Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (often shortened to the TMNT or Ninja Turtles) are a fictional superhero quartet of anthropomorphic turtle brothers, trained in the ancient art of ninjitsu that appear in a self-titled franchise consisting of comic books, television shows, films, and other tie-in products. The characters were created in 1984 by comic book writer-artist team Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who named the four turtles after Italian Renaissance artists, and published the characters' adventures in comic books published by Mirage Studios. Within their stories, the turtles were trained in the Japanese martial art of ninjutsu by their adoptive father Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat sensei. From their home in the sewers of New York City, they battle petty criminals, evil overlords, mutated creatures, and alien invaders while attempting to remain hidden from society.[2] During the peak of the franchise's popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it gained worldwide success and fame.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Kevin Eastman's art).jpg
Art by Kevin Eastman
Created byKevin Eastman
Peter Laird
Original workTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)
OwnerMirage Studios (1984–2009)
ViacomCBS (2009–present)[1]
Print publications
Comic strip(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (comic strip)
Films and television
Film(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in film
Television seriesNinja Turtles: The Next Mutation
Animated series
Direct-to-videoMutant Turtles: Superman Legend
Role-playingTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness
Video game(s)List of video games
Toy(s)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures
CharactersList of characters


Cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (May 1984)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in an American comic book published by Mirage Studios in 1984 in Dover, New Hampshire. The concept arose from a humorous drawing sketched out by Eastman during a casual evening of brainstorming and bad television with Laird.[3] Using money from a tax refund, together with a loan from Eastman's uncle, the young artists self-published a single-issue comic intended to parody four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel ComicsDaredevil and New Mutants, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, and Frank Miller’s Ronin.[4] The TMNT comic book series has been published in various incarnations by various comic book companies since 1984.

The Turtles started their rise to mainstream success when a licensing agent, Mark Freedman, sought out Eastman and Laird to propose wider merchandising opportunities for the franchise. In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures produced a set of 15-mm (approximately 0.6 inch) lead figurines. In January 1987, Eastman and Laird visited the offices of Playmates Toys, a small California toy company that wanted to expand into the action-figure market. Development was undertaken by a creative team of companies and individuals: Jerry Sachs, advertising agent of Sachs-Finley Agency, brought together the animators at Murakami-Wolf-Swenson headed by Fred Wolf. Wolf and his team combined concepts and ideas with the Playmates marketing crew, headed by Karl Aaronian, vice president (VP) of sales Richard Sallis, and VP of Playmates Bill Carlson.[5]

Aaronian brought on several designers and concepteur and writer John C. Schulte, and worked out the simple backstory that would live on toy packaging for the entire run of the product and show.[5] Sachs called the high concept pitch "Green Against Brick". The sense of humor was honed with the collaboration of the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson animation firm's writers. Playmates and their team essentially served as associate producers and contributing writers to the miniseries that was first launched to sell-in the toy action figures. Phrases like "Heroes in a half shell" and many of the comical catch phrases and battle cries ("Turtle power!") came from the writing and conceptualization of this creative team. As the series developed, veteran writer Jack Mendelsohn came on board as both a story editor and scriptwriter. David Wise, Michael Charles Hill, and Michael Reaves wrote most of the scripts.

The miniseries was repeated three times before it found an audience. Once the product started selling, the show got syndicated and picked up and backed by Group W, which funded the next round of animation. The show then went network, on CBS. Accompanied by the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 TV series, and the subsequent action figure line, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became a mainstream success. At the height of the frenzy, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Turtles' likenesses could be found on a wide range of children's merchandise, from Pez dispensers to skateboards, breakfast cereal, video games, school supplies, linens, towels, cameras, and toy shaving kits.

While the animated TV series, which lasted for 10 seasons until 1996, was more lighthearted, the comic-book series continued in a much darker and grittier tone. In 1990, a live-action feature film was released, with the Turtles and Splinter being portrayed by actors in partially animatronic suits created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The independent film was very successful, spawning two sequels, as well as inspiring a three-dimensional animated film set in the same continuity, which was released in 2007 under the title TMNT. After the end of the cartoon series, a live-action series in the vein of the films was created in 1997 in conjunction with Saban Entertainment. The series was called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and introduced a fifth, female turtle called Venus de Milo. However, the series was largely unsuccessful and was canceled after one season.

The property lay dormant until 2002, when 4Kids Entertainment announced that they would be co-producing a new animated TV series with Mirage Studios, also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The new series debuted as part of Fox's FoxBox lineup in 2003, and it was also licensed to Cartoon Network,[6] which re-ran episodes after they had premiered on Fox. The series' storyline stuck much closer to the original Mirage comic book series, but was still less violent. It lasted for seven seasons and 156 episodes, ending in February 2009.

