Weekend Animation Round-up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ben 10: Omniverse, and The Clone Wars

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Nov 03, 2012

Happy Saturday, you lovers of cartoons! In this week's Animation Round-up, Ben 10 meets a very flexible young lady, The Clone Wars teaches some younglings a lesson, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles must deal with a psychic monkey... AND THE RE-ANIMATOR!

Ben 10: Omniverse S01E08: “Hot Stretch”

“Hot Stretch” may be one of my favorite episodes of Omniverse so far. I admit that I don’t have much to compare it to, but the episode was generally fun with some solid action sequences, some really intense alien street hockey, and, of course, some cute flirty-flirty stuff.

Bellwood was in the grips of a massive heat wave, so of course some thief in a parka had stolen a fusion engine/orb/device for a nefarious purpose. It turned out the super-stretchy thief was Ester, a member of the Kraaho, a Tungsten-based race that requires extreme heat to survive. Their leader, Seebik, used the fusion engine to power some lasers that tapped into a magma flow under the Earth’s surface, which then erupted into Bellwood.

It wasn't the most complicated of plans, and the Kraaho were rather broadly painted Native American/Aboriginal-types which put a bit of a damper on things. But the episode did a lot to make Rook seem very good at his job as Ben’s partner, which is something I hadn’t really been feeling before now. He handled himself well against an assault from the Kraaho while Ben (as NRG) attempted to retrieve the fusion engine, and Rook was the one who first noticed that Ester was all sorts of into Ben. It was nice to see this fleshing-out of Rook, since he'd largely been regulated to straight man and English idiom misuser.

But it was really Ester I was happiest to see. This latest incarnation of Ben 10 has been low on the female characters, so it was nice to see one on the screen, and a capable one at that. I don’t expect Ester to appear in every episode (or even in every other episode), but certainly she can take a break from guiding the Kraaho to lend a hand every now and then.

And now I have a few questions for you Ben 10 aficionados:

– There was no mention of the universe-copying that was performed last week using Alien X, or even hints at it. Is it common for the series to drop and pick up larger arcs or concerns, or is something new to Omniverse?

– Bellwood’s pretty much wrecked after all that lava. Do the Plumbers have an easy way of fixing it? I’m not expecting to see Bellwood still demolished next week, but it seems like a continuity thing.

– Is Ditto really Ben’s cutest form? Is there a cuter one?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars S05E06: “The Gathering”

I sometimes forget that The Clone Wars is intended as a kid-friendly show, but then an episode like “The Gathering” reminds me. It was sort of a dull, toss-away episode (at least for now; who knows when Katooni will be back?!) that, if you’re a Star Wars fan, didn’t offer a lot of new things.

Ahsoka escorted a group of younglings (pre-Padawan Jedi, for those not aware) to Ilum, the planet that houses the cave where the Jedi get all their lightsaber crystals. I don’t think we’ve seen Ilum since Genndy’s Tartakovsky Star Wars: Clone Wars series (though I could be wrong), so it was nice to see another take on the interior of that cavern.

But the episode quickly descended into easy predictability as the Crystal Cave essentially became like the cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, as each of the younglings faced off against some particular trial that improved their character, much like Luke faced off against his fear of becoming Darth Vader. Each of their respective crystals was in a place that challenged a character flaw (impatience, lack of confidence, over-reliance on technology, etc.), and that they had to turn to the to Force and to themselves to reach.

“The Gathering” didn’t offer much new insight into the Jedi Order or into any of the younglings, who were largely defined by their one character trait, and the episode felt very filler-y as a result.

No doubt a point of discussion in this week's comments will be the fate of The Clone Wars following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Cartoon Network has the rights to the series through the end of the 2012-2013 season, and the rights to keep airing reruns through the end of 2013.

Following that, it’s not exactly clear what will happen to the series. It’d be a good fit for Disney XD, though I know many of us believed this season to the be the last (I think even Hasbro, the company that makes the toys, said it was), so it’ll be interesting to see whether Disney orders more episodes or decides to start fresh with a brand-new series.

