Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an animated television series mainly set in New York City. 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 cartoon. They were helped by 4Kids Entertainment. It was part of 4Kids TV (formerly known as the Fox Box) & was also aired on Cartoon Network. The 2003 animated series was produced by 4Kids Entertainment and Mirage Studios, which owns a third of the rights to the show, and animated byDong Woo Animation. The series migrated to The CW4Kids in its final season after 4Kids’s contract with Fox ended. Nickelodeon now owns the rights of this series & any future Turtles series.
The WB Proposal
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 cartoony 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.
The 2003 series is quite different from the 1987 series. While it’s still appropriate for children, like the 1987 series, it has the darker, edgier feel of the original comic books. In fact, of the three animated shows, the 2003 version is the most loyal to the original storylines of the original comic books.
Many of the recurring characters and locations, includingKrang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Dimension X, and theTechnodrome, are missing from the series because they weren’t in the original comics. Shredder is much more menacing than his earlier, bumbling incarnation. The series also has an overarching storyline, with each episode contributing a bit to the story.
In the 2003 series, the Turtles‘ personalities have been altered to match their comic book counterparts much more closely. All characters are more complex individuals and the Turtles are more fleshed-out, more sensitive, and share a stronger family bond; Leonardo is more skillful and meditative, in addition, his strained relationship with Raphael has become an important plot element. Raphael has become angrier and more emotional – he is less the comic relief (unlike the 1987 show) and is more sarcastic and cynical (however, not without a softer side). He is shown fighting with Leonardo, but also shows that he cares deeply for his family and friends. Casey Jones, who was a minor character in the 1987 series, has been given a bigger role. He is also shown with romantic feelings toward April O’Neil, and the two marry in the show’s finale episode. The Turtles’ old catch phrase, ”cowabunga,” is the subject of a few jokes (usually Raphael complaining to Michelangelo about using it).
The Turtles’ master, Splinter, is shown to be a mutated rat, (as he was in the Mirage comics) whereas in the 1987 series, he was a mutated human. Baxter Stockman is an African-American like he was in the comics, instead of a Caucasian like he was in the 1987 cartoon. April works as Baxter’s lab assistant and, later, is the owner of an antique shop ”2nd Time Around”, instead of an anchorwoman. At some point Splinter started training her in Ninjutsu and April was then able to hold her own in a fight. Leatherhead is no longer depicted as an evil, Cajun crocodile. He is more intelligent and peaceful in the 2003 series, though goes into an almost unstoppable rampage when angered.
The tone is also somewhat more serious with an emphasis on action. The show does not feature as much slapstick comedy or heavy puns as its animated predecessor. The show focuses more on action than comedy (however, there is still a great deal of it) and though they are always noted to be teenagers, the 2003 incarnation of the turtles are by far the most mature and adult-like of the animated turtles. As a result, these are the most skilled Turtles when it comes to strategy, skill, and even mystical power, making them the best fighters in the [animated] history of TMNT. As it was still a childrens’ show, injuries were very rarely shown or sustained, and characters were very rarely killed – for example, in the comics, the turtles often killed the Foot ninja, in the show, they were just knocked out, or beaten.
The series covers a large scope of the Turtles’ adventures taking them from the sewers, to outer space, alternate dimensions, to the future, and ultimately home once more. The first three seasons focus on the Turtles’ battles against The Shredder and The Foot, while the later seasons branch out to include other antagonists.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
- April O’Neil
- Casey Jones
- Ancient One
- Cody Jones
- Hamato Yoshi
- Ninja Tribunal
- Ninja Tribunal Acolytes
- Justice Force:
- Underground Monsters
- Professor Honeycutt/Fugitoid
- Inuwashi Gunjin
- Augustus O’Neil
- Robyn O’Neil
- Mrs. Jones
- Miyamoto Usagi
- 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
- Triceraton Republic
- Prime Leader Zanramon
- Commander Mozar
- Ultimate Ninja
- Harry the Pickpocket
- King of Thieves
- Savanti Romero
- Dr. Dome
- Rat King
- Darius Dun
- Torbin Zixx
- Organic Mousers
- Triceraton Rebels
- Metal Klawz
- Spider Bytez
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 this 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 shows 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’ dimension. 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 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 animated 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.
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. The decision sparked a lot of controversy among fans.
