Monday, July 21, 2014

Absolute Turtle Power

A few weeks ago the stars aligned in a very strange and wonderful way for me, and I ended up seeing a really great and nostalgia-fueled documentary on Netflix called Turtle Power: The Definitive History of TMNT.

Before I go on with my story, a little about the film: The documentary follows the history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the memories of the creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, from the humble beginnings as a silly independent comic right up to the Turtle's appearance on the silver screen. The film will officially be released on August 12th, 2014, but as I write this it is available on Canadian Netflix. I can't speak to any other regions.

The night before I stumbled upon the documentary I couldn't sleep and I decided to watch some late-night TV. I happened upon Teletoon Retro, which - if you knew me - you'd expect I'd watch a lot, but I don't. The Christmas Carol episode of Ghostbusters was on, and is what initially got me watching the channel, but that show quickly ended and guess what was on next? Ninja Turtles! For a whole hour!

I hadn't seen an episode of the original TMNT cartoon since around 2009, when in a dire need of some connection to my childhood, I crafted a DVD of 80s and 90s cartoons, with actual commercials from the era spliced in. Yeah... I'm that dorky.

I watched the two episodes in a child-like excitement, which may or may not have been fueled by the fact that I was incredible tired, yet restless. The episodes included the second appearance of the Neutrinos and the first appearance of the Transport Module, which would in many ways become a trope of TMNT from that moment forward.

I happily fell asleep right after I had my retro cartoon fix and didn't even really think about it at all the next day. Later the next evening after a full day of doing adult and important things my wife and I settled down, made dinner, and decided to watch some Netflix. After a few hilarious episodes of How I Met Your Mother I noticed this new Ninja Turtles documentary. It was in that moment that I remembered that I'd watched a few episodes of the cartoon the night before. I excitedly threw on the documentary. So I'm sitting there, soaking in all kinds of great information about the Turtles' independent comics era when my wife looks at me and laughs. I asked her what was so funny and she responded, "You're sitting there, eating pizza, wearing a Ninja Turtles t-shirt, and grinning like a little kid."

She was right! I had no idea I was even wearing the t-shirt!

I don't know how all of it came to be. Maybe it was my subconscious doing something creepy and Freudian or maybe it was just how I saw it - a series of happy coincidences - but regardless I blissfully sat there watching the story of the TMNT, eating a pizza, dressed in my finest Turtle garb.

If you're a 90s kid like me, you were probably impacted by the Ninja Turtles. Maybe not to the extent that I was, but in some fashion. The documentary is aimed at how the Turtles grew to such a wild phenomenon, but from a business perspective in a way. There's a section on the comics, action figures, the cartoon, and finally the films. What I personally found most interesting was how all of these things were really separate streams. It ultimately hits on all the Turtle-y things the 6-year old me loved and I learned a lot about the history of the TMNT that I had no clue about.

I always found the Turtles stuff kind of disjointed when I was a kid. The cartoon, the video games, the toys, the movies; none of it really shared a cohesive membrane. As it turns out, a lot of the different franchising of the Turtles happened independently. For instance, the toys were actually in production before the cartoon. I'd always assumed they were an offshoot of the show, but it was the other way around. Fred Wolf produced the show, because Playmates were weary of creating the action figures. As a result, the first run of the toys actually share very little with the show, and only retroactively were several of the main characters added to the toyline.

I won't go into too much more detail about the film. If you like documentaries and 80s/90s nostalgia, I think you'll find it interesting. If you're a kid of the 90s, you'll definitely enjoy it. Like any documentary of this nature they can't go into too much depth about everything, but they do a good job of touching on a lot of the main points. If you're expecting them to touch on the Turtles properties after the 90s, however, you'll be disappointed. There's very little reference to anything after the original three films.

I would definitely recommend a watch, and also some pizza... and some cartoons. Also, don't forget your favourite Turtle t-shirt.

I hope you enjoyed,