Friday, August 15, 2014

Ninja Turtle History

I've always considered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be a very American property. Not just American -- but definitively American -- as it details that central American dream, that if you create something that is great, or people want, and you work hard enough -- you can find success through that creation. Add to that, the idea that this property began as a satyrical parody, of Daredevil, Ninjas, and Mutants -- but from that, it quickly became a theme and story unto itself. It became a modern day mythology -- and through care and attention it has retained its popularity through not one, not two, but now 3 generations of kids and adults -- with an appeal that can shift gears between a wide variety of fans and tastes.

With the new Ninja Turtles film in theaters, it seems like a perfect time for the release of two INCREDIBLE Documentary experiences! One, a Hardcover Volumes called "TMNT The Ultimate Visual History", and the other a long awaited DVD Documentary "Turtle Power The Definitive History of TMNT". Both are incredible products, that I highly urge anyone interested in the history of this franchise, to pick up. (Both are well priced; $13 at Target for the DVD, and around $30 on Amazon for the book; it costs $50 in stores.)

Turtle Power The Definitive History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This documentary takes us on a tour all the way to beginning of the TMNT history, beginning with that original sketch Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman drew, simply trying to amuse themselves. Through a slew of interviews and home video, we are shown a near step-by-step process of how the original comic came to be, how it began to be a financial successes -- and most importantly, how it became an international phenomenon.

I hesitate to say this, but I came away from the documentary with the feeling that, in some way, God wanted this franchise to happen. There where simply so many aspects, and details, that could have easily derailed the entire process of the series becoming popular. From how Kevin Eastman meet Peter Laird, to the action figure line, to the TV show -- and even after all of that, things like the original TMNT movie, aiming for a more mature version of the Turtles, having the right director, funding, technology, ect, ect -- all of which succeeded in taking the franchise beyond anything their creators could have hoped for or envisioned.

The documentary happily gathered up all the original voice actors of the original cartoon series. Even James Avery (who played Shredder, and Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air") was able to be filmed here, before his death last year. Getting to see the people behind those voices is quite a treat, and one of the highlights of the film.

For anyone who lamented a lack of special features on the original TMNT movie DVD release -- take heart, here we are treated to a plethora of behind the scenes information. The Jim Henson puppetry, which was breaking new ground with these animatronic suits, managed to bring the Turtles to life in a way never before thought possible. These suits enabled the film to show emotive, responsive faces of the Turtles, while also being versatile enough to do action sequences involving martial arts. We found out how the production managed to be able to funded, and other aspects to the film.

What disappointed me, and what became a real failing of the film nearing the end, is the LACK of attention of the later movies -- the sequel, third film -- and not even a mention of the 4th CGI film. I was particularly taken aback that the TMNT cartoon show from 2000 was never mentioned, much less the current one - which easily could have extended the documentary happily for another half hour. Instead we are treated to a sappy song, detailing the estrangement between Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, with their eventual reunion for an Anniversary of the franchise. No info about the 2000 series, the current 2012 series -- or even the slump TMNT experienced in the late 90s, with Image Comics. Peter Laird's 4th Volume of TMNT black and white comic was briefly expounded upon.

Don't get me wrong - this is still a worthwhile, and MUST HAVE documentary for TMNT fans. I'm just saying, the ending really, really, was bad. I know everything can't be included in a single documentary -- but the ending of this film could have been SOOOO much better, if only the recent, and current TMNT history was taken into account and celebrated, like the rest of the history was.

TMNT The Ultimate Visual History

I haven't been able to read through all of this yet, but for now I merely wish to give you my impression of this book, which I received in the mail, and am astonished by the amount of content included in this book! For everything that was lacking in the ending the Turtle Power Documentary -- this book seems to step in and give you EVERYTHING about the Turtles history!

This 192 volume encompasses all of TMNT history, from the beginning, all the way to the current cartoon and newly released movie. While this might be dubbed a Visual History -- it's not a tomb light on text. I expect to be reading through it for quite a while. I've heard that it's been well and thoroughly researched, and it shows, mere by inclusion of the inserts.

These inserts, which litter the book, include reproduced documents from all areas of Turtle history. I didn't want the inserts to interrupt my reading -- so I peeled mine out (be care doing it, though!!!) There is thankfully a pouch, at the back of the book, where all these many, many, MANY scraps of paper can be included. The pouch at the back also includes a fold out poster (of the cover of the book), along with a reproduction of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first issue!!! The paper quality and durability of the inserts and poster are above reproach, too.

My only complaint, though, is that the included comic is smaller than the average comic. I'm unsure -- wasn't the original issue #1 a little larger than the average comic? Unless I'm mistaken about that, I really think the issue could have been produced (and fit along with this book) at standard comic size.

That is a small gripe, though. This is really a splendid volume, encompassing all the history of TMNT. I love that all the movies are paid attention too. Even the bad history, like the third TMNT movie (Can someone tell me why that movie is hated so much?), the Image Comics run, or the Next Mutation TV series are all detailed here.

There are so many interesting things, just from flipping through the book initially. Here (above) you can see drawings of what April O'Neil could have looked like, in the current TMNT series. I also noted a picture, about the current TMNT movie, showing the character Eric Sacks wearing a gauntlet of the Shredder (fueling, again, speculation that he originally was going to be the Shredder, in the movie).

This is simply an astounding value, (especially if you order it online, saving $20) -- and, along with the DVD film, should be considered a Must Have for collectors and fans.

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