Saturday Morning Cartoons: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Leonardo. I always wanted to be Leonardo. I remember being 4 in 1987 when the cartoon debuted and getting my first action figure. Leonardo. I also got some giant skateboard with a fan on back (adding oomph to your sewer skating I suppose). I have a clear memory of sitting at a lunch table in preschool playing with this figure. This is also when I discovered I hated tomatoes as there was a cherry tomato in our lunch pack that day.

Based off a very rough and somewhat violent black and white comic book, TMNT was released in 1984 to much fan fare. The original creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, released the comic as a parody of other popular comics at the time. Quickly realizing they had something special, they brainstormed and came up with a more thought out plot.


The original cartoon ran for 10 seasons (until 1996). The comic was very gritty while the cartoon was pretty lighthearted. Shedder (voiced by Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince) died early in the books. He was never intended to be a constant villain like he was in the series (much to the chagrin of the creators). The first film (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 1990), was a live action interpretation of the characters. Anyone who watched the cartoon and noticed dark tone in the movie was probably confused. The movie was essential based off the first comic arc. Fun fact, the Turtles meet their movie voice actors in the film (the taxi cab driver who almost hits Raph is Raph’s voice, the pizza delivery guy is Mikey, etc.). The next two films in the series got progressively worse. In 2007, an animated feature was released in the same continuity (titled TMNT). It was a very good movie with slick action scenes. Sadly it didn’t kickstart the franchise liked they’d hope.

Back to the cartoons. Admittedly, my intrest in the show waned as I aged. Not to mention the many creative changes to the show (in later seasons the turtles fought more aliens to combat the popularity of Power Rangers). When the show ended, the following year a live action show debuted. It only lasted a year and added a sister, Venus, to the group. I didn’t even know this show existed until I saw it parodied on Robot Chicken.  From 2003 – 2009 Fox aired a new, darker, animated series. I saw a few episodes but didn’t really care for it. The series ended with a movie called Turtles Forever where they time traveled meeting their 1984 comic book selves, and 1987 animated versions. I need to track this down.


There were a lot of Turtles games too. The first one for NES was insanely hard. Seriously, if you beat that game you were either using a game genie or you’re that kid from The Wizard. Thankfully the side-scrolling beat’em-up was invented before the next game. Pretty much every Turtle game after was in that mold. Including the awesome Turtle IV: Turtles in Time (stay away from the remake, it’s garbage).

Currently, the Turtles are back in full force. IDW is publishing an awesome ongoing series with original creator Eastman co-plotting. On the animation side there’s a new show on Nickelodeon. I can’t explain how amazing this show is. The animation style if very off putting at first, but it grows on you. Every turtle is designed differently (heights, eye color, skin color, etc.) and other subtleties like their eyes whiting out during combat. I genuinely laugh every episode while enjoying the sharp plot. Plus the opening theme is really good.  If you have any affinity for the Turtles, you owe it to yourself to check this out. It’s so good and popular, halfway through season one it’s been renewed for season 3.

All is not well though in the current Turtle camp. Michael Bay is producing a feature live-action film called Ninja Turtles. They’ll be aliens, hence the removal of half the title. Megan Fox is set to star as April O’Neil. Not making this up. This about sums up everyone’s feelings (min 4:25 if the link doesn’t work). (Note: After I wrote this post I came across this.) Plus a new game was just announced. It looks to go against the style and tone set by the current series, so who knows.

Who’s your favorite turtle? Enjoying the new series (correct answer is yes)? Comment or tweet!

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17 responses to “Saturday Morning Cartoons: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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