I imagine a lot will hinge on how much Disney wants to “own” it. The Clone Wars brand is remarkably strong, so starting from scratch is risky, but Disney may also not want to invest in something until it can better control the home video distribution aspect, which is a deal they’ll have to work out with Warner Bros., as the Hollywood Reporter article notes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles S01E05: “Monkey Brains”

It’s sort of surprising that TMNT would give us two Donnie-centric episodes in a row, but “Monkey Brains” did exactly that. It wasn't a not bad thing, though it did a feel a tad unbalanced in terms of character development. After working through learning to have to trust his own skills and weapons, this week Donnie learned not to overthink in combat—to trust his instinct, as it were, like Mikey.

If there's one thing to like about this episode and the previous one, it's that the show is drawing April a bit more into the narrative, which I’m completely in favor of. I’d like it more if Donnie weren’t acting like such a creeper between the voyeurism last week and then the flow chart this week, as if April were some character in a Japanese visual novel game. While that flow chart fit in with this episode's overall theme of Donnie overthinking things (a parallel I can appreciate), it didn’t lessen the ick factor for me. Certainly Splinter wanting to take her on as a pupil is a good sign for her future in the series, and I’m hopeful for her growth as a character.

The case of the episode, hunting down a mutant chimp/transformed scientist, wasn’t particularly compelling, but I freely admit that I enjoyed it a bit more than I should have due largely to Jeffrey Combs’ voice work as Falco, the evil scientist turned evil psychic. Combs’ voice is one of those delightfully menacing ones, a velvet hammer as it were, making it a nice fit for a deranged mind-reader.

The turtles’ fight with Falco was also pretty good. I really liked the use of the blue shadows to illustrate which moves each respective turtle planned on using; it helped to visualize Falco’s abilities beyond the standard psychic circles everyone uses (and that were still used here as well).

Also, as just an aside, how much did you love the “Space Heroes III” post mimicking Star Trek III: The Search for Spock?

What'd you think of this week's episodes?

  • Comments (15)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • hilliebabee Nov 05, 2012

    I'm not a Clone Wars fan, but I watch it every weekend with my boyfriend. All I have to say is BABY WOOKIE!!! Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! I want one!!!

  • EsmeBuffay Nov 04, 2012

    I disagree with the review of the clone wars, even though it was filler-y it was still good. Some of us don't need a season to get to know a character to still care about them or like them. In the end I enjoyed it and would rather watch it than the arc we just got over with.

  • JeremyStratten Nov 04, 2012

    Why wouldn't Disney want to renew Clone Wars if the Hollywood Reporter article says the show has gained a large number of viewers in all the key demos. Starting from scratch makes no sense here. Disney didn't pay so much money just to make their own, new Star Wars related stuff, but also to be able to use everything that already exists and still makes tons of money, and will do so until the end of the world. IMHO the best option is to renew Clone Wars and keep airing it until the new movie comes out and THEN premiere a new show that fits the story of the next trilogy better.

  • noelrk Nov 04, 2012

    Devil's advocate: They wouldn't renew Clone Wars for the same reason they essentially scrapped Spectacular Spider-Man following their acquisition of Marvel in 2008 and replaced it with Ultimate Spider-Man this year: To own the property full and clear without having to worry about paying previous distributors/rights holders.

    It does make a difference that Lucasfilm and its other companies have always been independents who have maintained the rights to their properties and always just needed a strong distributor (Fox, Warner Bros.), but I suspect the hang up will be in working out percentages of the home video revenue.

  • ToddMurray Nov 05, 2012

    Which was sad for us, because Spectacular Spider-Man was pretty darn good and Ultimate Spider-Man is, well, not that good.

