Thursday, March 28, 2013

TMNT (1987) Season 3 Part 4 review


I officially hit the halfway point with my fourth review of TMNT's third season.

TMNT (1987) Season 3 Part 4 review at Adventures in Poor Taste.

There are some GREAT episodes in this batch ("Return of the Fly", "Casey Jones - Outlaw Hero"), some total crap ("Green with Jealousy", "Mutagen Monster") and in at least one instance, I found the episode I was dreading most to be quite a bit better than I recalled ("Camera Bugged").

Also, more weird, stretchy animation from that one animation studio I don't know the name of but find their style hilarious to look at.

10 comments:

Killer Moth said...

It's always an interesting trade-off with animation: detail vs. fluidity or expression. Didn't Milton Knight, besides drawing the TMNT Adventures specials, said during his days at "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" implied, "be as expressive as possible with the animation, even if it's off-model, as a result"? And re-watching these episodes, I'm starting to agree. While I would prefer on-model animation, if we get unique expressions, it's a trade-off I can live with.

Anyway, good analysis as usual. And I wanted to comment on several things you commented on:

"And speaking of the bubble-walker, I always wondered why Krang toggled back and forth between it and his robot body over the course of the series (he even bounces back and forth between them in this very episode). The only reason I can think of is because Krang had two toys on the shelves at the time; one with his bubble-walker and one with his robot body. Since the Fred Wolf cartoon was first and foremost an advertisement for the Playmates action figure line, the writers were probably under some mandate to show off both Krang action figures whether it made sense in-context or not."

You're absolutely right about the mandate, though, I wouldn't be surprised if the animators wanted to spice things up and draw something different. Although, if you're going by real time from the show, Krang only had the bubble walker toy in '89 and nothing until '91 with his super-sized Robot Body (and Playmates eventually released a more scaled down to the other figures in '94). As you said, it's all about toy-shilling, yet the timing matters, too. I'm actually surprised Playmates didn't release the Robot Body sooner. Why the wait? Or the animators always assumed Playmates would release the robot body as a figure, yet didn't know when. Same with the Neutrinos, I'm sure, as they didn't get their figures until '91-92.

Not much to say on Camera Bugged, except it creates a weird future irony in the sequel: Shredder would later freak about being trapped in the camera, yet didn't display any of that in this episode. But then, a similar thing would happen with Baxter: he disliked A.I. in "Mean Machines," yet his best or true ally was one by the end of his stint in the series. It would have been nice if the writers intentionally foreshadowed some of that, yet not when you're cranking out product day-by-day, which the series had been doing, at the time.

And yes, Green with Jealousy had a lot of problems, yet you brought up a key factor: Krang's scheme was actually successful. Of course, we had to ignore that for the artificial love antics of everyone else.

"And what’s up with Irma’s disgust at finding out the Turtles were her secret admirers? Irma’s gimmick is that she’s as horny as she is Jewish and has spent most of her screentime swooning over the Turtles up until now."

Continuity issues aside, I'll grant you the horny part, yet I'm not quite sure about the Jewish part. Or I thought the writers were a tad more subtle about Irma's Jewish roots, though, really played up other aspects of her character traits (her nerdiness, the boy-crazy ness), instead. Unless there was a meme in the 80's about boy-crazy Jewish female characters that I don't know about. And feel free to correct me, as I better re-watch the series in case I missed something with Irma. Heh.

I have a two-part comment, as Blogger is forcing me to split it up.

Killer Moth said...

And the rest of what I wanted to say:

"Unfortunately, Reaves proves less capable at shilling Playmates toys and we get a really, really bad intro to the Retro Catapult in one completely random, meaningless scene. Basically, Mike walks into Don’s workshop, asks what the new device is, gets catapulted and we never see the Retro Catapult again (at least in this episode). Usually, when you introduce a new weapon or vehicle at the start of the episode that means it’s going to come into play later on. A little thing called foreshadowing. Instead, the scene exists just to scream “NEW TOY” and then get back on track with the plot."

