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An Analysis of the New TMNT Designs

The upcoming movie has given the heroes in a half shell a whole new look and we're sharing our thoughts on the new designs.

First and foremost, let's start with a disclaimer: I'm going to see the movie and hope for the best. Based on the trailer and TV spot, it doesn't look amazing, but hopefully it'll at least be a good dose of popcorn entertainment. That's not asking too much, right? Okay, now that it's clear the objective here isn't to blatantly hate on the movie, I will admit I'm not the biggest fan around of the new designs.

There's three key attributes that now define each Turtle: the color of the mask, their signature weapon(s), and their personality. Originally, it was just the weapon and personality since the comics were black and white, but let's be honest: the color masks really help them stand apart and say a little more about who they are. It's a tried and true design that has now lasted decades. Each new version tends to bring little changes while respecting the original design, too.

A great example is what the current Nickelodeon show has done for each character. The three main attributes obviously remain, but they've added subtle changes to compliment who they are. Raphael's the most muscular of the batch and his shell has a crack -- he's the brawler and the most aggressive, so it's fitting. Michelangelo is the shortest, has a few freckles/spots, and is lean. He's the "little brother" (in terms of personality, at least), so once again, it's fitting. Donatello's the tallest and the leanest, a stereotypical physical trait that's sometimes applied to "nerds," so once again, it makes sense. And Leonardo's the most balanced. Not too tall, not too short, not too muscular, not too lean. Again, appropriate for the character. These changes to their designs do enough to make them unique and stand apart as their own "version" of the Turtles. None of these changes are a drastic departure from the source, either.

This upcoming movie, though? Its several additions to the Turtles just come off as unnecessary to me. Look, I can get past the team being bigger than they usually are. I get it, they're mutants and mutants often grow. Whatever, I'm cool with it as long as they can remain nimble and stealthy. But why does Raphael have sunglasses? "It's because he's cool and a badass!" Okay, but why does a guy who lives in the sewers and likely fights crime at night wear sunglasses? From the little we've seen, he doesn't even have them over his eyes when he's out during the day. Aren't those annoying to have on your forehead when you're flipping around and such? It's a little silly to me, but I'd be a total liar if I said he doesn't look like he'll be quite a powerhouse in the movie.

Mikey has a necklace, a hoodie tied around his waist and sneakers to make him seem "cooler," but why not focus on showing this through his personality instead of sprinkling him with so much extra gear? If they're ninja turtles, don't they want to wear less stuff so they make less noise and fewer things can potentially hinder their movement? I get Leo's armor is a nod to tradition, but wearing bamboo armor seems a little silly when you already have a shell for armor, yes? Then there's Donatello in his Ghostbusters cosplay. He's wearing something that looks like a Proton Pack. Why? No idea. Maybe it has all of the tools he needs? But again, if they're ninjas (it's in the title for a reason, people), lugging around a huge backpack seems a little counter-productive, right? Then he also allegedly wears stereotypical "geek glasses." So he has bad vision now, too? He's sure to be an awesome ninja!

As for the lips and nose, it's obviously a drastic shift from the norm and is absolutely noticeable with the little we've seen from Mikey and Leo. Truthfully, it looks a little creepy and, as the internet has pointed out several times now, absolutely draws parallels to someone like Shrek. That said, this huge change could serve a bigger purpose. Perhaps they're humans that were mutated? Every new take on the TMNT brings changes to their origin story and it's clear this movie's going to make quite a few. We won't know until the movie comes out, obviously, but that would seemingly be the most logical reason for this huge design change.

I don't mind if new versions of the franchise want to stray a bit from the traditional designs Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird established. In fact, it's awesome to see so many different incarnations make slight additions to the classic look (I can't praise the IDW comic and the Nick show enough). However, it seems like the upcoming movie looked at the characters and said something like, "Yes, they have the colors, the personalities and the weapons... but let's add at least 2-4 more unique bits of attire to each one!" It feels like they went overboard with accessories and currently, it doesn't quite feel like the four brothers we've come to know and love. Maybe these alterations will be really cool as we see them unfold in context, but for right now, I can't say I'm the most enthusiastic person around about the new look.

