When Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman came up with the idea for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles they did so whilst drinking a beverage and watching TV. The pair were doodling and, through nothing more than chance, created the now four iconic characters. The very next day they decided to create the origin comic story for this quartet. To pay for the printing of 3000 issues they took money from a tax refund and borrowed $1000 dollars from a relative. Laird and Eastman must have been quite convincing in their pitch, if one of my relatives–let’s call him Jeff–had asked me for that sum of money to create a ‘comic book about mutated turtles trained in the ancient art of Ninjitsu’ I would have asked him to repeat what the comic was about again before slapping his face.
Fortunately, Laird and Eastman’s cheeks remained blemish free and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went on to become a worldwide phenomenon and a cultural touchstone for an entire generation. It’s a franchise that has been going for over thirty years and has made billions of dollars in its lifetime. There’s been comics, cartoons, animated films, live action films, and a whole lot of toys and merchandise. The thing is, through having so many creators involved, TMNT has developed a whole host of trivia that the franchise owners would rather you not know about. Well, now you get to find out, as these are 25 inappropriate things you never knew about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
25 The Lady Turtle
In 1997 a live action TV Series called Hero Turtles the Next Mutation was produced. It was known primarily for the child-scaring turtle costumes and the introduction of a fifth female turtle, who was added to the team to spice things up a bit. Her name was Venus De Milo. How did you know she was a female when all the turtles, without their bandanas, look virtually identical? I bet you’re thinking that she had a pink bandana? Fortunately, that dreadful idea was jettisoned early in development. Instead they gave her a chest. I wish I was making this up. Why does she even need that? It's not like reptiles need to produce milk. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman were responsible for this much-maligned character and she’s never turned up again since.
24 Turtles: The Musical
Along with being trained from birth in the deadly art of Ninjitsu, the turtles were also tutored by their sensei in the less violent but equally spectacular skill of musical theatre. In 1994 a short ‘comedy’ musical starring the Turtles was released. It was called We Wish You a Turtle Christmas. The plot involves Leonardo et all having forgotten to get Master Splinter a Christmas present. They go out last minute shopping when they are joined by their fans and they all start singing, dancing and, God help us, rapping too. Who could forget the classic lyrics of ‘We laugh and sing and do our thing. We’re the Turtles’? It has a score of 1.8 on IMDB and made a pathetic $5000 at the box office.
23 Battling Ninja Nuns
In the 80s, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird received several film treatments. After all, the Turtles were a massive success even before the cartoon was released. Roger Corman's New World Pictures big idea was to have the Turtles played by four comedians who were popular at the time: Bobcat Goldthwait, Gallagher, Sam Kinison, and Billy Crystal. The four men would be dressed in turtle shells and have their limbs painted green. I can’t see any of those four being capable of unleashing martial art moves, so thankfully this project never saw the light of day. A second, more titillating treatment, moved the Turtles firmly into R-rated land. This script included a scene where the heroes fought partially unclothed nuns on roller skates. I’m not sure if the turtles were on roller skates or the nuns… hopefully both. As that would have been Turtley Awesome.
22 No Chackus
When the Turtles became a worldwide sensation, it led to a variety of legal issues. In several international territories, including the UK, the Turtles couldn't be referred to as ninjas (a term deemed too violent). They were called heroes instead. These restrictions had other effects on the cartoon. Michelangelo couldn't be seen to be using his nunchakus in the UK as they had been banned. They were removed from the cartoon and ultimately replaced with a grappling hook called the ‘Turtle Line’. The strange thing is, no one seemed to have a problem with Leonardo’s swords or Raphael’s Sais, both of which could cause a fair bit of damage if wielded by a twelve-year-old trying to emulate her lean, green, and mean half-shell heroes.
21 What's In A Chain?
When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were rebooted in the Michael Bay produced film of the same name, a host of changes were made. Fans were not impressed with the new super-sized and decidedly un-stealthy design of the Turtles. How Raphael, who looked like the Hulk on steroids and must have matched the weight of a tank, could have sneaked up on anyone is beyond me. Yet one of the most controversial changes was altered before the release of the film. Originally, Michelangelo wore a gold chain. This received criticism for being viewed as a stereotype towards black people. The gold chain was digitally altered in all sequences to be a seashell necklace instead. The thought was that the seashell would better represent his surfer/skater styled character. But don't worry, he got his gold chain back for the sequel!
