In 2003, a new TMNT series produced by 4Kids Entertainment began airing on the "FoxBox" (later renamed "4Kids TV") programming block. It later moved to "The CW4Kids" block. The series was co-produced by Mirage Studios, and Mirage owned one-third of the rights to the series. Mirage's significant stake in creative control resulted in a cartoon that hews more closely to the original comics, creating a darker and edgier feel than the 1987 cartoon, but still remains lighthearted enough to be considered appropriate for children.This series lasted until 2009, ending with a feature-length television movie titled Turtles Forever, which was produced in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the TMNTs franchise and featured the Turtles of the 2003 series teaming up with their counterparts from the 1987 series. 4Kidstv.com featured all the episodes of the series, until September 2010, when Nickelodeon brought the series and air the series occasionally on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon normally during TMNTs marathons.
The WB Proposal
The series was announced in May 2002, series was produced by 4Kids Entertainment, and Mirage Studios, which co-owned rights to the show, and animated by Dong Woo Animation. The series migrated to The CW4Kids in its final season after 4Kids's contract with Fox ended. After buying the TMNT franchise in mid-October 2009, Nickelodeon now owns the rights to the 2003 series.
Before creating the current 2003 series, Mirage pitched an idea for a different series to Warner Bros. The series would be aired either on The WB or Cartoon Network. The style of the art from the proposal was more comical than the current show's style. Ultimately, Warner Bros. passed on the show, making way for the 2003 show on Fox. However Cartoon Network would also end up airing earlier episodes of the show.
The 2003 series is quite different from the 1987 series. While it's still appropriate for children, like the 1987 series, it has the darker, edgier feel of the original comic books. In fact, of the three animated shows, the 2003 version is the most loyal to the original storylines of the original comic books.
Many of the recurring characters and locations, including Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Dimension X, and the Technodrome, are missing from the series as they were not in the original comics. Shredder is much more menacing than his earlier, bumbling incarnation. The series also has an overarching storyline, with each episode contributing a bit to the story.
In the 2003 series, the Turtles' personalities have been altered to match their comic book counterparts much more closely. All characters are more complex individuals and the Turtles are more fleshed-out, more sensitive, and share a stronger family bond; Leonardo is more skillful and meditative, in addition, his strained relationship with Raphael has become an important plot element. Raphael has become angrier and more emotional - he is less the comic relief (unlike the 1987 show) and is more sarcastic and cynical (however, not without a softer side). He is shown fighting with Leonardo, but also shows that he cares deeply for his family and friends. Casey Jones, who was a minor character in the 1987 series, has been given a bigger role. He is also shown with romantic feelings toward April O'Neil, and the two marry in the show's finale episode. The Turtles' old catch phrase, "cowabunga," is the subject of a few jokes (usually Raphael complaining to Michelangelo about using it).
The Turtles' master, Splinter, is shown to be a mutated rat, (as he was in the Mirage comics) whereas in the 1987 series, he was a mutated human. Baxter Stockman is an African-American like he was in the comics, instead of a Caucasian man like he was in the 1987 series. April works as Baxter's lab assistant and, later, is the owner of an antique shop "2nd Time Around", instead of an anchorwoman. At some point Splinter started training her in Ninjutsu and April was then able to hold her own in a fight. Leatherhead is no longer depicted as an evil, Cajun crocodile. He is more intelligent and peaceful in the 2003 series, though goes into an almost unstoppable rampage when angered.
The tone is also somewhat more serious with an emphasis on action. The show does not feature as much slapstick comedy or heavy puns as its animated predecessor. The show focuses more on action than comedy (however, there is still a great deal of it) and though they are always noted to be teenagers, the 2003 incarnation of the turtles are by far the most mature and adult-like of the animated turtles. As a result, these are the most skilled Turtles when it comes to strategy, skill, and even mystical power, making them the best fighters in the [animated] history of TMNT. As it was still a children's show, injuries were very rarely shown or sustained, and characters were very rarely killed - for example, in the comics, the turtles often killed the Foot ninja, in the show, they were just knocked out, or beaten.
The series covers a large scope of the Turtles' adventures taking them from the sewers, to outer space, alternate universes, to the future, and ultimately home once more. The first three seasons focus on the Turtles' battles against The Shredder and The Foot, while the later seasons branch out to include other antagonists.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
- April O'Neil
- Casey Jones
- Ancient One
- Cody Jones
- Hamato Yoshi
- Ninja Tribunal
- Ninja Tribunal Acolytes
- Justice Force:
- Underground Monsters
- Professor Honeycutt/Fugitoid
- Inuwashi Gunjin
- Augustus O'Neil
- Robyn O'Neil
- Mrs. Jones
- Miyamoto Usagi
- Tomoe Ame
- Super Turtles
- Lord Simultaneous
- Godman Falcon
- Foot Clan:
- Ch'rell/Oroku Saki/The Shredder
- Karai, The Shredder II
- Standard Foot Ninja
- Foot Tech Ninja
- Foot Elite Guard
- Foot Mechs
- Tengu Shredder
- Baxter Stockman
- Cyber Shredder
- Earth Protection Force
- Triceraton Republic
- Prime Leader Zanramon
- Commander Mozar
- Ultimate Ninja
- Harry the Pickpocket
- King of Thieves
- Savanti Romero
- Dr. Dome
- Rat King
- Darius Dun
- Torbin Zixx
- Organic Mousers
- Triceraton Rebels
- Metal Klawz
- Spider Bytez
During the show's run, the format was changed several times. The original run of the first four seasons kept the Turtles in their native New York facing the Utrom Shredder, the Federation/Triceratons, and Bishop. After the fourth season the show received its first major format change in the "Ninja Tribunal" season.
