Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an animated television series mainly set in New York City. The series is the first reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The first episode aired on February 8, 2003 and ended on November 21, 2009, and it marked FOX reviving the franchise as a Saturday morning series. They were assisted by 4Kids Entertainment. It was part of 4Kids TV (formerly known as the FOX Box) and also aired on series Network. The 2003 series was produced by 4Kids Entertainment and Mirage Studios, which owned a third of the rights to the show, and animated by Dong Woo Animation. The series migrated to The CW4Kids in its final season after 4Kids' contract with FOX ended. Viacom (parent company of Nickelodeon) now owns the rights of this series and any future Turtles series, barring the future sale of the property.
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. Like Batman: The Animated Series, the series is far more adult oriented than any TMNT series, while still being considered kid-friendly appropriate for younger audiences.
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 of 2010, when Nickelodeon brought the series and air the series occasionally on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon normally during TMNTs marathons.
Like its predecessor series, the show proved to be popular with both audiences and critics, with millions of viewers on the 4Kids website. Unlike the 1987 series, this series is considered as the most faithful adaptation of the comic's Mirage roots. It is widely considered by fans as the most iconic modern representation of the TMNT characters and mythology, and also as among the most faithful animated series based on a comic book. This show is well known and held in high regard by the fans as arguably the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated show produced to date.
The WB Proposal
The series was announced in May 2002, the 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.
In the 2003 TV series the first five seasons, the four Turtles' personalities are in some ways different from the 1987 TV series in an attempt to follow the Mirage comics versions of the characters more closely. All the characters are more complex individuals and the Turtles also have a stronger family bond. The tone is also focusing on more serious, drama, darker and action.
Unlike the 1987 TV series, the 2003 series more closely matches the tone of the original comics, with a greater emphasis on action and themes of familial bonds. As a result, the 2003 series is more adult-oriented, while still being considered appropriate for younger audiences. The series adapts a large scope of story arcs from the comics, with the Turtles' adventures combining elements of both fantasy and science fiction. They also fight the Foot Clan led by Shredder as well as the Purple Dragons led by Hun and the mad scientist Baxter Stockman. Later seasons have the Turtles contending with Agent John Bishop of the Earth Protection Force. By the end of the third season, the Shredder is revealed to be an Utrom criminal named Ch'rell. Upon his defeat at the hands of the Turtles, Ch'rell is exiled to the ice asteroid Mor Gal Tal.
The show does not feature nearly as much slapstick comedy or heavy puns as its animated predecessor. The 2003 series also features stories with magical powers, usually absent from the earlier animated incarnation. Michelangelo is now the wise guy of the group. He is funny, cocky, lazy, and likes to pull pranks on his brothers. Raphael is a bit more grumpy (sometimes explosive). However, he's more tough talking, no nonsense at times, and has a soft spot when he interacts with kids. Leonardo is still the no nonsense leader. When he fails, he's very hard on himself. He could sometimes revert to drastic measures to accomplish something and his temper can rival or exceed even Raphael's. Donatello is still very intelligent but he is quieter than before. His inventions have better technology than ever before.
The series covers a large scope of the Turtles' adventures taking them from the sewers, to the streets of New York City and April O'Neil's apartment, to the woodlands of rural New England, to outer space, alternate realities, to Japan, to the past and to the future, through cyberspace and ultimately back home once more. The first several seasons focus on the Turtles' battles against the Shredder and the Foot as well as the Purple Dragons, while the later seasons branch out to include other antagonists. Thus, making the stories more character-based than the series that came before it.
Much of the fourth season focused on Leonardo, who became more bitter, reserved and isolated following the final episode of the previous season in which he, his brothers and their master were almost killed.
During the fourth season, Karai continues to lead the Foot Clan as a female Shredder, Hun turns the Purple Dragons into a crime syndicate, and Baxter Stockman works for Agent John Bishop's group. Towards the end of the fourth season, the series undergoes a format change as the Turtles would be recruited by the Ninja Tribunal to use new mystic abilities to combat another version of the Shredder where this one is labeled as the original Shredder before Ch'rell assumed his identity. Season five would be the last to use the original character designs and animation style with its plot concluding the series' main storyline.