20 Hand, Shoulders, Knees, And Foot
Eastman and Laird surprisingly included several cheeky references to Marvel’s Daredevil in their original comic. The first, and most obvious, is that the Shredder’s Ninja Clan ‘The Foot’ is a parody of Daredevil’s foes ‘The Hand’. The second is a little sneakier. Matt Murdock became Daredevil after he was involved in an accident with a truck carrying radioactive canisters. These same canisters fell through a nearby drain, ended up in the sewers and mutated our favourite four friends. So according to Eastman and Laird, the Turtles exist in the Marvel Universe. Which is weird as they exist in the DC Universe too, turning up in a Batman comic crossover as well as playable characters in the video game Injustice 2.
19 Rainy In April
Judith Hoag was not asked to reprise her role of April in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze. This was due to her complaining about the six-day schedule whilst shooting the first film. She also publicly stated her disapproval of the violence in the film. She’s also the reason April wasn’t seen wearing her iconic yellow jumpsuit that led to so many boys having strange feelings whilst watching the cartoon. Judith found the jumpsuit and red-haired wig ‘horrifying’ so the idea was canned. She opted for that lovely dark green jumpsuit instead. Which was so much better (you might not be able to tell but that last statement was positively dripping in sarcasm).
In TMNT 2: The Secrets of the Ooze, the Turtles, despite being ninjas, were not allowed to use their weapons for most of the film. They spend their time doing round house kicks, karate chops and a host of embarrassing pratfalls. This was not due to one of the Shredder’s evil plans however, instead it was because of the volume of parents’ complaints about the violence and dark tone of the original movies. To counteract this the producers decided to create a more family friendly movie by limiting the amount of weapon use. In fact, Leonardo and Raphael, despite having the deadliest weapons, never actually use them at any point in the film. They just carry them as some sort of odd fashion statement.
17 Different Lengths
The Turtles keep on getting longer. In fact, they’ve been growing substantially over the last thirty years. There is of course the progression from turtle to mutant turtle, but how can these other changes be explained? In the comics and cartoons they are 3’0 to 4’0 tall. Most of their friends and foes tower over them. In the 90s films they are 5’6 to 6’0 tall, probably due to the whole 'being men in costume' thing. Sorry if I ruined the screen magic there. In the recent reboot they became a gargantuan 8’0 to 9’0 tall. In these films they tower over April. I’m hoping this is eventually explained in-cannon by the mutagen constantly causing the subject of the mutation to grow. This would keep on happening until the Turtles ultimately become… Godzilla.
16 Depressed Turtle
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is hardly known for tackling difficult emotions or mental states. Aside from Raphael’s anger, little else has been included in the live action films. Most of the time the Turtles are content to leap through the air and kick Shredder in the face whilst chewing on a slice of pizza. This could have all been so different. In a deleted scene from the original film, the party and pizza loving Michelangelo became depressed. That’s right, the Turtle most known for his positive attitude became consumed by his own inner turmoil and in the process destroyed a punching bag and part of a barn door. It would certainly have been a different film had it been included but perhaps a better one, teaching children that even their idols can be affected by depression.
15 Ripped Off
Corey Feldman, was a child actor and went on to provide the voice of Donatello in the first TMNT feature film. In interviews, Corey had said that he was only paid $1500 for his voiceover work on the film. Apparently, he was told that it was a low budget independent film that would only have some, very limited, success on VHS. Two of these three things were true. It was a low-budget independent film. It only cost $13.5 million to make. But it then went on to take over $200 million at the worldwide box office, and in doing so became one of the most successful films of the era, and Corey only ever saw $1500 from it.
14 Japanese Shell Graffiti
The Turtles like to get up to all sorts of cheeky shenanigans. Most of them are obvious, for example the good-natured banter between the brothers throughout most of the films. But here’s some trivia for only the most hard of hardcore Turtle lovers. In the reboot of TMNT, many of the Turtles now sport rather fetching tattoos and markings on their skin and shells, along with a strange obsession with wrapping cloth around their limbs. In particular, Raphael’s shell has all sorts of markings on it. Bid did you spot the ‘Mikey was here’ graffitied on his half-shell? If not, don’t worry, It’s written in Japanese so he, and most of the audience, will never realize.
