While there have been many attempts to adapt the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book on both the small and large screens (and with video games and action figures), none have matched the impact of the first. The 1987 television series lasted for 10 seasons and aired nearly 200 episodes during its run as it took the story of four pizza-crazed ninjas named after Renaissance artists and their wise, bearded, man-sized rat sensei and made them a household name.
Its popularity was so intense that the show made it to international audiences and is still the first thing that comes to mind for many when asked about TMNT. Whether you watched it during its initial run or through the many years or reruns, here’s a list of fascinating facts about the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series that ended 19 years ago today.
Just Say No To Nunchakus
Even back in the early seasons of the classic TMNT series, the turtles each had their respective trademark weapons. But Mikey’s nunchakus were controversial, Apparently, nunchakus are illegal in many states (New York, Arizona, Massachusetts and California) and countries (Canada, Germany, Spain). So, starting around season four, the series replaced Mikey’s nunchakus with a yo-yo grappling hook of sorts. Apparently, Leo’s katanas were considered family-friendly.
The Man In the [Hockey] Mask
While Casey Jones didn’t walk around with a bloody machete in tow like another hockey-mask-wearing ’80s creation, he did stalk the streets of New York City with his bag of assorted sports equipment while looking for a fight. But what makes him even more disturbing – aside from his Batman voice – is that he never took off his mask. At least not in this series. The films went a different way in an effort to hook up Casey with April O’Neill and it’s easy to assume that that will continue. That is unless Stephen Amell’s version of the character just lets his abs do the talking.
Uncle Phil’s Secret Identity
James Avery was a TV staple in the early 1990s. While you’re probably thinking about his role as Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he also played another major role for kids that grew up at the time – Shredder. That’s right. The same man that was giving fatherly advice on one channel was trying to murder his former classmate-turned-rat and a group of turtle ninjas on another.
Totally Tubular Turtle Tunes
It would’ve been a cool story to tell if the Turtles, the band most notably known for “Happy Together,” followed through with an agreement with the show’s creators to write the theme song for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But they didn’t. So, instead, we’re telling the story of how Chuck Lorre and Dennis C. Brown wrote it in a couple days and recorded it for about $2,000. But that’s not really a complaint because the end result turned out a lot better than what Vanilla Ice put together with “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go.”
One Change Makes a Huge Difference
One thing you can’t take away from the 1987 series is that it gave the turtles a distinctive look. Even though April couldn’t tell the difference when she first met them, we could. But that was only because they had different colored masks that made them distinguishable, thanks to Peter Laird. In the comics, aside from all the turtles cursing like drunk sailors, they all had matching red masks. So, basically, everyone was Raphael and you couldn’t really tell them apart.
Different Strokes Across the Pond
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a worldwide success. But that doesn’t mean everyone was watching it the same way. In the UK, there was a big push against violence in children’s programming, so the TMNT that we knew and loved here in the states became “TMHT” in the UK. What’s the H stand for? “Hero.” Yep, the word “ninja” was completely taken out of the title card and theme song because authorities felt it promoted the wrong message. Also, they went ahead and edited out any footage of Mikey swinging around his nunchakus. Eventually, “ninja” won out, though, and everyone got the same show.