Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; (clockwise from left) Raphael, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Donatello respectively.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, debuted in an American comic book. The TMNT are a group of four anthropomorphic turtles, who, as one might infer from the name, are also teenagers, mutants and ninja. The Turtles, each named after one of their master's favorite Renaissance artists, were Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michaelangelo. The turtles were trained by a mutated rat, Master Splinter.

The original small-press black & white comic book was successful enough to inspire a syndicated (and later Saturday morning) cartoon, which catapulted the characters into a nation-wide merchandising craze. The cartoon, while obviously inspired by the comic book, diverged from it in almost every way. While the comic was meant for an older audience, the cartoon was standard children's fare and typically avoided overt human violence and any semblance of real conflict. The characters' popularity exploded with the release of a live-action feature film (which more closely followed the comic) and its two sequels.

The TMNT stories were written with a generally consistent philosophy of moral absolutism (Although it could be argued that Raphael, at least, displayed shades of grey on occasion). The Turtles were consistently depicted as the good guys, and Shredder (with maybe one or two exceptions) was depicted as a bad guy.


Comic Books

The Turtles originated in a small-run black and white comic by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird entitled Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was released in 1984 and became an overnight sensation for independent comics. Over the years TMNT comics have spanned four separate volumes and several side stories, culminating in TMNT: Volume 4, which began publication in 2001 and continues to this day.

TV Series

TMNT: The Series (1987 Cartoon Version)

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The 1987 cartoon.

On December 10, 1987, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first cartoon series began, starting in daily syndication and later joining CBS' Saturday morning block as well. The weekend edition presented a full hour of Turtle Power, initially airing a couple of (then) Saturday exclusive episodes back to back. The series ran until November 2, 1996.

In animation, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are four wise-cracking, teenaged, pizza-scarfing cartoon turtles who fight the forces of evil from their neighborhood sewer hangout. In the series' twilight, new creative directions included augmenting the stars' abilities, expanding the cast, and even darkening the mood a bit. This cartoon series was made by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Film Productions Inc. Mirage Studios does not own the rights to the old 1987 TMNT cartoon series.

The Next Mutation

In the late '90s, a live-action TV series was made. A fifth turtle was introduced, a female named "Venus de Milo", and the series took place generally after the storyline of the 1987 cartoon series, as Shredder had been defeated and the Ninja Turtles had new villains. These versions of the Ninja Turtles made a guest appearance on Power Rangers: In Space, a similar live-action superhero show of the time. This incarnation of the Turtles was not very popular and was canceled after one season.

Since its cancellation, the program has been considered non-canonical by the TMNT fanbase, and Laird and Eastman have disavowed all knowledge of Venus de Milo (in November 2000).

TMNT: The Series (2003 Cartoon Version)

On February 8, 2003, the Fox Network revived the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise with the help of 4Kids Entertainment as a Saturday-morning cartoon in Fox's Fox Box programming block, which has since been renamed "4Kids TV". The 2003 TMNT cartoon series was produced by Mirage Studios[1] (http://www.bcdb.com/), and Mirage Studios owns one third of the rights to the 2003 cartoon show.

The show differs significantly from the 1987 cartoon in that it follows the comics more closely, providing a darker and edgier feel, but still remaining light enough to be considered children's fare.


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The turtles from the Japanese OAV.

In addition to the American series, a Japan-only two-episode anime OAV series was made in 1996, titled Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen ("Superman Legend"). It featured the turtles as superheroes, who gained costumes and super powers with the use of "Muta-Stones," while Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang gained supervillain powers with the use of a "Dark Muta-Stone." The show's characters resembled those in the original U.S. cartoon series, but with very different personalities. The show was aimed at a much younger audience, and used many non-serious elements of Sentai and superhero comics.

This show is considered non-canonical by the TMNT fanbase due to its shortness and scarcity.


All the movies are available on DVD and VHS as well as the 2003 animated series. The 1987 animated series is available on its out of print VHS tapes which are a vintage favorite. There is also a DVD release of the 1987 series available since April of 2004, which contains the original episodes that aired back in December of 1987 and four bonus episodes from its tenth and final season. The Next Mutation is also available on DVD and VHS.

The first film closely follows the Eastman and Laird original graphic novels, with a little of the silliness of the Cartoons. While fans of both the cartoon and the comic were appeased, many felt that the four turtle characters seemed to have the same personality with few variations.

The second film entitled "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" expands on the Turtles' origin story while claiming the dubious distinction of featuring Vanilla Ice's Film Debut.

The third film in the series was the lukewarm "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time", which featured the return of the character Casey Jones. The plot of this film includes the turtles traveling back in time to ancient Japan and donning Samurai armor.

Another movie telling the Ninja Turtles' origin is planned for a 2007 release.

