Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TMNT: One Year Later

March 23rd, 2007 was a big day for Ninja Turtles fans and animation enthusiasts, as TMNT was released to theaters in North America and elsewhere around the world. It was the very first feature-length film from Imagi Animation Studios, who are, of course, set to bring AstroBoy to cinemas in 2009. I am a HUGE fan of the Turtles, and have been since I first became aware of their existence, so I was definitely looking forward to this movie when it was announced. Not only did I enjoy the film immensely for what it was when I saw it on its release date, I also saw it as an important step towards the future of animated film making, which is where our boy Astro comes in.

Not only does TMNT look spectacular, with its use of colors, textures, and lighting, but if one takes into account how the budget of this film is a meager fraction of a comparable animated movie from a company like Pixar, then Imagi's achievements with this movie are even more incredible. The aspect of the film that I thought was best realized was the attention paid to the backgrounds. The scenery itself had a very lived-in feeling and truly captured what I would expect the TMNT universe to look like. Obviously there are some talented artists and animators working at Imagi, and they clearly know how to construct a world that contains unbelievable characters and situations in a believable and visually appealing setting.

I understand that there are people who didn't like the film, and I can understand that. Perhaps the script could have perhaps benefited from another round of polishing. But some fans were just disappointed that it did not live up to what they perceive the Turtles should be like, and the mainstream movie reviews criticized the film for all sorts of contradicting reasons that made little sense to me. The movie had to appeal to long time fans, along with those who simply have fond memories of the 80's cartoon, plus the current generation of children as well as their parents. This must have been a difficult balance to reach and I doubt there would be any way to win over everyone. Clearly the movie isn't perfect and there are flaws no matter what your position is, but when it's all said and done, I say that you just have to sit back and ask yourself if you were entertained or not. I know I was!

But beyond just being entertained or having my personal fandom satisfied, I saw this movie as being more than just a new movie staring the Ninja Turtles. I see animation as a medium with unlimited potential to tell all sorts of different kinds of stories for multiple audiences. And yet over the past few years, audiences have been fed an overabundance of generic CG animated films, most of which feature the same generic plots and annoying character archetypes. TMNT does not fit into that mold. It is, essentially, an action movie that just so happens to be animated. To me, TMNT represents the first step towards a more widely accepted variety of animated films released to the mainstream. The world needs more creative animated movies that take chances and go against the popular perception of what animation should be. It's going to take awhile longer before we get there, but I can think of no better characters than the Ninja Turtles, who have a built-in fanbase that spans multiple age groups, to lead the way. A movie like AstroBoy, itself based on a beloved franchise, is a logical extension of this ideal.

As a fan of animated films and classic anime characters, it makes me happy to know that the AstroBoy movie is being handled by Imagi, who did an amazing job in capturing the spirit of the Ninja Turtles. AstroBoy is a story that is not only historically important, but also has a unique spirit of its own to be captured as well. Time will tell if the AstroBoy movie will live up to the legacy of the title character, but judging from TMNT, I am more than willing to give Imagi the benefit of the doubt.

And while I'm looking forward to AstroBoy, I'll also be hoping for another Turtles movie!



Splinter's Iroonna said...

Nicely put. Very nicely put.

I was just thinking the other day that it's been a whole YEAR. And I still enjoy watching the DVD.

Happy 1st. Birthday, TMNT.

~ tOkKa said...

-->> ..also .. Imagi opened up my mind a little bit more to accepting CGI..

which is shaky for me.

I fully believe that both 2-d and CG can coexist in the same world.. if not even in the same movie.

However alot of Dreamworks and Pixar films over the past several years here have numbed me.. and disillusioned me to animated films almost, but not quit altogether ..

..taking something and characters i know has helped stave off alot of the prejudices i have to Computer animation and helped me try to focus and understand that it's an important and powerful tool to deliver a good story visually. I think MNT helped turn alot of heads in the industry worldwide.. ((while i am sure not many will give Imagi and Turtles Credit for what they deserve))

Good things are happening tho' all around..

even things that thru' Pixar for example..

marks the return by Disney to a fully realized feature-length animated film. and not on fuggin' DVD either..
for the theaters. .. >v<

Ninjatron said...

Thanks for your comments, folks.

TMNT was definatly off the beaten path when it comes to animated films these days, which is what I really like about it. People can complain all they want about the story or whatever, but regardless it is an animated movie and, as such, is subject to the same stigma as all the rest. So, in my opinion, for a movie like this to contain a dark atmosphere, lots of fighting, family dysfunction, and scary monsters, all while taking itself fairly seriously, I'd say that's pretty groundbreaking stuff. And I like to think that, perhaps in a few years after Imagi and other studios have established this sort of animated storytelling with more and more films (both licensed and original), perhaps TMNT will be seen as something of a cult classic.

AstroBoy has the potential of fitting in better with the mass-media perseption of CG movies better than anything else, I think. But if they keep true to who that character is like they did with TMNT, I think it can be much, much more than that.

CGI is but a tool, and it's not only up to the writers, directors, and artists, to use it well, but also the business people who make the decisions. The more that tool is used, then the more accuracy and precision it can be wielded with. It's good for the entire industry to have movies like this. I do wish that there were still more 2D movies though.