Anyone born and raised during the eighties and early nineties, it’s a very good chance four of your heroes happened to be a team of anthropomorphized terrapins. Who happened to be ninjas, and love pizza. Artists Kevin Eastman And Peter Laird created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a joke. The two artists parodied Marvel books like Frank Miller’s epic run on Daredevil. They also took jabs at Cerebus and Miller’s Ronin. Plus, in the eighties, ninjas were everywhere thanks to Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and a whole heap of B-level Saturday afternoon style martial arts movies constantly being shown in syndication.
The comic was an independent book and always has been. But it was a meeting that Laird and Eastman had with licensing agent Mark Freedman that would turn the byproduct of their little parody into a full-fledged franchise juggernaut. Video games, clothes, and an army of action figures to name a few things. If you could slap one or all four turtles on a product, you did.
A movie adaptation was inevitable. What fans got was completely absurd, unheard of, and; when you take latter-day live-action adaptations like Transformers and GI Joe into account; way ahead of its time. Here are 25 Hidden Details Only True Fans Noticed In The Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movies.
25 Raining On April’s Parade
Before we see even one hint of green in the first movie, we’re introduced to intrepid Channel 3 reporter, April O’Neil. Known to the plethora of TMNT fans by her bright yellow jumpsuit (something all reporters should wear), the actress behind April, Judith Hoag, refused the silly costume choice.
But that wasn’t the only headache she caused on set. Hoag was apparently a chore to deal with. When it came time for the inevitable sequel, she was disinvited from the festivities. Paige Turco joined the party instead.
24 The Turtles Were Based On Daredevil
According to Marvel Comics, young Matt Murdock was blinded by radioactive chemicals. The chemical blinded him but heightened all of his other senses. He was trained how to be a ninja by an old man, Stick, to fight a group of life-takers infesting New York, The Hand.
If that sounds like a group of turtles being gifted by a mutagen, who are taught by an ancient rat, Splinter, to prepare them to fight a group of life-takers infiltrating New York, The Foot – then you’d be 100% right. One of the main influences on the original comic book series was The Man Without Fear.
23 The Real Secret Was No Violence
The original Eastman and Laird stories were a mix of dark action and dark humor. When the original movie came out, fans got to see a live action version of the Turtles kicking behind and taking names. Ninjas being ninjas.
Prior to filming Secret Of The Ooze, several "parents groups" expressed their concerns over the violence from the first movie. Rather than deal with more angry parents, the action was significantly reduced during the second adventure. The turtles barely used their weapons.
22 TMNT II’s Grandiose Ambitions
With the success of 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the sequel was greenlit instantaneously. One year later, The Secret Of The Ooze was released. It’s a kid movie, so it’s not the biggest deal in the world. But it certainly seems rushed. One of the concepts that was dropped was the very ambition of the film.
The movie was supposed to kickstart a whole trilogy of films. The big reveal was that the Mutagen that created them would reveal Dimension X, as well as the Utrom and Triceraton races, and the rogue robot Fugitoid.
21 Kevin Nash As Super Shredder
The Shredder wasn’t eliminated during the first movie. Instead, he endured his endeavor with a garbage truck and returned for the sequel. When it seemed that he was going to be defeated, he instead drank a vial of mutagen and became the Super Shredder.
What has become an Easter egg of sorts for wrestling fans, the massive Kevin Nash was underneath all of the makeup behind the movie’s big bad. If you see pictures of the man from the early nineties, you’ll realize very little prosthetics were used. At 6’10 and over 300 pounds of motor–city muscle, the WWE Hall Of Famer really looked the part.
20 Professor Perry Is Baxter Stockman
One of the strange characters in the TMNT universe is the mad scientist, Baxter Stockman. The franchise’s answer to Seth Brundle. Whether he’s working with his Mouser prototypes or doing Shredder’s bidding, in most iterations; whatever Stockman is trying to do, he becomes a giant fly.
Professor Perry looks like plenty of stereotypical scientists in Secret. That’s because he was supposed to be an analog for Stockman and with all of his work with TGRI Mutagen and eventually transform into the giant menacing fly.
19 The Meaning Behind “Hi Sally"
For any violence and quick one-liner loving Quentin Tarantino fan, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Hi Sally” being uttered in the behind-the-scenes of all of his DVDs, up until Inglourious Basterds. Sally sadly passed away from the heat in 2010, while hiking.
Menke’s first big break as an editor was the very first Turtles movie. The Mineola, New York native cut her teeth cutting this movie. Maybe the intensity in this movie prepared her for Tarantino’s insatiable bloodlust.
