In the pantheon of beloved 1980s pop culture, there’s no question that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ranks among the very best for an entire generation. Whether it’s the comic books that kicked off the franchise, the animated series that added to the core mythology, or the previous films that took the mutant martial artists into live-action, everyone has their favorites.
As usually happens with properties so beloved, news of a modern reboot proved divisive before the first details even surfaced. Thankfully, the finished product was a far cry from a failure (read our review) and actually kept even more faithful to the source material than expected. And with decades of comic, TV and film history to draw upon, we wouldn’t expect any less.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our list of Ninja Turtles trivia, so read at your own risk.
April in Yellow
Just as the Ninja Turtles themselves have become synonymous with the color of their headbands, so too has intrepid reporter April O’Neil become famously know for her yellow wardrobe. While the yellow jumpsuit was adapted to a yellow raincoat in previous live-action films, Megan Fox‘s version keeps the tradition alive through a yellow jacket (along with the character’s signature red hair – dark, but reddened).
Not every callback to the source material is as easy to spot as clothing or color, but April O’Neil’s overpowering editor undergoes a bit of a makeover. Burne Thompson of Channel 6 was created to give another occasional antagonist to the Turtles of the 1987 cartoon, but in the film, the character is gender-swapped to Bernadette Thompson – played by Whoopi Goldberg.
The sudden appearance of Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam in the Channel 6 news room likely took many by surprise, but it’s the character he’s revealed to be playing that would catch the attention of only the most devoted fans. O’Neil delivers a slam of her own in which she refers to Killam’s insulting character as “McNaughton” – as in Jim McNaughton, a colleague of O’Neil’s from the 1986 comic.
Although the responsibilities of Karai (Minae Noji) as the lieutenant to central villain Shredder may have seemed par for the course, the high-ranking Foot Clan member may have been far more important than it seemed. In the past, Karai has been written as the daughter or niece of the iconic Turtles villain, at times even outranking him. While the film version doesn’t get to don her own set of armor, the tinge of red in her hair is a nice homage to its color scheme.
While causal observers might expect an ambitious journalist to have ice running through their veins, April O’Neil has shown a tendency to become… well, as overwhelmed as anyone would be by the sight of enormous humanoid reptiles. Her tendency to lose consciousness was carried over from the comics into the 1990 film, and the same reaction can be seen in the latest meeting.
What’s in a Name
Plenty of movie fans may bristle at what they see as a change to canon, with April O’Neil now implied to have named each one of the Turtles (lab experiments in ‘Project Renaissance’). While April’s exact reason for selecting the names of Italian Renaissance-era artists may have been altered, it’s not the first time that she’s been given the honor in the many versions of the comic books.
Hip-Hop Christmas Album
When Raphael first expresses a desire to leave behind his brothers and head out into the world alone, it’s Michelangelo who tells him he can’t – his hip hop Christmas album is still in need of a ‘Hype Man.’ The brothers show an interest in impromptu music later on in the film, but this line is likely a reference to the very-real We Wish You a Turtle Christmas, a direct-to-video special featuring the Turtles’ “Wrap Rap.”
To make sure that one of his sons spills the beans on the Turtles’ nocturnal adventures, Splinter tempts Michelangelo with a Pizza Hut pizza claimed to contain more cheese varieties than ever thought possible. While the explanation for the pizza-loving brothers switching from Domino’s Pizza to their longtime rival is never provided, we can only assume that the sting of a moldy pizza spanned two decades.
As is expected of the movie’s stars, their weaponry makes short work of their favorite food – pizza. While the brothers may not recreate the football passes of previous live-action adaptations, director Jonathan Liebesman did repeat the previous gag of having a slice end up on the head of an unamused Splinter.
The new film sets the live-action origins of Splinter and the Turtles in line with that of the original comic books, as mutated subjects exposed to an alien ‘ooze.’ The acronym for Techno Cosmic Research Institute (TCRI) was changed to TGRI (Techno Global) for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, given its non-alien origins in that story. But in the new reboot, the iconic canister – and its original initials – remain intact.