    There's a big difference here, though: Spectacular was developed by Sony Pictures, not Marvel. Clone Wars is developed by Lucasfilm Animation (not to be confused with the 2003 minis of the same name). Cartoon Network only has limited broadcasting rights (TBS also has a new syndication deal for Seasons 1 - 2 and WB currently has the DVD/Blu-ray distribution rights), not ownership of the property, which is where the true value lies.

  • TKnHappyNess Nov 04, 2012

    Maybe Teletoon did air the finale of the previous saga sometime because I did see glimpses of this one last night. I slept through the first airing and could've watched it again on their Western channel, but it was 11:30 in the Eastern time zone

  • dragon22a Nov 04, 2012

    Now that you mention female characters in Omniverse, that begs the question as to where is Julie. When Ultimate Alien ended she and Ben were still together yet since Omniverse began there is no sign of her. You were talking about dropping story arcs, well that is a big plot hole that the show has yet to deal with.

  • perualonso1 Nov 04, 2012

    Speaking of Julie, who wants to see her go ape on Ben, thinking he loves Ester more than her?

    Definitely don't want to think about it, do you?

  • noelrk Nov 04, 2012

    See, I was completely unaware of Julie (I know about Gwen; she went off to college, yes?). I don't think they've even mentioned her...Hm. Any notions why?

  • nexpose Nov 04, 2012

    I at least found the cave and crystals interesting since I never knew about that to create a light sabre. I agree it was more "kiddy" but I LOVED seeing a Jedi Wookie in training. :D I'm not sure if I want Clone Wars to go on unless it's more consistent. There are always close to half each season that are remarkable and then some abysmal ones. The last half of Season 3 was some of the best Star Wars in my opinion but 5 seasons is really good so if that's what's planned, I'm fine with it.

  • MrTerminator Nov 04, 2012

    "Monkey Brains" exceeded my expectations. I liked the fight scenes and Falco is definitely an interesting villain to add to the TMNT Mythos! 7.5/10

    Next week I'm really looking forward to "Never say Xever" because its a Leonardo focused Episode and I look forward to the arc that Leo goes through and to see how much his character develops. He's the Leader after all so it should be a kick ass episode all around!

  • Akyriel Nov 04, 2012

    I'll ask this here, since it involves animation, but has Cartoon Network's Looney Tunes Show done away with the CGI Coyote and Roadrunner segments? Might they be planning a separate series for that? It's the best thing about that series and I sort of wished they had gone CGI for the rest, but kept it to the usual shorts, as with the classics. Right now, the show is too dragged out and boring lacking the manic energy of those classics. And where did Elmer Fudd go?

  • noelrk Nov 04, 2012

    I haven't seen any of the most recent Looney Tunes show. I heard it was sort of dreadful, so I've been shying away from it.

  • iheartfrosty Nov 05, 2012

    Haha, I watch every episode and I always find it funny. I don't know. I love Looney Tunes in general.

  • Akyriel Nov 04, 2012

    Dreadful? No, not that severe, but it's lost the irreverent wackiness, if you can call it that, of the classics. You know how sometimes there are films with Saturday Night Live cast members that are criticized for stretching a short comedy bit into two hours when it should have stayed the short sketch bit? That's Looney Tunes. It may have some amusing moments, but most is needless, boring filler in between. The whole premise of the characters living together or as neighbors doesn't work too well either with the possible exception of Yosemite Sam. Bugs' voice sounds strained and he is less in command of his situations, as he used to be in his smart-ass way. Daffy, though voiced well, is fairly unlikeable and with little charm. Porky is pretty true to form. Speedy as a pizza restaurant owner is sort of fun. However, pretty much everything else sort of misses the mark, and/or the point, of the original 'toons. Tiny Toons was a great example of continuing these characters in a new way, but here they have deadened it some.

    The Roadrunner / Coyote 'toons were very good though and carried on the premise of their chase only in CGI. It was (is?) the best thing about the whole show. If they are no longer a part of it, there really is no reason to continue watching the rest.