18 Sam Rockwell Shows Up Briefly
Over the years, Sam Rockwell has amassed quite a devoted fan following for his quirky performances and delivery in all kinds of movies from Matchstick Men to Iron Man 2 to his Academy Award-winning turn in Three Billboards. That charm of his started way back in 1990 when he played one of the misguided youths of the Foot Clan.
For a bit role, the kid got about five minutes of screen time as one of the lead teenagers and got to deliver several lines that helped to shape the thoughts of the entire group of kids. Knowing that its Rockwell playing the role makes it a little more comical than it was ever I tended to be, but that fact wouldn’t happen for several more years after the film came out.
17 No Little Caesars?
Being teenagers, the turtles preferred food of choice was always pizza. Or maybe it was because they’re New Yorkers? But other than being turtles, their love of bread, sauce, and cheese is their most well-known trait. Two big brands, Dominos and Pizza Hut, duked it for rights fees heading into the first film.
Pizza Hut won out and got to feature the Turtles in their establishment. Somehow Dominoes wound up winning the war – their pizza and delivery guy is what wound up in the movie.
16 Tatsu’s Intense Rage
We’ve established that the first adventure was a little too dark for some kiddies. But it was also a little more faithful to the comics. In one scene, Shredder’s top right-hand man (right foot man?), Tatsu, is seen physically harming a kid. The other henchmen are able to separate them before a lot of damage is done.
The scene from the books though shows Tatsu eliminate the guy in an act of uncontrollable rage. The producers of the movie decided that was slightly too dark for the kids to see and pulled back the original shot.
15 Produced By Golden Harvest
If you’ve never seen a Bruce Lee film or clips of him in action, it’s easy to see why he is so heralded. The guy was faster than film could capture and had a physique that was revered by both men and women. The guy invented his own Martial Art for cryin’ out loud – Jeet Kune Do.
Besides both Lee and the Turtles being martial artists, their connection comes in the form of Golden Harvest, the Chinese film production house that helped bring Lee to America. They also brought Jackie Chan’s early films to the country as well. Not to mention producing a certain movie proclaiming to have “heroes on the half shell.”
14 Splinter And Elmo Are Alike
The film’s design of Splinter and the turtles all comes from the greatest puppeteering house Hollywood ever knew – Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The late Henson’s friend and puppeteer that he helped mentor, Kevin Clash, was the hand behind the popular muppet, Elmo.
For nearly twenty years, Elmo was Clash’s great claim to fame. But considering Elmo’s high-pitched voice and Splinter’s low baritone gravely whisper, it’s hard to believe that Clash also is the hand and voice behind the Turtles friend and mentor, Splinter.
13 Oliver Is Michelangelo?
In an attempt to breathe new life into The Brady Bunch, they introduced Cousin Oliver. Played by Robbie Rist, the character was not very well received at all and signaled the demise for the series. Plenty of fans believe that The Brady Bunch jumped the shark.
Despite the character not being liked, Rist has gone on to have a successful voice and music career – even being behind the music of The Sharknado b-movie series. Rist has the distinction, along with Brian Tochi (the voice of Leonardo), of being the only actor to be in every Turtles movie. Rist voiced Michelangelo.
12 Jim Henson’s Last Film
Kermit The Frog was introduced in 1955 by the incomparable Jim Henson. Similar to Mickey and Walt Disney, Kermit allowed Jim Henson to launch an empire of his own. Henson worked with Joan Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett to bring Sesame Street to life. He also worked with Lorne Michaels on SNL, and just about every movie involving some form of puppet – from Yoda to Labyrinth.
The world lost a visionary in 1990 due to toxic shock syndrome. His last gift to the world was helping to bring the Turtles and Splinter to life.
11 Ice’s People Tried To Fight Mikey
Now that the Turtles are both known to the masses on TV and in film, the budget for The Secret Of The Ooze allowed for a huge song and dance number to be part of the film’s climax. Might as well introduce Vanilla Ice into the Ninja Turtles universe. The Ninja Rap became a cheesy part of Turtle-lore, and that’s saying something!
Even though he was part of the movie, when Ice arrived on set, one of his handlers clotheslined Michelan Sisti, who was in his full Michaelangelo costume at the time. The event caused a skirmish between Ice’s people and the movies stunt team.
10 Corey Feldman Ripped Off
By 1990, Corey Feldman was a bonafide child megastar who had taken part of several big TV shows and movies. He voiced Donatello in the first movie, but somehow was conned out of a better payday. He had only received 1500$ for his voice work. That might seem like a lot, but at the time there weren’t many bigger stars on the planet.
