer dude.  The biggest difference in personalities that did change with the Turtles thanks to the original cartoon is Mikey still being the surfer.  While they did give Raphael a different personality in the original cartoon where he was not so much attitude just fast with his wit, the other medias have picked up on the attitude from the original Mirage Turtles and have flown with it.  Nickelodeon is doing a nice mix between the two personalities of Raph.

With as many years that have passed it remains true that this episode of the original series is one of the best ones.  It introduced so much to so many people and touched so many lives.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has not taken the time to watch it.  Along with the other four episodes.  I will toss together reviews of the other episodes in time for Cowabunga Corner.  As every part of TMNT history deserves equal love and respect!

Have you watched this episode?  What is your thoughts on it?  And share with us some of your comparisons of the first episode of the original cartoon series to the Nickelodeon TMNT.  How much of the original show do you think they’ve kept?  And how many differences stand out to you?  Please share reviews, comments and questions below!

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Comments

If you watch "A Thing About Rats", it seems that Shredder sometimes uses flying, helicopter-like, cameras.

Hey I enjoyed your blog post. As I have watched the original cartoon and Nick cartoon I have noticed a lot of similarities. This new series seems to be building off the strengths of both of the previous cartoons.

One interesting thing I noticed while re-watching the first season of the 1987 cartoon recently is that Mikey is the first to meet Krang towards the end of ep3 (A Thing About Rats) and at the very end of that episode Mikey tells his brother about the crazy, evil talking brain. They do not believe him and Donatello even tells Mikey that he has eaten too much pizza.

It is obvious that the Nickelodeon series homage to this by making Mikey be the first to encounter one of the Krangs outside of their android body and again the brothers do not believe him. Pretty cool of the guys to pay that much attention to the original series!