Written By: Traves Bezenar
Documentaries have long been one of my guilty pleasures. I’ve been hooked since the first time I watch ‘Supersize Me’ in junior high school and have tried to watch as many as I could since then. It doesn’t matter if the subject is political, religious, musical, scientific, or medical, the odds are I’ll watch it. However, my absolute my favorite genre of documentaries are pop culture related. I love learning about the stories behind the stories, the source material, the actors, directors, struggles, triumphs, and what it takes to turn a simple movie into a cultural phenomenon. Which bring us to our topic of this review, 2014’s ‘Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’, which is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.
If you listen to our weekly podcast or read the reviews and articles we post, than you probably already know how much I love the Ninja Turtles. Growing up I was as big a fan of TMNT as anyone my age could ever be. I had hundreds of toys, costumes, VSH tapes, and watched the cartoon every second that I could. After reading that it might be surprising to learn that it wasn’t until much later that I learned the roots of my childhood heroes. I didn’t know it was originally a much darker story, a comic book, or that Shredder was only a minor villain. In fact I’m still learning new things about TMNT all the time and I owe a lot of that to ‘Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’.
The documentary runs a total of 93 minutes and starts where any film of its type should, the begining. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, the creators of TMNT, open the movie talking about their early years as a team, how they met, and how the idea of the turtles was born. The duo goes into great detail describing the process of creating the comic, self financing the first few issues, and how the surprise success changes their lives. We also get a peek at some of the earliest concept art for the characters, covers, and issues, that as a fan really helped me enjoy the film.
After the initial story of TMNT is told the film delves into how the 90’s cartoon came to be and how it was driven by toy manufacturers to sell their wares. During the segment you get to hear from dozens of people involved in the development and production of the cartoon, voice actors, toy designers, animators and so much more. I can virtually guarantee that even the most hardcore TMNT fan will learn something new from watching this portion of the movie. Plus we once again get a look behind the scenes at some of the characters that never made it to tv or the toyline, another huge treat for me as a fan.
The last major focus of ‘Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is on the original trilogy of live action TMNT movies from the 90’s. This portion of the movie, like the others, is full of insightful dialogue from the people that worked on the project, rare footage of production, and candid discussion on how much of a hassle it all was to get done. The documentary doesn't pull any punches when it talks about issues like struggling to find financing for the movies, Jim Henson’s apprehension to work on the project, and how cumbersome and uncooperative the animatronics were. If nothing else this portion of ‘Turtle Power’ will show naysayers just how difficult it can be to work on a movie
Like I said in my opening remarks, ‘Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s informative, funny, endearing, and charming. It pulls no punches and leaves no stone unturned. ‘Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is just what its name suggests, a definitive history of TMNT that is a much watch for fans of the franchise, lovers of comics, and anyone that watches movies in general.
Written By: Traves Bezenar