Much of the Turtles' mainstream success is owed to a licensing agent, Mark Freedman, who sought out Eastman and Laird to propose wider merchandising opportunities for the offbeat property. In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures produced a set of 15 mm lead figurines. In January 1988, they visited the offices of Playmates Toys Inc, a small California toy company who wished to expand into the action figure market. Accompanied by the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 TV series, the TMNT were soon catapulted into pop culture history. 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, toothpaste, school supplies and cameras. The original cartoon series was featured on VH1's I Love The 80's and the toys based upon the show were ranked 33 in I Love Toys.
In the 2000s there has been a resurgence in the Turtles' popularity with the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 TV series, a new line of Playmates action figures, Konami and Ubisoft's video games, and the 2007 CGI movie.
It was speculated that people often got rid of unwanted turtles by releasing them into the toilet, including in areas where they do not occur naturally, risking upsetting the originally balanced ecosystem of those particular areas. Red Ear Sliders have been considered one of the top 100 invasive species today
The first issue of 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 & white artwork on cheap newsprint, limited to a print run of only 3,000 copies. The small print runs made these early comics instant collector items, and within months they were trading for over fifty 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 multi-millionaires.
Mirage also published a bi-monthly 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. Therefore, making Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the same mainstream time continuity, and are canon to each other. The title's first volume was from 1987-1989, released in alternating months with the regular Eastman & Laird book. All seven issues of Volume One have been collected in trade paperback form twice, and twenty-five issues of Volume Two have been collected in trades of five issues each. As the TMNT phenomenon proliferated to other media, Eastman and Laird would find themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut. Unfortunately, this prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. For this reason, 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 parody became a continuing series that lasted for 75 issues spanning two separate volumes.
In June, 1996, Image Comics revived the title as a more action-oriented TMNT series. Although notable for inflicting major physical changes on the main characters, the fans were not pleased, forcing the events of Volume 3 to be dropped from continuity.
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 #28, writer Peter Laird placed the series on an eight month hiatus to devote himself to production of the recent 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. Issue 29 has a limited printing of 1,000 copies. The issue can be purchased from the official teenage mutant ninja turtles website or read for free online at Wowio.
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.
In 1989, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a special three-issue series of full-color mini comics for the Ralston-Purina Company. These comics were offered for kids to collect and were only available as premiums in boxes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cereal.
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 NYC cops, instead of the Turtles.
Titan comics are currently producing a monthly TMNT comic for the UK which features new TMNT: Fast Forward material as well as colored reprints of the Mirage movie prequel comics.
The Turtles have appeared in many manga series: was 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) was a 3-issue mini-series 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 Japan's anime mini-series followed this storyline. Next was by Hiroshi Kanno, which was a re-interpretation of the Turtles story with no connection to the previous manga. Also of note was Mutant Turtles III, an adaptation of the third feature film by Yasuhiko Hachino.
A daily comic strip written and illustrated by Dan Berger 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.
On December 14, 1987, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first cartoon series began, starting as a 5-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. Mirage Studios does not own the rights to this cartoon series. Here, the Ninja Turtles are portrayed as four wise-cracking, pizza-obsessed superheroes who fight the forces of evil from their sewer hideout, and make their first appearance in masks color-coded to each turtle, where previously they had all worn red. The cast included new and different characters like Bebop and Rocksteady and the Neutrinos. Original characters like 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 Yoshi himself. The Foot Soldiers changed from human ninja 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 pushed the show to a higher rating, outside of the target demographic). Krang, one of the series' most memorable villains, was inspired by the design of the Utrom, a benevolent 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 due to fears that for Shredder to boss around a black Stockman would be perceived as racist, was rewritten as a shy and meek lackey to Shredder, later mutating into an anthropomorphic housefly.
Starting on September 25, 1989, the series was expanded to weekdays and had 47 more episodes for the new Season. There were 15 new syndicated episodes for the 1990 Season. There were also the 13 "Vacation Europe Episodes", which did not air until USA Network started showing reruns in late 1993, most likely because of animation or schedule problems.
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.
Starting on September 8, 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its run on CBS. The CBS weekend edition presented a full hour of Turtle Power, initially airing a couple of Saturday exclusive episodes back to back.
