Animated children’s shows of the late 80s/90s all had their bizarre moments when viewed from an aged distance (Thundercats, anyone?), but if any one of them could claim to be plausibly produced by and for people under the influence of hallucinogens, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the clear favorite. Its appeal to children is obvious, but its potential as a cult classic still feels largely untapped, as demonstrated in Cowabunga Classics.
On the off chance that you’re not familiar with the premise from either the verbose title or its expository theme song (the personalities of all four turtles are detailed in single sentence slugs, which admittedly cuts down on friction), it’s not really essential to enjoying the show. They’re human-sized turtles that live in the sewer and fight crime; just accept it. They face the standard rogue’s gallery of nitwits and incompetents, but what sets them (and the show itself) apart is a playful self-awareness that keeps the pace brisk when it could easily turn deadening. Most of the villains (especially Krang) would feel comfortable in a ‘60s underground comic, while the writing staff’s willingness to go all meta (a few henchmen complain how little they are given to do in an episode) feels positively avant-garde years on. If you haven’t seen Turtles since it aired, Cowabunga Classics is solid incentive to check it out again (though you might want to do it in Colorado).
The featurettes "The Turtles: A Ninjatastic Look Back", "A Shellabration of Fan-Nomenon Sensation: Devoted and Die-Hard TMNT Fans Speak!" and exclusive artist interviews.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Classics" is on sale July 22, 2014 and is not rated. Animation. Directed by Bill Wolf, Mike Stuart, Vincent Davis. Written by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird. Starring Barry Gordon, Cam Clarke, James Avery, Renae Jacobs, Rob Paulsen, Townsend Coleman, Peter Renaday.