I completely understand the high platform fans hold the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series on. For many, including myself, it was a road into the awesome world of these four reptile heroes. The impact it had on our culture was just unbelievable! How could I, or anyone else, forget getting swept up in “Turtle-mania?” How countless viewers became fully absorbed in the show and the unending merchandise that it spawned. So many of us got swallowed up by this show and, understandably, it has become one of the most beloved animated series of the 1980 – 1990s. And, as a new DVD release collecting the seventh season of this classic series is released, it’s a shame that, looking back, the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series just isn’t all that good.
It’s been 25 years since Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello, emerged from the sewers of Manhattan and were transformed into heroes-in-a-half-shell battling petty criminals, evil megalomaniacs, and alien invaders. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lionsgate Home Entertainment is presenting all 27 episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 7, available for the first-time ever on DVD. Fans can collect the commemorative set that will be sold as four separate DVDs, each featuring different episodes from Season 7 and a Mini-Classic Turtles Action Figure! All four DVDs feature a different turtle on the cover, and fit together to create one power-packed scene with all of the wise-cracking, pizza-obsessed superheroes aligned and ready for battling evil. It’s been 25 awesome years (whoa!) since four turtles fell into the sewers and were transformed into radical heroes-in-a-half-shell, so join the shellebration!
Given that these four volumes make up the complete seventh season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all four volumes will be covered in this review.
I have to say that I take no pleasure in writing this review. Not only do I know that many, many fans will find offense to this reviews, there’s also nothing I can do to stop it. The years have not been kind to this show, plain and simple. Whether it’s the terrible writing or the surprisingly horrid animation, this show has aged badly. Now, most shows from the 1980s and 1990s have a quality about them, something that makes it possible to overlook the flaws that are so prevalent as we revisit these shows. Now, I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid, and I jumed onto these DVDs when they started hitting shelves. The first release, collecting the first five episodes, is still in my collection because, despite the flaws, I find redeeming qualities in it. But, as the series progress, the same with any cartoon, the quality dropped and, folks, the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series is no different. While some shows can live up to our childhood memories, like the recently released X-Men: The Animated Series, this one just…doesn’t. It really, really doesn’t.
Let me reassure you, I take no pleasure in writing this as you do reading it. And I know the quality of my review may not top the fine word-work that other writers may possess, the message remains clear. The message that this show just isn’t the hilarious animated action-comedy I remember it to be. The action is boring and all too brief, each episode follows a tired formula, and the comedy is flat-out cringe-worthy.
To be fair, there are glimpses of hope spread out here and there. There’s the odd wise-crack that actually makes me chuckle, and there’s the odd fight scene that doesn’t seem to ropey and slow, but those rare moments – and they are very rare – are buried amidst a sea of predictability and obviously tired writing. I can’t say I’m surprised, as I’m sure the writers of the shows struggled to find something new and interesting to do in the series, but, in all honesty, they usually just fell back on the same. More of the same villains, more of the same jokes, more of the same everything. Even our four great heroes, five if you count Splinter, seem to recite the same tired dialog in each episode. While I appreciate the history of this cartoon and the stamp it has on the the childhood of many, this is one show that should have ended way before it reached season seven because, at this point, it seems as though the creative team is just spinning their wheels and hoping for the best.
After watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volumes 1 – 4, it’s apparent that this is one show that doesn’t live up to my childhood memories. I’m sure many fans will be able to (somehow) sit through these releases, and all the power to them. It’s just that the lazy writing really drags down this series, a series already hampered by poor animation. Everything just feels repetitive and, why some may think I’m judging this series too harshly, I just can’t go easy on this show due to it’s iconic status. Every episode just blurs into the next. While the odd episode in this release did try to break the mold and try something new, it just felt stale regardless. Still, for the those who have picked up the previous releases from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, you already know what you’re getting here.
