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Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/12/2014

All Ratings out of



Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/12/2014

As the old saying goes, everything old is new again. In trend obsessed America, it's not unusual for something which was popular in the past to be "discovered" by a new generation. We see this regularly in movies, television and music. With the release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, we are reminded of the popularity of these green heroes. (Although, those in the know are aware of the fact that they never really went away, as they've continued to have a presence on TV and in comics.) For some, this may make them wonder how this odd franchise was created. That question is answered in the documentary Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Turtle Power begins in the early 80s in Dover, New Hampshire where Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, two young artists, met and began to collaborate on ideas. Following a competition to see who could draw the best turtle holding ninja weapons and kicking out ideas which spoofed trends in comics at the time, the pair created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They then borrowed some money in order to print 1500 copies of the first issue of the comic. From there, things just began to snowball. Following several more issues, offers for licensing began to appear, which lead to the animated show and the toy line. As the popularity and reach of the Turtles continued to grow, their appearance on the big screen was inevitable. From there, the piece examines how the popularity of the quartet has continued over the years.

Writer/Director Randall Lobb has put together an interesting documentary with Turtle Power. He has assembled a very impressive list of participants for the movie. First and foremost, Eastman and Laird each give extensive interviews, outlining every step of the Turtles' history. There is also a wealth of photos and some home movies from those early days, showing the two at work in their small studio. We also hear from the writers and artists who eventually joined Mirage Studios, which Eastman and Laird deemed their company, to help work on the comic books. Next, Mark Freedman of Surge Licensing, John Handy of Playmates Toys, and animator Fred Wolf appear to discuss how the toys and cartoons came to be and how they launched the Turtles' popularity into the stratosphere. The voice actors who lent their skills to the various characters on the show are interviewed. Thomas Gray, who developed and produced the first feature film gives an account how that came to be and we hear from nearly everyone involved in the movie, including actress Judith Hoag, Director Steve Barron, and Brian Henson, whose father, Jim Henson, contributed to the construction of the Turtle suits.

Through these interviews, which are accented by stills from the comics, photos of concept art for the toys, and on-set footage from the first footage film, Lobb is able to paint a fairly definitive picture of how something as odd and relatively obscure as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles grew into a worldwide phenomenon. While this certainly isn't an expose (we are told that Eastman and Laird eventually grew apart, but the hows and whys of this are not discussed), there is a lot of in-depth information here. For example, we learn that those watchdog parent groups are right -- The TV show was simply meant to be a commercial for the toys and once the initial show had aired and sparked sales of the action figures, there were no plans at first to have it go any further. The struggles to get the first movie made are discussed, which comes across as even more interesting now that we know what a box-office hit that film was. The documentary even brings up and has footage from the Turtles' live-action music show and we hear from two well-known names who were involved in that.

I only have two complaints about Turtle Power. I realize that this one is very nitpicky, but at no point does Lobb stop and explain who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are and what they do. Yes, I realize that 99.9% of the people who take the time to watch this are going to be fans and that an introduction isn't really necessary, but it still feels weird how the movie glosses over this and runs right into the story of what happened after the initial idea was born. Secondly, the film's conclusion feels very rushed. Lobb spends nearly 85-minutes exploring the creation of the comics, the show, the toys, and the movie, and then the 24-years since the first film are rapidly condensed in just a matter of moments. Again, given the time of this doc's release, I assumed that it would mention the new Michael Bay produced film, but it does not. That aside, Turtle Power is loaded with information, and I got the answer to my one big question -- Given the indy nature of the Turtle's origins, how do Eastman and Laird feel about the success of the franchise. You'll have to tune in to get the answer for yourself.

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles introduces us to some ridiculous characters who were rejected on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The documentary is comprised of both new and archived footage. As one would imagine, the older footage, some of which looks like 8mm home movies, has some issues, but those are excused. The new interviews are sharp and clear, showing good colors, no grain, and no defects from the source materials. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue. Save for some surround effects during transitional moments, the audio is confined to the front and center channels.

The Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVD contains no extra features.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long