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Cowabunga, Dude! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise sold to Nickolodeon.

The venerable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise “has acquired the global rights to the property from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment.”  “The global intellectual property rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… cost $60 million.”  Nickolodeon already has plans for the newly acquired property:  the company’s “sister company Paramount will steer a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature to the bigscreen, planned for 2012. Scott Mednick (300) is producing the pic.”

The Nickolodeon deal also nets the company “all merchandising rights to the Turtles,” which”will continue to work with its original and longstanding toy partner, Playmates Toys.”   Nickolodeon is also planning on “developing a CG-animated TV series based on the Turtles, also slated to premiere in 2012.”

Sixty million dollars sounds like a good investment on Nickolodeon’s part.  The franchise is in a kind of limbo now, their original audience has grown up, and do children even care? TMNT proved they did not.

If you watch the first live-action film today (and to a lesser extent, the second one, number three was just ridiculous,) the silly and fun characters still stand up well.  The writing is tight, and it keeps both films rolling at a snappy pace.  The first film even has a dark side; for example, Shredder brainwashed neglected youth to run his crime syndicate.  Raphael’s adversarial relationship with the other Turtles drove a wedge in the intrepid foursome.

What could sink the proposed film is an attempt to make the Turtles “cool.”  Part of their charm has always been, and will always be, the fact that they always had their own distinctive kind of charm.  A charm that defies the passage of time.  I can watch the first few films or the original animated series and feel like a little kid again.  I know part of that is their literal connection to my childhood, but there is a palpable timelessness to the best of the franchise.

But my advice to Nickolodeon for success in the TurtleUniverse is “do NOT try to hip them out.”  Leo standing around cracking jokes about FUBU….Donnie complaining about his BlackBerry reception in the sewer.  Turtle Power can only survive the 21st century by keeping the Turtles in their own world.  Also, my recommendation is to keep the suits in any future film.  The Turtle suits made them actually look like giant mutant turtles; CGI would just be overkill. 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of the Ninja Turtles first appearance in a comic book, which is a definite sign of their resiliency as a franchise. Righteous!