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Posted by Captain13

Teenage Mutant Hobo Turtles :D

You make good points, Katzman, especially since many of these additions are hinderances. While I understand the desire to reflect the personalities of the turtles through their clothes, there was no need for that here. The turtles have been well known since the 1980s, and kids are still familiar with them today. We already know what their personalities are. Maybe the movie will provide a plausible excuse for the additions though. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@k4tzm4n No quick words about Master Splinter?

Posted by SanoHibiki

I really can’t see anything bad with Turtles wearing some additional things on them. Plus, that’s like ultimate taste of their ninja skills – moving silently while wearing all this ;) (through from what I seen in trailer, these turtles wouldn’t be particular stealthy - and this is whole other issue).

Posted by BlackPan1her

I don't care about the aesthetics,that,s fine, but they still put lips on them... WHY DO THEY HAVE LIPS?!

Posted by Nahuel

I don't hate the new designs, but they are too much for ninjas.

The important thing for me are the personalities, so if this movie blows that, this is going to suck!

Edited by Renchamp

I love when Katz gets real. Sometimes his words come across as too fanboy for me, but he gets these moments when he seems more objective. Kudos, good sir.

This article mirrors some of my own thoughts. I am definitely headed in with an open mind, but there needs to be some epic stuff going down if this movie is to overcome some of my childhood biases.

Moderator
Edited by ZZoMBiE13

You know, I was never a huge Turtles follower. The original comics came out when I was in high school. The violence in them made some of my friends take notice, but I never followed it closely. Once it made it to television I was in that mode where I was "too old" for "kid stuff" (yes, I know that's dumb now, but I was about 17 at the time). Geeking out still wasn't "acceptable" and I hadn't developed a strong sense of self yet.

The point of that trip down memory lane is to illustrate that it's not "fanboy rage" when I say that this movie looks kinda awful.

It looks like Transformers all over again. And while I'll avoid another trip down memory lane, I don't even hate MIchael Bay or his films specifically. I even quite like a few of his movies. But Transformers was not among them, and this one feels so much like it. Overdesigned reimaginings of characters who were already well designed; Big lumbering versions of characters who once felt well suited to serve their intended purpose; and a loud, banging, "extreme" version of their skills. Made especially silly here given that we're supposed to be seeing "ninjas" in action.

It may be a fun movie, I don't know (obviously). But I don't have any intention of going to see it. As I said in the first paragraph, I'm not really much of a fan anyway. I may check it out once it hits video.

Edited by danhimself

I completely agree with everything in this article

Posted by Sawcesome

"Perhaps they're humans that were mutated?"

Now I want to watch Street Sharks.

Posted by myerlanski

I like it so far and I can not wait to see how it all works out. Open minded to it, but then again.....I'm TMNT fanboy.

Posted by DanyBoy

I have to say, the fingers freak me out a bit. They're way too thin... like almost normal fingers. Their hands feel like malformed or amputated. I am the only one ?

Posted by RisingBean

I can get past everything but the face designs. I don't have high hopes. I'll see it, but I expect it to be the rock bottom of my movie season.

Posted by Erik

@k4tzm4n: The new designs are the only things about this movie that I have even liked. Still expecting Leo to cut someone with his sword and cause an explosion though (is that joke old yet?).

Posted by opticblast98

I love TMNT (my fav comic franchise) and I hope this movie will be good and I don't mind the designs, I feel who ever designs the turtles should have creative freedom and I think it shows here

Posted by Blackdog2009

It looks bad, really bad. They look huge and the masks are basically rags on their faces with holes to look thru.

Posted by ScrappyDont27

This movie just does not have me excited as a TMNT fan

Posted by Smart_Dork_Dude

THEY!!!!!!!!!! ARE!!!!!!!!!!! TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They making freaking CRACKS on the ground when they land!!!!!!!!! HOW IS THAT A NINJA?!?!?!??!?!

Yeah that's my MAIN problem with this movie. Followed by someone not Asian playing Shredder and Megan Fox being involved in ANY capacity

Posted by Kondorr

@captain13: Plausible explanation for the sun glasses incoming:
There are so many Bayplosions in the sewers... he shields his eyesight from the brightness...

