Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Kevin Eastman's art).jpg
Art by Kevin Eastman
Created byKevin Eastman
Peter Laird
Original workTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)
(1984)
OwnerMirage Studios (1984–2009)
ViacomCBS (2009–present)[1]
Print publications
Comics
Comic strip(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (comic strip)
(1990–1997)
Films and television
Film(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in film
(1990–present)
Television seriesNinja Turtles: The Next Mutation
(1997–1998)
Animated series
Direct-to-videoMutant Turtles: Superman Legend
(1996)
Games
Role-playingTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness
Video game(s)List of video games
Miscellaneous
Toy(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures
CharactersList of characters

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, also known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, is an entertainment franchise created in 1983 by American comic book authors Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. It follows Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, four anthropomorphic turtle brothers trained in ninjitsu who fight evil in New York City.[2]

Eastman and Laird conceived the characters as a parody of elements popular in superhero comics at the time. In 1984, they founded Mirage Studios and self-published the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984; it was a surprise success. They licensed the characters to Playmates Toys, who developed a line of Turtles action figures. About $1.1 billion USD of Turtles toys were sold between 1988 and 1992, making them the third-bestselling toy figures ever at the time.

The action figures were promoted with the first Turtles animated series, which premiered in 1987 and ran for almost a decade. In some European regions, the word "ninja" in the name was replaced with "hero" for its violent connotations. Three live-action films were released in the 1990s; the first film became the highest-grossing independent film up to that point. In 2009, the Turtles franchise was purchased by Nickelodeon, a subsidiary of Viacom. Viacom commissioned a new comic series, two new live-action films, and new animated series.

History[edit]

Cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles No. 1 (May 1984)

1983–1986: Conception and first comics[edit]

Comic book authors Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird met in Massachusetts and began working on illustrations together. In 1983, Laird invited Eastman to move in with him in Dover, New Hampshire.[3] That November, Eastman drew a masked turtle standing on its hind legs armed with nunchucks.[4] Laird added the words "teenage mutant".[3] The concept parodied several elements popular in superhero comics of the time: the mutants of Uncanny X-Men, the teenagers of New Teen Titans and the ninjas of Daredevil, combined with the comic tradition of funny animals such as Howard the Duck.[5]

Developing the concept into a comic book, Eastman and Laird considered giving the turtles Japanese names, but instead named them Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo after the Italian Renaissance artists. Laird said the names "felt just quirky enough to fit the concept".[4] They developed a backstory referencing further elements of Daredevil: whereas Daredevil gains his superpowers through exposure to radioactive material, the turtles mutate into humanoid heroes; the Turtles' sensei, Splinter, is a play on Daredevil's sensei, Stick.[5]

In March 1984, Eastman and Laird founded a comic book company, Mirage Studios, in their home.[4] Using money from a tax refund and a loan from Eastman's uncle, they printed copies of first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and advertised it in Comics Buyer's Guide Magazine.[4] This attracted the interest of comic distributors, and all 3,000 copies were sold in a few weeks.[4] Sales of further issues continued to climb.[4]

1987–1989: Toys, animation and video games[edit]

In 1987, Eastman and Laird licensed Turtles to Playmates Toys.[5] Between 1988 and 1997, Playmates produced Turtles toys including around 400 figures and dozens of vehicles and playsets. About $1.1 billion USD of Turtles toys were sold in four years, making them the third-bestselling toy figures ever at the time, behind GI Joe and Star Wars.[4]

Influenced by the success of He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers, which had promoted toy lines with animated series, PlayMates worked with Murakami-Wolf-Swenson to produce the first Turtles animated series,[6] which premiered in 1987 and ran for almost a decade.[5] It introduced Turtles elements such as their color-coded masks, catchphrases, love of pizza and distinct personalities.[5] To make it acceptable to parents and television networks, the series had a lighter tone than the comics, with no expletives, less violence and less threatening villains.[4] In the United Kingdom and some other European regions, the franchise was renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles for the violent connotations of the word "ninja".[7][8]

The first Turtles video game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1989; it was the first of several developed by the Japanese company Konami.[9] It sold approximately 4 million copies, making it one of the bestselling NES games. As of 2015, the Turtles had featured in 23 video games.[4]

