Half-Shell Heroes is a sub-brand of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property aimed at younger fans. So far it’s mainly been applied to action figures and toys, but the TV Special Blast To The Past marks the first time that Half-Shell Heroes makes its jump to the screen.
Blast To The Past is a special which now comes to DVD after debuting online and airing on TV. It’s not exactly a movie, but really more of a double-length episode. While advertised as a one-hour special, that’s based on broadcast time. Without commercials, it clocks in at just over 44 minutes.
Time travel has always been a staple of the Turtles’ adventures, even in the original comics. Blast To The Past finds the Turtles – plus stowaways Rocksteady and Bebop – transported back to the Cretaceous period, where they have to contend not only with their sneaky foes and a world full of carnivorous dinosaurs, but with a surprise appearance by the Triceratons (dinosaur-like aliens of TMNT lore) as well.
I would imagine that for most readers checking out this review, the primary question of interest is the same one I had: The Half-Shell Heroes brand seems to be aimed at selling toys to children, so how does it fare for older fans?
Surprisingly well, actually.
To its credit, in attempting to broaden its audience, Blast To The Past for the most part doesn’t dumb down its writing or sacrifice quality. Instead, it alters the tone: brighter colors, less brawling, more fanciful adventure, and a much stronger emphasis on comedy than action; presented in classic “2-D” animation.
It’s quite a pleasure to see the Turtles return to traditional animation. While I generally enjoy the mainline Nick series, the CG animation and non-Turtle character designs are somewhat bland and plasticky. Not so with Blast To The Past, which has a look that’s highly stylized (with some anime-inspired techniques) and appealing. I really like the look of these designs.
While the “Half Shell” Turtles as depicted as pint-sized versions of themselves, this is an aesthetic choice rather than an indication of younger or earlier versions of the characters. The special plays out in current continuity of the Turtles’ mainline Nickelodeon series (thus allowing for the appearance of their villains, etc). The characters feel true to themselves, including being voiced by the same actors, and unlike a lot of kids’ programming, most of the jokes land.
Blast To The Past represents the first of an apparent series of Half-Shell Heroes, at least if its ending is any indication. In Army Of Darkness fashion, the gang overshoots their return to the present, landing in a dystopian future and introducing – complete with a reference to They Live – a surprising premise that has me looking forward to the next entry.
Blast To The Past comes in an Eco-DVD case. My review copy came with an embossed slipcover, though typical experience of these TMNT releases is that the inclusion of slipcovers is random and probably not a given. A sticker on the cover advertises a bonus Nick DVD. Mine came with a Jimmy Neutron: Confusion Fusion disc in a paper sleeve, though I would imagine this as a random insertion from overstocked titles.
Despite being a DVD, the picture quality looks pretty good, thanks to the bold animation style. While the screenshots show obvious compression artifacts and crush, these problems are not apparent in motion. The animation and colors look fluid and crisp.
Special Features and Extras
None. The disc features no bonus content or even audio or subtitle options.
As a TMNT fan I enjoyed Blast To The Past. Despite its appeal to a younger target audience, it doesn’t feel any more overtly childish than, say, an episode of DuckTales. The DVD is barebones, and with SD picture and no frills – and no Blu-ray option – provides little compelling reason to purchase a disc versus high-definition VOD (particularly since no digital copy is included). I’m usually a physical media guy, but in this case I would point those interested in buying to the Digital HD version (currently at $5, or about half the DVD’s price).
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