Before you even start this list, I’m going to go ahead and apologize for the fact that by the end of it you’ll likely be humming along to the classic TMNT theme song from the cartoon series. The series aired in the late 80s, and is responsible for the popularity of the series growing at an incredibly quick rate. It was hard not to know about the Turtles when there was a different product marketing their image every time you went to the store. Though, as you are about to find out, there is far more to the Turtles than just a great cartoon series.
The Ninja Turtles comic was created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman in 1983, but they never could have imagined the different mediums of success that the Turtles would have. If you go back and look at their origin comic, you’ll also find some stark differences between their version and what ended up being in the television show. Spoiler Alert: in the coomic, they don’t even like pizza!
No matter who your favorite Turtle is (everyone has one), there is no doubting the cultural impact of the TMNT. They were a staple in many children's lives, and while some might pretend the latest movies don’t exist, it doesn’t take away from the coolness of the Turtles.
While there is no shortage of facts or cool tidbits about the series, these are 20 of the coolest things out there that have to do with the TMNT. Whether it's learning about how they punched Hitler, the 5th turtle, or about the aforementioned theme song, there is something in this list for you. Sit back, crank up the theme song and be prepared to dial up the nostalgia as you check out 20 things that you may not have known about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
20 They Fought Hitler
When it comes to real-life villains, there aren’t many people out there that rival Adolf Hitler. It may then only be natural to see him as a villain in several mediums, including the Captain America comics. Where you might not expect to see Adolf Hitler is at the receiving end of a punch thrown by Raphael, but that’s exactly what happened. In the story, Hitler’s brain was still functional for decades after World War II ended. Hitler’s brain then acquired a robotic body, and traveled back in time to try and find his past self. When Raphael punched out Future Hitler, it ended up destroying his body.
The Fuhrer from the past ends up having the Turtles at gunpoint, but Leonardo convinces Hitler that he is in hell and that the Turtles are demons coming for his brains. They then convince Hitler that his soul belongs to them, so to avoid them from getting his brain, Hitler shoots himself.
19 Someone Recreated The TMNT Van
I know that people are often jealous when they see luxury cars coming down the road, but I can’t think of anything that would get me more excited than seeing Jason Ybarra. In 2009, Jason decided to recreate the Transformer Ratchet and filled it with sound effects and lights. He then decided, in 2011, that it was time for a new car, so why not spend $30,000 to create the iconic TMNT van? The hope for Jason was to create a car that looked and functioned similar to the toy sold in the 1980s.
Jason is popular with fans, and often happy to go to various conventions. You’re able to hire the van, complete with people dressed up as the Turtles. While it is based out of LA, it will travel anywhere in America with enough advanced notice.
18 How It All Started
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were both talented artists, but failing to create anything substantial. Apparently, as a joke, Eastman drew a turtle, wearing a mask and standing on its hind legs waving nun-chucks.
Laird then touched up the turtle, while Eastman drew three more turtles and wrote "Ninja Turtles." Laird decided to add Teenage. Talk about true collaboration! The two decided on names, and the first issue was put together. The original sketch of the turtles sold in May 2012 for $71,700.
17 The First Issue Was Supposed To Be It
It may be crazy to think about now, but the idea behind the TMNT was not exactly one that was steeped in the potential of being long-lasting. In fact, Mirage Studios, which produced the comic, literally only consisted of Eastman and Laird. They created the first issue and after the cost involved, only had enough money to run one ad. Thankfully, that ad started a buzz and their original 3,000 copies sold out in a few weeks. Momentum continued to grow and by the time issue #8 hit the shelves, it sold 135,000 copies.
16 How They Softened Their Image
The comics are one thing, but a lot of fans fell in love with the TMNT because of the cartoon series and the variety of products and toys that were available. In order for the television censors to allow for the show to air, several changes had to be made to the series. At the time, the Turtles were not afraid to slice up enemies and swear on occasion. They were not exactly cute and cuddly.