In response to concerns that the series was drifting from its origins, Eastman and Laird published an editorial in the comic in 1989, writing: "We've allowed the wacky side to happen, and enjoy it very much. All the while, though, we've kept the originals very much ours."[10] Eastman later said there was "some stuff that we wish we hadn’t said yes to", and Laird wrote of his dislike for the softer tone of the animated series.[4]

1990s: First films, tour and live-action series[edit]

The early 1990s saw the commercial peak of the franchise.[11] The first Turtles film was released in 1990, featuring costumes designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.[11] It was based more closely on the comic than the animated series, with a darker tone.[11] It was the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1990 and the highest-grossing independent film at that point, earning more than $200 million USD worldwide.[12][13]

Creators Kevin Eastman (top) and Peter Laird

A sequel, The Secret of the Ooze, was released the following year; with a rushed production and a lighter tone, it received weaker reviews and was less successful at the box office.[13] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) was aimed at the Japanese market, the largest foreign market for US films at the time, but failed to see release there[5] and saw weaker reviews and sales.[13]

In 1990, a stage musical, Coming Out of Their Shells, featuring the Turtles as a rock band, played 40 shows across the United States.[4] The musical was sponsored by Pizza Hut and promoted with an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.[14] A soundtrack album and VHS were released.[4]

After the animated series ended, a live-action television series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, was created in 1997 with Saban Entertainment. The series introduced a fifth, female turtle, Venus de Milo. It was canceled after one season.[4] Laird later said it was the only licensed Turtles project he "truly regrets".[4]

2000s: Second animated series, animated film, and sale to Nickelodeon[edit]

Eastman sold his share of the Turtles franchise to Laird in 2000.[5] In 2003, 4Kids Entertainment launched a new animated Turtles series, which ran until 2009. Laird had a role in the production, creating a closer adaptation of the original comic.[4] In 2007, a computer-animated Turtles film, TMNT, was released, earning $95 million at the box office.[4]

In 2009, Laird sold the franchise to Nickelodeon, a subsidiary of Viacom.[5] He said he had tired of working on Turtles, writing: "I am no longer that guy who carries his sketchbook around with him and draws in it every chance he gets."[15]

2010s–present: Third animated series and new films[edit]

In August 2011,[16] IDW Publishing launched a new Turtles comic series, with Eastman as co-writer and illustrator.[5] In September 2012, Nickelodeon launched a computer-animated series,[4] which ran for five seasons and ended in 2017.[17]

A new live-action Turtles film, produced by Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon Movies, and Paramount Pictures, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay, was released on August 8, 2014. It received negative reviews from critics and fans, but was a box-office success.[5] A sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, directed by Dave Green, was released in June 2016.[18]

A new TV series from Nickelodeon, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, launched in 2018 and ran for two seasons.[19] A film sequel to the series for the streaming service Netflix was announced in 2019.[20] Two additional films, an animated film produced by Seth Rogen and a live-action reboot produced by Bay are in development.[21][22]

Characters[edit]

In most versions, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are created when four baby turtles are exposed to radioactive ooze, transforming them into humanoids.[23] They reside in the sewers of New York City.[24]

Leonardo, typically the leader, is the most disciplined and skilled turtle;[25] an expert swordsman, he wields two katana and wears a blue bandana.[26] Raphael, usually portrayed as the strongest and most reckless turtle,[27] wears a red bandana and uses a pair of sai.[28] Donatello uses his intellect to invent gadgets and vehicles;[29] he wears a purple mask and uses a bo staff.[30] Michelangelo is the least disciplined and most fun-loving turtle, and is usually portrayed as the most agile.[31] He wears an orange bandana and uses nunchucks.[32]

Splinter is a mutant rat who is the wise adoptive father of turtles and teaches them ninjitsu. In some iterations, he was once the pet rat of ninja master Hamato Yoshi; in others, he is a mutated Yoshi.[33] The Turtles are assisted by April O'Neil, who is variously depicted as a news reporter, lab assistant or genius computer programmer.[34][35] In most versions, she is pursued romantically by Casey Jones,[36] a hockey mask-wearing vigilante who usually becomes an ally of the Turtles.[37]

The Turtles' nemesis is the Shredder, who leads the criminal ninja clan known as the Foot. His real identity is usually the ninja Oroku Saki.[38] In most versions, the Shredder's second in command is Karai, a skilled martial artist; in some iterations she is the Shredder's daughter.[39] The Shredder allies with Baxter Stockman, a mad scientist,[40] and Krang, an alien warlord. Krang was introduced in the original animated series, and was inspired by the Utrom race from the comics.[41] Also created for the series were the Shredder's buffoonish henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady, a mutant rhino and warthog.[42]

