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February 28, 2011

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Recap

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Written by: AHudson
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[Make sure you check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Also make sure you check out Nick Z’s awesome reviews of  TMNT and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever.]

What made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so damn popular? Was it the action, the late eighties/early nineties, pizza, a hot news babe in a yellow jumpsuit?

Even looking at this pic makes you want to punch someone in the face (in a good way). Taken from http://images.wikia.com/tmnt/images/d/db/TMNT1987Series.jpg

The answer is probably something so intuitive yet so hard to answer. If it was a simple solution to making an endearing franchise, every media exec, writer, and dreamy eyed entrepreneur would repeat the success again and again. Not to say that there haven’t been any who’ve tried already. Trust me, they’ve tried. Oh boy, did they.

It’s not merely having the action and radical ninjas. Plenty of franchises afterward, such as Samurai Pizza Cats or 3 Ninjas, combined the Turtles’ elements and received moderate success at best. But nowhere near the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Just because you can combine films, doesn't mean you can combine their qualities.

It’s not just that it was a great cartoon. There have been plenty of cartoons which have the same (maybe even better) quality than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mighty Max for example, was an amazing 90s action cartoon. But how many of you actually remember that show?

It’s not even that it captured the essence of the late eighties to early nineties. Because most entertainment from that era captured the very same essence (duh).

So what is it?

The answer is quite simple. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was successful on every entertainment medium. Most franchises have a good show but a crappy movie, or a great game but a mediocre comic. For a short while, the Turtles were successful on every possible front.

My old dentist used to have this machine in his office. Guess which kid got excited for a dental checkup? Taken from http://www.parrygamepreserve.com/images/features/nyComicCon2009/playmates/playmates40_M.jpg

Still, you can have a great comic series, show, video game, action figure, lunchbox, etc., and have fairly good success. But if you really want to preach it to the masses, you need a smash hit film. After all, Iron Man made Tony Stark a household name, and X-Men II: X-Men United made even your mom a fan of Wolverine. And that’s what TMNT did…at least with the first two films (and animated films).

Of course, the answer is much easier said than done. It’s hard enough doing a great job in one medium alone, let alone many. Several franchises such as Evolution have tried, but have come nowhere even close to the Turtles’ stratosphere.

So then, what makes the franchise so damn popular? I don’t know, the answer is yours and yours alone to answer. Maybe it’s the pizza, April O’ Neil, or the sheer absurdity of it all. Maybe it’s just good old fashioned fun. Or maybe it was just plain luck.

How can something so tacky be so hot? Taken from http://tmnt.wikia.com/wiki/April_O%27Neil

THAT'S the original April O' Neil??? Taken from http://tmnt.wikia.com/wiki/April_O%27Neil

Now that Michael Bay is going to make remake Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, question is, can they do it again? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did have a reboot with TMNT (film) and a 2003 cartoon series. Both were great, but nowhere near the early successes.

I have a bad feeling about the new Bay remake, and it’s not just because of his recent track record. I just hope it doesn’t become shallow with nothing more than explosions, or just as bad, Nolanized. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nolan’s work, but I don’t think every franchise needs to be realistic or “serious.” But I’ll hold my judgments for now. If there’s one thing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has proven, it’s that the franchise is very flexible. It’s just like Batman. I love all of the Turtles’ incarnations, whether it’s the 1987 cartoon show or the original 1984 comics.

Trivia Time: What used this cover as the main art for? cover art by Michael Dooney

Perhaps the true “luck” factor in their success was timing. It came at a tubular time when films were more tongue and cheek (while still having depth), and kids were ready for pizza, turtles, and ninjas. Don’t get me wrong, the past was no better or worse than today’s era of entertainment. I just don’t think the Turtles (cartoons or darker comics) would fit into today’s more serious and earth tone films and shows. I also think that today’s audiences might be too cynical for even a very well done turtle remake. But one can only hope that I’m wrong….

Now who wants to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I call Leonardo!

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Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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6 Comments



  1. February has definitely been the Month of the Turtle! I’m pretty sure that cover was used for one of the TMNT video games and right now I just can’t think wcich one. Was it the one for the NES?


  2. Aron

    Ooh! Ooh! Trivia answer! That was the art used for the NES game cover!!!


  3. Andrew Hudson

    Yup, you both are correcto mundo.



  4. TMNT FOREVER!! I call Donatello!!



  5. I love how Turtle heavy CA.net’s been lately. So great.



  6. […] lately with some really fun TMNT articles looking back at their movies, and the franchise’s impact on our culture. The 80s’ child nostalgia freaks like me absolutely love the trip down memory lane and […]



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