When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem hit theaters, it introduced the franchise to a generation of new fans. It introduced the Turtles, their sensei Splinter, and new friend April O’Neil. Oh yeah, and it also brought an army of iconic mutants from the original animated series to the big screen for the first time.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Turn around now if you don’t want plot points to be revealed.
Still, there were some fans who were less enthusiastic about certain changes made to the Ninja Turtles’ origin story. For one, Splinter doesn’t come from Japan. Instead, he was a New York City sewer rat that wound up in the ooze. Meanwhile, he and the turtles have more of a father-son relationship than that of a martial arts sensei. They even call him dad.
The film also introduced some other changes, like the introduction of the villainous Superfly, the previously mentioned April being portrayed as a high school student and aspiring reporter, and the turtles being voiced by actual teenagers for the first time ever.
For Kevin Eastman, who created the Ninja Turtles along with Peter Laird as a bit of a joke in the early ’80s, these changes are essential in keeping the series fresh for new audiences, though only as long as they don’t remix too much.
“It’s important, I think it’s very important,” he explained to GameSpot while promoting the digital release of Mutant Mayhem. “But it’s as long as you don’t drift too far from the mothership, so to speak. And I mean that in the kind of sense that we’ve seen–as a pop culture fan, myself and yourself, we’ve seen other beloved characters that we’ve enjoyed growing up and see them drift too far away, and it goes just that step too far, and you lose, what made it important to you. What I love about the approach to Mutant Mayhem was that they took some risks and they changed some of the origin bits–like the creation of…the mutant bad guys and good guys.”
Continuing, he added, “It was in tune and in line and had the same intent, and heart, and soul. So it didn’t go that step, like, ‘Oh, now they’re from a different planet.'”
While he didn’t specifically call out the movies produced by Michael Bay, Ninja Turtles and Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, it’s hard to imagine what else this was in reference to. After all, when it was announced Bay would be producing a reboot, he specifically said the turtles would come from space. That particular change never made it to the big screen, thankfully, but there’s not a ton to love about those movies.
As for the never-ending popularity of the Turtles, Eastman said, “It’s mind-blowing, and humbling, and awesome–all of those. When you think of the original concept [of the franchise] we never thought would sell enough copies of the first issue to do a second issue–to have that resonate and catch on with the pop culture as an independently published comic book at that time, then have that evolve to a cartoon series and toy line, we just couldn’t see that working.”
The first issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book was self-published in 1984, using money Eastman borrowed from his uncle. Three years later, in 1987, the animated series debuted. The iconic Playmates toy line landed in stores. In 1990, the first movie hit theaters, while a live stage show toured the world. Since then, there have been numerous TV shows, movies, video games, and even theme park rides.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is now available to buy or rent on digital.
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