Beating out classics like The Flintstones, the animated Ninja Turtles series was once the longest running cartoon franchise of all time (later beaten by The Simpsons). With the DVD releases of the early episodes, it's not hard to see why. It's a perfect series for kids with tons of action, great dialogue, and of course some ridiculous antics to keep the young ones glued to the screen.
Volume 4 of the DVD release covers some of the third season. A few episodes from this same season were on volume three, while the rest ended up on volume five. It hardly makes sense why they're being release on this manner, but this is a solid collection of stories regardless.
Season three would bring in new characters, and this volume introduces the violent Dirty Harry knock-off Casey Jones. The Rat King, and Baxter Stockman, revealed in previous DVD editions, make their way into a few episodes here as well. Out of the 12 included half-hour long shows, a few classics in the franchise make themselves known.
"Cowabunga Shreadhead" is a great way for kids to get involved in the series, featuring the TMNT's nemesis the Shredder who is brainwashed into believing he's actually one of them. "Return of the Fly" brings back Baxter Stockman who is an oddly impartial foe for both the good and evil sides.
The writing was still witty and self-referential too. Raphael is his usual sarcastic self, pointing out absurdities and odd plot points directly to the audience. It works on both the targeted audience and adults. While still firmly planted in the young child demographic to sell as many action figures as possible, it's obvious the show's creators had a heart for the parents stuck watching this one on a daily basis.
If there's any problem with this collection, it's the same one that will follow future volumes as well. Simply put, it's sloppy far too often. The wrong turtle talks, voice actors change constantly, colors are mistakenly placed on the wrong characters, and animation flubs are frequent. There's no doubt every episode was pushed out as quickly as possible to keep the fad moving, and mistakes like this show it. Over 10 years later though, this is still a wildly entertaining show. (****)
There's little improvement in the video presentation when compared to earlier releases. Compression is still the biggest issue, though it's not a surprise with nearly five hours of content on a single sided disc. The increased clarity makes it easier to pick up animation flubs, which are at times hard to ignore. Aliasing is not generally a problem, odd for the format and animation. (***)
Presented in standard 2.0 stereo, there's nothing here worth mentioning. Dialogue is fine, coming through clear without distortion. There's no use of the dual stereo channels at all. (**)
Aside from a few trailers and decent menu selection screen, there's nothing in the way of extras. It's worth noting that Lionsgate has used the same artwork on every disc to date, just in different places each time. (No stars)
Season 3 continues to roll out in digital format with the fifth DVD release. With close to 155 episodes out there, it's going to take years to finally see a full set, not to mention an exorbitant amount of shelf space. While it's somewhat understandable given that season three was composed of nearly 50 episodes, there's no other logical reason why these aren't being released in season sets.