"Ninja Tribunal" season
This season focused on a new threat presented by another version of the Shredder said to be the original legendary villain Oroku Saki from feudal Japan. The Turtles were then asked by the Ninja Tribunal (a group of warriors who seek to combat the ancient, "Tengu" Shredder) to train alongside several human warriors to become strong enough to battle the Shredder. This involved the Turtles gaining new weapons, learning how to channel their chi into powerful projectiles, and finding their inner animal spirit. This season marked the end of the use of the original character designs and format.
Fast Forward season
This season featured a brand new direction as well as a completely redesigned look and feel. The season focused on the Turtles being transported 100 years into the future where they meet and befriend Cody Jones, a teenage descendant of April and Casey's. Cody runs a successful and influential technology company and is its sole heir. The newly formatted show saw a brighter tone than its predecessor, and focused on shorter story lines. Some of the previous shows characters did return, however, including Bishop and Baxter Stockman.
Back To The Sewer season
This season was the last of the show's run. It featured yet another redesign for the entire cast and brought the Turtles back into present day New York. The season did feature some returning characters from the Fast Forward season. The main villain for the Turtles as they battle in a cybernetic reality is a cybernetic version of the Shredder, known as the Cyber Shredder.
Turtles Forever is a 2009 TV movie featuring the Turtles and effectively brings an end to the 2003 series. The movie features the revamped character designs from the Back to the Sewer season but without pupils. The story centers around the Turtles encountering their 1987 animated counterparts who were accidentally transported to the 2003 Turtles' universe. Both sets of Turtles face off against the villains from both series in an attempt to prevent the Utrom Shredder from destroying all of time and space.
|Season||Ep #||First Airdate||Last Airdate|
|Season 1||26||February 8, 2003||November 1, 2003|
|Season 2||26||November 8, 2003||October 2, 2004|
|Season 3||26||October 9, 2004||April 23, 2005|
|Season 4||26||September 10, 2005||April 15, 2006|
|Season 5 (The Lost Episodes)||12||February 9, 2008||May 3, 2008|
|Season 6 (Fast Forward)||26||July 29, 2006||October 27, 2007|
|Season 7 (Back to the Sewer)||13||September 13, 2008||
February 28, 2009
The coloring of various characters is different in the 2003 series. Splinter is now gray rather than brown and his robes are brown instead of burgundy. April now has long, red hair instead of short, brown hair. Each of the Turtles has a unique skin color; in the original series, they all had the same skin color. In the 2003 series, Leonardo is a basic Kelly Green (much like the 1987 original), Raphael is dark green, Michelangelo is dark teal, and Donatello is a yellowish olive-green. This is also different from the toyline, which has kept the same skin tones. The Turtles' weapons now have the handles wrapped in each turtle's bandana color, unlike the 1987 series, in which the weapons were all wrapped in white. The turtles' bands on their elbows, knees, and wrists are now brown, instead of their favorite colors like in the 1987 series. The belts have also been changed; they have a knot instead of a monogrammed belt buckle.Critical reception The culminating story lines and story arcs were unexpected changes. The direction of the storyline, revealing a new origin for the Shredder, was a result of Peter Laird's input. This decision sparked a lot of controversy among fans.
The 2003 series received negative criticism from fans of the 1987 series. Popular criticisms include less likable characters and a less exciting theme song. The video games based on the 2003 series have also received similar criticism. However, fans of the comic books have enjoyed the series because of its similarity to the Mirage comics, the increased character development, more consistent animation, daring plot twists, and consistent story arc.
During the fourth season, the show's theme song was slightly altered. The basic music remained, but the tempo was increased. The lyrics were altered to include a description of each turtle as well as identify the new villain, since the Shredder had been defeated. Also, the line "Watch out for Shredder!" was changed to "We shredded Shredder!" The line was changed back when Karai took up the mantle of the Shredder.
The series was met was critical acclaim and positive reviews from critics and fans througth its first five seasons, and is regarded as the most faithful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series to date. Currently holding a 7.7/10 on IMDb and an 8.8/10 on TV.com. The praise went towards the storytelling, character development, background musics, animation and appeal to all ages.
4Kids was known for its controversial history of censoring anime, but the series was a most popular and critically for trying to follow the dark and gritty tone of the original Mirage comics. However, due to 4Kids having to keep their ratings under PG, the last two seasons of series, Fast Forward and Back to the Sewer, received negative reviews from critics and fans.
Several of the characters introduced in the series would later appear in subsequent publications of the TMNT franchise. Hun was introduced into the Mirage Comics with the issue Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 2 #56 in March 2009, and also appears as a recurring figure in the IDW comic series and in the 2012 animated series, as does Agent Bishop. Angel, Ch'rell, Darius Dun and the Street Phantoms would also be featured in the IDW comics, and the Triceraton Mozar as an antagonist during season 4 of the 2012 series.
Fifth Season and Fast Forward
After the fourth season, the 2003 series shifted to a new story line called "Fast Forward." The Turtles are transported to the year 2105 by an accident caused by Cody Jones, the great grandson of Casey Jones and April O'Neil. The series premiered on July 29, 2006.
Originally, the fifth season was supposed to air and it was going to continue the Ninja Tribunal story arc and thirteen episodes were completed. They were shelved in favor of Fast Forward, but were made available through 4Kids' on demand channel on August 9, 2006.
Following the October 2009 buyout of the franchise by Viacom/Nickelodeon, it was announced that 4Kids had the rights to broadcast the series up until August 31, 2010. Following this date, Nickelodeon is given full broadcast rights. The show is currently airing on Nicktoons.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward
- TMNT: Back to the Sewer
- List of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episodes
- List of Ninja Tribunal episodes