Fun question, but in your opinion, is that the writers really couldn't grasp what to do about the toy vehicles or they intentionally didn't want to deal with them, and created such absurd scenes as a form of protest? (As I recall, the Beast Wars writers had a lot of problems dealing with Transformers' toy-shilling nature and Hasbro's demands for it). As you said in an earlier review, they're fine with toy-based characters, so that can't be the problem, can it? On the other hand, maybe it only involves Reaves and the other writers, as Wise did a good job with the Knucklehead in the first Casey Jones episode. (And I agree, I quite like the series' take on Casey.)

Also:

"I remember feeling a bit disappointed that near the end, Shredder announces that he’s brought Baxter to come work for them, only for Baxter to storm out once Krang makes a fly joke. If the villains in this show needed anything, it would have been a larger cast of underlings as Bebop and Rocksteady really can’t carry all the comic relief villainy on their own. Instead, Baxter becomes a guest villain for the remainder of his appearances."

I always interpreted Baxter's outrage at the end over his being frozen and being abandoned by Shredder rather than hearing Krang's fly joke and then bursting out. However, I can't say you're wrong, either. Regardless of interpretation or motivation, Baxter makes his departure, anyway. And while it would have spiced things up with Baxter re-working for Shredder on a regular basis, it would have been awkward with the "sorry for the botched execution and mutating you in the process" part. Anyway, you're right, as more permanent underlings would have been for the better. I wonder why they didn't, beyond Playmates or the writers really liking Bebop and Rocksteady, I suppose. (Think about how many toy variants there are of the two.)

And nothing to add about Mutagen Monster, as you already did, other than the animation was lovely.

Sorry for my verbose commentary, but I wanted to give you something substantial to read. Or the fact, due to more pressing life concerns, I haven't commented about these reviews as much as I would like. Either way, great job, and can't wait for your take on the next batch.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@ Killer Moth

The poor execution of the toy promos in the show always did confuse me, as many of the writers were regulars of the toy-centric 80s animation scene. Especially Michael Reaves, who had trouble with the toyetic nature of the show in season 2 (the original Knucklehead in "Enter the Fly", for instance).

I may actually end up eating my words about the poor use of the toy intros in "20,000 Leaks" and "Return of the Fly", as I think both toys show up more prominently in "Pizza by the Shred", if I'm recalling right. In that case, on a larger scale, the toys may have actually been foreshadowed for a future episode rather than having any bearing on the episode they were first introduced in.

The highly episodic nature of the show always left me underestimating instances of continuity (again, my surprise that "Green with Jealousy" led into "Return of the Fly"). The end result is that I'm not sure if the toys were shoehorned poorly into existing scripts, as they appear to have been, or if the writers were actually thinking in terms of a bigger picture and planning the toy usage episodes in advance. Considering all the other errors in this show and the rapidfire syndicated pace, I'm not sure if I can give them that sort of credit.

In regards to the surprise continuity, I sort of wonder how an abridged version of season 3 would look; if it would actually watch better than the full, bloated season. Trim it down to just the episodes that introduce important characters/toys and the story elements that interconnect and you might actually end up with an arced season that's almost as tight as season 2 was.

Pterobat said...

Weirdly enough, most of these are either episodes which, as an adult, I couldn't sit through as an adult, or enjoyed a hell of a lot as an adult.

I might reconsider the Polarisoid episode, though.

A part of me wants to tout the superiority of Casey Jones as the developed character he became in later iterations, but FW Casey Jones is just so much fun.

Definitely one of the times where the series hit the mark of bizarre absurdity.

Baxter in "Return of the Fly" is fun because he's currently in the role of a villain, but more focused and independent than he'd later become. The character is just really entertaining, pitiable and wicked and silly all at once.


However, Baxter and Casey are both characters that work better in my mind as guests. It's the old chestnut that it's better to leave the audience wanting more than to run an entertaining minor character into the ground. You savour their short appearances.

It's particularly true in the case of the TMNT cartoon, when, by the end of the series, the main characters have been run into the ground and they just get tiring, so it's hard to wish the same fate on other cast members.

