The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), often shortened to Ninja Turtles, are a fictional team of four teenage anthropomorphic turtles, who were trained by their anthropomorphic rat sensei in the art of ninjutsu and named after four Renaissance artists. From their home in the storm sewers of New York City, they battle petty criminals, evil overlords and alien invaders, all while remaining isolated from society-at-large.
- Leonardo (Blue) - Leonardo is courageous, decisive, and a devoted student of martial arts. As a strict adherent to Bushido, he has a very strong sense of honor and justice. He wears a blue mask and wields a pair of ninjaken. He is named after Leonardo Da Vinci.
- Raphael (Red) - The team's anti-social bad boy, Raphael has an aggressive nature and seldom hesitates to throw the first punch. He is an intense fighter. His personality can be alternately fierce and sarcastic. Still, he is intensely loyal to his brothers and sensei. He is good friends with Casey Jones, after having met him one night on patrol and challenging him to a fight. The two have since frequently patrolled together. Raphael wears a red mask and wields a pair of sai. He is named after Raphael Santi.
- Michelangelo (Orange) - The easy-going and free-spirited Mikey provides much of the comic relief. While he loves to relax, this Turtle also has an adventurous and creative side. He wears an orange mask and wields a pair of nunchaku. He is named after Michelangelo Buonarroti. His name was originally misspelled "Michaelangelo" by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman -- at the time they were using a typewriter and had no way to perform spell-check.
- Donatello (Purple) - The brilliant scientist, inventor, engineer, and technological genius. He is perhaps the least violent Turtle, preferring to use his intellect to solve conflicts. He wears a purple mask and wields the bō. He is named after the sculptor Donatello.
- Master Splinter - The Turtles' sensei and adoptive father, Splinter is a mutant rat who learned the ways of ninjutsu from his own master, Hamato Yoshi. In the 1987 series, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi himself mutated into a rat.
- April O'Neil - A former lab assistant to the mad scientist Baxter Stockman, April is the plucky human companion of the Turtles. She embarks on many of the Turtles' adventures and aids them by doing the work that the Turtles themselves cannot do in public. In the 1987 series, April was a television news reporter.
- Shredder - A villainous ninjutsu master called Oroku Saki. In every incarnation of the TMNT franchise, he has been the archenemy of Splinter and the Turtles. He is also the leader of the Foot Clan.
- Casey Jones - A vigilante who has become one of the Turtles' closest allies, Casey fights crime with an assortment of sporting goods (baseball bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, cricket bat etc.) while wearing a hockey mask to protect his identity.
OriginTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles originated in an American comic book published by Mirage Studios in 1984. The concept arose from a humorous drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman during a casual evening of brainstorming with his friend Peter Laird. Using money from a tax refund together with a loan from Eastman's uncle, the young artists self-published a single issue comic intended to parody four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics' Daredevil and New Mutants, Dave Sim's Cerebus and Frank Miller's Ronin.
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.
First animated series (1987-1996) The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the 1987 animated series. 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 with lyrics by Mary Black), 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 blue to a red one with gray clouds to give the show a darker feel, similar to the makeover given to the original Spider-Man animated series in Seasons 2 and 3. The series ran until November 2, 1996 when it aired its final episode. Its 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. Live-action series (1997-1998) Main article: Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation In 1997-1998, the Turtles starred in a live-action television series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation that follows the events of the movies. A fifth turtle was introduced, a female named "Venus de Milo" who was skilled in the mystical arts of the shinobi. The series seemed to be a loose continuation of the movie franchise, as Shredder had been defeated and the Ninja Turtles encountered new villains. Other connections to the feature films include the fact that Splinter's ear was cut, the Foot Soldiers were humans, and the Turtles lived in the abandoned subway station seen in the second and third movies. The Next Mutation Turtles even made a guest appearance on Power Rangers: In Space, a live-action show that was popular at the time. 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.
Second animated series (2003 - 2009)
On February 8, 2003, the Fox Network revived the TMNT 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 the first film and the Mirage comics.
Third Animated Series (2012 - present)
A new TMNT series premiered on Nickelodeon in September 2012. The Turtles have some changes in the new series, Donatello has a gap tooth and is taller, Mikey has freckles, Raphael is darker and shown to have a battle scar on his back, and Leonardo is shown to be darker.