Playmate Toys decided that for them to appeal to a younger crowd, the Turtles would start becoming obsessed with pizza. The character of Shredder would also become more of a bumbling buffoon, and the Foot Clan members were changed to Robots. This is also why we got classic catch phrases such as "Turtle Power" and "Cowabunga, dude!"
15 There Was A Cereal
When it comes to making sure you are properly equipped to handle a TMNT marathon, as a kid, one necessity was to make sure you had the TMNT cereal. For those who were not fortunate enough to get it for breakfast, this cereal also contained pizza-shaped marshmallows. Long gone are the days when the only thing you had to read at the breakfast table was the back of a cereal box. The cereal also had marshmallows containing different ninja weapons, ninja nets and, of course, ninja turtles.
14 How Much Money The Toys Made
When you see how much money the toys made Playmate, you will understand why they wanted to go with a softer image! From 1988-1997, roughly 400 styles of figurines, various vehicles and different play sets were sold. Within the first four years, roughly $1.1 billion of TMNT merchandise was purchased. This made the TMNT the 3rd highest selling toy action figure of all time, only trailing G.I. Joe and Star Wars. Sure, they might not be as rough and tough as they were in the comics, but money talks! Not to mention that the sheer abundance of merchandise helps create a lot of nostalgia for a huge fan base. Who says over-commercialization has to be a bad thing?
13 There Was Almost A Movie In 1994
There are hours of entertainment out there available for anyone who might be a huge Turtles fan. One thing that does not exist is the film from 1994 TMNT: The Next Mutation. The film was going to feature the Turtles suffering from a Mutagen in their body that caused some significant changes.
Leonardo was going to be able to change his skin into a nearly impenetrable surface. Michelangelo was going to be able to blend into surfaces. Donatello would have psychic powers, but it would make him blind. Perhaps the weirdest switch was that Raphael would morph into ‘Raptor Raph’ and would have long, sharp teeth and claws that were at least one foot long.
Splinter was also going to be able to change into a giant super rat mutant. On second thought, maybe it's a good thing that this one didn’t get made!
12 Their Masks Used To All Be Red
When the Turtles first hit the comic scene, they all wore identical red masks. As a result, the main way to identify them was by the style of weapon that they used. When the switch to a softer image was being implemented, one of the ways to achieve this was to give each Turtle their own iconic color. As a result, instead of fans identifying the turtles by their weapons and the violence, they could, instead, look at how colorful they all are! Definitely an easier image to sell to kids.
11 There Was A Rock Band
If there is one thing that the Turtles do (you know, beside kick ass), it’s rock out! Of course, when they teamed with Pizza Hut in 1990, it was only natural to create a rock band featuring the Turtles. The ‘band’ went on a 40-city tour, entitled the Coming Out Of Their Shell tour. It didn't matter if you were not able to make it out to the show because you were able to buy a VHS version of the concert at any Pizza Hut with the purchase of a large pizza and commemorative cup, because, trust me, you’d want to remember this!
10 Axl Rose Delayed A Show Because Of Them
Speaking of rock bands, Axl Rose is one of the founders of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Guns N’ Roses. Perhaps fame has gone to his head because Axl is apparently a bit of an asshole to deal with and has a poor reputation of being late for shows. On December 28th, 1991, Axl was supposed to be on stage in Tampa, Florida, but he was still not there. When the owner of the venue tracked down someone from Axl’s management team, they said that he was watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze. Apparently, Axl could simply not be bothered because all of this attention was 100% on this movie. At least you know he has a good taste in movies.
9 What They’re Called In The UK
While you may know them as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you wouldn’t find as many fans that grew up with them in the UK. This may be because the name was changed to the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Television censors made the argument that by having the word "ninja" in the title, it was setting an expectation for violence. Viewers in the UK also had several fight scenes cut shorter. Michelangelo is also unable to use his nun-chucks, as they’re restricted in the UK, so instead he does battle with a grappling hook.
8 Chuck Lorre Created The Theme Song
Chuck Lorre has a net worth of over $600 million and is responsible for helping create several prominent television shows, including Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.