In 2009, cable channel Nickelodeon (a subsidiary of Viacom, now known as ViacomCBS) acquired Mirage's rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Mirage retained the rights to publish 18 issues a year, though the future involvement of Mirage with the Turtles and the future of Mirage Studios itself is no longer clear.[7] Mirage Studios was shut down on December 31, 2009. Nickelodeon developed a new CGI-animated TMNT television series and partnered with fellow Viacom company Paramount Pictures to bring a new TMNT movie to theaters. The TV show premiered on Nickelodeon in September 2012, lasting five seasons and ending in 2017.[8] The live-action film, produced by Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon Movies, and Paramount Pictures, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and produced by Michael Bay, was released on August 8, 2014.[9] A sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, directed by Dave Green, was released in June 2016.

A new TV series from Nickelodeon, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released in 2018 and ran for two seasons.[10] A film sequel to the series is set to be released on Netflix.[11] Two additional films, an animated film produced by Seth Rogen and a live-action reboot with Bay returning as producer, are also in development.[12][13]

Main charactersEdit

  • Leonardo (Leo) – The tactical, level-headed, quiet, courageous leader and devoted student of his sensei, Leonardo wears a blue mask and wields two swords. As the most conscientious of the four, he often bears the burden of responsibility for his brothers, which commonly leads to conflict with Raphael. Leonardo was named after the Italian polymath, painter, engineer, inventor, writer, anatomist, and sculptor, Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Raphael (Raph) – The team's antihero, Raphael wears a red mask and wields a pair of sai. He has an aggressive nature, and seldom hesitates to throw the first punch. He is often depicted with a Brooklyn accent. His personality can be fierce and sarcastic, and he oftentimes delivers deadpan humor. He is intensely loyal to his brothers and sensei. He is named after the Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, Raphael.[14]
  • Donatello (Donnie or Don) – The scientist, inventor, engineer, and technological genius, Donatello wears a purple mask and wields a bo staff. Donatello is a calm turtle, preferring to use his knowledge to solve conflicts, but never hesitates to defend his brothers. He is named after the early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence, Donatello.
  • Michelangelo (Mikey or Mike) – The optimistic teenager of the team, Michelangelo is a free-spirited, relaxed, goofy, mischievous, jokester known for his love of pizza and kind-hearted nature. Michelangelo wears an orange mask and wields a pair of nunchaku. He provides the comic relief, though he still has an adventurous side. The immature of the four Turtles, he shows characteristics of a "surfer" type and is often depicted with a Southern Californian accent. He is named after the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer, Michelangelo. His name was originally misspelled "Michaelangelo" by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.[14]
  • Splinter – The Turtles' sensei and adoptive father. In the original comics, Splinter is a Japanese mutant rat that learned the ways of ninjutsu from his owner and master, Hamato Yoshi. His name and character are a parody of the Marvel Comics character Stick, who trained Matt Murdock/Daredevil. For the 1987 TV series, Splinter's origin was changed so he is Hamato Yoshi himself mutated into a humanoid rat. In the IDW comics, he is Hamato Yoshi reincarnated as a mutated rat. Other versions usually follow one of these origins.
  • April O'Neil – A former lab assistant to the mad scientist Baxter Stockman, April is the plucky human companion of the Turtles. April first met the Turtles when they saved her from Baxter's Mouser robots. She embarks on many of the Turtles' adventures and aids them by doing the work in public that the Turtles cannot. In the 1987 TV series, Archie Comics series, the first three films, and the 2014 film reboot, April is a television news reporter. In the 2007 CGI film, she and Casey Jones own a shipping firm. In the 2012 series, April is a teenager who is rescued by the TMNTs and later given some "crash courses" in being a ninja by Splinter.
  • Casey Jones – A vigilante who wears a hockey mask to protect his identity, Casey Jones has become one of the Turtles' closest allies, as well as a love interest to April. Casey first encountered the Turtles after having a fight with Raphael. He fights crime with an assortment of sporting goods he carries in a golf bag, such as baseball bats, golf clubs, and hockey sticks.
  • The Shredder – A villainous ninjutsu master clad in armor called Oroku Saki, he is the leader of the Foot Clan, an evil ninja clan (the followers of the Foot Clan aren't necessarily evil, as it appears that they are brainwashed local youth of all races that are tasked with carrying out illegal deeds of a mysterious higher order). In every incarnation of the TMNT franchise, he has been the arch-enemy of the Turtles and Splinter as well as the main antagonist in most installments of the franchise.
  • Foot Soldiers/Ninja – The ninja of the Foot Clan who work for the Shredder.
  • Karai – A female high-rank member of the Foot Clan, she has appeared in several different TMNT comics, cartoons, and films, as well as in multiple video games. In her original appearance, she was a commander on the same level as Shredder while in some of her later incarnations of the character, she is closely related to Shredder, as his adoptive daughter and sometimes biological granddaughter, as well as second-in-command. In most works, she shares an ambiguous rivalry with Leonardo, which occasionally even borders on romantic interest.
  • Baxter Stockman – Baxter Stockman is a scientist and inventor who often acts as an enemy to the Turtles in various incarnations. He is known as the inventor of the mouser robots that appear in many versions, and is often depicted as allied with the Foot Clan, Krang, or going on his own.
  • Krang – Krang is a small brain-like alien warlord who often appears as one of the main villains of the franchise alongside The Shredder. The character was originally inspired by the Utroms, an alien race from the original comics, while in later versions he is a member of the Utroms. In some incarnations Krang teamed up with Shredder while some versions have them as rivals for conquest.
  • Bebop and Rocksteady – A criminal duo of a mutant warthog and rhinoceros, respectively, who were originally two human thugs who become the Shredder's henchmen in some versions. They are usually depicted as super-strong but not very smart and often serve as comic relief.



Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premiered in May 1984, at a comic book convention held at a local Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was published by Mirage Studios in an oversized magazine-style format using black and white artwork on cheap newsprint, limited to a print run of 3,250 copies.[15] Through a clever media kit that included a press release in The Comics Journal #89 and a full-page ad placed in Comic Buyer's Guide #547, the public's interest was piqued and thus began the Turtle phenomenon. The small print runs made these early comics and trade magazines instant collector items, and within months, they were trading for over 50 times their cover price. The name "Mirage Studios" was chosen because of Eastman and Laird's lack of a professional art studio at the start of their career, before their creation made them both multimillionaires.

Mirage also published a bimonthly companion book entitled Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, featuring art by Ryan Brown and Jim Lawson, which was designed to fill in the gaps of continuity in the TMNT universe. This put the original series and Tales in the same mainstream canon. The title's first volume was from 1987 to 1989, released in alternating months with the regular Eastman and Laird book. All seven issues of volume one have been collected in trade paperback form twice, and 25 issues of volume two have been collected in trades of five issues each.

As the TMNT phenomenon proliferated to other media, Eastman and Laird found themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut. However, this prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. So, many guest artists were invited to showcase their unique talents in the TMNT universe. The breadth of diversity found in the various short stories gave the series a disjointed, anthology-like feel. Fans stuck with the series, and what was originally intended as a one-shot became a continuing series that lasted for 129 issues, spanning four separate volumes (having 62, 13, 23, and 32 issues in the four distinct volumes).

In June 1996, Image Comics took over publishing the title in what is considered "volume 3" of the series. It was a slightly more action-oriented TMNT series and although notable for inflicting major physical changes on the main characters, Peter Laird, co-creator of the TMNT, has said this volume is no longer in canon as he began publishing volume 4 at Mirage Publishing in the early 2000s. As an explanation, he offered in the pages of the volume 4 (issue #8) letter column: "It just didn't feel right".[16]

After taking back the series from Image Comics, Mirage Studios resumed publication of a fourth volume in December 2001, under the simple title TMNT. After the publication of issue number 28, writer Peter Laird placed the series on an eight-month hiatus to devote himself to production of the 2007 TMNT movie. However, after that eight months had passed, Mirage's official website went on to list the series as in "indefinite hiatus". In January 2008, Mirage had finally confirmed that the series would return in May 2008. Issues 29 and 30 had a limited printing of 1,000 copies each, and were available through the official TMNT website. Although the purchase agreement with Nickelodeon allows Laird to produce up to 18 comics a year set in the original Mirage continuity, no new material was released in the next few years. The latest issue of TMNT volume 4 was issue #32 which came out in print May 4, 2014, and online on May 9, 2014, almost 4 years after issue #31 was last released.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles AdventuresEdit

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was a comic-book series published from August 1988 to October 1995 by Archie Comics. The initial storylines were close adaptations of the 1987 TV series, but with the fifth issue, Eastman and Laird decided to hand the series over to Mirage Studios employees Ryan Brown and Stephen Murphy, who immediately abandoned the animated series adaptations and took the title in a decidedly different direction with all-new original adventures, including the uniting of several of the series' recurring characters as a separate team, the Mighty Mutanimals.


A monthly comic inspired by the 2003 TV series was published by Dreamwave Productions from June to December 2003. It was written by Peter David and illustrated by LeSean Thomas. In the first four issues, which were the only ones directly adapted from the TV series, the story was told from the perspectives of April, Baxter, Casey, and a pair of New York City police officers.


In 2011, IDW Publishing acquired the license to publish new collections of Mirage storylines and a new ongoing series.[17] The first issue of the new series was released on August 24 that year. Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz wrote the book, with Eastman and Dan Duncan providing art.

New Animated Adventures/Amazing AdventuresEdit

Similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series from Archie Comics, which spun-off from the original TV series, IDW Publishing released a spin-off comic title based on the 2012 cartoon called New Animated Adventures featuring original adventures, starting July 2013. The series was cancelled after 24 issues, and was succeeded by a revised story program entitled Amazing Adventures, which was launched in August 2015 and published until September 2017, with a total of fourteen regular issues, one special story guest-starring Carmelo Anthony, a three-issue story arch titled Robotanimals, and the crossover miniseries Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.


The Turtles have appeared in several manga series.

