Once ubiquitous kid's franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been acquired by cable's Nickelodeon. The Viacom-owned network has purchased the global rights to the Turtles from The Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment (that produces the current-running TMNT Saturday morning show) in a deal that is estimated at around $60 million.
Additionally (perhaps, most notably,) the deal will also give Nickelodeon complete rights over merchandising, as it continues its decades-old relationship with toy manufacturer, Playmates. (Who made the original Turtles figures back in the late 80's-early 90's heyday.)
The acquisition could be a huge coup for the iconic network, who during the 90's, peaked with franchises like The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, All That, Doug, among a plethora of others that defined the childhoods of "mid-to-late 80's babies." (Personally, I jumped ship after Pinwheel and Today's Special. Anyone remember those shows?) According to Cyma Zarghami, President of Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group:
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shares a comedic sensibility with the Nickelodeon DNA, with added layers of action and fantasy that have kept this property an evergreen favorite with multiple generations of audiences. We are extremely happy to have the opportunity to be able to focus on this property and creatively re-introduce it to a new generation of kids."
It will be interesting to see how much of a game-changer this acquisition could become. Nickelodeon, along with The Cartoon Network, face some obstacles from a changing field where content distribution has changed, and overall cultural shifts seem to be leading a generation of younger viewers away from their specialty. There could be an argument that the atmosphere is one of a decreasing relevance of the Nickelodeon brand (which hasn't really made an impact during this decade) and even of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. (How long could tentpolling anime and comedic vanity projects in between Family Guy reruns really last?)
With Disney's recent $4 billion acquisition of Marvel, their already prospering cable channels (thanks to the Hannah Montana/Jonas Bros. era teeny-bopper revival) has just become an embarrassment of riches in the department of franchises. Whether the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a quarter-century old franchise well past its peak in popularity) can serve as a watershed moment towards a Nickelodeon revival is uncertain. What we do know, is that the current TMNT animated series is still set to run on the CW Network's TheCW4Kids Saturday morning programming block until a Aug. 31, 2010 expiration. What will Nickelodeon have in store by then? Yet ANOTHER rebooted animated series? Perhaps they may even be bold enough to produce a live-action series? (In the spirit of countering Disney XD's live-action series, Aaron Stone?) The aforementioned statement by Cyma Zarghami sounded like a rather ambitious mission statement. It certainly doesn't sound like this will climax merely with old TMNT reruns. Rather, it seems that BIG things may be on the horizon.
Cowabunga, dudes -- it looks like we might have a gnarly fight on our hands!
Update: THR is now saying that the plan appears to be a new CGI-animated series, as well as a feature film set for 2012. Personally, I think a live-action series would have brought more momentum. However, you can never tell. Sometimes all it takes is the field to be made up of the right combination of nostalgic adults and children receptive to the mythos and "Turtlemania" could easily be revived.