On September 17, 1994, (with a different theme song, opening sequence, and end credits background) the series continued with one episode per week, but big changes were made to the series. Starting with the 1994 Season, the format of the series was changed to a more action-oriented show, removing numerous characters, as well as character development scenes, and the cartoon feel of the series. The opening sequence was completely changed to one where clips of the 1994 Season were used instead of animation specifically for the intro. The theme song was changed to a techno beat and scenes from the 1990 live action movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were intercut with new scenes from the 1994 Season. The sky was changed from a blue sky to a red sky with gray clouds to give the show a darker tone, similar to what was done with the original Spider-Man animated series in Seasons 2 and 3. The series ran until November 2, 1996 when it aired its final episode. It's enormous popularity gave rise to its numerous imitators, including the Battletoads, Cheetahmen, Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa, Stone Protectors, Street Sharks, SWAT Kats, Extreme Dinosaurs, Power Rangers, and Biker Mice from Mars.
Currently, 139 episodes are available on DVD.
However, The Next Mutation never caught on with fans, and it was canceled after one season of twenty-six episodes. Since its cancellation, Peter Laird has disavowed all knowledge of the character Venus de Milo, while Kevin Eastman is more open to talk about her.
On February 8, 2003, the Fox Network revived the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise with the help of 4Kids Entertainment as a Saturday morning cartoon in the "FoxBox" programming block, which has since been renamed "4Kids TV". The remake series is produced by Mirage Studios , and Mirage owns one-third of the rights to the series. Mirage's significant stake in creative control results in a cartoon that hews more closely to the original comics, creating a darker and edgier feel than the 1987 cartoon, but still remaining lighthearted enough to be considered appropriate for children.
The series still includes some of the old villains, like the Shredder and Baxter Stockman, but added new villains as well as new friends. Leatherhead helps Donatello in a vital story arc and Karai takes over after her father the Utrom Shredder is exiled far away. April and Casey are also in this series and April has an antique shop like in one of the movies.
In addition to the American series, a Japanese exclusive two-episode anime OVA series was made in 1996, titled . The OVA was similar in tone to the humorous 1987 TV series and uses the same voices from the Japanese dub of the 1987 TV series.
The first episode was made to advertise the TMNT Supermutants toys. It featured the Turtles as superheroes, who gained costumes and super powers with the use of Mutastones, while Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady gained super-villain powers with the use of a Dark Mutastone. As with the Super Sentai franchise, the four Turtles can 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. The seven Japanese Mutanite stones encased in a magic mirror that control the Metal Beasts are based on the sun, moon, and the Five Elements
In 1994, two live action, direct-to-video releases were released. Both were twenty-five minute videos. They were called "We Wish You a Turtle Christmas" and "Turtle Tunes". They were both very popular.
All the regular cast of the Mutanimals make the transition, although they were redesigned, or perhaps streamlined, to accommodate budgetary restrictions in the animation process.
Krang makes the jump from the TMNT universe to become the main villain and friend of Maligna. A host of villains both new and old are on board to help keep the Mutanimals on their toes.
The Turtles' fourth feature film, titled simply TMNT, was released March 23, 2007. Unlike the previous films, it utilized 100% computer-generated imagery, produced by Imagi Animation Studios and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and The Weinstein Company. Chronologically, this movie takes place after the third movie. According to a press release, "the PG-rated movie will derive its tone from the original comic-book series and will be slightly grittier than the previous live-action pictures. The animation was created in Imagi's state-of-the-art facility in Hong Kong. The teaser trailer was released July 20, 2006. A second trailer was released January 17, 2007. The storyline focuses on an ancient legend of four siblings and thirteen monsters, taking a giant leap from any preceding turtle movies yet gave small evidence to the fact that the 3 movies had preceded this one (including showing the magic staff from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, the canister the 'ooze' came from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II near the ending, and Shredder's helmet from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film).
The movie takes place after Shredder's defeat, with the team essentially broken as Leonardo is training in Central America, Donatello and Michaelangelo have jobs, and Raphael spends his time as the vigilante crimefighter 'Nightwatcher'. Leonardo returns when Max Winters, an immortal warrior who tried to take over the world 3,000 years ago, begins hunting for alien beasts and stone statues of his former Generals. However, tensions begin to rise between Raphael and Leonardo over the leadership of the team. The Foot Clan also make an appearance, with Karai leading them. It is hinted towards the end of the film by a comment by Karai that either the Shredder is not dead, there is a new incarnation of the Shredder in the Foot Clan, or that he will be resurrected.
During the run of the 1987 TV series, Playmates Toys produced hundreds of TMNT action figures, along with vehicles, play sets, and accessories, becoming one of the top collectibles for children. 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. The line featured many different variants of the TMNT, such as "Farmer Mike" and "Classic Rocker Leo." In addition, Playmates produced a series of TMNT/Star Trek crossover figures, due to Playmates holding the Star Trek action figure license at the time.
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 etc.
