Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
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Donatello, the brains of the TMNT
|First appearance||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|Created by||Kevin Eastman
|Team affiliations||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|
|Abilities||Highly skilled in ninjutsu
Olympic-level agility, speed, and strength
Master of stealth
Expert in various fields of science and engineering
Mastery of bōjutsu and kobudō
Donatello, often shortened to Don, Donny or Donnie is a fictional character and one of the four protagonists of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and all related media. He is co-creator Peter Laird's favorite Turtle.
In the Mirage/Image Comics, all four turtles wear red bandanas, but in other versions he wears a purple bandana. His primary signature weapon is his effective bō staff. In all media, he is depicted as the smartest and second-in-command of the four turtles. Donnie often speaks in technobabble with a natural aptitude for science and technology. He is named after the Italian sculptor Donatello.
- 1 Comics
- 2 Television
- 3 Movies
- 4 Video games
- 5 References
In the comics, Donatello is originally presented along with Leonardo as one of the two calmer turtles. While the comics portrayal of the team has no official command structure, in the early stories he is depicted as second-in-command. In the first issue, he is the one that killed the Shredder by knocking him and his grenade off the roof. The second issue elaborated more on each turtles' personalities and opened with Donatello soldering a circuit. Later in the issue, Donatello states that he is "familiar with some computer systems" and helps April O'Neil deactivate the Mousers. During the turtles' exile to Northampton, Donatello becomes obsessed with fixing up and repairing the many broken things within the farmhouse they were living in. Most notably he spent days and nights fixing the boiler to give his family hot running water and builds a windmill and a water wheel to provide electricity. He also finds an old typewriter and writes his own personal credo.
In the Donatello one shot, Donatello encounters an artist called Kirby (an homage to the comic artist Jack Kirby) whose mysterious crystal brings his drawings to life before disappearing. The two newfound friends journey to a dimension inhabited by Kirby's creations and help the heroes defeat the invading monsters.
In the Shades of Grey storyline, Casey Jones encounters the turtle by a ravine as he was pondering "the fractal structure of natural patterns". Casey accuses the turtle of using big words and acting better than everyone else. Donatello suggests they should continue the conversation when Casey is sober. Grabbing a stick, an angry Jones continually pokes the turtle until he loses his temper and sends Casey careening into the water.
In the City at War storyline, the turtles return to New York to put an end to the Foot Clan's civil war. During a battle with Shredder's Elite Guards in the ruins of the Second Time Around Shop, Donatello falls through the floor and breaks his leg. Seeing their ally Karai subdued and about to be killed, Donatello grabs one of the Foot's machine guns and repeatedly shoots the Foot Elite. Donatello is visibly shaken by the violence and throws the gun away. At the end of the story the turtles, April and Casey move back to New York save for Donatello who chooses to stay in Northampton with Master Splinter to heal from his injury as well as reflect on everything that had happened. While meditating with Splinter, Donatello receives a vision of the future where he is in the village of Chihaya in Japan. When Donatello asks what he would be doing there, his master simply replies "To bury me". After encountering the turtle vigilante ally Nobody in civilian guise he returns with him to New York to help his brothers battle Baxter Stockman.
In the current comics, Donatello finds an armored truck in the sewers which apparently had been part of a bank robbery in the sixties. Along with Raphael and Casey Jones, he undertakes the task of fixing up the vehicle. After the death of Splinter, Donatello secretly goes to his body and asks forgiveness before clipping something off him. Shortly after, Donatello decides to accompany the Utroms on a mission to Tepui to search for two missing research teams. The group are attacked by strange wooden creatures who shrink them to miniature size. The creatures turn out to be a group of Utroms which had been stranded in the Jungle during their first stay on Earth and had been living in secret thanks to their Quantum Inversion Redimensioning device which could alter their size. The process could not be reversed on Donatello, possibly due to his mutation, leaving him the size of an action figure. While the Utroms work on returning him to normal, Donatello put his new size to use infiltrating a terrorist organizations warehouse. He's also made a robotic body for him made to resemble a turtle to help him move around.
In the Image Comics incarnation of the TMNT, he became a cyborg after his body was partially destroyed from being shot and dropped out of a helicopter (he maintained a positive attitude nonetheless, although he was constantly at risk of losing his mind to the cyborg half). The Image Comics were later treated as non-canon by the Mirage Publications.
Donatello's appearance in the Archie publications were largely based on the 1987 Fred Wolf incarnation, but with Mirage writers on board at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures such as Steve Murphy and Ryan Brown, a lot of references to his Mirage counterpart were made. Donatello was showcased to be pure of heart and soul, being able to pass through the Netherworld unscathed. He was also chosen of the Turtles by a group of Aliens known as the Sons of Silence to share their wisdom. He was one of the few who could telepathically communicate with them. Donatello was almost a pacifist, detesting every time he used violence.