  • Mutant Turtles (ミュータント・タートルズ, Myūtanto Tātoruzu) is a 15-issue series by Tsutomu Oyamada, Zuki mora, and Yoshimi Hamada that simply adapted episodes of the original American animated series.
  • Super Turtles (スーパータートルズ Sūpā Tātoruzu) is a three-issue miniseries by Hidemasa Idemitsu, Tetsurō Kawade, and Toshio Kudō that featured the "TMNT Supermutants" Turtle toys that were on sale at the time. The first volume of the anime miniseries followed this storyline.
  • Mutant Turtles Gaiden (ミュータント・タートルズ外伝, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Gaiden) by Hiroshi Kanno is a reinterpretation of the Turtles story with no connection to the previous manga.
  • Mutant Turtles III (ミュータント・タートルズ3, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Tsuri) is Yasuhiko Hachino's adaptation of the third feature film.
  • Mutant Turtles '95 (ミュータント・タートルズ95, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Kyūjūgo) is a 1995 series by Ogata Nobu which ran in Comic BomBom.
  • Mutant Turtles '96 (ミュータント・タートルズ96, Myūtanto Tātoruzu Kyūjūroku) is a continuation of the 1995 series when it continued to run through 1996.

Comic stripEdit

A daily comic strip written and illustrated by Dan Berger began in 1990. It featured an adventure story Monday through Friday and activity puzzles on weekends (with fan art appearing later). The comic strip was published in syndication until its cancellation in December 1996. At its highest point in popularity, it was published in over 250 newspapers.

Television seriesEdit

First animated series (1987–1996)Edit

Logo of the 1987 cartoon

When little-known Playmates Toys was approached about producing a TMNTs action figure line, they were cautious of the risk and requested that a television deal be acquired first.[18][19] On December 28, 1987, the TMNT's first cartoon series began, starting as a five-part miniseries and becoming a regular Saturday-morning syndicated series on October 1, 1988, with 13 more episodes. The series was produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Film Productions, Inc. (later Fred Wolf Films). Mirage Studios does not own the rights to this cartoon series. The show is more lighthearted than the comics. Here, the Turtles are portrayed as four funny but serious superheroes that fight the forces of evil from their sewer hideout. They love pizza and put weird toppings on it. They make their first appearance in masks color-coded to each turtle, where previously they had all worn red.[20] The turtles were also well known for their use of idiomatic expressions characteristic of the surfer lingo of the time, especially by Michelangelo. Words and phrases included "bummer", "dude", "bogus", "radical", "far-out", "tubuloso", "bodacious", and possibly the most recognized, "cowabunga," a nonsense expression first coined by The Howdy Doody Show's Chief Thunderthud.[21]

The cast included new and different characters, such as Bebop and Rocksteady and the Neutrinos. Original characters such as Splinter, Shredder, and the Foot Soldiers stayed true to the comics in appearance and alignment only. Instead of being Hamato Yoshi's mutated pet rat, Splinter was a mutated Hamato himself. The Foot Soldiers changed from human ninjas to an endless supply of robotic grunts, allowing large numbers of them to be destroyed without anyone dying (this was a very important decision in terms of the show's child audience; excessive violence would have alienated parents of children, the show's target demographic). Krang, one of the series' most memorable villains, was inspired by the design of the Utrom, a benign alien race from the Mirage comics. The animated Krang, however, was instead an evil warlord from Dimension X. Baxter Stockman, whose race was changed from black to white, was rewritten as a shy and meek lackey to Shredder, later mutating into an anthropomorphic housefly. During the final two seasons of the show, the lead villain switched to Lord Dregg, an evil alien overlord bent on world conquest by trying to distract the public into believing that the Turtles were the enemy instead of himself.

Starting on September 25, 1989, the series was expanded to weekdays and it had 47 more episodes for the new season. There were 28 new syndicated episodes for season 4 and only 13 of those episodes aired in 1990. The "European Vacation" episodes were not seen in the United States until USA Network started showing reruns in late 1993 and the "Awesome Easter" episodes were not seen until 1991. These episodes were delayed because of animation or scheduling problems.[22] On April 21, 1990, a drug-prevention television special was broadcast on ABC, NBC, and CBS named Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue that featured some of the most popular cartoons at the time; representing TMNT was Michelangelo, voiced by Townsend Coleman.

Starting on September 8, 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its run on CBS. The CBS weekend edition ran for a full hour until 1994, initially airing a few Saturday-exclusive episodes back-to-back. Also, a brief "Turtle Tips" segment aired between the two episodes, which served as public-service announcement about the environment or other issues. After 1994, the show was reduced to just a half-hour and only eight episodes per season were produced, grouped into a "CBS Action Zone" block that also featured WildC.A.T.s. and Skeleton Warriors, both of which were canceled after one season; though TMNTs retained their "Action Zone" introduction. The series ran until November 2, 1996, when it aired its final episode. Its enormous popularity gave rise to its numerous imitators, including the Battletoads, Cheetahmen, Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, Road Rovers, Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs, and Biker Mice from Mars. Currently, all 193 episodes are available on DVD and VHS.

