“Turtles are the surprisingly long-lived group; they’ve been around for an incredibly long time,” said Dr. Greg Pauly, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Obviously, science is an immense part of the mythos when dealing with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Biology, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and many of their subgroups make up important parts of the TMNT universe. So of course it was only fitting that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVD release included an extra featurette detailing the biological evolution of turtles throughout history.
These reptiles have been found in the fossil records from all over the world, including massive Archelons right here in North America. However, turtles have changed relatively little in that time. Around 220 million years ago, the turtles did not have their characteristic hard shell, and had sharp teeth. Fast-forward to 210 million years ago, and the shells were present, the teeth were gone, and the turtles looked very much like what can be seen in oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams around the world today.
However, the featurette wouldn’t be a true mash-up unless it also detailed the evolutionary history of another group: The shinobi. Much like turtles, ninja had to adapt with their surroundings and reinvent what they needed to survive, including shifting public perception of their duties from assassins to martial artists. Continuing on, the defensive abilities of both groups were compared, drawing special attention to how turtles developed shells, spikes, and in some cases horns to protect themselves, while ninjas were able to use tools found on farms for attack and defense. Ultimately, both groups had their own storied histories, and changed as their environments dictated.
The featurette as a whole, though, was fairly substandard. The information itself was cursory, at best, sticking to surface level facts and figures that didn’t delve too deeply into the histories of either group. Of course, much of that stems directly from the fact that it was only a 15-minute short. The bigger issue was that the “mash-up,” as it was, seemed very forced and unnecessary.
It’s always nice to have meaningful, thoughtful special features with DVDs. But the key words are meaningful and thoughtful. While the draw of the TMNT franchise is that the boys are giant mutant turtles that kick butt, that does not imply that fans will also be interested in finding tenuous threads as to how ninjas are like turtles, and vice versa. The fun is in that they are two very different groups that have been mashed up, not that they have a lot in common.
While more content on the TMNT franchise is always appreciated, this particular addition could have been much better than it ultimately was. With a little more thought and consideration, the entire thing could have been reworked to show a meaningful juxtaposition between the two very different demographics. Even something such as a discussion about why ninjas and turtles work well together (in a more precise manner) – something that the featurette briefly touched on – would have been a much better use of the “mash-up” idea that was attempted.