History of the Ninja Turtles
In 1984, two friends and fellow comic book artists/enthusiasts came up with a silly little concept. They were just trying to have fun with each other and create something crazy and interesting to play with. Little did they know that this little side project of theirs would go down in history as one of the most successful independent comic book franchises of all time.
When Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they had no idea that it would explode into something much bigger than themselves. They put out a limited print run of only 3,000 copies of the first comic in May of 1984, beginning something that they just couldn’t stop. For the first few years, the TMNT comics were so popular that they were almost impossible to find in comic stores as they were frequently sold out.
TMNT Catches Mainstream Attention
After a few years went by, the popularity of the series caught the eye of a lot of interested parties. Eventually, Playmates Toys was approached about doing a toy line for the popular franchise, but they weren’t willing to work on a set of toys based solely on comic books, so they requested that the Ninja Turtles hit the airwaves first. Shortly after, Fred Wolf Films (then Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Film Productions) produced a 5-part miniseries for an animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon aimed at a younger audience. Playmates was satisfied and began producing the TMNT toy line.
After the 5-part miniseries produced by Fred Wolf Films became a huge success, the animated series continued on and went through a total of 10 seasons from 1987 to 1996. The success of the animated series also led to the success of the Playmates Toys line, putting Playmates on the map.
With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pulling in a wide audience of young children, teenagers and even young adults, the franchise was officially a huge success. By the time the 1990’s came around, the Ninja Turtles were seeing their first feature film. In fact, the early 90’s brought us three live action TMNT movies. All three films were wildly successful, the first alone pulling in over $135 million. Each successive film earned less than the last, but all three saw a profit margin that at least doubled their production budget.
Image Comics and ‘Volume 3’
In the late 90’s, 1996 to be exact, with the Turtles off the air, Image Comics published a new Turtles comic series. “Volume 3,” as it’s most commonly referred to by TMNT fans, was an over-the-top, heavily action-based series. While this variation of the Turtles took the comic heroes back into black-n-white and into the ink, fans remember this series for changing the Turtles’ physical appearance. Following the Image Volume 3 Teenage Mutant Turtles comic book series, the comic slid over and began to be published by Mirage Publishing. Peter Laird, who co-created the Turtles with Kevin Eastman, came on board for “Volume 4” of the latest Turtles comic series.
Laird, as the co-creator of TMNT, was not very happy with how the artists/writers of Volume 3 had changed his creations took to the pages of Volume 4 to say as much. In Laird’s column “Turtle Tracks,” Laird went on the record as saying that the changes made to the Turtles in Volume 3, “just didn’t feel right.” And in his column in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 4 Issue #8, Laird went on to state clearly”…for this new series, I am ignoring what happened in those Image TMNT books, so for this continuing story it’s really like it never happened.”
In addition to the films, the comic books and the television series, there were also several popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games. Starting out in the arcades with titles produced by Konami, the Turtles quickly found themselves on home consoles in the late 80’s with the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES/Famicom system from Nintendo. The NES game saw two sequels, the Konami Arcade game had one sequel, and there were also several TMNT games produced for both the Gameboy and Sega Genesis throughout the early 90’s.
TV Series Comeback Attempts
After the success of the films died down and the original animated series began to peter out, there were a few attempts to revive the popularity of the series in the late 90’s. Sadly, the television series entitled Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation just didn’t strike a chord with most fans and it was canceled after one season. This series is most famous for adding a fifth Ninja Turtle; a female named Venus de Milo. Many fans were unhappy with this decision and did not watch the show as a result, leading to the poor ratings that ensured its demise.
It would take another 5 or so years until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would return to fame once more with an entirely new series produced by 4Kids Entertainment. The new series, created in 2003 and referred to by many fans as “The 2003 Series,” was co-produced by Mirage Studios, who were the original owners of the comic book that started the franchise so long ago. With roots closely tied to the foundation of the TMNT franchise, many fans quickly fell in love with the new series, as it was aimed at a more mature audience and felt more true to Ninja Turtles lore. At the end of the cartoon’s run, a feature length television movie entitled Turtles Forever was produced, bringing together elements of the original comics, the 1987 series produced by Fred Wolf and the new series. The film is widely accepted as a loving homage to the fans.
Sadly, the 2003 series never really saw the same popularity as the original series and the TMNT had drifted into relative obscurity. Despite the fact that the second animated series ran until 2009, in 2007 a new CGI animated film was produced by Imagi Animation Studios. The film wasn’t really attached to any of the television shows, although it was the first animated movie that was produced for the franchise. Co-produced by Peter Laird, the film was definitely made for the right reasons although it wasn’t as widely accepted as the previous three films from the early 90’s. Although it wasn’t connected to the animated series that was currently running, TMNT did have connections to the first three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, making it an important part of the Ninja Turtles lore. Most fans didn’t really take to the film, but it grossed $54 million in the US alone, making back more than just the production budget and proving that the Turtles could still be successful in Hollywood.
After the second animated series ended in 2009, fans were wondering what would come next for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It took a few years, but in 2012 Nickelodeon acquired the rights to create an entirely new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. This new CGI animated Ninja Turtles series was an amalgamation of everything that had come before it, appealing to an entirely new generation of fans and ensuring the rebirth of the TMNT franchise in a new era. Unsurprisingly, Playmates decided to come back and started producing a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys for the new Nickelodeon show. These toys took some of the best ideas from the original run of Playmates toys and combined them with new character designs and new ideas, making for a truly special set of toys that have been flying off store shelves for the last few years.
2014 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It also marks the year of a brand new Ninja Turtles movie produced by Michael Bay, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Woodburn and many other notable stars. Although there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the film, it is clear that the success of the new Nickelodeon series combined with a brand new TMNT film is a sure sign that this franchise isn’t anywhere close to dying off. We’ve just seen the rebirth of the Ninja Turtles and we’re sure to see more Turtley awesome content in the near future.
As die hard fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we are devoted to bringing you not only the latest information about the turtles, but also fun and entertaining content that we know the fans will appreciate. We wanted to make a destination for TMNT fans to come and find all of the news and content that they could possibly desire, so we got together and started this website to show some love for our favorite franchise.
TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com is a third party site brought to you by fans. As a fan site, it is not an official website produced by Viacom, Nickelodeon, Mirage Studios or any other company attached to the franchise. This is a website of the fans, by the fans and for the fans. With all that in mind, I hope you’ll join us in the coming years and celebrate the legacy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with us.