Playmates continues 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. And in September 2007 NECA announced that they would produce figures based on character designs from the original Mirage comics. As of April 2008 there have been toys released of the 4 turtles with their weapons, a piece of an interhooking platform, a can of ooze, an unmutated turtle toy, and two alternate hands. It features a detailed color/design job as well as 20 points of articulation.
The first Famicom/NES TMNT game was the single-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, released by Konami/Ultra in 1989. It was unique in that at any point, the player could switch from one turtle to the next to take advantage of each Turtle's strengths. In addition, the player starts off in a strategic map where the player may explore sewer holes as well as engage patrolling enemy foot soldiers before entering any in-game portals. The game was also released on the many home computers, but these conversions were hastily made and got negative reviews. Years later the game was released for the Wii on the Virtual Console.
Also released by Konami in 1989 was the first TMNT arcade game, also titled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This side-scrolling "beat-em-up" was ported to the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game and in March of 2007 to the Xbox 360 as TMNT 1989 Arcade game though Xbox Live Arcade by Ubisoft. This led to an NES-only sequel, entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, which used the look of the arcade game, as opposed 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 as in 1992. 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 Nintendo 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, programmers began to incorporate unique signature moves for each Turtle, as well as game features such as "Versus mode" and "Time Attack mode." When the Ninja Turtles' popularity began to decline in the mid-nineties, the video games changed direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was released as a one-on-one fighting game similar to the Street Fighter series. It is of note that, whilst this game would see release on both the Megadrive/Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles, though using similar art assets, the games are essentially different (a common occurrence for 16-bit licensed titles of the era, such as Disney's Aladdin).
Konami also acquired the license to adapt the 2003 TV series into a video game franchise, resulting in a new series of games with the same button mashing gameplay as the old TMNT "beat 'em ups." (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 video game), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare.) In 2006, Ubisoft acquired the rights of TMNT games, beginning with a game based on the 2007 animated feature film.
Since the tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut in real life, there are many references to their pizza. Empty Pizza Hut boxes are seen onscreen during 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.
On June 30, 1990 the TMNT arrived in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Orlando. 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 would pose for pictures and sign autographs.
The Turtles made appearances in Walt 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.
Although the TMNT had originated as a parody, the comic's explosive success led to a wave of small-press, black & white comic parodies of TMNT itself, including Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos, Cold-Blooded Chameleon Commandos, 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 Magazine. UK satirical puppet show Spitting Image featured a recurring weekly sketch "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turds" - inspired by the fact that the turtles lived in a sewer. Another was on a TV series called 'Dinosaurs', featured a poster of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Humans". In the Tiny Toon Adventures short "Slugfest," Plucky and Hamton are fans of a cartoon called Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs. The Nickelodeon series The Fairly Odd Parents TV movie Channel Chasers parodies many original TV shows including TMNT, instead called The Genetically Altered Adolescent Karate Cows.
In keeping with their parody of "grim 'n gritty" comics of the early 1980s, the Turtles engaged in a greater amount of overt violence in the pages of the early Mirage comic book series. As the TMNT were introduced into the mainstream, they were radically redesigned for a younger audience. This evolution incensed a core group of fans who had faithfully collected the independently-published comic series from its inception. They accused Eastman and Laird of selling out their indie roots in favor of corporate greed. In issue #19 of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the creators published an editorial addressing these concerns. 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."
Upon TMNT's first arrival in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, Austria and Germany, the name was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" (or TMHT, for short), since local censorship policies deemed the word ninja to have excessively violent connotations for a children's program. Consequently, everything related to the Turtles had to be renamed before being released in these nations (comic books, video games, toys, etc.) The lyrics were also changed, such as changing "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens" to the "Splinter taught them to be fighting teens."
The policies also had other effects, such as removing use of Michaelangelo's nunchaku (which were at the time banned from appearing in even 18-rated movies) and generally toning down the usage of all the turtles' weapons. After many seasons of never using his nunchaku, they eventually disappeared entirely, replaced by a turtle shell shaped grappling hook called the "Turtle Line".
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.
By the time of the 2003 TV series, these censorship policies had been abolished, and no changes have occurred in the content of the show. The name "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" remained unchanged for the 2003 TV series. As a result, in the UK, the 1987 TV series is still called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and the 2003 TV series is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, hence a disambiguation between the two TV series.
For many parents in the late 1980s, the Ninja Turtles phenomenon represented the latest in a series of shrewd cartoon-toy marketing strategies, a trend that had proven very profitable with Masters of the Universe, Transformers, and a host of other "good vs. evil" action-adventure franchises. Parents often found themselves at odds with children who demanded scads of toys and accessories after being subjected to so-called "30 minute commercials" delivered via after-school television.