Comics[edit]

Mirage (1984 – present)[edit]

Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premiered in May 1984, at a comic book convention held at a local Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was published by Mirage Studios in an oversized magazine-style format using black and white artwork on cheap newsprint, limited to a print run of 3,250 copies.[43] Through a clever media kit that included a press release in The Comics Journal No. 89 and a full-page ad placed in Comic Buyer's Guide #547, the public's interest was piqued and thus began the Turtle phenomenon. The small print runs made these early comics and trade magazines instant collector items, and within months, they were trading for over 50 times their cover price.[citation needed]

Mirage also published a bimonthly companion book entitled Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, featuring art by Ryan Brown and Jim Lawson, which was designed to fill in the gaps of continuity in the TMNT universe. This put the original series and Tales in the same mainstream canon. The title's first volume was from 1987 to 1989, released in alternating months with the regular Eastman and Laird book. All seven issues of volume one have been collected in trade paperback form twice, and 25 issues of volume two have been collected in trades of five issues each.[citation needed]

As the TMNT phenomenon proliferated to other media, Eastman and Laird found themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut. However, this prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. So, many guest artists were invited to showcase their unique talents in the TMNT universe. The breadth of diversity found in the various short stories gave the series a disjointed, anthology-like feel.[citation needed] The series lasted for 129 issues, spanning four separate volumes (having 62, 13, 23, and 32 issues in the four distinct volumes).[44]

Between 1984 and 1995, Mirage Studios published 75 regular issues, plus dozens of miniseries and other comics.[4] After the Image Comics series ended, Laird returned the Turtles comic to Mirage in 2001 and disregarded the Image storylines. By 2010, 31 new issues had been produced.[4]

Image Comics (1996 – 1999)[edit]

In 1996, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles moved from Mirage to Image Comics, which produced thirteen issues and a miniseries. The series saw Splinter become a bat, Donatello a cyborg, Leonardo losing a hand and Raphael becoming the new Shredder. The series was canceled in 1999.[4]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures[edit]

From 1988 – 1995, Archie Comics published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, based on the original animated series.[4]

Dreamwave[edit]

A monthly comic inspired by the 2003 TV series was published by Dreamwave Productions from June to December 2003. It was written by Peter David and illustrated by LeSean Thomas. In the first four issues, which were the only ones directly adapted from the TV series, the story was told from the perspectives of April, Baxter, Casey, and a pair of New York City police officers.[citation needed][citation needed]

IDW[edit]

In 2011, IDW Publishing acquired the license to publish new collections of Mirage storylines and a new ongoing series.[45] The first issue of the new series was released on August 24 that year. Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz wrote the book, with Eastman and Dan Duncan providing art. In August 2017 the 73rd issue of the comic was published, making it the longest running comic series in the franchise's history.[46] In December 2019 the 100th issue of the comic was published, concluding the eight part "City at War" arc. Starting with issue 101, series writer and artist Sophie Campbell took over as the sole lead writer of the book.[47]

New Animated Adventures/Amazing Adventures[edit]

Similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series from Archie Comics, which spun-off from the original TV series, IDW Publishing released a spin-off comic title based on the 2012 cartoon called New Animated Adventures featuring original adventures, starting July 2013. The series was cancelled after 24 issues, and was succeeded by a revised story program entitled Amazing Adventures, which was launched in August 2015 and published until September 2017, with a total of fourteen regular issues, one special story guest-starring Carmelo Anthony, a three-issue story arch titled Robotanimals, and the crossover miniseries Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles[edit]

IDW published a comic book based on the series, beginning in July 2018.[48] The comics concluded with an introductory issue (#0), a five-issue main story and a Halloween Comicfest special. After a period of inactivity, it was continued with a three-issue story arc titled "Sound Off!" from July to September 2019.

Manga[edit]

The Turtles have appeared in several manga series.

