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How The Next Mutation Killed 90s TMNT

After the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series ended in 1996 with its tenth season, it seemed like the franchise had little staying power in relevancy thanks to the third live action movie ending the "Turtle Mania" hype of the early 1990s with its bottom of the barrel performance from fans and critics. With the interest of new TMNT media dwindling, where would the turtles go from here? Well, fast forward to a year later and Fox Kids viewers would get something unexpected.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation would be the next (and the last) television series outing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the 1990s was coming to an end. Notice the lack of "Teenage" and "Mutant" in the title. Saban, the same company known for bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers onto the airwaves in 1993 decided to attempt to keep the TMNT flame kindled for fans, but how did it fare, and why was it so poorly received?

What's it about?

To start, the show's premise is quite a departure from what we were used to. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael are revealed to not be related blood brothers at all, and a fifth, female turtle named Venus de Milo is introduced to the series, covered in the same mutagen as the other turtles but raised in China and taken in by a shinobi. While she would become a new ally for the turtles, Casey and April would be noticeably absent for the entirely of the show and replaced with two new allies, Chung I, Venus' foster father and friend of Splinter, and Andre, a blind man.

The show also takes cues from the 1987 cartoon, using constant cartoon sound effects while new enemies for the turtles were introduced. Aside from Shredder and the Foot Clan coming back, a group known as "Rank" are composed of evil dragons led by Dragon Lord who was previously banished in a land called the "Dream Realm", Dr. Quease, a kooky, psychotic scientist, Heavy Duke, a street gang member, and several others.

What's bad about it?

While taking a live action approach, the show's presentation is underwhelming throughout. The animatronics of the turtle costumes are in the same tier of the third live action movie, the use of cartoon sounds are way too constant, and the four turtles sometimes act like dimwits in a way to make Venus de Milo look smart in comparison, having the "boys dumb/girls smart" trope, which understandably irked viewers, and myself included. On top of that, the turtles fighting skill is inconsistent at times. Sometimes they'll fight baddies just fine, while in other episodes they'll stumble around like they skipped training.

Even Splinter, who's normally the voice of reason and a sensei of vast intelligence acts like a complete joke at times. Remember how I said that the Shredder is in the show? He actually doesn't show up until one of the last episodes, and even he was made into a unfaithful villain.

In the episode "Enemy of my Enemy", Splinter finds Oroku Saki (Shredder) as a street beggar, under the loss of his own memory. Splinter, being the dolt he is in this show, decides to jog his memory and remind him that he's evil.while The Rank further helps him in that regard.

The finale episode: A low budget clip show

Due to its low ratings and diminishing interest of viewers, the show was ready for cancellation by only one season and didn't get a proper ending, so how did they send it off? Having a finale where the turtles insult Venus after not using her shinobi magic properly, while they reminisce of past episode stories, then they all make up in the end after they realize how useful they are together.

An attempt and failure of resurgence

A late 90s Power Rangers series called Power Rangers in Space had an unexpected crossover episode called "Shell Shocked" having the turtles and Power Rangers team up to fight the Power Rangers' foes. The concept sounded promising, but it just wasn't enough to bring back TMNT to its former glory to the fans.

Aftermath

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was doomed from the start and the commercials hyping it up before its airing was already a bad sign. The series managed to get its own toyline, VHS tapes and a Tiger electronic handheld game, but it wasn't even enough to keep it afloat. It's regarded as one of the worst pieces of TMNT media, and it marked the end of any Ninja Turtles media of the 1990s. If a network wanted to convince fans of the franchise to come back, they had to make quite a push to rekindle their interest, as they were at the point of growing up.

What are your thoughts on Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation? Leave a comment and as always, see you next article!

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Game Joy Posted on May 01, 2024 at 08:37 PM

The last memories I have about the TMNT from the 90's was the original cartoon and the three movies. I remember the TV reprising the cartoon episodes, not even knew about this Saban spinoff. Thank goodness because the real TMNT are those from the 90's, period.

Thanks to the article full of charisma, little brother, you are a treasure.

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