According to the actor, he was told that the low-scale Indy flick wasn’t going to be much of a success. While the movie was an independent movie, nobody bothered to smarten Feldman up about how big the Turtles were.
9 No Bebop And Rocksteady
Created for the original cartoon, Bebop and Rocksteady were two of Shredder’s most trusted henchman. The bumbling duo helped sell some toys and were supposed to be a part of Secret Of The Ooze. Eastman and Laird didn’t want to get into a legal scuffle between the animation and film studio over the characters and opted out of using them. Fans got Tokka and Rahzar instead.
The franchise’s two most famous bad guy mutates would finally make their cinematic debut in the new film, Out Of The Shadows, played by Gary Williams and Sheamus, respectively.
8 The Next Mutation
Saban (Power Rangers) gifted the world a godawful Turtles live-action series in the mid-nineties. Apologies if you remember Venus De Milo. It was called The Next Mutation. But if Golden Harvest has its way, that would have been the title of the fourth Turtles movie.
The movie might not have been much better than the live-action series was – Raphael was going to be a raptor, Splinter was going be a rat, and Mikey was going to be more humanoid, Donnie would be a psychic, and Leo would be able to turn his skin as hard as any chrome surface. April would have suddenly learned how to be a ninja overnight.
7 Based On A Kitchen Utensil?
The Turtles love to wisecrack, what teenager doesn’t? When they meet the nefarious Shredder, Mikey asks “a kitchen utensil?” In regard to the Foot Clan leader’s strange name. Despite being a smarty pants, Michelangelo wasn’t too far off the mark though.
Kevin Eastman came up with the idea while washing the dishes and staring at a cheese grater. Lucky for us all that the character wasn’t named The Grater, or any of the sillier names Eastman came up with besides settling on Shredder.
6 No Casey Jones
Thanks to a bunch of parents and parents’ groups complaining about the amount of violence that happened in the first Turtles movie, there was a severe lack of Elias Koteas and the vigilante, Casey Jones in the second movie. Like not at all.
Casey was brought back for the third film – back by popular demand. But instead of being given a lot to do, Jones was used as comedic relief. He was babysitting a few feudal honor guards who were lost in time; teaching them how to play hockey.
5 The Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles?
The United Kingdom has different standards of what is acceptable in television and movies. When punks were beating on people with nunchucks, the governing censors demanded that the show and the movies be edited heavily. That must’ve been a daunting task considering that they’re Mikey’s weapon of choice.
The censors took umbrage with the word, “ninja” too. So, the nation had the Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles. The scene in Ooze, where Michelangelo uses sausages links as nunchucks was cut completely out of the movie.
4 Keno’s Only Appearance
Instead of Casey Jones in The Secret Of The Ooze, the Turtles gained a new ally – and a pizza delivery guy. Keno, played by stunt actor, martial artist, and MMA fighter, Ernie Reyes, Jr. made his debut in the first film as the stunt double for Donatello.
But in the second movie, Reyes was given a chance to shine. You’d think that a fellow martial artist who delivers pizza would have ingratiated himself into Turtles culture. But then you’d be wrong. Strangely enough, Keno his only appearance in the second Turtles adventure.
3 No Shredder
In the first film, the Shredder wasn’t just eliminated, he was sent through a trash compactor by Casey Jones. Why let that little fact get in the way of bringing him back for the sequel? Because that didn’t make any sense at all, that’s why! Early scripts for The Secret Of The Ooze had the Turtles facing a much different enemy.
Besides being a launching pad for the aforementioned Utrom, Triceraton, and Fugitoid stories, the film was supposed to introduce Baxter Stockman and his Mousers to bother the guys. His mousers were to have started to try and eliminate Master Splinter.
2 Doodling CAN Make You Money
If the whole concept of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Titles doesn’t want to make you grab a napkin and start drawing nonsense, then you’re just not as ambitious as Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. In 1984, the duo had a little indy comic book that had minor notoriety. Several years later, they had an empire on their hands.
It all started from the two friends just drawing little turtle doodles for each other. They joked back and forth until they started brainstorming and thought their ideas could work as a comic book.
1 The Battle For Rights Fees
While no one is nor have they ever disputed that Eastman and Laird are the fathers of this mammoth franchise, for some strange reason, the creative team behind the original movie weren’t getting any financial love from Warner Brothers, the rights owners to the film.
So a few producers, writers, and the family of the director took the studio to court for the money that was contractually owed to them. In this case, the little guys won. Warner Bros had to cough up 400K to pay to these guys.