The 2003 series received negative criticism from fans of the 1987 series. Popular criticisms include less likable characters and a less exciting theme song. The video games based on the 2003 series have also received similar criticism. However, fans of the comic books have enjoyed the series due to its similarity to the Mirage comics, the increased character development, more consistent animation, daring plot twists, and consistent story arc.
During the fourth season, the show’s theme song was slightly altered. The basic music remained, but the tempo was increased. The lyrics were altered to include a description of each turtle as well as identify the new villain, since the Shredder had been defeated. Also, the line ”Watch out for Shredder!” was changed to ”We shredded Shredder!” The line was changed back when Karai took up the mantle of the Shredder.
(Based on various sources in the show)
Savanti Romero is banished to live amongst the dinosaurs, but soon causes enough trouble to get Renet involved, who brings the Turtles along with her. They defeat Savanti but spend 3 months searching for the Time Scepter before they can return to their time.
An evil being known as The Shredder terroizes Japan and Emperor Ōjin sends an elite group of warriors called The Five Dragons to destroy him. Their greatest warrior, the original Oroku Saki, appears to kill the demon, but instead they fuse together.
After a reign of terror, Oroku Saki/The Shredder is defeated by what remains of The Five Dragons and is imprisoned for eternity.
The Utrom crashland on Earth and set up base in Japan.
Ch’rell takes up the identity of The Shredder and re-establishes the Foot Clan. Since they are being hunted, The Utrom recruit honorable warriors to serve as Guardians and protect them.
Ch’rell eventually uses a magical amulet known as The Heart of Tengu to mystically enslave The Demon Shredder’s heralds and uses them as his own personal mystic warriors.
Ch’rell (as Oroku Saki/The Shredder) brings the Tokugawa Shogunate to power in Japan, starting the Edo period.
January 8, 1815
American soldier John Bishop (in his original body) is abducted by aliens during The Battle of New Orleans. Although he goes through painful tests, his body is gifted with extremely advanced longevity. This sparks his hatred for aliens.
President Ulysses S. Grant establishes the Earth Protection Force. Agent Bishop is placed in charge.
Agent Bishop accquires an alien space ship and a test subject in Roswell, New Mexico.
Hamato Yoshi is born.
A young Yoshi is taken in by The Ancient One.
Yukio Mashimi betrays Yoshi and the Utroms by murdering Tang Shen and revealing the Utroms’ hidden base and many secrets. They are forced to flee to NYC after being attacked by Shredder and The Foot. Yoshi kills Mashimi in a duel.
Yoshi seeks the Ninja Tribunal’s aide in battling The Shredder. They refuse, since he is merely an imposter of the original Shredder.
The Shredder most likely adopts Karai around this time.
Casey Jones is born.
April O’neil is born.
Purple Dragons burn down the Jones Family’s store. Casey’s father is killed by Hun.
Hamato Yoshi is finally tracked down and killed by The Shredder.
Splinter and the Turtles are doused in mutagen after an accident involving a TCRI truck.
Splinter takes the Turtles to Japan to visit The Ancient One and spread Master Yoshi’s ashes.
Splinter begins training the Turtles in the art of ninjutsu.
Serling accidentally appears through a time portal and is claimed by the Turtles as their new toy since he’s been shrunken down to mere inches. He eventually returns to 2007.
The Turtles meet a boy named Arnie (actually Casey Jones) and proceed to train him so he can deal with neighborhood bullies. Michelangelo inadvertently leads him to coin his battlecry: ”Goongala!”
Splinter teaches Leonardo to overcome his fear of heights. Leonardo and Raphael fight a giant albino crocodile. Leonardo saves Donatello from large amounts of sewer garbage. Michelangelo tries to make Leonardo crack a smile while he’s perfecting his kata.
Splinter wins The Battle Nexus tournament. He is later ambushed by his opponent Drako but is saved by Miyamoto Usagi.
The Turtles turn 15.
The Turtles are forced from their home by mouser robots and their feud with the Foot clan begins. They meet long-time friends April O’neil and Casey Jones.
The Turtles confront The Shredder for the first time. They are overmatched and get split up during the skirmish, but face him again later that night. He is defeated by Splinter, but survives.
Shredder attacks the Turtles full-force, destroying April’s home in the process. They flee NYC with April and Casey, all believed dead by the Foot Clan.
The Turtles ”Return to New York” after spending the winter hiding in Massachusets. Leonardo decapitates The Shredder with the Sword of Tengu and Donatello disables most of the remaining equipment in the Foot Clan’s tower. Master Splinter goes missing after being injured in the battle.
