Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (4Kids): The Christmas Aliens

images-166In 2003, Fox and 4Kids Entertainment launched a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series.  This series was the first re-launch for the TMNT after a long hiatus from both film and television and was an attempt at introducing the Turtles to a whole new generation.  One of the consultants for the show was TMNT co-creator Peter Laird and his Mirage Studios.  Something everyone seemed to be in agreement on was that this new show would borrow more heavily from the original comic book run of the Turtles while still keeping a general audience in mind.  This is, of course, in stark contrast to the original cartoon which all but abandoned the comics as both Laird and Kevin Eastman felt it was impossible to adapt that for a children’s show.  It would be easy to point to that decision as a mistake, but really that original show gave the world a whole separate take on the Turtles that proved endearing, if nothing else.

The 2003 series was more mature, but still pretty much directed at kids.  It took a lot from the old comics but also did its own thing.  Eventually, it would more or less go off on its own, especially once it hit the Fast Forward seasons towards the end of its run.  I can’t pretend to be an expert on the series as I really only watched the first season before eventually losing interest.  The show seemed to be fairly successful, though not a huge hit, with kids.  There was a new toy line and I’m sure the show’s success had some part in the decision to do the feature-length TMNT film.

The source material for this episode.

The source material for this episode.

Something unique to this series is that it contains what is, so far, the only animated Christmas special the Turtles have ever done.  It seems crazy to me that there was a never a Christmas episode during the original cartoon run, but I checked, and there isn’t!  The new series has also yet to do one, but it wouldn’t shock me to see one pop up eventually.  The only Christmas special featuring the TMNT so far is the live-action “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas” and if you’ve never seen it, DON’T WATCH IT!  The 4Kids series decided for its third season to adapt the Michelangelo (then Michaelangelo) Micro Series story for its first episode, “The Christmas Aliens.”  Having read that issue, I was interested in checking this episode out as that story is one of my favorites from the comics as it puts Michelangelo in the starring role as he attempts to make sure a donation of Christmas toys gets to a local orphanage.

Each episode of the series opens with a scene from later on in the episode, usually with a turtle or turtles in some kind of trouble.  This one opens with Michelangelo driving a truck as he’s being chased by some crooks before the opening credits hit.  The opening song for this show is one of its weak points.  I don’t care for the song on the new series, but it’s at least a throwback to the old series so I give it some points.  This one is just lazy.  When we get to the episode it shows Michelangelo strolling through the park on Christmas Eve.  The other guys are back at home in the sewer decorating for the evening’s festivities while Mike befriends some kids in the park and finds a stray kitten he dubs Klunk.  It doesn’t take long for Mikey to stumble upon a toy store that’s in the process of being robbed.  Apparently, this season’s hottest toy is a Christmas Alien doll (I believe in the comics it was intended to be a parody of the then mega-popular Cabbage Patch Kids) and it’s sold out everywhere.  A delivery truck loaded with them is the target of the thieves, but Mikey overhears the truck driver tell the crooks it’s intended for a local orphanage.  The crooks obviously don’t care as they make off with the truck and Mikey feels compelled to stop them.

That's one weird looking Santa.  I can't imagine he smells all that great as well.

That’s one weird looking Santa. I can’t imagine he smells all that great as well.

At the lair, various other characters start piling in.  I actually can’t name any of them since I didn’t watch the show regularly, except for Usagi Yojimbo who arrives with two other characters via some kind of portal.  All of the Turtles’ friends are here though to celebrate Christmas and some mischief is made.  Casey tries in vain to score a kiss under the mistletoe from April, while everyone tries their luck at beating the resident superhero in an arm-wrestling contest.  Everything has to be put on hold though as they all wait for Michelangelo to get home.

Meanwhile, Michelangelo has to contend with a bunch of crooks and even the police as he overtakes the delivery truck and heads for the orphanage.  The majority of the episode is a chase sequence, first with Mikey hanging onto the truck as he tries to take it over, then with more bad guys, and eventually the police.  The animation shows its limitations here as the truck looks extremely heavy.  It strikes parked cars and other moving vehicles and goes right through them without even the slightest wobble.  It’s an okay sequence, but not a very exciting one.  The Michelangelo character in this series is enjoyable though, and Klunk is supremely cute as he hides in Mike’s coat and pops his head out to take a look.

Michelangelo is eventually able to lose his pursuers and wind up back at the lair.  Everyone is ready to scold him for being late, but he of course explains himself and everyone heads to the orphanage.  The Turtles don elf costumes while Splinter goes as Santa and all the kids get their alien dolls.  We get a final lesson on giving, and everyone feels like a good person in the end.

Elf Mike and Klunk.

Elf Mike and Klunk.

As Christmas specials go, this is a solid entry.  It’s not too sentimental, there’s no silly drama, and everyone ends up with a good feeling when all is said and done.  There’s some light humor that is, while not inventive, at least amusing.  Michelangelo is a good choice for the lead role in this one as he’s always been the one that’s easiest to relate to.  His child-like state of mind doesn’t need to be exaggerated any further to make the story work.  In the comics, Klunk stayed around and would show up in future issues.  I don’t know if that was the case here or not but I never mind the addition of a kitten to story.  This episode was released on DVD as a Michelangelo’s Christmas Rescue and if you stumble upon it in your travels it wouldn’t be a horrible pick-up.  The running time is only around 22 minutes so definitely don’t pay too much should you come across it.  Since Nickelodeon launched the new series last year, episodes from this show are no longer on television so don’t expect to find it airing on any channels this season.  As always, there’s youtube if you really want to watch it.

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