In a nifty bit of synergy with the recent release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the documentary “Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” arrives today on DVD.
“Definitive” doesn’t begin to describe the minutiae detailed in this documentary. The film is the passion project of Randall Lobb, who has been working on “Turtle Power” since 2008. The doc traces the history of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from successful independent comic to cartoons, toys, films and beyond.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the brainchild of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird (the co-creators of TMNT, according to annoying chyrons which pop up seemingly every time they appear on camera), whose shared love of the work of Jack Kirby and Frank Miller led to a profitable partnership. Eastman and Laird detail (so much detail; more on that later) how they came up with the idea of the Turtles, and how within 3 years, the comic book had become a series of action figures, as well as an animated show. The rise of Mirage Studios Mirage Studios features home video footage from the studio's early days, such as the crew partying after receiving word that their property was being turned into an animated show.
Lobb interviews seemingly everyone remotely associated with the Turtles, from Eastman and Laird to the late actor James Avery, the co-star of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” who just happened to also be the voice of Shredder. Also interviewed is Kevin Clash, the former voice of Elmo who worked on the TMNT movie. Lobb also interviews Mark Freedman of Surge Licensing, whose overly polished demeanor on camera confirms his decades of marketing experience.
The most humorous segment belongs to Robert Ben Garant and Michael Ian Black, who dropped out of school to join the live TMNT road tour. Garant and Black would go on to be cast members in the MTV cult sketch comedy series “The State.” It provides a brief spark of life to a documentary that is, for the most part, a dry chronological retelling of the Turtles’ rise as a franchise. The film is certainly thorough (If you love watching grainy VHS footage from the 80’s of guys looking at action figures, this is the documentary for you), but it’s rarely riveting.
Since the documentary is shot on video and features a lot of archival footage, don’t expect the best audio/visual quality. However, if you’re a die-hard fan of the Teenage Mutant Turtles, and are eager to know more about the business deals that led to its profitability, this will be right up your alley.
View photos from the recent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie premiere in the slideshow above.