Ninja Turtles to the rescue, 34 years of pizza and martial arts

Ninja Turtles to the rescue, 34 years of pizza and martial arts

Ninja Turtles to the rescue

Born from the minds and pencils of two cartoonists definitely out of line in a period of world change and punk music on 11 December 1987, these four amphibious mutant teenagers have been able to conquer the whole world and still today boys of all ages have fun with their adventures full of martial arts, jokes and pizza, lots and lots of pizza. Ninja Turtles to the rescue is the Italian title of the cartoon dedicated to the four most famous turtles in the world, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who turns 34 this year. Turtle power!

The genesis of the Ninja Turtles

Leonardo, Raffaello, Donatello and Michelangelo: four names that have consecrated Italian Renaissance art in the world but at the same time make us think of four humanoid-eating turtles -pizza living in the sewers of New York. Thinking about it too much is almost artistic blasphemy, but perhaps it is precisely on this contrast that the two creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird have played, cartoonists with admiration for Jack Kirby who in 1983 founded Mirage Studios in the home of Laird.

After several rejections received from big names in publishing, they decide to switch to self-production, and one evening, joking with each other in the studio-house, the idea of ​​four ninja turtles is born. The first self-produced issue was an immediate success: 3275 copies sold out within a few hours and orders for reprints arrived all the time. The style is direct, violent and raw, the stroke is dirty but dynamic, among the dirty alleys, the sewers and the roofs of the buildings far from the skyscrapers where the stories and battles of these cold fighters are set, you can breathe the punk rock scene from the 80s.

The Original TMNTs by Eastman and Laird

After exponential growth Eastman and Laird decide to sell the product license for the production of toys inspired by their characters. Again a lot of waste from companies like Hasbro and Mattel who thought the project was a stupid idea and that it would never work because turtles are not heroic or that the green in toys does not sell. But a company that made toys for children under 10, Playmates, became interested in the project and with a $ 160,000 contract, the ninja turtle project began. But there was a problem: the ninja turtles in the original comic were dark and violent, fighters devoted to revenge, and this was absolutely not good for the target audience of toys intended for children. In addition, the turtles were all identical except for the weapons used.

Playmates' job was to give each turtle its own characterization that made it unique: they gave it roles (the leader, the genius, the rebel and the party-goer), a personalized color of the "uniform", and finally a buckle with the initial of your name. They also took off the tail, because in the transition from paper to models it looked more like another type of appendage. But who would have bought such special toys that are unknown to the general public? The comic was a growing success, but remained in the underground environment. Another step was needed after that in the world of figures, perhaps the one that had contributed to the success of series like G.I. Joe or the Masters of The Universe. And here is that the cartoon Ninja Turtles to the Rescue saw the light.

Read also: Masters of the Universe: the board game of the CMON arrives

Ninja Turtles to the Rescue

Four freshwater turtles that fell into the sewers of New York accidentally come into contact with a mutagenic chemical that has the ability to transform any living being into the last species they came into contact with, in this case the man who had found and adopted them, the ninjitsu master Hamato Yoshi, in turn came into contact with the substance and transformed into a humanoid mouse. Yoshi, changes his name to Splinter and gives the four teenagers the names of his favorite artists: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. He teaches them the ancient ninja art, meditation and raises them as a loving father.

Michelangelo, Raffaello, Leonardo and Donatello The four young ninjas will grow up with the passions of the teenagers of the 80-90s such as skate, graffiti and above all pizza, great love and iconic element of the characters. Thanks to their ninja techniques they will defend the city from the evil of Shredder, head of the Clan of the Foot Ninja, and from his henchmen Bebop and RockSteady, two street punks mutated respectively into a warthog and a rhino. The style is definitely different from that of the original Eastman and Laid comics, the protagonists are always smiling, ironic and the whole series is full of comedy.

TMNT action figures Obviously violence was completely banned from this product, which ultimately succeeded in its purpose which was to sell the models of turtles and their opponents, reaching more than 100 million units in 1990 alone, not bad for a product that Mattel at the time defined as " The stupidest idea ever heard ".

Good and Bad

In the series the four ninja turtles are aided in their battle by a series of allies and together they fight against dozens of enemies, in many mutant cases but also aliens and more. The undisputed protagonists however remain the four ninja with the shell: Leonardo: leader of the group, uses a pair of Katanas and wears a blue headband. Skilled in martial arts and very attentive to the code of the warrior; Raphael: braggart and sarcastic, master with the Sai, the Japanese 3-pointed knives. His color is red. His original alter ego was quarrelsome, impulsive, violent and bigger than his brothers, he is the second son and his impetuousness has always put him in competition with Leonardo; Donatello: the genius of the group, he built all the vehicles used by ninja turtles, from the Tarta-Van, to the Tarta-dirigible. His mask is purple and he uses the Bo, a wooden stick; Michelangelo: he loves skateboarding, surfing and pizza. He uses a pair of nunchucks and the youngest of the group. Although he loves to laze around and avoids Master Splinter's lessons when he can, he is kindhearted and always ready to help everyone.