Original video animationEdit

In addition to the American series, a Japan-exclusive two-episode anime original video animation (OVA) series was made in 1996, titled Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen. The OVA is similar in tone to the 1987 TV series and uses the same voices from TV Tokyo's Japanese dub of the 1987 TV series. The first episode was made to advertise the TMNT Supermutants toys. It featured the Turtles as superheroes, that gained costumes and superpowers with the use of Mutastones, while Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady gained supervillain powers with the use of a Dark Mutastone. As with the Super Sentai and Power Rangers franchises, the four Turtles could combine to form the giant Turtle Saint. The second episode was created to advertise the Metal Mutants toys in which the characters gain Saint Seiya-esque mystical metal armor that can transform into beasts.

Live-action series (1997–1998)Edit

In 1997–1998, the Turtles starred in a live-action television series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation that directly follows the events of the first three movies. A fifth turtle was introduced, a female named Venus de Milo, who was skilled in the mystical arts of the shinobi.[20] The series was intended as a loose continuation of the movie franchise, as Shredder had been defeated and the Ninja Turtles encountered new villains. Other connections to the feature films include the fact that Splinter's ear was cut, the Foot Soldiers were humans, and the Turtles lived in the abandoned subway station seen in the second and third movies. The Next Mutation Turtles made a guest appearance on Power Rangers in Space.[23] It was canceled after one season of 26 episodes.

Second animated series (2003–2009)Edit

Logo of the 2003 cartoon

In 2003, a new TMNT series produced by 4Kids Entertainment began airing on the "FoxBox" (later renamed "4Kids TV") programming block. It later moved to "The CW4Kids" block. The series was co-produced by Mirage Studios,[24] and Mirage owned one-third of the rights to the series. Mirage's significant stake in creative control resulted in a cartoon that hews more closely to the original comics, creating a darker and edgier feel than the 1987 cartoon, but still child-friendly enough to be considered appropriate for children.

This series lasted until 2009, ending with a feature-length television movie titled Turtles Forever, which was produced in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the TMNTs franchise and featured the Turtles of the 2003 series teaming up with their counterparts from the 1987 series, and eventually are visited by the black and white comic versions of themselves in the final act. 4Kidstv.com featured all the episodes of the series, until September 2010, when Nickelodeon bought the series and air the series occasionally on Nicktoons and Nickelodeon normally during TMNTs marathons.

Third animated series (2012–2017)Edit

Logo of the 2012 cartoon

Nickelodeon acquired the global rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. and announced a new CGI-animated TMNT television series.[25][26][27] The 2012 version is characterized by anime-like iconography and emphasis on mutagen continuing to wreak havoc on the everyday lives of the Turtles and their enemies; in addition, the tone of this version is similar to the original series, but also features a handful of serious episodes as well. The series ran for five seasons. The series was headed by Ciro Nieli, creator of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!.

Fourth animated series (2018–2020)Edit

Logo of the 2018 cartoon

Nickelodeon made a new 2D animated series based on the franchise, which appeared in September 2018. This version is characterized by lighter humor, and also had some anime iconography.[28][29]

Feature filmsEdit

The Turtles have appeared in six feature films. The first three are live-action features produced in the early 1990s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993). The Turtles were played by various actors in costumes featuring animatronic heads, initially produced by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The fourth film, a CGI-animated film titled simply TMNT, was released in 2007.

A reboot, also titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles produced by Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon Movies, and Paramount Pictures, directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and produced by Michael Bay, was released in 2014. A sequel titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was released in 2016. A crossover film, called Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released in 2019.


Among the first licensed products to feature the TMNT was a tabletop role-playing game titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, published by Palladium Books in 1985, and featuring original comics and illustrations by Eastman and Laird. The game features a large list of animals, including elephants and sparrows, that are available as mutant player characters. Several more titles were in this genre, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, Truckin' Turtles, Turtles Go Hollywood, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Guide to the Universe, and Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures in Boise, Idaho, produced an attendant set of lead figurines; unlike later incarnations, the bandannas on the store's display set were painted all black before the multicolored versions were released to help younger readers distinguish between the four characters other than their weaponry. Palladium allowed the license to lapse in 2000, in part due to declining sales stemming from the "kiddification" of the animated and live-action incarnations to that point. However, Palladium's publisher, Kevin Siembieda, has indicated a potential willingness to revisit the license given the franchise's recent moves closer to its roots.[30]

The franchise generated merchandise sales of $175 million in 1988 and $350 million in 1989.[31] By 1994, it was the most merchandisable franchise, having generated a total revenue of $6 billion in merchandise sales up until then.[32]


During the run of the 1987 TV series, Playmates Toys produced hundreds of TMNT action figures, along with vehicles, playsets, and accessories, becoming one of the top collectibles for children.[33] Staff artists at Northampton, Massachusetts-based Mirage Studios provided conceptual designs for many of the figures, vehicles, and playsets and creator credit can be found in the legal text printed on the back of the toy packaging. In addition, Playmates produced a series of TMNTs/Star Trek crossover figures, due to Playmates holding the Star Trek action-figure license at the time. Playmates employed many design groups to develop looks and styles for the toy line, including Bloom Design, White Design, Pangea, Robinson-Clarke, and McHale Design. The marketing vice president of Playmates, Karl Aaronian, was largely responsible for assembling the talented team of designers and writers, which in turn, helped germinate continued interest in the toy line.

