Directed by Randall Lobb
What better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the release of the new Turtle movie then with a look back at the history of the unusual phenomena that is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The film starts with the co-creators of the comic book series, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. While it may seem obvious that they would be in the movie, these two have a tumultuous relationship with the Turtles franchise as of late, and their personal relationship has been distanced as well. It’s good to see them taken part in the film, and recounted the tale of how Eastman first contacted Laird and formed Mirage Studios. It’s one of the best origin stories in all of comicdom.
This early look at the origins of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the explosion of popularity for this strange independent comic, is where the documentary really shines. The home video footage of the Mirage crew gives a very personal feel to the story, and it’s exciting to see these guys as they get their first glimpse of success.
As the focus shifts to the Playmates toy deal, and the release of the first cartoon, the tone of the movie starts to change. You see more of the producers and executives that moved TMNT from cult status to icons of the late 1980’s. As a huge fan of the original toy line, the treat in this section of the film was seeing designs for action figures that never made the shelf. They range from incredibly silly to downright horrifying. Another highlight was a reunion of the voice actors from the first cartoon series, although Rob Paulson’s absence, who voiced Raphel, went oddly unmentioned.
If your a fan of the 1990 film, you’ll love the detail and attention that Turtle Power gives to that movie. The problem is it hurts the pace of the documentary. It’s not extremely technical, and Judith Hoag gives some great stories from the filming of the movie, but if there’s a place to make some cuts, it’s here.
An odd complaint with the film is the interview with Michael Ian Black. If you don’t know his connection with TMNT, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say this: It’s the most unfunny I’ve ever seen him. I’m trying to wrap my head around why he would agree to appear in this and be so straightforward. The best I can come up with is he’s contractually obligated to discuss the Turtles with anyone who demands an interview. During this particular interview they must have held a puppy, or some animal that he likes, at gunpoint just off camera and dared him to make a joke. It’s really bizarre.
The parts that were filmed for the documentary look great, the home movies and other footage look like they weren’t touched a bit, but I don’t think I’d want them to be.
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Clear interviews that can be heard without having to fidget with the volume is what I want from a documentary.
Packaging and Bonus Features
The artwork on the cover is reminiscent of the early TMNT comic book styles and looks like a bootleg that you’d pick up from the shady DVD guy that sells all your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons, even thought you’re sure most of them have never had an official release. I was taken by surprise when I through in the DVD and the Paramount logo came on screen. I would have not taken this for a studio release based on the cover.
Sadly there are no bonus features to report. There’s not even a bonus feature choice on the menu, which I thought was really disappointing. Given how much TMNT merchandise and licensing there has been over the years, I thought there would be some commercials or other bit of turtle nostalgia. Not one damn thing, and it feels like a wasted opportunity.
When it comes down to it, this just doesn’t feel like a definitive history. The bulk of the movie focuses on the first decade of TMNT, with a large portion of the spotlight on the first motion picture. The second and third cartoon series aren’t discussed at all, and the 2007 and 2014 movies are left out as well. I’d like to have seen more about the late 90’s and beyond, not because it’s a particularly interesting time period for TMNT, but because it’s interesting that these characters have managed to remain relevant for the better part of three decades, and that’s a history worth exploring.