The entire classic 1980s/1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is here in the handy 23-disc DVD release Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection … but before we look at the DVD release, how about a quick skim of the main featured content? To briefly comment on the show – it’s fun. It really is. In fact, when the vast majority of people think of the Ninja Turtles, this show is what pops to mind. The 1980s/90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series remains a pretty beloved series, despite it’s questionable quality. The series starts off on a strong foot, fixing irreverent comedy and action pretty well, but in the mid seasons the show starts to slip before completely going off the rails toward the end. After purely embracing the comedy during its middle seasons, and seeming a lot more goofier than usual, the show takes a hard detour and tries to embrace the more serious aspects of the series (of which there were few). This ultimately results in the show becoming near unwatchable, save for a handful of episodes that seem to attempt to wrap things up. Suffice it to say, it’s quite easy to see why fans just adored this show, and still do. The characters are likable and are basically exactly how we remember them as kids. The villains are goofy and sometimes pretty imaginative. And April is…April. It’s all there.
Quite honestly, if you’re getting this collection, you know what you’re getting into. A fun show that, for the most part, is likely what you remembered. Not as action-packed, perhaps, but the wit and charm is there for the most part. It starts to wander off around the fourth or fifth season, when the comedy is amped up a bit more and the action considerably downplayed, but there’s still some fun adventures to be had as the show slowly slipped toward irrelevancy. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in this show and haven’t picked up the previous single volume/season disc releases, this is likely your best avenue.
Anyway, we all know the basic origins of the Ninja Turtles, so I won’t bore anyone here. The main reason this review is up is to look at the actual DVD set. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection DVD set contains all 193 episodes on 23 discs. With over 73 hours (!) of entertainment, the collection covers the show’s entire ten-season run. On top of that, you get a few hours of extras and everything stored in some pretty cool packaging. All in all, a pretty appealing release.
But there’s a catch to it all. These discs, save for the new artwork adorned by each, are exactly the same as the previous single volume/season releases by Lionsgate. Everything is exactly the same. In fact, the label on the discs don’t even match what the labels on the main menus. Everything, right down to the sometimes weak audio/video quality, is identical. If you’ve picked up the previous releases, you know what bonus features to expect and how each disc will play out. This also means you get the same problematic episode order, as well, but thankfully an insert that comes with the release helps to sort that out a little bit. To those unfamiliar with this, it will appear a bit confusing, since not only are some episodes out of order, but some are even repeated. Clearly there wasn’t a long-term plan in mind when Lionsgate first started to collect the series all those years ago (almost nine years ago now, back in April 2004!). Things kinda caught up to them as they progressed, and it all becomes abundantly obvious here. That being said, the episode order issue is slight, and shouldn’t even bother most people. And, as I said, the booklet tries to help make things a little more easier to grasp.
If there was a big opportunity that Lionsgate missed out on with this release, it would be remastering (or at least improving upon) the original video quality. The age of the video itself should be taken into account, yes, but cleaning up the masters would have been a great incentive to get fans – especially those who already own the previous releases – to pick this set up, too. Video quality has been a consistent issue with fans, and this would have been a great opportunity to fix that. The exact same can also be said of the audio quality. Good, but could be better.
Bonus content is pretty good here for the most part. It’s the same stuff from the previous releases, but it’s still an overall nice collection of featurettes and interviews. There’s about three hours of bonus content, this including some ‘bonus episodes’ that aren’t really ‘bonus’ anymore, so it’s not a lot, but it’s a fair enough taste I find. I’m sure the die-hard fans will be let down, and understandably so, but most who pick up this collection will likely be pleased with what’s here. It would have been nice if Lionsgate followed Warner Home Video’s lead and at least included a new disc with additional bonus content. The PSAs remain uncollected, though likely fall outside of Lionsgate’s home video rights, but those would have been a great treat. On top of that, I’m sure there was plenty of unreleased interviews recorded that could’ve been added.
Outside of the entire series in one complete set, arguably one of the bigger draws is the packaging itself. It’s safe to say that if Lionsgate just repackaged these DVDs in regular cases, no one would be interested in picking up those discs. But having all of them in the freakin’ Turtle Van? Yeah, that definitely ups the interest factor. It’s a safe bet that more people are willing to lay down $100 or so (likely much less given current holiday sales) for this Turtle Van collection. It’s a smart way to rope in the people who may already own the whole series on DVD, but also make it a justifiable purchase for those casual or unsure buyers. Sure, the retail price could have also been lower, but the van definitely makes this the more attractive purchase. Still, a very smart call on Lionsgate’s part.
And the van itself is pretty nice, though I understand the mixed reaction when it comes to its functionality as an actual package. The set was in perfect condition when it arrived, with every disc perfectly untouched and in mint condition. The felt lining, meant to both house the discs and keep them from touching any remotely rough or hard surface, does a fine job in keeping the discs in good condition. However, that being said, excessive jostling of the van packaging will likely result in the discs bouncing loose and getting scratched up. Just take care when removing and replacing the discs. And since the lid doesn’t snap back on securely, there’s a good chance of further disc damage if placed in an unsecure place. Basically, keep it somewhere stable and away from kids. Thankfully, the size of the van is pretty accommodating, too. It can nicely fit on nearly any size of home video shelving (since the width of the van is just a shade bigger than a DVD).
As others have noted, it is odd that the included booklet doesn’t fit inside of the van, a bit of a design mistake by Lionsgate, but that’s a minor issue.
Honestly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection is a heavy mix of pros and cons. You are getting the entire series in a nice handsome package, but there’s no new added content outside of the packaging for those who picked up the single season/volume DVD releases. There’s been no upgrading or remastering done, no additional content thrown in, and that can be a real sting for fans looking to justify the purchase. However, for those who have already bought all of the previous DVD releases, I am sure selling those will knock down the price of this new collection by enough to rationalize the purchase. That being said, this new collection is simply the easiest way to get the entire series. It’s all handy in one attractive package. No need to hunt down out-of-print or hard-to-find DVDs. It’s all here. Over 190 episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under one lid. Sure, a fair amount of the episodes aren’t all that great, but there’s enjoyment to be found in each and every one. Unless you only want specific episodes, I recommend that both die-hard and even casual fans can spend the few bucks to pick up this hefty release.