Never before in toy history did an action-figure line have such an impact for over two decades, generating billions of dollars in licensing revenue. The series was highly popular in the UK, where in the run-up to Christmas, the Army & Navy Store in London's Lewisham devoted its entire basement to everything Turtle, including games, videos, costumes, and other items. Playmates continued to produce TMNT action figures based on the 2003 animated series. The 2007 film TMNT also gave Playmates a new source from which to make figures, while National Entertainment Collectibles Association produced a series of high-quality action figures based on character designs from the original Mirage comics. In 2012, a new toy line and a new classic toy line from Playmates were announced to be released.[34]

Video gamesEdit

The first console video game based on the franchise, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by Konami under their "Ultra Games" label in 1989 and later ported to home computers and eventually for the Wii on the Virtual Console. Also released by Konami in 1989 was an arcade game, also titled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, later ported to the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, leading to an NES-only sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, which used the look of the arcade game, as opposed to the first NES game. The next Turtles game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, was released in 1991 as an arcade game, and was later ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES) in 1992, titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, with a sequel numbering to the NES titles appended. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist was also created for the Sega Genesis in the same year, and used many of the art assets from TMNT IV. There was also a trilogy of TMNT video games for the original Game Boy system made by Konami, consisting of: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue. As the video game series progressed, and the Ninja Turtles' popularity began to decline in the mid-1990s, the video games changed direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was released as a set of one-on-one fighting game similar to the Street Fighter series; versions were released for the NES, SNES, and Genesis, each a distinct game. Konami also acquired the license to adapt the 2003 TV series into a video game franchise, resulting in a new series of games with 3D gameplay inspired by the old TMNT beat 'em up games, consisting of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 video game), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Mutant Melee.

In 2006, Ubisoft acquired the rights for TMNT games, beginning with a game based on the 2007 animated feature film, along with a distinct game for the Game Boy Advance similar in style to the Konami arcade games.[35][36] A beat 'em up game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack was released for the Nintendo DS in 2009, to coincide with the series' 25th anniversary.[37] In 2013, Activision released the downloadable game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, based on the 2012 TV series and developed by Red Fly Studio for the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam.[38]

In 2016, Activision and PlatinumGames developed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. The game is described as a third-person, team-based brawler. The campaign is playable either single-player or co-op and has an original story written by Tom Waltz, IDW comic writer and editor. The art style is based on long time TMNT comic artist Mateus Santolouco.[39]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Legends, a Free to play Role-playing video game was released by Ludia in summer 2016 for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire. It is based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 TV series).

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appear as playable characters in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice 2 as a part of the "Fighter Pack 3" downloadable content.

All four of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will also appear as playable characters in the fighting game Brawlhalla.[40][41]

Pinball machinesEdit

Two pinball machines have been themed around the TMNT franchise. The first was produced by Data East in 1991,[42] around the time of the franchise's peak; the second was produced by Stern Pinball in 2020, in both Pro and Premium versions.[43][44]

In other mediaEdit

Tabletop role playing gameEdit

In 1985, Palladium Books published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness.[45] This was a stand-alone game, as well as acting as an expansion for their game Rifts. The game used many key mechanics from the Palladium system. The game itself is limited as to which martial arts are available, but a separate book, Ninjas and Superspies,[46] increased the amount available to a choice of 41 martial arts styles. Examples of animals created are included in the appendices as potential antagonists, including the Terror Bears, Caesers Weasels, and Sparrow Eagles, as well as including stats for the Turtles and other characters.

Food tie-insEdit

During the height of their popularity, the Turtles had a number of food tie-ins.[47] Among the most notable of these products was Ninja Turtles Cereal, produced by Ralston-Purina as a kind of "Chex with TMNT-themed marshmallows." The cereal featured many different in-box premiums during its production run. Ralston also produced Pizza Crunchabungas, which were pizza-flavored corn snacks in the shape of whole, circular pizzas (the commercial starred the Ninja Turtles as Will Vinton-created claymations); Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pies, featuring a crust covered in green glaze with vanilla pudding inside. Each pie came with either one of 5 yellow stickers with an illustration of one of the turtles on it, or one of 5 different TMNT II: Secret of the Ooze trading cards inside. There were also 4 TMNT mail away items available to order from Hostess. ; and Royal OOZE Gelatin Desserts, distributed by Nabisco under "Royal Gelatin" in three different flavors: orange, strawberry, and lime. Shreddies was a Canadian cereal with TMNT-themed box art and promos. One example of a TMNT prize was rings featuring a character from the cartoon (1992). Chef Boyardee also released a canned pasta with the pasta in the shapes of the four turtles. There were multiple versions of the pasta released, including one with Shredder added into the shapes. Customers could mail away for an exclusive Shredder action figure that was darker than the standard Playmates figure, it was shipped in a plastic baggy. This Shredder is one of the more valuable TMNT action figures today. [48]