In a shocking twist, Donatello was seemingly killed at the end of issue #44 when Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo were on a mission to stop Krang from transforming the earth using an alien device called the "Technodrome". Donatello was left at the home base, and while the others were away, he was attacked by Bebop and Rocksteady. Although aided by Metalhead, he was unable to fend them off, and Rocksteady crushed his shell with a sledgehammer.
Writer Tom Waltz, who scripted the scene, said in an interview with IGN that fans' reactions on Twitter and Facebook were "numerous and have run the gamut from praise to horror to confusion to hate… to some folks wishing me dead. And though I find the hateful ones more than a little disconcerting, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased to find out just how passionate so many folks are about our comic book and TMNT in general... That final scene in issue #44 choked me up when I wrote it… even more so when I saw how tragically beautiful Cory Smith and Ronda Pattison rendered it."
In Issue #45, Donatello wasn't dead as his spirit was in an alternate plain and he was barely clinging to life. Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael carried Donatello's body into the freezer to slow down the bleeding and increase his chance of survival. Fugitoid says he needs to go to Burrow Island to get the equipment to save Donatello. Splinter finds Donatello's spirit and guides his son back to earth, however, due to Donatello wearing a helmet to keep his consciousness alive, his mind is in Metalhead, while his own body is being restored to how it was before his near demise. 
1987 animated series
The 1987 animated television series depicts Donatello as a genius who invents many of the turtles vehicles and equipment including the Turtle Van, the Turtle Blimp and the Turtle Com. Unlike the 2003 series his other minor inventions often malfunction, but many of them end up serving a practical purpose. Despite an obvious lack of funding in subsequent seasons he made many revolutionary inventions, the most notable being the portable portal capable of opening gateways to other dimensions as well as an early warning system which warns of impending attacks from other dimensions or from Krang and Shredder. Despite Leonardo being the official leader of the team given the sci fi nature of the series it is Donatello who comes up with most of the plans and solutions to the turtles predicaments. At times he displays little appreciation for human culture beyond the scientific community and he even earned a degree via mail.
In the 1987 series's original Donatello's voice actor is Barry Gordon with Greg Berg as the 1989 alternate voice actor. In the 25th anniversary movie Turtles Forever, Donatello was voiced by Anthony Haden Salerno.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
2003 animated series
Like the Mirage comics, Donatello has a complex personality in the 2003 animated series. Donatello is voiced by Sam Riegel in the original English version and Yuji Ueda in the Japanese version. Several episodes concentrate on him, as well as his emotional and intellectual struggles. As in his other incarnations, he is intelligent, good with his hands, and very introspective, frequently becoming pensive over things he doesn't understand. He typically has a very close, however platonic, relationship with April. He also displays closeness with Michelangelo akin to that seen in the original movie. Even more pacifistic than his other incarnations, Donatello shows a greater interest in technology than his ninjutsu training. Even so, Donatello will defend his brothers at any cost, and he frequently assists the team in many ways through the technology he develops, mostly vehicles and communication devices. In this animation, Donatello is generally well liked by all of his brothers, never engaging in major confrontations with them. In fact, Donatello was the one to reunite his brothers against the Shredder in the episode "Same As It Never Was", having been sent to an alternate future where the team fell apart after he vanished. His skin color is a light, brownish green color; this particular color is only used for him in the 2003 animation. In the fourth season, he was infected by a monster, and in the episode "Adventures in Turtlesitting", he mutates into a monster himself, which happened to Raphael in the comics. In the seventh season, also called "Back to the Sewer", Donatello blamed himself for Master Splinter's decompiling and vowed to restore his bits from cyberspace. This obsession caused him to disregard anything else, such as the war between the Purple Dragons and the Foot clan, as unimportant. It wasn't until seeing his brothers in danger from the Cyber Shredder did he realize he was ignoring his responsibilities to help them and promised not to let his obsession with saving Master Splinter take control again.
By the time of Turtles Forever, the 2003 Donatello is in total disbelief over the scientific aptitude of his 1987 counterpart, in which the alternate Donatello replied, "Science isn't all just facts and figures", although the two still manage to work together to track their enemies.
