Fans are a fickle bunch and while our passion for certain properties is part of what makes the experience great, sometimes we come off as jerks. Between reboots and sequels we’ve seen the nasty side of fandom come out lately, and recently the ire has been stoked by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since the first trailer for the new film released, many fans have angrily claimed the film is going to “ruin the Ninja Turtles”...Fellow fans, it’s time to face the facts. Over the two and a half decades of Ninja Turtles being in existence, there have been a few things to come out which have already ruined them.
I love being a fanboy and participating in various discussions about my favorite things with other fans. I don’t have much patience when the conversation starts off (or devolves into) “such and such ruined my childhood” or some similar nonsense. Seriously, it’s a stupid argument to make, as every new filmmaker/storyteller is going to adjust the source material in order to reach the new generation audience.
Sometimes the results of new versions end up better than previous incarnations, and others aren’t as good, but it’s a matter of perspective. My son likes the new Batman films more than the Tim Burton ones I grew up with. Does that make him wrong? Does that mean I can’t enjoy the new Batman films we’re given? No, it’s just a different take on a character from different storytellers.
This kind of argument especially holds no merit for me, when a property has already seen it’s fair share of crappy versions. Such is the case when it comes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hearing claims of how the new film (which just got a decent new trailer) is going to ruin the Turtles brand just cracks me up. While TMNT has had it’s fair share of awesome things (most recently the newest cartoon show), it’s also seen some horrible iterations.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
The third live-action film for TMNT is generally considered one of the worst things ever. I’m not just talking about in terms of Ninja Turtles, I’m talking about in general. It’s just bad. Everything from the production values to the story itself was knocked down to a ridiculous level. The costumes are slapped together, the jokes fall flat, and generally feels like a movie version of the silly cartoon show...but not in a good way.
After two pretty good live-action films (Secret of the Ooze started to get silly/ridiculous), this third movie all but killed the Ninja Turtles brand momentum. Fan goodwill was stretched too far, and it’s poor reception is why it’s been so long since the Turtles got another chance on the big screen. It left a very sour taste in the mouths of fans, and nearly caused the entire TMNT ‘bubble’ to collapse.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
I don’t even know where to begin with this thing. Saban, the studio behind all the Power Rangers shows, developed this live-action television series, which supposedly followed the story canon established by the films. It’s set a little further in the future (hence why they dropped the “Teenage” part from the title) and shows what the Turtles are up to after their big screen adventures. Sadly, we would have all been better off NOT knowing what came next.
One of the biggest issues facing this TV show came from the lack of budget. The costumes for the Turtles themselves are ridiculous and makes it tough to take anything they do seriously. Couple that with the strange costumes they put everyone else in (from Foot Clan to weird dragon thingy’s), and you’ve got a show filled with stupid.
The other problem comes from the story itself. The show tried it’s best to engage audiences with further Turtle adventures, but none of their storylines worked all that well. The inclusion of a random 5th turtle character (a female by the name of Venus De Milo) sparked outrage amongst the fans and even the original comics’ creator, Peter Laird. Nothing about the show seemed to work and it wasn’t long before it got the axe.
For many, The Next Mutation represented a continuation of the terrible trend started in TMNT III, and a signal that no one quite knew how to properly handle an adaptation of the comic. Hell, after this show it took several years before even another cartoon series was considered and produced. It’s a particularly low note for the TMNT brand, and if you’re curious about just how awful it is, you can check out the series on Netflix.
Coming Out of Their Shells Live Concert Tour
In 1990 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were sitting very high on their horse. The animated series had captured a nation of youngsters and the first live-action film had seen both financial and critical success. Things were going great! So of course, to capitalize on all the success, Pizza Hut sponsored a live concert tour featuring the four brothers and a couple of their villains...Yeah. A concert, where they all sing songs about pizza in a band.
I remember my parents taking me to this as a child, during the height of my childhood love of all things Ninja Turtles. I was rosy-cheeked and doe eyed concerning the Heroes in a Half-Shell, but even then, I remember not enjoying this thing. It wasn’t any fun. The plot was paper thin, the songs lacked anything of value, and the production values looked on par with a high school play performance. There’s not much that could be considered fun about this project.
More than anything, the Out of Their Shells tour was a blatant cash grab, designed to play off the success of other TMNT endeavors. Yet, it didn’t even seem to appeal to their primary audience: kids. If you watch any clips from the show (which came out on VHS) you can see even the kids in the audience seem more frightened than excited, and parents appear ready to hang themselves.
Truthfully, if for no other reason than taking me to this abomination, my parents deserve a special place in Heaven for having to sit through it. Somehow, even this didn’t diminish the TMNT license and the second live-action film, came out a year later and helped people forget about Mikey’s ode to eating pizza...
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures
Archie Comics produced their own comic book adventures featuring the Ninja Turtles. Unlike the primary comics from IDW, however, this series took on the style of the original cartoon show and kept all the campiness intact. While plenty of fans have a fondness for the original series (myself included), there are those who decried the “soft” versions of the heroes that made them too kid-friendly.
These are the same arguments that came about with this Archie Comic version of the Turtles. The stories were mostly silly and meant more for laughs than being taken seriously. The real problems came about, however, when these comics tried to tackle serious subjects. Instead of handling them carefully, this series often came off as preachy, managing to alienate their own audience at times.
While the Archie Comics certainly weren’t the worst thing for Ninja Turtles, they didn’t seem to sit well with a lot of fans. Sure, it has a fairly stalwart group of fans, but on the whole they added nothing of value to the overall brand. Instead it took the franchise down a notch by being overly goofy and too over the top when they decided to tackle topics with more gravitas behind them.
This list isn’t even including some of the horrible individual comic stories, video games, or wonky moments in the various cartoons. There’s way more, but I tried to stick to just the big things that used (abused?) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle license. Let’s not forget the Vanilla Ice Turtle Rap, the various video games that sucked (most recent being Out of the Shadows), and even episodes from the last couple of TV series that make no sense.
As you can see, TMNT has weathered plenty of horrible things and still manages to have a rabid fan base supporting it. My argument to fans who like to say things “ruin” their beloved property has always been to give the new version a chance. Go into the new film with an open mind and you may be surprised. Frankly, things need to be changed up for new versions of the characters in order to keep them fresh and interesting. I mean, if you want everything to be the exact same, just go back and watch the original version you love (which I do on occasion when the mood strikes me)!
So let’s all keep an open mind when it comes to the new Ninja Turtles, or any reboot/sequel for one of our beloved franchises. If the Turtles brand survived these image-ruining iterations, I’m sure it’ll survive the new movie as well.
You’ve seen my list, so now it’s time to share your own. What are some of the worst things you’ve ever seen regarding the Ninja Turtles?