I’ll admit, although I consider my memory to be fairly solid, in general…my childhood seems to be mostly a blur of school and swimming. Perhaps it’s just that I haven’t spent much time as an adult reflecting on my past, instead focusing on the future. Perhaps it’s just that there are parts of my childhood that I’d rather not think about, and avoid thinking about much of it because of that. Who knows.
But there is one thing that sticks out, and that’s cartoons. I absolutely loved cartoons as a kid, probably because the cartoons that came out when I was a kid were all focused on selling me toys, which means that the cartoons I watched as a kid completely enveloped everything fun about my childhood. Ghostbusters meant I needed to find a proton pack (which I never actually owned, but a kid down my street had a couple we would play with often). I had a friend who claimed to have every single He-Man action figure except for two. And I remember dragging a little red container around my house, filled with all my action figures, as though it were a little boat that they used to sail around the different islands of my home (mostly couches and chairs).
But as a kid, there was nothing I ever connected to more than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because they were technically outcasts. Perhaps it was just the sheer absurdity of it all. Perhaps it was the younger version of me recognizing how the series, even the cartoon series, did such an amazing job of satirizing comic book characters and how they were handled in different mediums. I remember once, as a kid, being so excited when a house down the street had a Ninja Turtle sleeping bag they were selling at a yard sale, only to be completely disappointed that I only had 2 dollars instead of the three they wanted for it. I walked back home completely dejected…told my parents in the most sad puppy dog way I could come up with…and was amazed when they countered by telling me I should haggle down the price…which I did…effectively…and became the owner of a sweet TMNT sleeping bag!
Over the years, many of those shows that I watched as a kid have attempted to make a come back. Ghostbusters 3 has been in development hell for ages. He-man actually had a pretty good reboot, but apparently nobody watched it. But Ninja Turtles? They’ve never really stopped.
I still haven’t watched the new movie…and I feel completely pathetic about it, but these awesome creatures created from the ooze have a staying power I couldn’t even pretend to expect from something I’ve created. Ignoring the comic books (because I wasn’t aware of them as a child, mostly) these guys have been in the public awareness since 1987…that’s getting close to thirty years now. For a group of humanoid reptiles that were initially created to poke fun at the rising darkness in comic books of the day.
And they’re not stopping! The new cartoon series alone is a solid example of television right now, and they’ve got a sequel to the new Michael Bay movie that’s in the works (both reportedly intending to include the long awaited returns of Bebop and Rocksteady).
These characters are beloved and never seem to stop having worthwhile stories to tell…although the later seasons of the original series could come into question…as well as the early 2000 reboot of the series…
But what I love most about the Ninja Turtles is that my kids absolutely adore these characters as well. We recently watched the old live action flick and they were unable to tear themselves away during the rather slow moving flick. We’ve just started making out way through the old cartoon and they get pissed when I tell them we’re done watching for the night. And they will chant in unison to get me to put on the latest episode of the new series.
How better to bond with your children than with something that was so dear to yourself as a kid.
I even caught my wife the other night gazing happily over the children as they watched the old cartoon, thinking back to her own time in front of the television waiting to see what kind of pizza Michelangelo would come up with next.
And do you want to know why the series survives so well? Because it was never intended to be taken seriously. Sure, they dealt with some serious issues from time to time, but ultimately, the writers recognize that they were dealing with mutant turtles trained in martial arts fighting against odd creatures from another dimension. And the turtles themselves are defined in such a way that they can be modified slightly to work with any generation, and also allow for each person in any given group to find one to connect with. I remember my nerdy young self being absolutely in love with Donatello, where as my angsty teenage self wanted to don the red mask of Raphael.
These characters survive because they are able to connect with us, even though they are so completely off the wall.
Also…because what’s cooler than pizza loving turtles?
Alright, I’m out.
Have fun out there!