Concert tourEdit

To capitalize on the Turtles' popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17.[49][50] The "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello on keyboards; Leonardo on bass guitar; Raphael on drums and saxophone; and Michelangelo on guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O'Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the Turtles have to rescue her.[51] The story had a very Bill-n'-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music. A pay-per-view special highlighting the concert was shown, and a studio album was also released.[52] The track listing is:

  1. "Coming Out of Our Shells!"
  2. "Sing About It"
  3. "Tubin'"
  4. "Skipping Stones"
  5. "Pizza Power"
  6. "Walk Straight"
  7. "No Treaties"
  8. "Cowabunga"
  9. "April Ballad"
  10. "Count on Us"

The tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut in reality; thus, many references are made to their pizza. Empty Pizza Hut boxes are seen onscreen in the "Behind the Shells" VHS. As part of a cross-marketing strategy, Pizza Hut restaurants gave away posters, audio cassettes of "Coming Out of Their Shells", and "Official Tour Guides" as premiums. The original show of the tour was released on video with a making of video also released. The song "Pizza Power" was later used by Konami for the second arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Cam Clarke and Peter Renaday reprised their roles as Leonardo and Splinter during spoken portions of the concert's kickoff event in Radio City Music Hall, though they went uncredited in the event's VHS release.

At the Disney-MGM Studios theme parkEdit

On June 30, 1990, the TMNT appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to the show. After the main show was done, they posed for pictures and signed autographs. The Turtles also made appearances in Disney's Very Merry Christmas Parade to sing their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". They also appeared during the Easter parade dancing to their single "Pizza Power!" The Turtles' live shows and appearances ceased production in 1996.

Roller coasters and amusement ridesEdit

Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which opened in 2019, contains several TMNT themed rides, including two coasters that broke world records upon their opening. The TMNT Shellraiser, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter, is the steepest roller coaster in the world at 121.5 degrees. The Shredder, a spinning roller coaster themed to the Shredder, is the world's longest free-spinning coaster where riders could spin the car freely along the track, with a length of 1,322 feet (403 m) and a maximum height of 62 feet (19 m).[53][54]

Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, also contains rides themed to the TMNT franchise. These include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, a roller coaster that opened in 2012,[55] and Shredder's Mutant Masher, a pendulum ride that opened in 2015.[56]


Cover of Cracked #255, August 1990

Although the TMNT had originated as something of a parody, the comic's explosive success led to a wave of small-press, black and white comic parodies of TMNT itself, including Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos, and a host of others. Dark Horse Comics' Boris the Bear was launched in response to these TMNT clones; its first issue was titled "Boris the Bear Slaughters the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters". Once the Turtles broke into the mainstream, parodies also proliferated in other media, such as in satire magazines Cracked and Mad and numerous TV series of the period. The satirical British television series Spitting Image featured a recurring sketch "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turds".[57]


Departure from originsEdit

The Turtles engaged in a greater amount of overt violence in the pages of the early Mirage comic book series by Eastman and Laird. As the TMNT were introduced into the mainstream, they were radically redesigned. In issue #19 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the creators published an editorial addressing any possible concerns of readers as a result of this. It stated, in part: "We've allowed the wacky side to happen, and enjoy it very much. All the while, though, we've kept the originals very much ours – forty pages of what we enjoy and want to see in our books, whether it comes from our own hands or from those of the talented people we work with".[58] In the film Turtles Forever, the original Mirage Turtles refer to their counterparts from the 1987 cartoon series and the 2003 cartoon series as "sell-outs", in reference to their colorful accessories (the originals are conveyed in black and white).

Teenage Mutant "Hero" Turtles Edit

The title screen from the TMHT version, altered due to censorship

Upon TMNT's first arrival in the United Kingdom[when?], the name was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" (or TMHT, for short) because the BBC deemed the word ninja to have excessively violent connotations for a children's program.[59] Consequently, everything related to the Turtles (comic books, video games, toys, etc.) was renamed before being released in the UK as well as various other European countries.

