A few months ago when Nickelodeon first announced a new iteration of the TMNT cartoon dubbed Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was some skepticism among hardcore fans towards departures from established TMNT lore. Most notably that Raphael (the one in red for those uninitiated) would be the leader of the group instead of Leonard (the blue one). There was initial criticism towards the previous 2012 CGI series before it aired and ended up lasting for 5 seasons and highly acclaimed, so most fans were willing to reserve final judgment until seeing the show themselves.

Today, Nickelodeon unveiled character designs for the TMNT as well as their girl Friday April O’Neil and ninjutsu sensei Master Splinter. Most notably April O’Neil, traditionally depicted as a Caucasian red-head, is now dark-haired African-American reflecting the actress voicing her, Kat Graham. As those familiar with the original black and white Mirage comics by TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the ethnicity in the comics was rather ambiguous but considering the character was based on Eastman’s African-American girlfriend at the time and the coloring in certain issues, it seems that April O’Neil was intended to be black.


No word yet on the premiere date, but until then take a look at the new designs of the green machine-


Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Pictured (clockwise): Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and April O’Neil.
Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Pictured (clockwise): Raphael,
Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and April O’Neil.


BURBANK, Calif.—Feb. 1–Nickelodeon today revealed a first-look of the characters in its brand-new animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which follows the band of brothers as they discover new powers and encounter a mystical world they never knew existed beneath the streets of New York City. The 2D-animated series debuts later this year on Nickelodeon.


Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reimagines the characters in a fresh new way, featuring jagged-shelled Raphael as a snapping turtle, wielding twin tonfas as his weapons; Leonardo as a red-eared slider, using an ōdachi sword; Donatello as a soft-shell turtle, sporting a tech-bo staff; and Michelangelo as a box turtle, arming himself with a kusari-fundo. Along for the adventure is the Turtles’ most trusted ally, April O’Neil, a street savvy native New Yorker and Splinter, father figure and sensei to the Turtles.


The series stars the voice talent of Omar Miller (Ballers) as Raphael, Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as Leonardo, Josh Brener (Silicon Valley) as Donatello, Brandon Mychal Smith (You’re The Worst) as Michelangelo, Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries) as April O’Neil and Eric Bauza (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as Splinter. WWE Superstar John Cena lends his voice as villain, Baron Draxum, an alchemist warrior mutant who seeks to turn all of humanity into mutants.


The Turtles’ hold distinct personality traits and skills, including: Raphael, as the oldest and biggest brother, he is the leader full of enthusiasm and bravado; Leonardo, the self-professed ‘coolest’ brother possesses irreverent charm and a rebel heart; Donatello, a mechanical genius and tech wizard whose ninja skills are second only to his coding; and Michelangelo, the youngest brother, a skateboarder and artist who is wild and imaginative.


Viewers can visit the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles page on Nick.com for more information and follow @TMNT for Turtle Power updates. The character art was revealed today on Facebook Live.

The new 26-episode series is co-executive produced by Andy Suriano (character designer, Samurai Jack) and Ant Ward (supervising producer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) at Nickelodeon in Burbank. Veteran animation industry voice actor Rob Paulsen is voice directing the series.


Considered one of the most popular kids’ television programs of the 1980s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a classic, global property created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.  It first debuted as a successful comic book series and then became a hit animated TV show, a live-action television series and later spawned numerous blockbuster theatrical releases. The property is a global consumer products powerhouse, winning in every category that has hit shelves to date—with toys, apparel, video games, DVDs and more—and generating billions of dollars at retail.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been the number-one action figure for the past three years and the franchise is a previous recipient of the Toy Industry Association’s top honor for Property of the Year at the TOTY Awards.


  1. I’ve enjoyed each TMNT animated series but this looks awful right? Like, oof. They changed their weapons? It seems like such a small detail until it happens. I like the idea of the specific turtle types and African-American April but visually this product is a mess.

  2. I think it’s a good move. Reminds me of Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go. People were a bit put off at first but now love Teen Titan Go for it’s own unique style.

  3. I’m torn so far on the actual designs for right now. But I’ll reserve judgement until I see them in action.

  4. Are the calling Donatello’s a boo staff cause it looks more like a mace. It also looks like it’s going to be cheaply made which unfortunately seems to be a benefit for cable kids shows (looks at CN’s TeenTitansGo only schedule).

  5. Not loving the designs, but we’ll see how they look in motion.

    Keep in mind, too, that there’s an arc here — it’s right there in the title. We may see them in more familiar gear, weapons, and roles later in the series.

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