Thursday, December 27, 2012

TMNT (Fred Wolf) Season 3, Part 1 Review

Got on another TMNT animated series kick, so I took a look back at the first 6 episodes of season 3 of the Fred Wolf cartoon for Adventures in Poor Taste.

TMNT (Fred Wolf) Season 3, Part 1 Review.

I'd been dreading getting into season 3 for a while, as I remember it being a lot of bad scripts and a lot of bad animation and just a LOT of episodes in general.  To my surprise, at least in regards to this first batch of half dozen episodes, it wasn't so bad.  Of course, we haven't gotten to the worst of the season yet; not by a long shot.

And I'll never understand why the animation for "Turtles on Trial" was so damn good.  But hey, considering how ugly some of the later episodes in this season are going to get, I guess I'll just enjoy it while it lasts.


E. Wilson said...

I think I mentioned last time that "Technodrome in a lava pit" is my default image of the show as well, so this is like coming home. Although something I'd forgotten for some reason is how many of the Shredder's plots revolve around powering the damn thing. I always just viewed it as their evil lair, nothing more. (Because, really, owning a Technodrome is a triumph in and of itself.)

I'll also agree that as an adult, the bad guy's banter is probably the most enjoyable part of the show; similarly, while Mikey was my favorite turtle as a kid, my favorite turtle (in this incarnation, anyway) is generally Raph. His lines are just a lot more entertaining.

And...huh. So far these retrospectives have reminded me that Splinter is totally into getting tied up, April is a furry, and Irma is down with macrophilia. Who knows what other internet fetishes this show will be fostering onto a whole generation of children?

Re: The Old Switcheroo: Amazing Spider-Man #700. That is all.

Adam said...

Glad to see you back in the cartoon review spirit, Mark. There are a number of high points in Season 3; I think the worst episodes are probably closer to the end right before the "Big Blowout" trilogy. And most of the pre-CBS episodes of Season 4 are even more ridiculous than normal and look terrible. So that's something to look forward to!

Anonymous said...

This is long, so I hope you respond:

Season 3 was one of the best seasons of the OT, with only a handful of bad episodes and tons of great or average ones.

You keep criticizing the OT based on what YOU want it to be, some sort of serialized action cartoon with tons of continuity and story arcs. The show was intended to be episodic with only a loose continuity going on through most episodes. Even Batman: TAS was written this way, with the exception of the villain origin episodes, the whole show could be watched out of order and it doesn't make too much difference. The OT didn't need story arcs or tons of continuity, it did fine buy giving us episodic 22 minute adventures with enjoyable characters and some small continuity in each episode.

I notice you comment on "Sky Turtles" for being the start of Shredder/Krang's "doomsday" plots, but you have to remember, this is what most people loved about the OT. Many of the gimmicks in future episodes deal with some wacky sci-fi plot that seems to come out of 50's sci-fi movies and they worked in the context of the show because it was fun. I loved an episode with anti-gravity for example and Sky Turtles was one of my favorites as a kid.

I'm also not sure where you get the idea that the animation ever becomes, "shit." There are obviously episodes with a more cartoonish or "squishy" type of animation. How is that bad animation? Its a different animation style, one that actually works with the sillier episodes of the show.

Lastly, I'm surprised you don't like the Channel 6 news crew, especially now as an adult. They were some of the best written and characterized characters of the series, and provided excellent foils to April and the Turtles. I think Irma and Vernon especially were some of the funniest characters of the OT, while Burne functioned in the typical manner of a news boss like Spiderman's boss in the news biz.

If I were to list three truly bad Season 3 eps, look out for these:

1. Blast from the Past (just the typical clip show episode, thankfully this was the only one

2. Turtle Terminator (Krang makes a robot of Irma, has Raph's alternate voice, this episode was truly terrible. Luckily they salvage this plot by doing the same thing with Splinter in the Season 4 opener, to much better effect

3. The Gangs all Here. This is the infamous episode where Mike gets transformed into a human. You know this episode was going to be terrible just by that alone, but the writers of said episode seemed to think that the Turtles being mutants gave them, "powers" which is obviously ridiculous.

Season 3 is actually the OT at its best, other than Seasons 1, 2, and 8.