13 Aliens From Dimension X
When the reboot of TMNT was announced it was met with a huge amount of resistance from fans of the franchise. A lot of this ire came from the fact that Michael Bay had taken on the role of producer. It hadn’t helped that Bay had joyfully defecated on everyone’s childhood memories by directing the terrible Transformers movies. The rest of the ire came from an early screenplay of the TMNT Reboot which had changed the Turtles to be aliens from Dimension X and the Shredder was altered to an alien who grew spikes. After this screenplay received a huge backlash from fans it was then discarded. Because a plot about aliens is stupid, whereas a story about mutated turtles is very clever and makes complete sense.
12 The Turtle Who Wore A Turtle
Excluding the blood-soaked original comic series, the Turtles killed very rarely if, such as in the cartoon, at all. Once the reboot of the film franchise landed, this all changed and the Turtles' respect for the sanctity of life had gone out the window. This is no more blatant then in the actions of the sick, cruel and scurrilous Donatello. What has he done to gain these titles? In the reboot, Donatello is wearing tortoise shell spectacles. Despite its name, these spectacles are made from both tortoise and turtle shells. So, kind-hearted Donny is wearing a deceased relative as a fashion accessory. That is sick.
11 To Hate What You Make
Everyone loved the 1980s cartoon version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everyone, it seemed, other than Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. They didn’t like the change to a light-hearted tone from the more serious comics. The two didn’t like the involvement of studio executives. They didn’t like the creation of new characters specifically intended to sell toys. They really didn't like Be-Bop, Rocksteady, and Krang. But, having sold the rights to the TV series, there wasn’t really anything they could do about it. Having said all that, I bet they liked all the money resulting from the deal, even if they didn’t like what it had created. Be-Bop, Rocksteady, and Krang went on to become fan favourites and soon became permanent fixtures in the TMNT universe.
10 Turtles In The WWE
Over the last thirty years there have been more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys than I’ve had hot dinners. And cold dinners. Both salad and ice cream are included in that figure, too. We’ve seen Michelangelo in disguise as a crazy clown. Raphael transformed into a rotund sumo wrestler. And who can forget Donatello as a vampiric Dracula wannabe? The pinnacle of this was surely the farming series that saw the Turtles cast as… well… farmers. Then there was the time that the Turtles became professional wrestlers. This included Raphael as The Rock and Sting; Michelangelo as Macho Man Randy Savage and Rowdy Roddy Piper; and Donatello as the Ultimate Warrior and the Undertaker. Which goes to show, no matter what rubbish you make, some kid or adult will buy it.
9 There Was No Secret
After the unexpected success of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, Golden Harvest wasted no time in green lighting a sequel. They were convinced the Turtles fad would soon end. This led to the sequel being released less than one year later. It was a rushed development and that’s clear to see in the finished product. Particularly lacklustre are the details of the plot and the subtitle. The set up for the film was that the Turtles were intent on finding out the secret behind the mutagen that had transformed them. The secret of the ooze in TMNT 2: The Secrets of the Ooze was that there was no secret. Originally it was going to be that the ooze was of alien origin, but that was cut from the film. So, it should be re-titled TMNT 2: There's Only Ooze.
8 Guess Who’s Back?
For TMNT III, far and away the worst feature film in the franchise, Corey Feldman was invited back to reprise his role of voicing Donatello. The filmmakers told him that they felt guilty for not having cast him in TMNT 2. Now remember, for his earlier role Corey was paid a mere $1500 for his work, even though the film would go on to make profits of over $180 million. When Corey asked for more than the $1500 he was paid for the original, he was declined any raise. The reason given was that his absence from the second film was down to his being in recovery. So, he was still only paid $1500 for the third film. Though, that cinematic disaster only went on to make $42 million.