The lyrics were also changed, such as changing "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens" to "Splinter taught them to be fighting teens". The policies also had other effects, such as editing out use of Michelangelo's nunchaku (which were at the time banned by James Ferman, chairman of the BBFC, from appearing in films) and generally toning down the usage of all the turtles' weapons.[60] The showrunners elected to remove Michelangelo's nunchaku entirely during season four; replacing them with a grappling hook called the "Turtle Line" that served as Mikey's signature weapon for the rest of the show's run.[3]

In Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany, they kept Michelangelo's nunchaku but the "TMHT" logo could be seen in the intro, as it was not edited to reflect the title in each of those translations. In Spain the cartoon was originally aired in regional TV channels and thus had different dubs in addition to Castillian: Galician and Catalan;[citation needed] in the Galician version, the title As Tartarugas Mutantes ("The Mutant Turtles") was used. The Italian, German and European Portuguese dubs also had few edits.

In the Republic of Ireland, the series was initially known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just like the US version and the intro sequence was unedited when it debuted on Network 2 with the airing of the second season in September 1990.[61] After the first two episodes were broadcast, the name was changed to the Hero Turtles version and the intro was edited, except for season one. Scenes with Mikey's nunchucks and the word ‘ninja’ were always edited out in the actual episodes, though. In 2007–2008, episodes were aired in their original US unedited form.

However, when the live-action movie came out in 1990, the Ninja of the title was kept even in the UK. In time, nunchaku scenes were retained in previously censored movies such as those of Bruce Lee[clarification needed]. The same went for the PAL releases of the early video games, which had Michelangelo's weapon of choice fully visible and usable. By the time the 2003 TV series premiered, these censorship policies had been abolished, and no changes have occurred in the content of any incarnations of the show since. The name "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" remained unchanged for the 2003 TV series. In 2009, Lionsgate Home Entertainment released the 25th Anniversary Collectors Edition on Region 2 DVD in the UK. This 3-Disc set contains all the episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 and 4 episodes from the final season, as well as a 1-Disc DVD with the first few episodes of Season 1. This release features the original, unedited episodes under the "Ninja Turtles" title, and also marks the first time the show has been released and left uncensored in the UK.[citation needed]

Ownership rightsEdit

Due to various movie and television deals, the various TMNT films and television series have split between various companies, with Mirage Studios having retained copyright and trademark until October 19, 2009, at which point the rights for the entire TMNT franchise were sold by co-creator Peter Laird to Viacom (later known as ViacomCBS) minus volume 4 of the comic series, which Mirage indefinitely owns.[62][63]


The original animated series (1987–1996) was produced by Fred Wolf Films Dublin (as Murakami Wolf Swenson (MWS) and Murakami Wolf Dublin (MWD) during earlier seasons), and syndicated by Group W. The series itself is owned by Wolf Films, with home entertainment rights residing with Lions Gate Entertainment, and the syndication rights belong to Nickelodeon's corporate sibling CBS Television Distribution. The initial five-part miniseries (retroactively considered the first season) was copyrighted by Playmates Toys, although their rights to those episodes were bought out by Fred Wolf Films.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was produced and originally distributed by Saban Entertainment. After Haim Saban sold Fox Family Worldwide (which included Saban's library) to The Walt Disney Company, the show was then distributed by BVS Entertainment. In September 2011, Saban Brands acquired the rights of the show once again.[64][65][66] As of May 2018, the show's rights now belong to Hasbro Studios after their buyout of the Saban Brands' assets by that date.

The second animated series (2003–2009) was a co-production between Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment. Nickelodeon's October 19, 2009 buyout of the TMNT franchise included an approximate $9.75 million payment to 4Kids to terminate its right to serve as the merchandise licensing agent prior to the scheduled expiration of the representation agreement in 2012.[8][63] Due to the buyout, all future TMNT film and television series rights are owned by Nickelodeon.[62] Nickelodeon also gained the rights to the 2003 series after terminating 4Kids' contract.


The first three TMNT live-action films were produced by Golden Harvest, with New Line Cinema distributing the films in the United States, with 20th Century Fox distributing the second and third films in most other territories. The first two films were copyrighted by the UK-based Northshore Investments. The third film was copyrighted by Clearwater Holdings. The fourth film was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, and released by Warner Bros. Entertainment in association with The Weinstein Company.

Michael Bay produced a feature film directed by Jonathan Liebesman simply titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and was released on August 8, 2014, by Paramount Pictures. A sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, was released on June 3, 2016, with Megan Fox and Will Arnett reprising their roles and debuting Stephen Amell as Casey Jones. Dave Green replaced Liebesman as the director.

Comic booksEdit

Initially, Mirage allowed employees and freelancers to retain the rights to characters they created for the TMNT Universe but had never licensed for media and merchandise outside comic books. Eventually, due to the difficulty of keeping track of everyone's rights, Mirage made TMNT character creators sign retroactive work-for-hire contracts. One creator who did not sign over the rights to his TMNT work was Swamp Thing veteran Rick Veitch.[67]

See alsoEdit



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  • Eastman, Kevin (2002). Kevin Eastman's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Artobiography. Los Angeles: Heavy Metal. ISBN 1-882931-85-8.
  • Wiater, Stanley (1991). The Official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Treasury. New York: Villard. ISBN 0-679-73484-8.

External linksEdit