  • Mutant Turtles (ミュータント・タートルズ, Myūtanto Tātoruzu) is a 15-issue series by Tsutomu Oyamada, Zuki mora, and Yoshimi Hamada that simply adapted episodes of the original American animated series.
  • Super Turtles (スーパータートルズ Sūpā Tātoruzu) is a three-issue miniseries by Hidemasa Idemitsu, Tetsurō Kawade, and Toshio Kudō that featured the "TMNT Supermutants" Turtle toys that were on sale at the time. The first volume of the anime miniseries followed this storyline.
  • Mutant Turtles Gaiden (ミュータント・タートルズ外伝, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Gaiden) by Hiroshi Kanno is a reinterpretation of the Turtles story with no connection to the previous manga.
  • Mutant Turtles III (ミュータント・タートルズ3, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Tsuri) is Yasuhiko Hachino's adaptation of the third feature film.
  • Mutant Turtles '95 (ミュータント・タートルズ95, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Kyūjūgo) is a 1995 series by Ogata Nobu which ran in Comic BomBom.
  • Mutant Turtles '96 (ミュータント・タートルズ96, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Kyūjūroku) is a continuation of the 1995 series when it continued to run through 1996.

Comic strip[edit]

A daily comic strip written and illustrated by Dan Berger began in 1990. It featured an adventure story Monday through Friday and activity puzzles on weekends (with fan art appearing later). The comic strip was published in syndication until its cancellation in December 1996. At its highest point in popularity, it was published in over 250 newspapers.

Television series[edit]

First animated series (1987–1996)[edit]

When little-known Playmates Toys was approached about producing a TMNT action figure line, they were cautious of the risk and requested that a television deal be acquired first.[49][50] On December 28, 1987, the TMNT's first cartoon series began, starting as a five-part miniseries and becoming a regular Saturday-morning syndicated series on October 1, 1988, with 13 more episodes. The series was produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson.[6]

The show is more lighthearted than the comics. Here, the Turtles are portrayed as four funny but serious superheroes that fight the forces of evil from their sewer hideout. They love pizza and put weird toppings on it. They make their first appearance in masks color-coded to each turtle, where previously they had all worn red.[51] The turtles were also well known for their use of idiomatic expressions characteristic of the surfer lingo of the time, especially by Michelangelo. Words and phrases included "bummer", "dude", "bogus", "radical", "far-out", "tubuloso", "bodacious", and possibly the most recognized, "cowabunga," a nonsense expression first coined by The Howdy Doody Show's Chief Thunderthud.[52]

The cast included new and different characters, such as Bebop and Rocksteady and the Neutrinos. Original characters such as Splinter, Shredder, and the Foot Soldiers stayed true to the comics in appearance and alignment only. Instead of being Hamato Yoshi's mutated pet rat, Splinter was a mutated Hamato himself. The Foot Soldiers changed from human ninjas to an endless supply of robotic grunts, allowing large numbers of them to be destroyed without anyone dying (this was a very important decision in terms of the show's child audience; excessive violence would have alienated parents of children, the show's target demographic). Krang, one of the series' most memorable villains, was inspired by the design of the Utrom, a benign alien race from the Mirage comics. The animated Krang, however, was instead an evil warlord from Dimension X. Baxter Stockman, whose race was changed from black to white, was rewritten as a shy and meek lackey to Shredder, later mutating into an anthropomorphic housefly. During the final two seasons of the show, the lead villain switched to Lord Dregg, an evil alien overlord bent on world conquest by trying to distract the public into believing that the Turtles were the enemy instead of himself.

Starting on September 25, 1989, the series was expanded to weekdays and it had 47 more episodes for the new season. There were 28 new syndicated episodes for season 4 and only 13 of those episodes aired in 1990. The "European Vacation" episodes were not seen in the United States until USA Network started showing reruns in late 1993 and the "Awesome Easter" episodes were not seen until 1991. These episodes were delayed because of animation or scheduling problems.[53] On April 21, 1990, a drug-prevention television special was broadcast on ABC, NBC, and CBS named Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue that featured some of the most popular cartoons at the time; representing TMNT was Michelangelo, voiced by Townsend Coleman.

Starting on September 8, 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its run on CBS. The CBS weekend edition ran for a full hour until 1994, initially airing a few Saturday-exclusive episodes back-to-back. Also, a brief "Turtle Tips" segment aired between the two episodes, which served as public-service announcement about the environment or other issues. After 1994, the show was reduced to just a half-hour and only eight episodes per season were produced, grouped into a "CBS Action Zone" block that also featured WildC.A.T.s. and Skeleton Warriors, both of which were canceled after one season; though TMNTs retained their "Action Zone" introduction. The series ran until November 2, 1996, when it aired its final episode. Its enormous popularity gave rise to its numerous imitators, including the Battletoads, Cheetahmen, Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, Road Rovers, Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs, and Biker Mice from Mars. Currently, all 193 episodes are available on DVD and VHS.