I hope you keep more of an open mind because you already know the show basically spent the rest of its run on episodic wacky stories of Krang/Shredder coming up with a new scheme every week. It was a fun, "feel good" series.

Mark Pellegrini said...


I have no problems with episodic storytelling, and as with the example you put forth of Batman the Animated Series, it can be done very well.

My issue is that, more often than not, the Fred Wolf series failed to do the episodic format well. The rush to meet syndication demands amounted to an overall lack of care regarding story editing, leading to contradictions of the show's own consistency as well as internal logic. Episodic storytelling is fine, as is an overall comedic and cartoonish tone, but the show needs to be consistent with itself. In my reviews I pointed out plenty of examples of failure in the storyediting department.

And don't get animation quality confused with visual style. I think it might benefit you to rewatch many of the later season 3 episodes with an eye for model consistency, framerate and coloring logic. Many, many of the episodes are crude-looking by even 80s low budget animation standards, and I'm not referring to the episodes that utilize a more squash and stretch or spastic visual style (such as "Cowabunga Shredhead", which is one of the better-animated episodes).

At 47 episodes, the quality of the animation fluctuates wildly from episode to episode and reaches some pretty severe lows, especially toward the end of the season. The consistency of the show's animation levels out in late seasons, but season 3 is not always a pretty picture.

What you have to understand is that I don't look at the Fred Wolf series through a lens of nostalgia despite how attached to it I was in my childhood. And I give credit where credit is due repeatedly in all my reviews of the series. In this season 3 part 1 review alone, I praised 3 of the 6 episodes I watched and really only demonstrated contempt for 2 of them (and apathy for the last).

If you're looking for bland praise, then you aren't going to find them among my reviews. But nor will you find bitter cynicism. My reviews for season 1 was almost entirely positive, my reviews for season 2 were very generous and so far my season 3 reviews have been stern but fair.

It's fine to be a fan of the show, and I wouldn't be doing these articles if I wasn't one, either. But there's no need to overblow my criticisms and ignore my compliments to try and single me out as some sort of sour detractor for the series.

Hell, in my season 3 part 1 review I even eat my own words and compliment David Wise on one of his funniest episodes, despite the fact that I find his career script recycling repulsive.

My reviews aren't nearly as cynical and malicious as you seem to be interpreting them.

Anonymous said...

I understand you're viewing these episodes through the mindset of an adult, but so are the rest of us, and judging by the various review threads for the old episodes over at the Technodrome, I don't really see many people criticizing the show for not being something else. "The Old Switcharoo" for example is considered one of the best early eps of Season 3, I don't think anyone cares that it uses the cliche, "mind swap" plot. Its just fun for what it is.

And really, back in 1989 were these plots as cliche as they are now? The only other superhero show I remember from the time was the Hanna/Barbera Superfriends show, which was awful in comparison. It wasn't until B:TAS debuted in 1992 that things changed for children's animation, you have to view these episodes in the time period when they were made, not compare them to modern cartoons. TMNT pre-dates all those 90's superhero cartoons that we all loved. (well, besides Seasons 7-10, and obviously there the show was geared more towards action to compete with the other shows at the time)

I am also well aware of all the animation errors in the OT, the Turtles speaking with the wrong bandanas, some weird off-model scenes or coloring errors, and the unfortunate alternate voice actors. Yet even the best animated episodes of the OT had, "bandana/voice mask errors," so I don't think that has anything to do with it. Heck, even short seasons that only had 13 episodes each had animation errors in it, so it had nothing to do with "the bigger the seasons ep count, the more errors," and such.

As for the loose continuity, there IS continuity in the old show, but since all these episodes were written at the same time and by different writers, not all of them were aware of what the others were doing, so Don being surprised to see the Module coming out of the ground when they saw it do that already probably accounts to that.

Isn't this the same thing with Volume 1's, "guest writer" era, where tons of writers were doing their own thing and the series just went in episodic filler format until City at War? Or even most of Tales of the TMNT for that matter?

I just don't understand the criticism for, "go-nowhere" plots, when the entire series, or at least 80% of it, was designed to be episodic with the only continuity being from the Techodrome's placement (Dimension X, underground, in the Arctic, etc), and the recurring villains/good guy characters.

