DVD Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection

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Here’s the nitty gritty regarding Lionsgate’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection DVD set. It’s the first time that all 193 episodes, spanning ten seasons, have been packaged together. The plastic case, shaped like the Turtles’ van, contains 23 discs for a whopping 73-hour running time. The animated adaption of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s comic book began airing in December of 1987 and kept chugging along until November of 1996.

As a fan of the original black-and-white Mirage Studios comic book series, with its decidedly more mature tone, I never really took to the show. The antics of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and their mentor Splinter became a true phenomenon that led to all sorts of additional spin offs, from the hit live-action films to countless licensed products. Looking back some 16 years after the series’ run ended, sampling from each of the ten seasons, it’s clear that the show was inevitably uneven. There’s no way that that many episodes were all going to be winners. But the quaint, old school style is mostly fun to watch if you have any kind of soft spot for the characters.

TMNT van display (350x234).jpg

If you’re a serious TMNT fan, you very likely already own all of these. The seasons were spread out over 13 individual volumes and released on DVD starting in 2004. It wasn’t until August of 2012 that the tenth season final found its way to disc. Along the way there were some idiosyncratic choices made. For instance, season one (which was only five episodes) was supplemented with four episodes from season ten. The odd episode or two was held back from other volumes, such as “Once Upon a Time Machine” and “Planet of the Turtleoids.” Those season five episodes finally found a home on the season ten release. And a quick comparison between the broadcast order of seasons five and seven, for example, to the scrambled order they appear on DVD will leave you scratching your head.

Considered yourself warned: the DVDs housed in the Complete Classic Series van are identical in content to what’s already out. The idea with this set was clearly not placating the persnickety uber fans who long for the correct episode order to be restored. I understand that desire, but I also understand the limited return on the investment Lionsgate would have to make to repress the discs. How many folks would’ve really re-purchased the entire set just to have the proper order? Well, probably more than will plunk down $99.98 (or whatever it’s available for on sale) just for the special van case. The aim with this configuration seems to be roping in those who only have a few of the previously available volumes, if any. Make no mistake, a hundred bucks is a lot for what is essentially a nostalgia trip for children of the late ’80s and early ‘90s. And without the van, I’m sure that retail price would’ve been considerably lower.

Speaking of the van, I’ve seen mixed reactions about its functionality as a package. Speaking only from my own experience, my set arrived in perfect condition. None of the 23 discs had been jostled from its slot. The top of the van comes off, revealing the discs all lined up vertically in the lower half. That section is lined with felt, that way you’re not scraping the discs against a harsh surface. I think it’s a really unique alternative to the old standbys. Some folks have said they found scratched discs. I can only report that every one of the discs in my set were flawless. Take care in removing and putting them back. Place the van in a secure location that is unlikely to be knocked around. After all, the lid doesn’t snap into place. If this sucker falls, the discs will spill out everywhere—guaranteed. The only minor annoyance is that there is no slot in the van to store the booklet.

TMNT van display open (350x261).jpg

There is bonus content spread our around the set, but again this material is the same as on previous releases. It really would’ve been nice to see something new. If you haven’t seen the various interviews, they’re worth watching (especially the segments with the original voice actors). Too bad Lionsgate didn’t come up with a little collector’s bait by producing a few new featurettes.

In the end, if you own all the individual volumes you don’t need to spend the cash just for the fancy packaging. But if you don’t have the volumes already—and the show meant something to you at some point in your life—it’s a great way to get it all in one place.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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