With Baxter, it would also be a little too awkward/horrible to be a regular employee of guys who kicked his ass on a regular basis/tried to kill him.

And if Baxter stuck around, it would also mean he had pretty much the same role as before, making his transformation pointless from anything but the cynical marketing perspective.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Pterobat,

That's definitely a valid point; no need to drive a good thing into the ground with overexposure. One of my observations with Casey was that his appearances felt "like a big deal" whenever he showed up, and if he'd been in too many episodes that definitely might not have been the case. Still, while he didn't need to be in *every* episode, it would have been nice if he'd been in, like, a total of 10 or 11 episodes? That just doesn't seem like too many, especially considering he was only in 5 or 6, tops.

I can also see a problem with having Baxter work for the Shredder again, but it sort of opens up a bit of discontinuity I overlooked. In "Enter the Fly", the whole reason Krang has Baxter executed is because he deems the scientist superfluous, as Krang's genius filled that role. In "Return of the Fly", Krang seems fine with accepting Shredder's proposal of having Baxter work for them... a sudden change of heart, all things considered.

I think the lack of extra mutant henchmen also goes back to the show's weird non-committal attitude toward action figure shilling. How many mutants and henchmen toys were in the Playmates toyline but never showed up in the cartoon? LOTS. And even when they did use a toy character, it was often as one-offs (Wingnut and Screwloose) or even brief cameos (Ace Duck).

It's a bizarre stance to hold, but I almost feel like the show might have benefited from MORE action figure promotion as it would have introduced more recurring characters, be they heroes or villains, to break up the monotony.

Pterobat said...

Oh yeah, monotony was a problem--like I said, the main characters get tiring after a while. I would be on board with more characters in this show if they were good ones.

And yeah, the idea of seeing more Baxter and Casey without their being overdone is pretty fun to imagine, but my head just jumps to how many times other TV shows utterly failed when they have a quirky minor character a bigger role. Not exactly the same thing, but close enough.

Adam Winters said...

I'm glad you came around on Camera Bugged; I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed that episode when I first watched it on DVD.

And I'll also confess that I like Mutagen Monster in spite of how stupid it is and the bad Barry Gordon replacement. It's pretty well animated and the insanity of a giant mutant bull (bulls?) gives me some cheap laughs.

E. Wilson said...

As someone who's TMNT exposure pretty much was just this cartoon, Casey Jones confused the Hell out of me. I mean, I understood him well enough, (Or at least within the context of the cartoon), but I never got why he was in the movie, or showed up prominently in other bits of non-toon merchandise.

Meanwhile, Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang and Baxter never seemed to show up anywhere except the toon. The second movie even went out of its way to give us "Not Rocksteady" and "Not Bebop" as the main enemies. (And the TCRI scientist, who I always assumed was "Not Baxter".) Weird.

Anonymous said...

I thought Green with Jealousy was hilarious. How could anyone not crack up laughing when Rocksteady fell in love with April, or Irma smitten with 3 mystery sailors when both the writers and audience were in on the joke?

Chet said...

@ E. Wilson: Bebop and Rocksteady were created especially for the cartoon, Baxter Stockman appeared in the original Mirage comics, and Krang was based on the Utrom alien design from the Mirage universe.

Subsequently, all turned up in the Archies TMNT title. Stockman appeared more true to his original form in the 2kids TMNT show, as did the Utroms (there was even one in them named Krang).

It seems all villains were considered for use in the second TMNT movie, 'The Secret Of The Ooze'. Apart from Bebop and Rocksteady, both Baxter and Krang are import villians in the current on-going TMNT comic on IDW, as well as in the new Nickelodeon cartoon.

You might've understood Casey's usage in the first movie better, if you had read the original Mirage comic (or read the excellent reviews on this blog). I always found it interesting the guy NEVER appeared in the Archies, as he would've made up a great recurring character. Although the Achies' Turtles were accompanied by a pretty competent April O'Neil. And Ninjara...