Donatello’s Best Inventions

Donatello is the master of machines, and has an intellect beyond his limited teenage years.  During battle, someone with that much brainpower is called upon to invent new ways to win, and Donnie has always risen to the occasion.  In no series was this truer than the 1987 cartoon.  Donatello was at the top of his game in creativity, for better or worse.  His inventions surpassed anything a human scientist could dream up, and they (usually) proved effective, no matter how goofy they seemed.  These are the best of the best and the oddest of the odd, and they showcase Donnie’s genius perfectly.

TMNT Party VanA prominently featured invention was the party wagon, a.k.a. the Turtle Van.  The van was the primary form of transportation, re-purposed after the first battle with Baxter Stockman.  Stockman used an ordinary vehicle, and once he was defeated, Donatello kept the prize and outfitted it with everything necessary to find the Technodrome.  It had a manhole launcher, projectiles, and other weapons taken from Stockman’s lab.  The Turtle Van became a necessary part of the Ninja Turtles’ endeavors, even after locating Krang had been accomplished.

TMNT BlimpNot to be kept on the ground or in the water, Donatello also gave the turtles aerial combat capabilities with the Turtle Blimp.  The blimp allows the turtles to watch the city from above, and while it has minimal weaponry (limited to a main laser and cluster bombs), the blimp can separate into the air sack and a glider, giving the boys a maneuverable state-of-the-art vehicle capable of high-velocity attacks.  Like the Turtle Van, the blimp was made from re-purposed equipment salvaged from Baxter Stockman’s lab.  Stockman essentially became Donatello’s savior for all the hardware he could ever need.

Metalhead 1987 TMNTBeyond the functional inventions came the oddball gadgets.  One that teeters between those two categories is Metalhead.  Metalhead was originally one of Krang’s gizmos that was given all the skills and memories of the Ninja Turtles, and then sent to attack.  However, Donatello was ultimately able to block Krang’s programming, shut down Metalhead, and reprogram him into an ally.  Metalhead then served as a cleanup bot around the lair.  While not something Donatello created himself, he was able to re-purpose alien technology into something that could be used for good, proving he had an unmatched intellect.

The Dream-O-Vision Helmet, on the other hand, is one of those inventions best left for the drawing board.  This particular gadget was designed to project the imagination as a 3-D hologram.  Unfortunately for the turtles, it worked a little too well.  Michelangelo’s nightmares of a monster named Creepy Eddie caused a malfunction that brought the dream to life.  Mikey and Leonardo get stuck in the dream world, while Raphael, Splinter, and Donatello are forced to fight Creepy Eddie in the real world.  Fortunately, everything works out for the turtles in the end, but it just goes to show that not all of Donnie’s gizmos should be built.

           Dream-O-Vision Helmet TMNT

The Personality Alternator might not be Donnie’s worst invention, but it certainly had some of the worst consequences.  Designed as a way to get Leonardo to lighten up, the others zap him and he becomes a wisecracking jokester.  Much to their dismay, this only makes the situation worse, and Leo stops fighting completely.  Fortunately, a little coercing from Splinter gets Leonardo to shake off the effects on his own, but the device proved effective, and could have been used on others (like Raphael to make him less abrasive).

These were just some of the myriad inventions Donatello was able to concoct during that 10-year run on television.  They weren’t all winners, but every single gadget came from a place of genuinely wanting to make life easier.  From the practical to the absurd, Donnie certainly was a genius, even if what he created often led to more trouble than it was actually worth.  In the end, his inventions will always live in infamy as one of the best aspects of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Author

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung is a film researcher/writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has written for such print publications as Shock Cinema, Fangoria, Paracinema, Whoa, Bijou and Phantom Of The Movies' Videoscope.

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