Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, debuted in the world of American comics. The small-press black & white comic book was successful enough to inspire a Saturday morning cartoon, which catapulted the characters into a nation-wide merchandising craze. The cartoon, while obviously inspired by the comic book, diverged in almost every way. While the comic was meant for an older audience, the cartoon focused on more standard children's fare and typically avoided overt human violence and any semblance of real conflict. Popularity exploded with the release of a live-action feature film (which more closely followed the comic) and its two sequels. The comic focused on 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 originally began life 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 quickly became popular; four volumes and several side stories were published, culminating in the current TMNT: Volume 4, which began in 2001 and is still being published today.
TMNT: TV Series
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. 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, Laird and Eastman have disavowed all knowledge of Venus (in November 2000).
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, 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.
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." Characters resembled those in the original US 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, and thus far final, film in the series was the lukewarm "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time", which featured the return of characters Casey Jones and April. The plot of this film includes the turtles traveling back in time to ancient Japan and donning Samurai armor.
TMNT: 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 (called Gekikame Ninja Den in Japan), 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 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 moves to each turtle (i.e. Raphael leaping into the air and spinning, with the sound of a jackhammer).
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 Nintendo, Super Nintendo 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.
Late 1990's - Present
Konami was recently commissioned to transform the current 2003 series into a video game franchise, resulting in two games, with ports to the PC, Sony PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, 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.
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.
- A Pen and Paper RPG entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness based after TMNT was published by Palladium Books in 1985. Turtles and rats were not the only option for mutated animals, a rather large list of animals was made available. It later spawned a game with a future apocoliptic earth populated mainly with animals, called After the Bomb . Palladium dropped the TMNT rights in 2000, due to the 1987 cartoon making the Turtles "too kiddy", despite fan protest. Palladium is still producing After The Bomb material, with no plans to pick up the TMNT license again, even with the 2003 cartoon in production.
- In February 2004 a TMNT trading card game based on the 2003 cartoon was released by Upper Deck Entertainment.
- Among many toys and related products, a collectible sticker album was made.
- 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.
- An usenet post 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
- 1987 TV series
- The Technodrome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Website - Information about the 1987 cartoon show
- Ninja Rap Page
- Original Theme Song Lyrics
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- 2003 TV series
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) at TV Tome
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) at the Internet Movie Database
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
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