7 The Floating Cow Head
A wide variety of Turtles comics have now been produced by a range of artists. Currently the IDW Turtles universe is in full swing and proving both critically and commercially successful. In the Archie comics version of TMNT, however, things got a little weird. The Turtles would travel around in a giant android cow head called ‘Cudley the Cowlick’. Cudley could fly because of course he could. He was also capable of inter-dimensional travel, allowing the colourful turtles of the Archie universe to meet their black and white cousins from the original Mirage comic series. It was mind-bending stuff and if there’s ever a reboot of the reboot, then Cudley simply must appear in the next TMNT film.
6 Vanilla Ice VS Michelangelo
Vanilla Ice appeared in TMNT 2: The Secrets of the Ooze to sing the infamous ‘Go Ninja, Go Ninja GO!’ song. It is undoubtedly a classic of both lyricism and musicality. When Ice arrived on set to commence filming, he was given a big hug by Michelangelo (or the actor Michelan Sisti in full custume) who wanted to welcome him. This didn’t stop one of Ice’s bodyguards stiff arming the friendly turtle, lest he accidentally damage the perkiness of Ice’s quiff. This led to eighteen of the nearby actors and stunt men prepared to leap into the fray and defend Sisti. Thankfully, the stunt coordinator, Pat E. Johnson, stepped in and broke things up. I say thankfully, I think we’d all have preferred it should Michelangelo and Vanilla Ice have squared off in Mortal Kombat.
5 Mutate Level Up
An original fourth live action film was planned in the nineties. In fact, the artwork for it can still be seen online. It was going be called TMNT: The Next Mutation and would see the Turtles mutate again. Michelangelo would gain the ability to look more human in appearance, Donatello would have psychic powers at the cost of reduced eyesight, Leonardo would be able to transform the texture of his skin, and Raphael would transform into a Raptor. Finally, Splinter would double in size to a Super Hulk Rat and be unable to control his anger. As you can see, the intention was to return the Turtles to their darker comic roots. So that must be why they planned to dress April like a weird version of Psylocke.
4 The Grater
Kevin Eastman came up with the idea for The Shredder when he was drying the dishes. This wasn’t because he would dress himself in armour to avoid getting washing-up liquid on his pants. Instead, as he started drying a particularly nasty looking cheese grater, he had a thought. The thought was how great a character would be if they had an appearance resembling a giant cheese grater. He didn’t immediately whip off his marigolds and declare that this character would be called Shredder, however. Instead, he tried out a few different names and, whilst developing the character, he originally named him GrateMan or The Grater. What a different villain that would have been, with his nefarious goal of wanting to shave the shell off of his rivals.
3 The Risky Contract Clause
Going into the filming of the TMNT reboot, there was a great deal of animosity between producer Michael Bay and actor Megan Fox. This was undoubtedly from their days working together on Transformers. It was because of this that she compared him in his directorial style to a certain World War II tyrant. So, as payback, Bay included a potential unclothed scene for Fox in her TMNT contract. She accepted, knowing full well that this kind of scene would not happen in a (supposedly) family friendly action adventure film. Though if it had happened in TMNT 2: Out of Shadows, then they might have sold a few more tickets! Either way, she still accepted it, so I guess it's a scene that she wouldn't have been opposed to doing...
2 The One Where Raphael Punched A Bad Guy
In the Archie comics version of TMNT, there is a convoluted plot in which a futuristic version of Hitler, consisting only of his brain, builds a robotic body to travel back in time. Once there, he teams up with the flesh and blood version of himself. Of course, it was up to the future version of the Turtles to travel back in time stop this horrible duo. The Turtles defeat them, and in the process the eyepatch-wearing Raphael takes the tyrant down with a right hook. Leonardo then tells him that they are demons who are here to steal his brain. To stop them from doing this, the evil man shoots himself in the head. It’s either a very neat way of linking into historical fact, or the weirdest time travelling story ever.
1 Some Fans Just Take It Way Too Far
The turtles have some very extreme fans. People dress as the turtles. They write fan fiction about the turtles. People draw weird pictures of the turtles engaged in brotherly love. People even eat turtle soup. None though, are more extreme than a French fan who had strange fantasies about the turtles. She would send Mirage graphic drawings of what she’d like to get up to with the foursome (I guess that would make it a fivesome?). How this encounter could happen when it’s clear to see that the Turtles have no parts at all is beyond me. They don't even wear pants, so we know there's nothing hiding there. Anyway, that’s a pleasant thought to leave you with. Enjoy, reader!