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Teenage Mutant Ninja Terribles

In just a few weeks, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie will open in theaters everywhere. Since we have gone more than 3 weeks without a reboot of the franchise, the movie will, of course, re-introduce the four heroes to April O'Neil and their arch-nemesis Shredder. It's almost as if Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and company have been going through dementia for the past 30 years.

Ever since the first trailer for the latest movie was released, fans of all ages have been apprehensive. For one,Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a Michael Bay project; many people are wondering if we'll even see the turtles among the 5,445 explosions that Bay is required to have in each of his projects, including his home movies. What's more, during pre-production, Bay made the cardinal mistake of considering making the Ninja Turtles aliens as opposed to mutated--but still Earth-born--reptiles. That idea was scrapped once TMNT fans reacted with all of the venom and passion that you'd normally expect from, for example, violent Middle East conflicts.

While the uneasiness is understandable, TMNT fans are apparently looking back on their beloved franchise through rose-tinted glasses. Well before Michael Bay came along, the Ninja Turtles had a ton of reputation-soiling trespasses that were far more embarrassing than explosions or otherworldly origination.

Let's open up some of those old wounds. 

1) Ninja Rap

This is perhaps the most famous of the Ninja Turtles' cringe-worthy moments. In the closing scenes of the live-action movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, the boys' big fight against Shredder and his own mutants, Tokka and Rahzar, spills into a nightclub. Instead of fleeing in terror, the clubgoers stick around, as they have already been enduring something far worse than a mutant battle: live entertainment by rapper Vanilla Ice. Ice somehow becomes inspired on the spot and sings a brand new tune which the Turtles themselves eventually dance to: Ninja Rap.

I saw this movie in the theater with my elementary school buddy Bobby and we were seriously considering dancing along to Ninja Rap when the scene came on. We ultimately decided against it, not because a couple of out-of-shape suburban white kids should never dance, but rather because we didn't want to humiliate ourselves in front of the other TWO people seeing the movie: a young girl and her grandmother.

2) The Coming Out of Their Shells Tour

The Ninja Rap was no doubt inspired by the Ninja Turtles' lame foray into music. At some point between the first and second live-action movies in the early 1990s, performers in what appear to be the Kmart versions of the spiffy Jim Henson Turtle costumes actually went on a multi-city music tour.

As a kid who wasn't really into music at all, I never did go to any of the concerts, but I do remember a classmate of mine wearing his Coming Out of Their Shells Tour tshirt on occasion in 5th grade. And he was one of the cool kids.

3) Oprah Interviews the Turtles

As part of the Coming Out of their Shells Tour, the Ninja Turtles--accompanied by whatever the hell was playing April O'Neil--appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show. Keep in mind that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started out as a dark, violent independent comic book. Now it was being seen by bon-bon eating housewives all over America.

It was also the one and only time I ever joined my mom in watching The Oprah Winfrey Show.

4) Cowabunga Shredhead

When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was first optioned as a cartoon series in 1987, it took a bevy of creative liberties from the dark source material. As the series grew in popularity and became far more well-known than the comic book ever was, storylines became more and more bizarre. In the episode "Cowabunga Shredhead," Shredder is zapped by a ray that makes him think he is Michelangelo. This is comedy gold just because Shredder voice actor James Avery (best known as Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) gets to show off his southern California surfer dude accent.

5) Four Muske-turtles

In Four Muske-turtles, the Heroes on the Half Shell are combined with subject matter that EVERY pre-adolescent fan is familiar with: the Three Musketeers! Leonardo gets brain damage (there was apparently a lot of that going on in this series) and spends the rest of the episode thinking that he is D'Artagnan.

6) Turtle Tips

G.I. Joe and its "Knowing is Half the Battle" life lessons weren't the only examples of cartoons preaching to children. Halfway through the original series' run, the Ninja Turtles started doing "Turtle Tips," in which they all suddenly became extremely concerned about the environment.

It's never mentioned that, without a chemical spill, we wouldn't even HAVE the now-preachy Ninja Turtles.

7) Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue

As part of the laughable War on Drugs, characters from many popular cartoon series gathered together into one half-hour special to teach kids about the dangers of drugs. We kids couldn't care less about the anti-drug message: we just wanted to see the biggest and best cartoon cross-over of all time: Bugs Bunny, the Chipmunks, Muppet Babies, and Smurfs all in the same program?!

Michelangelo was also present, lecturing the program's star, Michael, about the dangers of his pot smoking. Of all the Ninja Turtles to choose for this gig, they chose the one who was most likely to be a stoner himself.

8) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

While there were major and minor trespasses in the first two live-action Ninja Turtles movies, the entirety of the third installment earns its rightful spot on any TMNT shaming list.

Once Shredder was vanquished at the end of the second installment, you would think that the turtles would kick back and relax until special effects artists could somehow create a live-action version of Krang. Instead, they found themselves mired in a time-traveling plot that sees them sent back in time to feudal Japan, where their first instinct is to make more Wayne's World references than the actual Wayne's World movie series did.

Not even the return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones and Corey Feldman as Donatello's voice could save this dark spot in the TMNT universe, which put a halt to any further movies until a 2007 CGI remake.

9) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation

When Saban got ahold of the rights to the franchise sometime in the 1990s, they quickly scrambled to create a successor to the 1987 cartoon series--only live-action in nature! 

Apparently, they weren't making enough money out of Power Rangers.

And apparently, they didn't see what happened with the most recent live-action TMNT property (the aforementioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III).

Needless to say, the series didn't last long and the franchise sat dormant until the far more successful (and animated) show came around in 2003. And that is a good thing, seeing as how the costumes used in this were hilarious at best, downright terrifying at worst.

Thankfully, by the time this series aired, I was growing out of my Ninja Turtles phase (and, from the looks of it, I didn't miss much), choosing instead to focus on far more quality programming like South Park.

10) Teenage Mutant Ninja Christmas

Before the Next Mutation slinked back into the sewers where it belonged, this garbage was produced from it.

This song--and the many other Ninja Turtles themed holiday songs (yes, there were several)--managed to bastardize not only the TMNT franchise, but also Christmas itself. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that stuff like this inspired the pessimistic, hollow view of Christmas that permeated Bad Santa.
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Fulton4V Posted on Jul 29, 2014 at 02:34 PM

I saw a commercial that used the ninja rap song and had vanilla ice starring in it. And I think once the turtles show reached season 3 it started to go downhill. Maybe they were running out of plot ideas.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jul 22, 2014 at 05:27 AM

Okay. So now I feel a bit like perhaps I've been a bit too hard on Mike Bay and his foray into TMNT. That's no small feat, let me add.

Wow. What can I say. Much of this made my eyes bleed and ears bleed. Everything from the Ninja Rap to the Turtles on tour make you wonder what the heck those in charge of these decisions were thinking. I wonder how Eastman and Laird feel about these things. Do they hide under pillows wishing they would go away?

Taking the cake though, is that Oprah interview. What the heck was the guy playing Raph thinking? Who says that as a Turtle with all these kids watching??? Good grief, that's just wrong. Hopefully whoever that guy was is cleaning bathrooms at a gas station now.

Thanks for ruining my rose-colored glasses Mike. LOL.

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