The Top Turtle Tie-Ins (in Other Media)
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had their fair share of appearances to help promote the franchise. After all, no one who was around in the ‘90s will ever forget the concert show, and truly dedicated fans can still sing many of the songs from heart (and how many wish they had that power of memorization for other things in their adult lives?). TV shows, movies, and comics were just the tip of the iceberg, for the heroes in green, though. Their product tie-ins, guest appearances, and parodies cemented their place in pop culture a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean that even the best fan never forgot a tidbit or two. Here are the best of the best that show just how far the turtles’ influence has reached.
The biggest appearance of the turtles in the ‘90s came in the form of food products. Snack foods featuring the ninjas were produced by the thousands during the early years of the decade, and kids couldn’t eat enough of the treats, which actually created some rarities. Cookies, crackers, pasta, cereal, fruit snacks, ice cream, and frozen pizza put the green heroes out there for the world to consume like Eastman and Laird could have never imagined. The most coveted food item, though was a Hostess pudding pie (R.I.P. Hostess). The first pie was a green crust with white pudding inside, and later it was made with a normal brown crust and green dyed pudding inside. They were delicious, and if Hostess had any sitting around when they went under, the Internet should let all fans know where to get them now.
A major television appearance in the late ‘90s was a last-ditch effort to save a struggling show, but it failed completely, leaving TMNT: The Next Mutation as a dark time in the franchise’s history. Since Saban Entertainment owned the show, an episode of Power Rangers in Space saw the turtles and the Rangers team up to take down villains – only after the turtles were brainwashed and almost destroyed a spaceship. Of course, there will be no moment quite like the head-desk confusion of five mutant turtles flying through space on gliders, completely able to breathe in the oxygen-less vacuum.
In 1990, Disney also wanted to capitalize on the fame of the turtles, and struck a deal to have people dressed in turtle costumes (oversized ones that resembled the look of the 1987 TV show) do appearances and stage shows at Disney-MGM amusement park in Florida. April O’Neil would sing the theme song, and then the turtles would dance, take pictures, and sign autographs (one lucky turtle fan currently writing this article still has his Raphael autographed hat and souvenir picture from 1991). The turtles appeared in several holiday shows at the park until 1996, when production stopped, not coincidentally at the same time popularity was waning and the TV show was coming to an end.
The popularity of the comic spawned several parodies as well, paying homage while also poking a little fun at the concept and its success. The Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters and the Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung-Fu Kangaroos were just two examples that played with the concept. Both series were very short-lived, but they were just fun ways to have a little laugh at a series that was itself a parody of other ‘80s heroes.
If true success for a franchise is measured by how wide the media net can be cast, then the turtles were a phenomenon unlike any other. The food, the shows, and the fun show just what effect they had on the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and it’s wonderful that their influence hasn’t dwindled, even today. Yes, the pudding pies may never come back, but that’s something every semi-health-conscious fan can accept. At least everyone can rest easy knowing that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – and everything that they have spawned – will never be forgotten.