Rise of the TMNT: Character Reveal


TMNT & Nickelodeon held a Facebook Live event showcasing character art for the upcoming series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In addition to the 4 Turtles, we were given peeks at April O’Neil and Splinter. I’ve spewed a few of my thoughts from the big reveal – including first impressions, individual character reactions, and a final conclusion.

*Note these are my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Nickelodeon or TMNT

Back To The Basics
2D animation – where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles legacy was truly born. Although the 2012 series was ultimately a crowd pleaser, the 3D CGI designed turned off some old school fans. Rise of the TMNT goes back to the franchise’s cartoon roots with 2D animation, fueling excitement for fans of the original 1987 series and the 2003 show.

Pizza. Cowabunga. Repeat.
The new TMNT series is shifting a few key components, but the heart of what makes the Turtles special isn’t changing. The team behind Rise of the TMNT promises plenty of action and a solid dose of laughs. Mutant mainstays like eating pizza and the iconic phrase “cowabunga” aren’t going anyway either. And that’s good! No pizza and I riot.

Of all the reveals, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and April are my favorites. The 2 Turtles tiptoe that fine line of classic visuals with a fresh spin – not straying too far from the tried and true formula. Leonardo is equipped with an insanely large sword and it seems like he’s going to wreak havoc.

The party dude is the closest to previous versions of TMNT. Nothing for purists to complain about here. Michelangelo looks like Michelangelo. The executive producers mentioned this version of Mikey is an artist, often covering his shell with stickers and art. That could be cool…or just a good gimmick to sell toys.

The only major difference is his weapon. What the heck is that thing? Is he still a fellow ‘chucker?

Raphael & Donatello
I’m bundling these two dudes together because their visuals gave me the same reaction - they remind me of the 2014 & 2016 TMNT movies. The shape of their masks, Raphael’s size, and the stacked gear on Donatello’s shell give me war flashbacks of those recent flicks – a connection I do not want to feel. Let’s hope when these dudes are animated and voiced by professional actors that initial reaction dissipates. Reminder: Michael Bay is not involved in this series! Plenty of reason to remain calm and cowabunga on.

I’m still unsure about the rat master. Is his new design a wild, fun departure from previous versions? Or is it just too much? I’ve stared at this thing for ages and can’t decide. I kinda wanna hug him though...

April O’Neil
Okay, April is very different. I was expecting to be surprised, but I wasn’t expecting to LOVE the surprise. There’s something about that combo of the jacket, glasses, yellow boots, and the flaming ooze-colored baseball bat(!!!) that I absolutely adore. She’s not a sidekick. She’s not the 5th Turtle. She’s a new era of April O’Neil. There’s no yellow jumpsuit, but this is the first April since 1987 that has the potential to be visually iconic. It’s going to be nuts and I cannot wait.

Cautiously Optimistic
Rise of the TMNT: Let’s remember the key word in the title of this show – Rise. It signals the beginning. No one on the show’s team confirmed it, but I’m willing to bet the series will start with a few big changes to franchise and slowly transition to the TMNT staples we’ve loved throughout the years. No – I’m not a huge fan of Raphael’s new weapons or Leonardo taking back seat on the leader role, but this is a TV series with (hopefully) lots of episodes. Even a show geared towards kids has to have some kind of character growth. I’m cool with a slow burn. Light the fire and let’s watch those embers.

One big change in Rise of the TMNT is shifting the structure of this Turtle team. Raphael is now the leader of the group, and also significantly bigger in size compared to the other guys. The brute brother has always been my favorite of the bunch. Any changes to the red bandana dude I watch with a close eye. But as my favorite Turtle, I hope these changes set the stage for strong character development. I can’t imagine the team behind Rise of the TMNT changed things just for the heck of it. As the show develops and we actually get to watch the series, I’m hoping this new direction yields storytelling. I’m don't want to be a lame old millennial grasping at nostalgic pizza crumbs.

The words “mystic powers” have also got thrown into the mix of the press release. The Rise of the TMNT creative team was sparse on details, only scratching the service. But, what does this mean for the show? I like my Ninja Turtles to be, ya know, ninjas. Maybe this could be really cool? An awesome element to lure in a new generation of TMNT fans? I’m hesitant, but I’m also a lame old millennial grasping at nostalgic pizza crumbs.

The Verdict
You can love the original comics all you want, but you’ve gotta face the facts. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles owes its popularity and decades-long existence to kids. A goofy 80s cartoon and an endless onslaught of toys are what launched this property from indie comic to pop culture phenomenon. Kids shaped the TMNT legacy, so I’m happy a new generation has the opportunity to grow up with their own version of the Turtles – just like I had in the 80s and 90s. And if you’re in an uproar that these dudes look different, practice patience and take a breather. The Turtles have been continuously evolving since their debut in 1984. This might be one of the bigger departures, but this fresh take on our classic characters is something I welcome with open arms. They’re mutants, let them mutate.

What do you think?


  1. I think the biggest issue I have Is with their height.Much like Wolverine, being short while still being able to dish out a can of you know what on opponents twice their size was kind of what appealed to me the most about these guys in the first place.Don't get me started on Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine.So,although I see lots of elongated legs here ,I hope they're still vertically challenged In the cartoon and In any movie reboots.

  2. Replies
    1. Ha! Am I? I was trying to be rationale, but maybe I'm being TOO rationale? I ate pizza before writing this...

  3. Glad you are cautiously optimistic. I reserving final judgement on these designs til I see more beyond these single stock images, and preferably some animated footage.

    This new show certainly has a lot going for it and I wouldn't rule staples (e.g the original signature weapons) cropping up in the later going. Great article as always!

    1. Thank you! And I think reserving a final judgement seems like the best bet. Let's hope for pure Turtle Power when it airs.

  4. Splinter looks like a constipated Archie Bunker.

  5. I've got to see the finished product before I really get into the reasons why I don't like these new designs.

    1. That's totally fair. Agreed too. Not feeling that Splinter, but who knows, could end up loving him. Or vice-versa with April.


Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.

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