But lets be honest... Bay isn't one to take time to make everything plausible... he puts stuff in his movies, and they are there... like Transformers with facial hear, glasses and John Malkovich with a tan...

These things do not need purpose or reason... they are there because the Bay said so.... cause he thought they were cool, funny or trendy or whatever...

I am just glad the new comics are great... and hope for a quick reboot...

Edited by danhimself

I still think that the best addition to their designs across any incarnation has been the pouches on their belts in the IDW comics

Posted by wbr17

Well, they are ninjas but also Teenager and that is a huge thing as important as being ninja so it make sense that hey want to use sneakers, hoodies and glasses

Posted by NightFang

@smart_dork_dude said:

THEY!!!!!!!!!! ARE!!!!!!!!!!! TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They making freaking CRACKS on the ground when they land!!!!!!!!! HOW IS THAT A NINJA?!?!?!??!?!

This is the biggest problem with the movie to me.

Posted by AmazingWebHead

Here's my thoughts:

  • They live in a sewer. The fact that they're dressed up with random stuff like that shows it.
  • Of coarse they put such an emphasis on unnecessarily looking cool. (Like unused sunglasses) They're teenagers!
  • "The lips and noses look creepy". Dude, mutant turtles! Were you expecting them to look like cartoon characters? Everyone else apparently was.
Edited by judasnixon

Hey Michael Bay someone fixed your Ninja Turtles..... They look so much better now.

Edited by SlamAdams

I can accept all the extra stuff they wear. I think it's a nice touch. The faces don't bother me At ALL. I think the beaks would be more off putting. That fan fixed version kind of looks too cartoony, closer to Roger Rabbit than other CGI characters. What's killing me is their height. Damn their big.

Edited by k4tzm4n
@captain13 said:

Teenage Mutant Hobo Turtles :D

You make good points, Katzman, especially since many of these additions are hinderances. While I understand the desire to reflect the personalities of the turtles through their clothes, there was no need for that here. The turtles have been well known since the 1980s, and kids are still familiar with them today. We already know what their personalities are. Maybe the movie will provide a plausible excuse for the additions though. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Thanks, cap!

@jonny_anonymous said:

@k4tzm4n you quick words about Master Splinter?

N/A. We've only had a quick glimpse from the back/side. Won't judge until we get a better look.

@renchamp said:

I love when Katz gets real. Sometimes his words come across as too fanboy for me, but he gets these moments when he seems more objective. Kudos, good sir.

This article mirrors some of my own thoughts. I am definitely headed in with an open mind, but there needs to be some epic stuff going down if this movie is to overcome some of my childhood biases.

YOU'RE A FANBOY.

Um, I mean, thanks! :D

@danhimself said:

I completely agree with everything in this article

I completely approve of this comment.

@smart_dork_dude said:

THEY!!!!!!!!!! ARE!!!!!!!!!!! TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They making freaking CRACKS on the ground when they land!!!!!!!!! HOW IS THAT A NINJA?!?!?!??!?!

Yeah that's my MAIN problem with this movie. Followed by someone not Asian playing Shredder and Megan Fox being involved in ANY capacity

To be fair, that's after Leo jumped off a water tower. I doubt the ground will rumble when they're running around. But yeah, like I said in the article, I just hope they can still convey them as nimble and stealthy when needed.

@amazingwebhead said:

Here's my thoughts:

  • They live in a sewer. The fact that they're dressed up with random stuff like that shows it.
  • Of coarse they put such an emphasis on unnecessarily looking cool. (Like unused sunglasses) They're teenagers!
  • "The lips and noses look creepy". Dude, mutant turtles! Were you expecting them to look like cartoon characters? Everyone else apparently was.

Well, if they're cool teenagers, let's give them popped collars, iPhones, backwards hats, etc. So many other versions have shown them as teenagers without filling them with a slew of accessories. Look, I get if they want to wear this stuff when hanging out at home, but when going out on missions and such? Seems very silly.

