The brothers Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Rafael have been such a mainstay throughout my childhood and pop culture history. Due to that, it seems absurd to think of them as a happy accident. However, after viewing Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, not only did our pizza-loving brothers barely come into existence, but they also weren't expected to last. Here are a few tidbits from Ninja Turtle lore that make this mean, green phenomenon even more unique.
- Eastman and Laird decided on the name "Mirage Studios" for their comic company because they had no formal office space to work in. They worked in their living room with their lap boards in front of the TV; a mirage of a studio, if you will.
- Since his creation in 1984, Michelangelo's name was misspelled as “Michaelangelo” with an extra "a," and wasn't corrected until the early 2000's.
- Kevin Eastman drew the first sketch of a ninja turtle as a gag while sitting in front of the tv and showed Laird. Laird then went to one up Eastman and draw a better one, which was responded to by Eastman in the same way. Eventually, they had their first sketch of what we know as a Ninja Turtle.
- Shredder, the Turtle's main villain, was killed in the first ever issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was killed off because Eastman and Laird did not expect to write more than one issue of the comic.
- The original Ninja Turtles all wore the same red bandana and were differentiated by the weapons they carried. It was actually the Playmates toy company who suggested that they all have different color bandanas. They felt that it would hurt sales for them to all look as similar as they did.
- In the original cartoon on CBS, Shredder was voiced by the late-James Avery, who many knew as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon was created for the sole purpose of promoting the toy line. Playmates wanted to build some popularity around the Turtles before putting toys on the shelves, so they collaborated with the animation studio Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. Close collaborations between TV and toy companies were common back during that time to increase promotion popularity.
- The Turtle catchphrase "Cowabunga" was added to the cartoon by one of the writers after remembering Snoopy saying it in Peanuts. The scene in which Snoopy voiced it was similar to the scene being drawn for the cartoon, so he added the line for Michelangelo.
- Many of the mainstays of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle universe were actually created by the animation team for the original cartoon. The Turtle Van/Party Wagon, the Technodrome, Bebop, Rocksteady, and most of the other villains were all created by the cartoon developers. Even Krang was developed by them, although he was inspired by the Utroms from the comic.
- It was also the original animation team that decided that the Turtles would be crazy for pizza, as they needed something to relate to the "teenage" aspect of the show.
- After the initial 5-episode miniseries of the show, Playmate experienced unprecedented sales numbers from TMNT toys. The numbers were so good that Playmate was satisfied and decided they did not want to fund the creation of anymore episodes since they had served their purpose of driving toy sales. Luckily for us, someone else thought that was a stupid idea.
- In the comic, April O'Neil was portrayed as a computer programmer, while the animated series presented her as the news reporter we know today.
Ultimately, we owe Eastman and Laird for the creation of the Ninja Turtles. However, we also owe a lot of credit to the animation team for developing so many of the characters and mainstays of the TMNT universe. Even though I already knew a few of the items listed, when they are pieced within the larger context of TMNT history, it's hard to not still be amazed. For those of you interested in viewing this documentary for yourself, you can currently view it on Hulu or purchase it on Amazon.