Leading them is their mentor Master Splinter / Hamato Yoshi: discredited by Shredder he was forced to live in misery in the New York sewers where he found the turtles and was contaminated with the mutagen. His technique is second only to his wisdom and he loves his boys like sons.

Also joining the group April O'Neal: Channel 5 reporter, enterprising and determined and Casey Jones: a vigilante who uses sports equipment as equipment. He always wears a hockey mask and a bag full of various sports clubs. He is very attached to Raphael and often falls prey to fits of anger.

Shredder Shredder: Sworn enemy of the ninja turtles and Splinter, he is the head of the foot clan, a group of ninja who want to control the world. In the original comic he was a ruthless killer, while in the animated series he very often becomes a comic sketch. In addition to the Clan ninjas, the turtles will have to clash with Bebop and Rocksteady: Two street punks who became Shredder's minions after he transformed them into mutants, hybridizing them with a warthog and a rhino. They are part of the series' exaggerated comic line and often their involuntary gags are the cause of Shredder's failure.

Bebop and Rocksteady As the series progresses a new foe will come, Krang: A Pink Brain with Eyes, Mouth and sharp teeth with two mushy growths instead of arms. Having no legs, he uses a human-like robot to move, and the driving position is in place of the belly. He is an alien and his Techno-Drome is a ship capable of opening dimensional gates.

Ninja Turtles Today

The series ran for 193 episodes over 10 seasons, from 1987 in 1996, it was then interrupted due to the natural decline in plays and sales related to toys, but the stories of the ninja turtles were not yet ready for an end. From '96 to today the four ninjas were the protagonists of dozens of video games, board games, three live action films with costumed actors and two more recent ones in which motion capture and CGI techniques were used for the pizza eaters. and three new animated series.

Not all of these side-projects were successful, for example of the first three films with real actors the first produced as an independent film was a success at the box office and at home video but it was closer to the cartoon style than to that of the cartoon with good dissatisfaction of the manufacturers of the toys, and so from the second we went back to a lighter style, perhaps too much, which was not very well received by the spectators.

But if we want to talk about the biggest flop of the Ninja Turtles there is no doubt, there is only one thing that should be totally removed from the archives: the TV series "Ninja Turtles: the adventure continues". Produced in collaboration with Saban, or the production house of the Power Rangers and other American Super Sentai, this TV series introduced the fifth female ninja turtle called Venus in honor of the Venus de Milo, or the fifth water turtle that was present at the moment of the accident with the mutagenic liquid that Splinter had forgotten about. For decency we won't talk about it again.


Peter Laid, the co-creator of the Ninja Turtles, has always hated the fact that in the animated series the four amphibians loved pizza. The turtles have had several team ups with other protagonists of comics or TV series. among these we remember the one with Batman and the one with the Power Rangers. In Michael Bay's 2014 cinematic reboot, Turtles had to be aliens rather than mutants.

Shredder's design was inspired by a cheese grater.

In the recent Rise of the Teenage series Mutant Ninja Turtles - The fate of the Ninja Turtles the leader of the group is Raphael, but only for the first season, after which Splinter will formalize Leonardo as team leader, and for the first time the turtles are presented as belonging to different species with obvious recalls in the new design.

Ninja Turtles were born as a parody of well-known heroes, especially DareDevil. The homage is evident in the ninjas of the Clan of the Foot, a clear reference to the Clan of the Hand, enemies of Devil, Elektra and Wolverine who have clashed several times with the Marvel heroes. When the series arrived in the UK it was renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles because the term Ninja was too reminiscent of bloodthirsty killers. The modified logo and name were used throughout the merchandise.

The original theme song of the cartoon "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was composed by Chuck Lorre, who later became a famous television director and producer, among his hits are: Dharma and Greg, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and Young Sheldon.

The famous Cowabunga motto, does not exist in the original comics. In the movie Turtles Forever the turtles from the 2003 series met their counterpart from the classic series as well as the four turtles from the original comics.

Turtles Forever

Wear your love of Ninja Turtles with the 100% cotton T-shirt with the logo of the TV series that turns 33 years old. You can buy it HERE.

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