Oh shoot, they're mutants? My bad, I had no idea! But seriously, they can make a more "realistic" version of them while also staying true to, you know, the facial design that has worked for decades now. Hell, people have already done a small photoshop edit to make it look infinitely better. IMHO the practical costumes in the '90 film worked VERY well and those weren't "creepy."

Staff
Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@smart_dork_dude said:

THEY!!!!!!!!!! ARE!!!!!!!!!!! TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They making freaking CRACKS on the ground when they land!!!!!!!!! HOW IS THAT A NINJA?!?!?!??!?!

This is the biggest problem with the movie to me.

same

Posted by Rabbitearsblog

I'm not sure about their facial expressions looking so human now (even though I kind of knew this was going to happen anyway), but what I'm more concerned about is if they could get their personalities right (Mikey is playful and the comic relief and Raphael is the tough and hot headed member of the team). It would be interesting to see how this movie plays out though. Great article k4tzm4n!

Posted by SHAZAM117

I actually like the design of the Turltes in this movie. It's what I've been hearing of the story and their originals along with Shredder thay has me VERY worried :-/

Posted by Imagine_Man15

I'm one of like 10 people on the internet who actually likes the Transformers movies. But this movie just looks completely awful. I'm not saying that as a Turtles fan, either. It just looks really, really bad.

Posted by myerlanski

@opticblast98: I'm in agreement, I feel that the creator stayed somewhat rooted with the original design but added his own flare to the characters. I absolutely like the way they look.

Posted by NoahMcnasty

I love having things I enjoy raped by the Hollywood money machine. yippeeeeee!

Posted by GraniteSoldier

I don't care about the aesthetics,that,s fine, but they still put lips on them... WHY DO THEY HAVE LIPS?!

This is really my biggest issue. Reptiles...don't have lips.

As for the other aspects, I consider it like the clothing one wears. You dress fitting to your own personality, style, and sense of self. So Raph may not NEED sunglasses, but he likes them. Mikey may feel attuned to the old late 80's-90's skater culture, so he digs hoodies. Leo is obviously the most tradition-bound of the team, so prefers the traditional look.

I get it isn't REQUIRED, but it is reflective of their personalities. Now, I'm sure someone's thinking: "well they're turtles, why do they need clothes?" Well, they don't. But why do most comic book characters do some of the things they do? Well, it's who they are. Who they are written as. Now as to why it was never done before? Who knows, maybe it never came across anyone's mind. Maybe humanoid, talking, ninja-crime fighting turtles was enough. Now that people are familiar with them, you can grow them a little more each time.

I'm not saying I LOVE the designs. I'll always prefer the more original look (although the current cartoon found a fantastic balance, as has IDW) but it doesn't bother me. It doesn't turn me off from the film.

Posted by Wolverine08

I'm not in love with the designs, but I don't really hate them either.

Edited by Shazam78

and yet I still will probably be going to see it anyway. There is that kid in me that still wants to see it.

Posted by viin

From the clips Raph might look okay but Leo and Mikey definatly dont look right and I didnt get a view of Donnie. Im not expecting too much out of this movie.

What I liked about the turtles is they did not need to be big to kick ass. They need to be small and more ninja like I think.

I really liked the designs used in the Out of the Shadows game.

Posted by Lurkero

I already thought the turtles looked over-designed, but seeing them in screenshots is scarier. It makes me fear that Bay and his team are trying too hard to show personality rather than make the viewers feel it.

I think i will still eventually watch the movie, but the designs aren't selling it yet.

Posted by Quixotist

Aside from how huge they are I don't actually mind the redesigns, though some of them (Donnie's gear in particular) just look impractical. Between their size and all the extras, it'll be really hard to sell the ninja theme. I am fully expecting this movie to suck, but it could still provide some mindless entertainment on a rainy day. I'll wait for it to show up on TV or Netflix.

Posted by ApocalypseLater

Why is Raphael's shell hanging onto his naked back as if not attached to him? It looks like he's got a kiddie pool on his back. Is that just unfinished CGI?