The Turtles inflitrate the TCRI building looking for Splinter. They are accidentally transported across the galaxy and meet the Fugitoid, who is on the run from The Fedaration and Triceraton Republic due to his knowledge of a transmat device.
The Turtles and Fugitoid return to Earth after evading the warring aliens, the TCRI bulding is attacked by The Shredder. The Utrom flee to their homeworld and the Shredder (who is revealed to be an Utrom) is left in the imploding building, he is assumed dead.
The Turtles Turn 16.
With The Shredder gone, the city’s gangs are at war. Karai, head of the Japanese Foot and daughter of The Shredder, allies herself with the Turtles to put an end to the chaos. A truce is made between the Foot and the TMNT.
The Shredder once again emerges from his apparent death and breaks the truce, putting Karai at conflict between her honor and her duty.
Michelangelo wins the Battle Nexus Championship after a controversial victory over Kluh from planet Levram.
A Christmas feast is held at the TMNT’s lair. Michelangelo adopts Klunk.
The Triceratons invade Earth in seach of the Fugitoid. The Turtles encounter Agent Bishop for the first time. The Fugitoid cripples both the Triceraton Republic and The Federation by uploading a virus into their systems. Traximus overthrows the current Triceraton regime and brings peace between them and the Federation.
The Turtles turn 17.
The Shredder builds a star-ship from salvaged Triceraton technology, the Turtles nearly die trying to stop him, but they are saved at the last second by the Utrom. He is found guilty by the Utrom and is sentenced to life on Mor Gal Tal, an icy space asteroid. Karai vows vengeance.
The Turtles and Splinter recover from their battle in Northhampton, Massachusetts. They come back to New York fully healed, but Leonardo can not get over his failure.
Splinter sends Leonardo to seek the Ancient One after realizing that there’s nothing more he can do for his troubled son.
Karai assumes the mantle of The Shredder. She attacks and destroys the Turtle’s home while Leonardo is in Japan training with The Ancient One.
The Turtles battle a mutant outbreak caused by Agent Bishop. Donatello is unknowingly infected and mutates further some time later.
The Turtles rescue a mutated Donatello by retreiving the Heart of Tengu for Bishop, who is tricked into destroying it, thus releasing The Shredder’s Heralds (the Foot Mystics).
The Turtles train with 4 other accolytes under the Ninja Tribunal and eventually battle the ressurected Demon Shredder. The spirit of Hamato Yoshi destroys him for good. Karai lets go of her vendetta against the Turtles.
The Turtles turn 18 some time during the ”Ninja Tribunal” events.
The Turtles are sucked into the future by Cody Jones.
The Turtles turn 19 while trapped in the future.
The Turtles return to from the future and spend months battling the new Cyber Shredder and recovering Splinter’s data bits. April and Casey are married at ages 27 and 28, respectively.
Serling is sent back to the future.
Presumably, the Turtles and Splinter return to The Battle Nexus for another tournament. The winner is unknown.
The Turtles meet their Original Cartoon and Mirage comic-book counterparts and defeat Ch’rell once and for all before he destroys the multi-verse. Hun is turned into a mutant Turtle.
The Turtles turn 20.
Bishop and Stockman’s alien lab is destroyed by accident but Bishop is rescued by one of his alien prisoners. Although Stockman is left for dead, Bishop goes on to change his ways and become president of the Pan Galactic Alliance.
Cody Jones is born.
The Turtles and Splinter appear in the future and meet April and Casey’s great-grandson Cody Jones, as well as his robot companion Serling. They battle many new enemies, mainly Sh’oKanabo, and discover that Bishop is now a world leader who fights for peace and harmony.
The Turtles ascend to the ninja rank of Chunin.
The Turtles, along with Splinter, Cody, and Bishop, kill Sh’oKanabo and seemingly delete Viral, ending any threat of the Day of Awakening for good.
Presumably, all the loose ends of Fast Forward are tied up. Including what happens to the Dark Turtles. Cody sends the Turtles back to their time. There is a malfunction caused by Viral, and Serling is accidentally sent back too. Luckily, Cody gets the time machine working again on his own some time later.
Fifth Season & 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. It was going to continue the Ninja Tribunal story arc and thirteen 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 is given full broadcast rights. The show is currently airing on Nicktoons.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward
- TMNT: Back to the Sewer
- List of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episodes
- List of Ninja Tribunal episodes
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