Original video animation[edit]

In addition to the American series, a Japan-exclusive two-episode anime original video animation (OVA) series was made in 1996, titled Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen. The OVA is similar in tone to the 1987 TV series and uses the same voices from TV Tokyo's Japanese dub of the 1987 TV series. The first episode was made to advertise the TMNT Supermutants toys. It featured the Turtles as superheroes, that gained costumes and superpowers with the use of Mutastones, while Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady gained supervillain powers with the use of a Dark Mutastone. As with the Super Sentai and Power Rangers franchises, the four Turtles could combine to form the giant Turtle Saint. The second episode was created to advertise the Metal Mutants toys in which the characters gain Saint Seiya-esque mystical metal armor that can transform into beasts.

Live-action series (1997–1998)[edit]

In 1997–1998, a live-action series, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, aired on Fox.[54] It introduced a female turtle, Venus de Milo, skilled in the mystical arts of the shinobi.[51] The Next Mutation Turtles made a guest appearance on Power Rangers in Space.[55] The Next Mutation was canceled after one season of 26 episodes.[54]

Second animated series (2003–2009)[edit]

In 2003, a new TMNT series produced by 4Kids Entertainment began airing on the "FoxBox" (later renamed "4Kids TV") programming block. It later moved to "The CW4Kids" block. The series was co-produced by Mirage Studios,[56] and Mirage owned one-third of the rights to the series. Mirage's significant stake in creative control resulted in a cartoon that hews more closely to the original comics, creating a darker and edgier feel than the 1987 cartoon, but still kid-friendly enough to be considered appropriate for children.

This series lasted until 2009, ending with a feature-length television movie titled Turtles Forever, which was produced in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the TMNTs franchise and featured the Turtles of the 2003 series teaming up with their counterparts from the 1987 series, and eventually are visited by the black and white comic versions of themselves in the final act. 4Kidstv.com featured all the episodes of the series, until September 2010, when Nickelodeon bought the series and air the series occasionally on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon normally during TMNTs marathons.

Third animated series (2012–2017)[edit]

Nickelodeon acquired the global rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. and announced a new CGI-animated TMNT television series.[57][58][59] The 2012 version is characterized by anime-like iconography and emphasis on mutagen continuing to wreak havoc on the everyday lives of the Turtles and their enemies; in addition, the tone of this version is similar to the original series, but also features a handful of serious episodes as well. The series ran for five seasons. The series was headed by Ciro Nieli, creator of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!.

Fourth animated series (2018–2020)[edit]

Nickelodeon made a new 2D animated series based on the franchise, which appeared in September 2018. This version is characterized by lighter humor, and also had some anime iconography.[60][61]

Films[edit]

The Turtles have appeared in six feature films. The first three are live-action features produced in the early 1990s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993). The Turtles were played by various actors in costumes featuring animatronic heads, initially produced by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The fourth film, a CGI-animated film titled simply TMNT, was released in 2007.[54]

A reboot, also titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles produced by Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon Movies, and Paramount Pictures, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and produced by Michael Bay, was released in 2014. A sequel titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was released in 2016. A crossover film, called Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released in 2019.

Merchandise[edit]

Among the first licensed products to feature the TMNT was a tabletop role-playing game titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, published by Palladium Books in 1985, and featuring original comics and illustrations by Eastman and Laird. The game features a large list of animals, including elephants and sparrows, that are available as mutant player characters. Several more titles were in this genre, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, Truckin' Turtles, Turtles Go Hollywood, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Guide to the Universe, and Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures in Boise, Idaho, produced an attendant set of lead figurines; unlike later incarnations, the bandannas on the store's display set were painted all black before the multicolored versions were released to help younger readers distinguish between the four characters other than their weaponry. Palladium allowed the license to lapse in 2000, in part due to declining sales stemming from the "kiddification" of the animated and live-action incarnations to that point. However, Palladium's publisher, Kevin Siembieda, has indicated a potential willingness to revisit the license given the franchise's recent moves closer to its roots.[62]

