In 2003, the Ninja Turtles got their second animated series. Produced by 4Kids Entertainment, this series ran on weekend mornings on Fox’s Fox Box block. As someone who was the exact right age for the original TMNT 1987 cartoon when that launched, I figured, sure. Let’s try the new one.
I had read online that TMNT co-creator Peter Laird had his hand in this series, so it would likely be more true to the original Mirage Comics series than the first cartoon had been. My brother — also a lifelong TMNT fan, although not nearly as ravenous as I was — joined me in checking out the first episode.
And after watching that first episode, appropriately titled “Things Change,” we were in. TMNT 2003 became appointment television for us every Sunday morning for the next four years. Shredder was actually threatening! Baxter Stockman was black, like in the original comics! There were Triceratons! Mousers! The Fugitoid! Miyamoto Usagi! We couldn’t get enough.
And then, starting in 2007, the show changed. The in-progress stories were halted, and the turtles were sucked into the future. The show became “TMNT: Fast Forward,” and it lost our interest. We tried for several weeks, but it was clear what had happened: the little kids who watched the show had grown up over the previous four years, and this was a soft reboot to try and attract a new audience of toy-buying kiddos.
And then we found out there was a whole season of episodes that had been pushed aside. Fox had deemed them “too dark” for weekend morning cartoons, and ordered the reset that would become Fast Forward. Bummer!
The following year, the series returned to the present-day in “Back to the Sewers,” but the magic was gone. As a result, I’ve never watched any of that final season. Or all of Fast Forward. Or even the so-called “Lost Episodes.”
Finally, in 2009, Turtles Forever, a straight-to-DVD movies was produced, which saw the 2003 Turtles meet their 1987 counterparts. It was a great way to cap off the series. And later that year, Mirage Studios sold the entire TMNT franchise to Nickelodeon. Turtles Forever was truly the end of an era.
And now, for the first time ever, ALL of that is available in one box set!
The box set releases on July 25, 2023, and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Even though I know those last couple of seasons aren’t the best, I’m super excited to finally own physical media of the entire series, 14 years after is conclusion.