Before making it big in television, Lorre was touring the US as a songwriter and ended up writing the song “French Kissin” for artist Deborah Harry. The song gained Lorre some recognition and led to him co-creating the soundtrack to the 1987 television series. This, of course, includes the incredibly awesome theme song that I totally didn’t listen to while I wrote this. So, even if you can’t stand some of his shows, you know there is one thing he has put out there that is universally loved by everyone!
7 They Met Russian Batman
Now, to be fair, this is an unlicensed product, but can you blame someone for wanting to create this? The fact that they didn’t get approval from the creators did not stop a Russian company from making a bunch of TMNT comics in the 80s and 90s. The Turtles get up to all kinds of unique situations, but none may be weirder than the fact that they meet and hang out with Batman. As if this wasn’t already a weird scene, you’ll be pleased to know that Batman makes out with April O’Neil. Perhaps she digs his sensitive side, as Batman can also be seen crying in different scenes in the comic.
Recently, DC created a legitimate crossover series between the Turtles and the Dark Knight.
6 Uncle Phil Was On The Show
If you want reasons as to why the original cartoon series was so awesome, take a look at the voice cast. At the top of the list is the fact that Shredder is none other then James Avery. Avery is, of course, better known for his role as Uncle Phil on the fantastic television show, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. If that wasn’t cool enough, Robert Paulsen was the voice of Raphael. Paulsen’s name might not jump off the page at you, but he has voiced hundreds of animated characters, including Pinky from the cartoon series, Pinky and the Brain.
5 Many People Killed Turtles
It is only natural to assume that some of the biggest TMNT fans in the world were kids. It is also natural to assume that children have awful decision making skills, and that you should not trust them with big life choices, such as caring for a pet. Over 250,000 turtles were imported into Britain in 1990, but many kids would get bored (or not realize how big they grow) and dump the turtles in a local river or pond. This significantly impacted the native ecosystem, causing the European Union to ban the sale of red-eared terrapins in 1997.
4 The Videogame TMNT 3 Knows If You Cheat
One of the biggest reasons for the lasting appeal of the TMNT is the variety of products they put out there. Their video games were some of the top selling units, but you better not have pirated a copy of TMNT 3! If you did, Konami enabled a silent code that would drastically reduce the amount of damage that you did, while also making sure your opponents did double the damage. As if that wasn’t a big enough deterrent and you still somehow made it to face Shredder as the final boss, they also made Shredder immortal! You can damage him, but he will always regenerate his health back.
3 There Was A Fifth Turtle
Perhaps the fact that this series ran for only one year is a sign that it was not exactly a hit. In 1997, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation aired and it introduced the world to Venus De Milo. Venus was the 5th member of the TMNT, and added a female voice to the team. Unfortunately, she was poorly received by everyone, and caused co-creator Laird to state that this show was the only time he regretted giving out access to the license.
2 There Was a Knock Off Called The Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters
When it comes to something popular, it is only inevitable that people will try to follow in the same footsteps. ARBBH was the first comic to be created that spoofed the TMNT. The four hamsters were exposed to a substance in space, and it caused them to grow into anthropomorphic creatures. The hamsters were then trained by monks and became excellent at martial arts. The writer, Don Chin, named the Hamsters: Clint, Chuck, Bruce and Jackie. The series ran for 9 issues from 1986-1988.
1 Daredevil Connection
One of the things that you know about the TMNT now is that when they were created they did not exactly plan to be around for a while. That may be why they were so willing to openly draw inspiration from other comics around them, and there is no bigger influence than the Daredevil universe.
If you’re not a fan of the comic, Daredevil is blinded as a young boy when he is riding his bike and struck in the face with a type of secret ooze. The same ooze that blinds Daredevil is what transforms the Turtles into the heroes who we all know and love. The series also parodies Daredevil’s nemesis, The Hand, with their version: The Foot. Splinter is also a name that is a parody of Stick, who is Daredevil’s mentor.