The franchise generated merchandise sales of $175 million in 1988 and $350 million in 1989.[63] By 1994, it was the most merchandisable franchise, having generated a total revenue of $6 billion in merchandise sales up until then.[64]

Toys[edit]

During the run of the 1987 TV series, Playmates Toys produced hundreds of TMNT action figures, along with vehicles, playsets, and accessories, becoming one of the top collectibles for children.[65] Staff artists at Northampton, Massachusetts-based Mirage Studios provided conceptual designs for many of the figures, vehicles, and playsets and creator credit can be found in the legal text printed on the back of the toy packaging. In addition, Playmates produced a series of TMNTs/Star Trek crossover figures, due to Playmates holding the Star Trek action-figure license at the time. Playmates employed many design groups to develop looks and styles for the toy line, including Bloom Design, White Design, Pangea, Robinson-Clarke, and McHale Design. The marketing vice president of Playmates, Karl Aaronian, was largely responsible for assembling the talented team of designers and writers, which in turn, helped germinate continued interest in the toy line.

Never before in toy history did an action-figure line have such an impact for over two decades, generating billions of dollars in licensing revenue. The series was highly popular in the UK, where in the run-up to Christmas, the Army & Navy Store in London's Lewisham devoted its entire basement to everything Turtle, including games, videos, costumes, and other items. Playmates continued to produce TMNT action figures based on the 2003 animated series. The 2007 film TMNT also gave Playmates a new source from which to make figures, while National Entertainment Collectibles Association produced a series of high-quality action figures based on character designs from the original Mirage comics. In 2012, a new toy line and a new classic toy line from Playmates were announced to be released.[66]

Video games[edit]

A number of TMNT video games had been produced, mostly by Konami. The first console video game based on the franchise, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) under Konami's "Ultra Games" label in 1989 and later ported to home computers and eventually for the Wii on the Virtual Console. Also released by Konami in 1989 was an arcade game, also titled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, later ported to the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, leading to an NES-only sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, which used the look of the arcade game, as opposed to the first NES game. The next Turtles game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, was released in 1991 as an arcade game, and was later ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES) in 1992, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, with a sequel numbering to the NES titles appended. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist was also created for the Sega Genesis in the same year, and used many of the art assets from TMNT IV.

There was also a trilogy of TMNT video games for the original Game Boy system made by Konami, consisting of: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue. As the video game series progressed, and the Ninja Turtles' popularity began to decline in the mid-1990s, the video games changed direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was released as a set of one-on-one fighting game similar to the Street Fighter series; versions were released for the NES, SNES, and Genesis, each a distinct game. Konami also acquired the license to adapt the 2003 TV series into a video game franchise, resulting in a new series of games with 3D gameplay inspired by the old TMNT beat 'em up games, consisting of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 video game), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Mutant Melee.

In 2006, Ubisoft acquired the rights for TMNT games, beginning with a game based on the 2007 animated feature film, along with a distinct game for the Game Boy Advance similar in style to the Konami arcade games.[67][68] A beat 'em up game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack was released for the Nintendo DS in 2009, to coincide with the series' 25th anniversary.[69] In 2013, Activision released the downloadable game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, based on the 2012 TV series and developed by Red Fly Studio for the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam.[70]

In 2016, Activision and PlatinumGames developed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. The game is described as a third-person, team-based brawler. The campaign is playable either single-player or co-op and has an original story written by Tom Waltz, IDW comic writer and editor. The art style is based on long time TMNT comic artist Mateus Santolouco.[71]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Legends, a Free to play Role-playing video game was released by Ludia in summer 2016 for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire. It is based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 TV series).

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appear as playable characters in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice 2 as a part of the "Fighter Pack 3" downloadable content.

All four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will also appear as playable characters in the fighting game Brawlhalla.[72][73]

In other media[edit]

Tabletop role playing game[edit]

In 1985, Palladium Books published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.[74] This was a stand-alone game, as well as acting as an expansion for their game Rifts. The game used many key mechanics from the Palladium system. The game itself is limited as to which martial arts are available, but a separate book, Ninjas and Superspies,[75] increased the amount available to a choice of 41 martial arts styles. Examples of animals created are included in the appendices as potential antagonists, including the Terror Bears, Caesers Weasels, and Sparrow Eagles, as well as including stats for the Turtles and other characters.