For those wondering, the episodes included in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 1 are “Tower of Power,” “Rust Never Sleeps,” “A Real Snow Job,” “Venice on the Half Shell,” “Artless,” and “The Lost Queen of Atlantis.” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 2 features the episodes “The Irish Jig Is Up,” “Shredder’s New Sword,” “Ring of Fire,” “Turtles on the Orient Express,” “April Gets in Dutch,” “Northern Lights Out,” and “Elementary, My Dear Turtle.” Moving on, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 3 includes the episodes “Convicts from Dimension X,” “The Starchild,” “The Legend of Koji,” “Night of the Dark Turtle,” “White Belt, Black Heart,” “Attack of the Neutrinos,” and “Escape from the Planet of the Turtleoids.” Episodes in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 4 include “Night of the Rogues,” “Revenge of the Fly,” “Dirk Savage: Mutant Hunter!,” “Combat Land,” “Atlantis Awakes,” “Invasion of the Krangazoids,” and “Shredder Triumphant!”
After revisiting this series yet again with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volumes 1 – 4, my thoughts remain unchanged. The classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series is one that just hasn’t aged well. Even by the standards of when this show was put on the air, the animation is weak and the writing lazy, with any attempts to try something different utterly failing. Now, there’s the rare chuckle-worthy gag or somewhat enjoyable action scene, but, overall, this is not a show is a chore to sit through. Any charm from the earlier original episodes has long since vanished, lost in the machine of the mechanical production this show fell under. Still, the fan-base for this series remains strong, even today, and I’m sure the fans who are able to sit through this series are eager to gobble down another set, and they should. It’s 27 episodes of an animated series they love, spread over four volumes. However, I just can’t recommend this show, but I know that won’t stop the die-hard fans of this classic series from picking up these releases in droves.
Suffice it to say, this is one DVD release that will really divide fans. The entire seventh season of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series is spread over four separate releases instead of being packaged together for one release. Each volume contains different cover art, which combine with the three other releases to form one big image, and different extras. On top of that, each release comes housed in a sturdy cardboard box featuring one of four mini-action figures. Is it a smart move by Lionsgate Home Entertainment? Let’s find out.
The audio and video for this release falls under the same quality as previous releases. The video and audio are just like the past releases, with plenty of compression and a general bit of artifacting. Surprisingly, the amount of episodes per disc isn’t bad, running 6 – 7 episodes per disc, so I’m surprised to see so much compression. Still, the video quality should come as no surprise and, while noticeable at times, isn’t too distracting. Regardless, this is probably the best the series will ever look. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, with each Ninja Turtle getting their own menu and disc art.
As for the extras, we get a small collection of extras, with four featurettes focusing on a different aspect of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These four featurettes are spread out over the four discs, with one featurette per release. The featurette on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 1 looks at the massive toy line spawned from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons and runs a shade over six minutes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 2 focuses on the creators of the actual characters, providing some interesting facts along the way, and runs just over 11 minutes. The creators behind the beloved 1980’s/1990s animated series are the focus of the featurette on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 3, which runs just shy of 11 minutes. Finally, the featurette on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Seven – Volume 4 focuses on some die-hard Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans and clocks in at over 12 minutes. Each disc also has a trailer gallery.
Now, the features included, for the most part, are interesting but run a tad too short. I have no doubt that more than six minutes could have been spent on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toyline, a line that includes literally hundreds of toys. The featurettes on the second and third disc, looking at the creators of the characters and the show, actually provided some interesting background but could have used more time to flesh things out. The featurette on the fourth disc focuses on a batch of hardcore fans and, out of all four, is the least interesting.
Overall, it’s a respectable collection of extras for a show that had such a huge impact on so many. While I wish the featurettes were just a shade longer and a little more in-depth, what we get here is nothing to sneeze at. On top of that, hardcore fans will no doubt love the collectibility of the packaging for each of the Season Seven volume releases. Again, to me, the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series hasn’t really stood the test of time when it comes to quality, especially these later episodes. Still, these four volume releases are meant to appeal to the collector and hardcore fan and I’m sure they’ll find plenty to enjoy about this release, but I’m also sure some of the more casual fans will be disappointed that Season Seven is spread over four different releases when it could have easily been released as a single set. Still, Lionsgate Home Entertainment has definitely created an interesting release, if not divisive for the fan-base, that will become a Must-Have for countless fans.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Season Seven: Volumes 1 – 4 each hit DVD on May 12th, 2009.