Those lovable teenage turtles who also happened to be ninjas and eat nothing but pizza (conveniently enough for Pizza Hut) became a defining icon for children in the late 80’s through the late 90’s. The original animated series itself ran for nine years, and all of us followed it religiously.
After all, ninjas are cool, talking turtles are cool, and pizza is cool. We probably even went so far as to say that they were either rad or righteous, even though we had no idea what either of these words meant.
We also found nothing remotely implausible about:
+ Four turtles becoming anthropomorphized through a toxic waste dumping
+ Learning ninja skills from a mutant sensei rat
+ Being able to subsist only on pizza
+ Having a talking brain as a mortal enemy
+ April O’Neil wearing the same outfit day in and day out
+ Having weapons meant that you didn’t actually use them.
Evidently our friends across the pond were exposed to an even less violent version of this series. (if that’s possible…) The show was rebranded as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and even the lyrics to the song had to be changed. Apparently the weapons were even toned down a bit.
It makes sense. After all, no hero in all of history has ever had weapons. Of course, there haven’t been too many recorded instances of genetically enhanced amphibians being heroes either.
Clearly history is written by the winners.
Anyway, I have often wondered about the pitch meeting for this series:
We have a great idea: There’s these four turtles that get turned into walking mutants by toxic waste. Instead of killing them outright, it gives them the ability to speak and reason. They are raised by a mutant rat who is also a martial arts master and teaches them to be ninjas. Oh, and they each have a different kind of weapon, but don’t worry, it’s not violent because they won’t actually use them- they’ll just twirl them around. And get this- each mutant turtle is also named after a Renaissance artist. Oh, and they fight this giant brain and his minions, including another pissed off martial arts expert named Shredder, who despite his years of training and experience is able to be beaten time and time again by undisciplined teenage turtles. Last thing- the turtles only eat pizza. Merchandising options? What can’t you put a ninja turtle on?
If that sounds like an amazing foundation for an animated series to you, then you’ll have gone a long way in explaining the 90’s.
Ultimately the turtles made us want to fall into pools of toxic waste so that we could gain ninja powers and be able to subsist on pizza alone. Instead we had to make do with action figures, PEZ dispensers, themed pajamas, and a host of other products bearing the likeness of our cold-blooded role-models.
We realized we could never be ninjas, and even though we went to karate class our instructors were never as cool as a rat.
The scars will never heal.