Pinball machines[edit]

Two pinball machines have been themed around the TMNT franchise. The first was produced by Data East in 1991,[76] around the time of the franchise's peak; the second was produced by Stern Pinball in 2020, in Pro, Premium and Limited Edition versions.[77][78]

Food tie-ins[edit]

During the height of their popularity, the Turtles had a number of food tie-ins.[79] Among the most notable of these products was Ninja Turtles Cereal, produced by Ralston-Purina as a kind of "Chex with TMNT-themed marshmallows." The cereal featured many different in-box premiums during its production run. Ralston also produced Pizza Crunchabungas, which were pizza-flavored corn snacks in the shape of whole, circular pizzas (the commercial starred the Ninja Turtles as Will Vinton-created claymations); Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pies, featuring a crust covered in green glaze with vanilla pudding inside. Each pie came with either one of 5 yellow stickers with an illustration of one of the turtles on it, or one of 5 different TMNT II: Secret of the Ooze trading cards inside. There were also 4 TMNT mail away items available to order from Hostess. ; and Royal OOZE Gelatin Desserts, distributed by Nabisco under "Royal Gelatin" in three different flavors: orange, strawberry, and lime. Shreddies was a Canadian cereal with TMNT-themed box art and promos. One example of a TMNT prize was rings featuring a character from the cartoon (1992). Chef Boyardee also released a canned pasta with the pasta in the shapes of the four turtles. There were multiple versions of the pasta released, including one with Shredder added into the shapes. Customers could mail away for an exclusive Shredder action figure that was darker than the standard Playmates figure, it was shipped in a plastic baggy. This Shredder is one of the more valuable TMNT action figures today.[80]

Concert tour[edit]

To capitalize on the Turtles' popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17.[81][82] The "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello on keyboards; Leonardo on bass guitar; Raphael on drums and saxophone; and Michelangelo on guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O'Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the Turtles have to rescue her.[83] The story had a very Bill-n'-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music. A pay-per-view special highlighting the concert was shown, and a studio album was also released.[84]

The tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut in reality; thus, many references are made to their pizza. Empty Pizza Hut boxes are seen onscreen in the "Behind the Shells" VHS. As part of a cross-marketing strategy, Pizza Hut restaurants gave away posters, audio cassettes of "Coming Out of Their Shells", and "Official Tour Guides" as premiums. The original show of the tour was released on video with a making of video also released. The song "Pizza Power" was later used by Konami for the second arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Cam Clarke and Peter Renaday reprised their roles as Leonardo and Splinter during spoken portions of the concert's kickoff event in Radio City Music Hall, though they went uncredited in the event's VHS release.

At the Disney-MGM Studios theme park[edit]

On June 30, 1990, the TMNT appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to the show. After the main show was done, they posed for pictures and signed autographs. The Turtles also made appearances in Disney's Very Merry Christmas Parade to sing their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". They also appeared during the Easter parade dancing to their single "Pizza Power!" The Turtles' live shows and appearances ceased production in 1996.

Roller coasters and amusement rides[edit]

Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which opened in 2019, contains several TMNT themed rides, including two coasters that broke world records upon their opening. The TMNT Shellraiser, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter, is the steepest roller coaster in the world at 121.5 degrees. The Shredder, a spinning roller coaster themed to the Shredder, is the world's longest free-spinning coaster where riders could spin the car freely along the track, with a length of 1,322 feet (403 m) and a maximum height of 62 feet (19 m).[85][86]

Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, also contains rides themed to the TMNT franchise. These include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, a roller coaster that opened in 2012,[87] and Shredder's Mutant Masher, a pendulum ride that opened in 2015.[88]

Parodies[edit]

Cover of Cracked No. 255, August 1990

Although the TMNT had originated as something of a parody, the comic's explosive success led to a wave of small-press, black and white comic parodies of TMNT itself, including Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, and a host of others. Dark Horse Comics' Boris the Bear was launched in response to these TMNT clones; its first issue was titled "Boris the Bear Slaughters the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters". Once the Turtles broke into the mainstream, parodies also proliferated in other media, such as in satire magazines Cracked and Mad and numerous TV series of the period. The satirical British television series Spitting Image featured a recurring sketch "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turds".[89]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Eastman, Kevin (2002). Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Artobiography. Los Angeles: Heavy Metal. ISBN 1-882931-85-8.
  • Wiater, Stanley (1991). The Official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Treasury. New York: Villard. ISBN 0-679-73484-8.

External links[edit]