The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always been a success in the animation realm; the 1980’s cartoon being the most popular and well known. The current show on Nickelodeon is also doing very well with fans of old and newer generations. But what about in-between these two? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like people just never talk about the 2003 TMNT animated series. The series isn’t as humorous as other TMNT cartoons, though that’s not to say it’s devoid of humor, but it focuses more on the action genre.
This cartoon is the closest incarnation to the original Mirage comics in story and tone, and it helps that co-creator Peter Laird was closely involved with the series, making sure things stayed on the right path. Various plots and stories where adapted from the comics for this show, so much so that some episodes or instances almost match certain issues panel for panel. The first scene nearly mirrors the first panel of issue one, and even the dialog is almost word for word. Other fan favorite stories included Turtles In Space, City At War, as well as several Tales Of The TMNT stories.
Now, of course it can’t be a complete adaptation as it was directed for younger audiences like most cartoons. The show did, however. manage to be one of those “Boundary Pushing Shows”. Baxter Stockman was constantly mutilated, even if it was off screen, the results would been seen in his next appearance. At one point he was even reduced to a brain in a jar at one point. It was as dark a tone as they could get away with, not to mention having the most intimidating version of the Shredder to date.
Tragically, as the show ran its course and Peter Laird became less involved, we got things like Fast Forward and Back to the Sewer. While these were not really the worst things to come out of the franchise as a whole, they were surely a step down from what the series had started out as. The dark tone was lost completely as well as the action being toned down, it all went downhill from there. But seasons one through four are solid and respectable pieces of TMNT history, and fans will surely enjoy them, or it can make a fan out of a new comer. It’s a great series to start someone out with as an introduction to what the Turtles are really all about.