5 Reasons The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cartoon Is Awesome

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had almost as many incarnations as mutants in the series. There are the original black and white comics, the 1987 cartoon, the 2012 CG cartoon, and the modern To go up series. There are also live-action films and series, The next changethat people don’t talk about.



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Still, there’s one Turtles cartoon that’s often overlooked in conversation: the one that premiered in 2003 on Fox Kids, or TMNT to shorten it. This incarnation deserves much more recognition, as it is not only one of the most faithful to the original comics, but also introduces new characters that would return throughout the franchise.

5 Stories are pulled straight from the comics

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The cartoons are based on the original comic books by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, first published by their independent company Mirage Studios in 1984. Many stories from the 2003 cartoon are taken directly from these comics.

These adventures include their first encounter with April O’Neil, time traveler Renet’s visit to the turtles, and the original comic book one-shots. Since the target audience was children, the cartoon could not be too mature, but animation-wise it’s the most faithful rendition of the turtles we’re going to get.

4 This is the edgiest of turtle cartoons

The fact that TMNT follows the Mirage comics means it has an edge. Much of the show involves the Turtles coming into conflict with The Purple Dragons, a street gang who also work for the Shredder. These encounters take the Turtles down seedy alleyways and tough neighborhoods. One episode sees the Turtles infiltrate one of their underground cage matches.

TMNT 2003 also features some of the darkest visuals of any Turtle cartoon. One episode depicts a silhouette of Leonardo decapitating the Shredder, only to see his figure take his head and put it back. Is it really for children?

3 New characters are introduced to the turtle lore

TMNT has the classic characters a Turtles fan would expect, including villainous scientist Baxter Stockman and vigilante Casey Jones. The show also introduced new characters to the franchise.

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One of them was Hun, the leader of the Purple Dragons and a henchman for the Shredder. Angel, a girl Casey Jones watches for her grandmother, was also introduced to the series. Hun would return in the 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, and both characters would appear in the IDW comic, where Angel ends up taking on the role of vigilante Nobody.


2 It introduces a new twist on the grinder

fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles know the basics of the Shredder. He is the main rival of the Ninja Turtles and their Master Splinter.

Spoilers for TMNT 2003 belowTMNT adds a whole new twist to the villain. In this incarnation, he is actually Ch’rell, an escaped prisoner of a peaceful alien race, the Utroms, who became stranded on Earth thanks to his escape. The Shredder took on the appearance of a human through the use of one of the Utrom android suits. This twist ends up adding a whole new connection to the Turtles, as Ch’rell stranding the Utroms on Earth inadvertently led them to create the slime that mutated the Turtles in the first place.


1 It features the best representation of Karai

Karai is sometimes described as the Shredder’s adopted daughter. She often ended up fighting the Turtles, but in the 2003 series, she doesn’t start out as a villain right away.

Instead, Karai appears as the leader of the Japanese branch of the Foot Clan, returning to New York in the “City at War” story arc to fill the void left by her father. She enlists the Turtles themselves to help her end the gang war that has torn the city apart. Throughout the series, she finds herself conflicted between her respect for the Turtles and her loyalty to her father.

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