Edited by ForeverMan

More Micheal Bay trash, honestly how can anyone expect something he touches not to suck at this point? He doesn't get the spirit of what made the Transformers classic and I will be shocked to my core if I see this (likely after its theatre run) and it doesn't suck too.

These turtles are the size of a smart car smh.

Posted by AmazingWebHead

@k4tzm4n: 1) I don't think they'd find those things as easily in the sewer, but you have a point. 2) I saw the fan-edits, and I just couldn't take them seriously. As much respect as I have for the classic looks, I think the actual design for the movie says "human/turtle hybrid" rather than "anthropomorphic cartoon turtle".

Edited by baneofdemon22

@amazingwebhead:

@amazingwebhead said:

Here's my thoughts:

  • They live in a sewer. The fact that they're dressed up with random stuff like that shows it.
  • Of coarse they put such an emphasis on unnecessarily looking cool. (Like unused sunglasses) They're teenagers!
  • "The lips and noses look creepy". Dude, mutant turtles! Were you expecting them to look like cartoon characters? Everyone else apparently was.

I completely agree with you. I've never seen a Michael Bay movie in my life, so I don't know what to expect, but I don't understand the whole "ruining my childhood" stuff. Unless you're still a child, it's not ruining anything and if you were a child, a movie wouldn't ruin anything, you'd just go play or do something else. Run for your life- MAN BABIES! You don't have to watch it, and maybe some kids will really enjoy it.

I appreciate this article and thanks for your thoughts Gregg!

Edited by NorrinBoltagonPrime21

The sunglasses thing bothers me more than it should because it reminds me of a jerk teacher I had, who always had sunglasses on his head, but never wore them.

Posted by Beast_in_the_Shadows

@apocalypselater: Man, I didn't notice it until you brought it up, but you are right. It doesn't look like the shell is attached to the plastron (chest and belly half of a turtle shell) In fact now that I think of it I don't know if I've seen a photo of these new turtles from the front... I wonder if they still have plastron's in this version. I hope so because I'm not looking forward to some gross shirtless scene with superfluous turtle nipples...

That aside, the size is (forgive the pun) a very big issue. Yes they are mutants, but they started (at least originally) as tiny box turtles which don't grow to be much larger than a fist, so the mutation making them the smaller side of human size was already enough. And beyond it hindering their stealth I can't even imagine these guys living in the sewer because how on earth are they supposed to get through the man holes? Lastly with each reveal, the origin script that circulated seems more and more alive in this. In that script they were constantly popping their entire bodies into their shells during battle. The bigger they get the more ridiculous that becomes.

And the lips... oh god the lips... It would be something to transform them from a turtle like beak to a reptilian mouth closer to our own, like a lizard's. Or even something amphibious like a frog mouth. But those full on looks like disgusting and if it weren't for the shell on their back I doubt anyone would guess they were supposed to be turtles first

Posted by ccraft

Am I the only one who thinks the guy who voices Raph sounds very similar to Nolan North?

Posted by Lvenger

"Give in to your hate Katzman. Let it flow through you. Give in to your anger!" You know you want to :P

But seriously excellent critique of the Turtles redesigned costumes. They do look way too clunky and way too overblown on screen to work well enough.

Online
Posted by AmazingWebHead

@baneofdemon22: (You know, you don't need to hit "quote" and "reply") Well given what we know so far about Shredder, I don't blame people for fearing the worst, but yes, that is true.

Edited by SlamAdams

@k4tzm4n: 1) I don't think they'd find those things as easily in the sewer, but you have a point. 2) I saw the fan-edits, and I just couldn't take them seriously. As much respect as I have for the classic looks, I think the actual design for the movie says "human/turtle hybrid" rather than "anthropomorphic cartoon turtle".

Agreed on the second part!

Posted by detective38

Won't be wasting my money on this garbage

Posted by Mapuia_Ralte

Awful redesigns, I don't care about their size, being big is ok but all those unnecessary attires are just, well, unnecessary. The feel of the movie looks too Transformer-ish and this is the part that I hate the most. If the villain was Krang, it's a bit understandable but he's not, Shredder and the Foot clan are. Then the part about giving them guns and changing their MO is obviously a plot device to make room for explosions and I hate it.

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