In the fifth season The Turtles get mystic powers from the Ninja Tribunal from Japan, and face the Demon Shredder. It was originally intended to be the final season of the series, as its arc concluded the main series storyline; however, before it could even air, 4Kids tried to renew interest in the series with Fast Forward becoming the fifth season to air on commercial TV, while Mirage and its partners decided to finish production on the Season 5 episodes and release them directly to DVD.
The sixth season, subtitled "Fast Forward", would retool the series with a new art style and comedic tone. The season's plot focused on the Turtles being transported about 100 years into the future to the year 2105; where they meet and befriend Cody Jones, the great grandson of April and Casey. They must also contend with futurist enemies like Sh'Okanabo and his minion Viral as well as dealing with the activities of Cody's uncle Darius Dun.
Fast Forward's main story would conclude in the seventh and final season, subtitled "Back to the Sewer", while sporting another redesign for the entire cast inspired by the designs from the 2007 TMNT film. After returning to the present day, the Turtles must battle a cybernetic version of the Shredder which was the result of Viral merging with the data of the Utrom Shredder. There is also a running subplot centered on the wedding of April and Casey.
The Sixth and Seventh seasons of the series are lighter in tone and less violent than previous ones, with a new art style and a greater emphasis on comedy. The 2009 TV movie Turtles Forever serves as the finale to the 2003 series and centers around the Turtles encountering their 1987 animated counterparts, who have been transported to the 2003 Turtles' reality. To make matters worse, the 80's Shredder and Krang as well as their minions Bebop and Rocksteady free Ch'rell from his imprisonment as Hun and Karai realign themselves with Ch'rell.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
- April O'Neil
- Casey Jones
- Ancient One
- Cody Jones
- Hamato Yoshi
- Starlee Hambrath
- Ninja Tribunal
- Ninja Tribunal Acolytes
- Justice Force:
- Underground Monsters
- Professor Honeycutt/Fugitoid
- Inuwashi Gunjin
- Augustus O'Neil
- Robyn O'Neil
- Mrs. Jones
- Miyamoto Usagi
- Murakami Gennosuke
- 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
- Doctor Malignus
- Abigail Finn
- Mr. Marlin
- Underground Monsters
- Giant Wasps
- Triceraton Republic
- The Ultimate Ninja
- Harry the Pickpocket
- King of Thieves
- Savanti Romero
- Doctor Dome
- Rat King
- Darius Dunn
- Triple Threat
- Street Phantoms
- Torbin Zixx
- Organic Mousers
- Metal Klawz
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 show 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 series first five seasons draws heavily from the the original comics. 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.
At first, the 2003 series received negative criticism from fans of the 1987 series. Popular criticisms include less likable characters and a less exciting theme song. However, as it became in later years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles received widespread acclaim from critics, audiences and fans alike. Many consider this to be the greatest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show ever made. The praise went towards the faithfulness to the source material, the storytelling, character development, action, darker tone, consistent animation, daring plot twists, humor, the theme song, background music, voice acting, animation and appeal to all ages. It currently sits at a 8/10 on IMDb and an 8.8/10 on TV.com. It is considered to be one of the greatest Animated TV shows of all time. It also garnered high ratings for a 4Kids Saturday morning cartoon, being the most viewed show along with Sonic X and shortly after the premiere became the highest-rated and most popular children's television show in the US back in 2003. "Unleash the Fanboy" praised the series for its connection to the comic books in story and tone, and it helps that co-creator Peter Laird was closely involved with the series, making sure things stayed on the right path. It is also creator Peter Laird's favorite adaptation. Seasons 6-7 were more mixed by fans with criticism directly towards the sillier tone, change in animation and less darker storytelling. This blame is on 4Kids due to executive meddling and milking the show due to it's popularity.
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.
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 No. 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.
Although spurned by a segment of fans of the 80s cartoon who found it to be too different (which itself is rather ironic, given the 1987 series was a vast difference from the original source material), the series was generally well received (something of an aberration among 4Kids works), particularly for its long-term story arcs, clever use of the mythology and strong characterization.
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 was given full broadcast rights. The show then aired on Nicktoons until 2018.
The show currently airs on Totally Turtles, alongside the 2012 series. On October 30th, 2020, all 7 seasons of the series are available on CBS All Access.
The first three seasons are available for purchase from Nickelodeon on YouTube. It was also the longest running TMNT show.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward
- TMNT: Back to the Sewer
- List of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episodes
- List of Ninja Tribunal episodes
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 TV series)/Concept art