2012 animated series
Donatello returns in Nickelodeon's new 2012 animated series, now wielding a bō staff which converts to a naginata (Japanese halberd). In this version, Donatello has a crush on April O'Neil (who is also in teenage years in this adaptation). It appears that Donatello has a more prominent role in this series compared to the original 1987 series, being more active and purpose-driven, but at times does not understand and/or has a hard time grasping the lectures of Master Splinter. His character design was also updated, giving him a gap in his teeth and a taller, leaner appearance than his brothers. Donnie is voiced by Rob Paulsen (who was Raph's voice actor in the 1987 animated series).
Original trilogy (1990-1993)
In the first three live action films, Donatello, like Leonardo, is arguably less mature than he was in the original comics and the 1987 animated series, as he is shown joking around more. The first movie never officially identifies Donatello as the group's resident "whiz kid", though he is occasionally shown tinkering with various devices and is seen to have a vast knowledge of obscure topics (he is shown to be a master at 'Trivial Pursuit' when playing against the other Turtles and later astutely labels Casey Jones a claustrophobic). He takes his time deciding on the most appropriate victory cheers, though his choices are sometimes quite perplexing ("Bossa Nova!"). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, however, clearly established Donatello as the most scientifically-minded turtle as well as the most introspective, feeling dejected when he learns that the ooze that created the Turtles only exists because of an accident, although Splinter consoles his dejection by pointing out that the circumstances of their origins cannot define their present worth.
The first film plays up the relationship between him and Casey Jones; in all other versions of the TMNT, Raphael, not Donatello, is closest to Casey, except for the 1987 cartoon, in which Jones does not figure prominently. This is apparently because the scene in which Donatello and Casey bond over the fixing of an old pickup truck was based on a similar scene involving Casey and Raphael in the Mirage comics. Corey Feldman famously provides Donatello's voice in the first and third live-action films, while Adam Carl filled in for the second movie during Feldman's stint in rehabilitation. In the third film, Donatello is the only Turtle who is not tempted to stay in the Feudal Japan of the past, saying that he can't live without technology. The films also portray Donatello as being close with Michelangelo, bantering with him during fight sequences, going off to the side when Leo and Raph are arguing and in general hanging out in their spare time.
In the 2007 film, Donatello runs an IT tech support line to earn money for the family and keeps an eye on Mikey. In the first half of the movie Donatello's skills are more focused on keeping the family together and on income than instead of inventing inventions and finding creative ways to solve problems. It is a combined effort of Leo being gone, Raph unable to control his temper and Donnie's leadership and logically minded skills that add up-to the reason as why he's been put into this position. With the combined efforts of all of these reasons is why Donnie and Raph argue more in this film than in most other depictions of their relationship. Raph is angry that Donnie has been named leader instead of himself while Leo is away and Donnie is angry that Raph hasn't been pulling his weight to support them. To add to this matter is the fact that Raphael was secretly fighting as the Nightwatcher. This disagreement is further explained in the prequel comics by the fact that Donatello does not trust Nightwatcher, because no one knows what side he is really on and because he uses fear to accomplish his ends. Donatello states that Raphael uses many of the same tactics, and hints that he may suspect what his brother really does at night. Donatello also tries to guide Michelangelo away from the idea that vigilantes are heroes. Such action depicts Donatello as a second in command while Leonardo is in Central America, forced to be the responsible one in Leonardo's absence and teach his brothers what Leo would in his place. Don is clearly yet still unofficially established as second in command here, much more than in the other three movies. However, it should be noted that Raphael felt he was better suited to be in charge and openly asks Splinter why he was not considered for the role. Splinter explains that Raph has not yet mastered control over his rage and is therefore not eligible to be leader.
In this film, Donnie also seems to show a bit more emotional care for Mikey than in the previous films. According to the short "Mikey's Birthday Party" Donnie helps Mikey with his job as a character entertainer named "Cowabunga Carl" by communicating with Mikey viva cameras and head gear order to remind him to hand-out flyers and to get cash (not checks). This seems to irate Mikey to a large degree. (The 2007 movie never mentions age as a deciding factor). In the game tie-in his IQ is "off the charts". Don is voiced by Mitchell Whitfield.
Donatello appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles portrayed by Jeremy Howard. Corey Feldman has stated he would be 'eager' to return to voice Donatello before Howard was cast. In this film, Donatello is once again the brains of the team and relies heavily on high-tech equipment and gear. His personality in this film is very calm and measured. He was also given a much more nerdy portrayal than in previous adaptations.
In the video games based on the 1987 animated series, Donatello has the longest range, although he cannot inflict as much damage as Leonardo, who has the second-longest range; one notable exception is the first NES game, where Donatello both did the most damage and had the longest range, though his attacks were slow. This has been carried over into the games inspired by the 2003 animated series. In TMNT: Smash Up, he is voiced by Sam Riegel.
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