Are the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ worth $60 million?

10.22.09 8 years ago

Warner Bros.

Wow, that’s a lot of money.

Paramount Pictures has closed a deal to pay $60 million so that they now have the right to produce new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” films and TV shows.  I’m sure Nickelodeon will make a fine eventual home for the Turtles, and that we’ll see at least one or two theatrical films about the characters, but is that enough to justify that price tag for a property that’s already seen at least four film incarnations and been exploited in games, TV, books, and toys for over 20 years?

We’ll find out in 2012.

I suspect that answer is “yes.”  It’s hard to believe how big the property continues to be, especially considering the underground smart-ass roots of the comic, but it has been a consistent earner over the years, and awareness of the title remains incredibly high.  My son, who has never seen a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film all the way through, knows the characters on sight and by name and can probably put his hands on a dozen toy versions of the characters here in the house right this moment.  They are culturally huge by sheer osmosis, just by virtue of hanging around as long as they have.

Development is already underway on the first new “Turtles” film and the first new “Turtles” TV show, both eyeing a 2012 release date, and I expect Paramount and Nickelodeon will spend much of the time between now and then slowly building their presence on every Viacom owned media outlet in the world, making them quietly omnipresent so when those new projects are released, it will be to an audience that already feels like the Turtles are part of their daily lives.

That’s the advantage of being a media empire.  If you decide something is part of pop culture, you can make it part of pop culture by simply being relentless about the message.  It’s probably good for the characters to finally have one big corporate umbrella to work under, instead of hopping from New Line to Warner, from live-action to cartoon to CGI.  A unified approach, or a split focus on theatrical and TV in distinct forms, is going to help make the Turtles the commerical force to be reckoned with that they always seem poised to be.

I can’t count myself as one of the fans of the property.  I think it’s sort of charmingly dopey, but by the time that first film came out, I was about to start college, and it seemed to me like a really silly kid’s film.  Trying to rewatch them recently on BluRay, I’m not sure I’d even just call them silly kid movies.  They’re sort of dire and dumb and hard to sit through.  I think more than the individual stories told, what has endured is just a love of the characters and the core relationships with Splinter or April or Casey.  It seems to me that whoever is steering the new film (Scott Mednick and Galen Walker are co-producing) has some very tricky questions about tone to answer before they move forward.  Solve those issues, and I think this is a franchise that still has plenty of room to grow.

And finally, the right sized tank in which to do it.

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