That said I have no problem with your reviews and I'll continue reading them.

Killer Moth said...

You certainly defended yourself well, Mark, and you're completely right as far as I can see. Anonymous, if you can, read Mark's article about Tiny Toons Adventures aging terribly, because of the lack of consistency and how that affected many series in the 80's/90's more than one would think. (Look at Tale Spin. It's a wonderful series, yet so inconsistent.) Ironically, as Mark opened with, Season 3 is the most iconic season of the Fred Wolf series, because it arrived when the children of the 80's were ready to consume it, myself among them.

(After viewing the CBS episodes, recently, I now prefer the syndicated episodes, even the bad ones, as they still had an edge to them, however watered down.)

Take it from someone who could be regarded as a 87 Turtles/Fred Wolf apologist, Mark does appreciate the series in his own way. Moreover, his side criticisms/observations aren't without merit (i.e., "why didn't Shredder have rotating mutant henchmen instead of Bebop and Rocksteady"). And since he already pointed out his praising Wise in his latest review in light of his previous criticisms of Wise, his point of view speaks for itself (and he doesn't need me to defend him, but I don't mind as I highly respect his insight).

Anyway, back to my original point. It's fascinating how one of the more light-hearted seasons in the series had a surprisingly dark start. "Beneath These Streets" actually had a lot crammed in between the plot and the search for the MacGuffin, the Medi-Laser. And yet, despite the fast pacing and mutiple scenes, the episode wasn't rushed.

(Also, wasn't it curious when Bebop and Rocksteady said that they didn't care for the Foot Soldiers, when before or after, they didn't have a strong opinion of the ninja robots, either way? Weird.)

As "Turtles On Trial," it did its job re-establishing Krang as an active antagonist and what a threat he could be by himself. Including his Rock Soldiers, as they took down the ED-209 knockoff's guards promptly. And even though, he lost, he still got his MacGuffin from earlier in the episode. That rarely happens in the series, as the villains' losses are quite complete or if they win, it becomes a meaningless victory (re: "April Foolish").

The episode also has an interesting sub-theme how often the villains can undercut their own potential victories throughout the series. For example, Shredder had the Turtles, after his taking April hostage, until Krang told him to back off. And later, Krang had the Turtles in his sights until Shredder appeared, costing him his victory. I often wonder if this 'canceling out successful evil plots' was to either to pad out the episode or undo any potential threat from the villains. Likely both.

Since it is late for me, I'll comment on the other episodes, tomorrow. I've been insanely busy, lately, so I haven't been around the TMNT fandom as much as I once did, but I read this blog daily or when I can. It's a valuable blog, and I'm glad to see you resume with these episode reviews. Can't wait for you to assess the Rat King's first episode.

Killer Moth said...

(Semi-quick note before bed. I didn't notice Anonymous' reply while I was writing my prior long comment. And it's a good reply, in fairness to Anonymous.)

I did want to say one thing about your citing Teen Titans and the episode, "Switched." According to series writer David Slack, here is what happened about that (scroll down to the Switched heading, and so forth):

“Another interesting tidbit from that episode: We originally toyed with the idea of letting Hynden Walch do Raven’s voice and Tara Strong do Starfire’s voice when they switched bodies. And we tried it out in the recording session. But both those women are so talented that we couldn’t tell the difference. There was only something slightly off. Hynden does a really good Raven, and Tara does a really good Starfire – so we couldn’t really tell the difference. In the end, we just decided to go with the original plan.”

In the end, they ended up doing the "swapped character voice along with swapped personality" trope instead of what the Old Switcheroo did with the impersonations, and why the Old Switcheroo was more enjoyable in that respect. I wanted to clarify on that, if anyone was interested.

As for Anonymous' point of "but since all these episodes were written at the same time and by different writers, not all of them were aware of what the others were doing, so Don being surprised to see the Module coming out of the ground when they saw it do that already probably accounts to that." That would be my assessment, as well.

More to say after some sleep.

Anonymous said...

Season 3 contains many of the best, but also worst, episodes.

I know the show plays on a lot of 1950's and 60's science fiction plots, but as a kid, I hadn't heard of much of that. For years, I used to believe these concepts were original in the 1987 show.