Video games

Not only did the Ninja Turtles have a successful toy line, cartoon series, and movies, but they also starred in many video games. Japanese video game manufacturer Konami was largely responsible for them.

The older TMNT games are based on the old 1987 TMNT cartoon show, while the modern TMNT games are based on the new 2003 TMNT cartoon show.


The first Famicom/NES TMNT game was the side-scroller Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (retitled 激亀忍者伝 Gekikame Ninja Den in Japan, which loosely translates to "Fierce Legend of the the Ninja Turtles", affecting the numbering of its two Famicom sequels), released in 1989. It was unique in that at any point, the player could switch from one turtle to the next; each Turtle used his unique weapon (Donatello's bo, Michelangelo's nunchaku, etc.).

Released also in 1989 and popular in the arcades during the 1990s was the first TMNT arcade game, also titled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a side-scrolling "beat-em-up." It was successful enough to be followed by an arcade sequel known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time in 1991, which later appeared on the Super Nintendo.

The second NES TMNT game, known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, released in 1990, is an adaptation of the original arcade game, with two additional levels and some graphics changed to advertise Pizza Hut. It was featured in Nintendo Power Volume #21.

The third NES TMNT game was called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project and was released in 1991. It was featured on the cover of Nintendo Power Volume #32. This game has the distinction of being the first to introduce unique special moves to each turtle (i.e. Raphael leaping into the air and spinning, with the sound of a jackhammer, known as the Turtle Drill).

The turtles' first Super NES game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV, which was a home port of the arcade game Turtles in Time. There were minor alternations made to the game (some enemies could be defeated in a single hit on the SNES version). After some levels of regular gameplay, the turtles are warped to a prehistoric time, then several other time periods until they reach the future, where they battle first Krang, and then The Shredder for The Statue Of Liberty.

When the Ninja Turtles' popularity began to decrease by the mid-nineties, the video games changed direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was issued on the NES, Super NES and Sega Genesis. Each version had major differences in plot, gameplay, graphics and characters, but the basic concept was the same in each: a one-on-one fighting game similar to the Street Fighter series.

Several games were made for the Famicom/NES, Game Boy, Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/Super NES, and others.

Late 1990's - Present

Konami was recently commissioned to transform the current 2003 series into a video game franchise, resulting in two games (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus), with versions for the PC, Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox. Most of these games have been panned by critics as being uninspired and not living up to the legacy of the NES and SNES games. Some theorize the poor reviews may have more to do with the games being based on the 2003 series instead of the 1987 series, the latter of which the current generation of gaming journalists quite probably grew up watching. Game Boy Advance versions of both games were also released, although they diverge from the other versions due to the Game Boy Advance's limited hardware.

A third game in the new series is planned titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare is scheluded to be released in the future, along with a party game spinoff titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee.

Missing image
The censored UK opening sequence.

Censorship and Hero turtles

Upon TMNT's first arrival in the United Kingdom, the name was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" (or TMHT for short), since local censorship policies deemed the word ninja to have too violent associations and connotations. Consequently, everything related to the Turtles had to be renamed before being released in the UK (or Ireland). The lyrics were also changed, eliminating the word ninja, such as changing "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens" to "Splinter taught them to be fighting teens." The policies also had other effects, such as removing Michelangelo's nunchakus on the same basis. At the start of the later comeback these policies had been abolished, and no changes were made to the 2003 TMNT show. The name Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remained unchanged for the 2003 show. As a result, in the U.K., the 1987 show is still called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and the 2003 show is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Other information

  • Movie 3: Turtles in Time was based on a substory involving the "Sacred Sands of Time," which debuted in Eastman and Laird's TMNT Volume 1, issue 8. The story device continued to pop up in later issues of the Mirage comic.
  • The Mirage Studios comic book series, the movies, the 2003 cartoon series and the video games based on the 2003 series are considered canonical TMNT material by the fans, meaning they consider it as part of the backstory of the TMNT. Next Mutation, the older TMNT video games, Image Comics series, the 1987 cartoon series, and Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen are considered non-canonical TMNT material.
  • Some interpret Master Splinter as being based on Master Yoda and Shredder as being based on Darth Vader, due to analogous demeanor and appearance between the two sets of characters. However, there is no known proof as to the actual inspiration for these characters.

See also

External links


  • An usenet post (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=sv&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&frame=right&th=f85d8e905176d515&seekm=1020htnj4841r73%40corp.supernews.com#link4) on alt.fan.ninja-turtles with an excerpt from a Washington Post article published in 1991 regarding the above-mentioned censorship upon the 1987 TMNT show
Comic books
1987 TV series
2003 TV series

fr:Les Tortues ninja he:צבי הנינג'ה fi:Teinimutanttininjakilpikonnat nl:Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles zh:忍者龜


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