While modern fans are probably pretty happy with the CGI animation of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, some of us can remember a day and age when animation wasn’t all done with computer generated graphics. Back when the original TMNT animated series came out in 1987, they were still using traditional animation, which meant that they used a lot of celluloid to make our favorite heroes in a half shell come to life.
Animation required a lot of “cels” (transparent sheets used to draw and paint the characters) to animate the show with a series of images that created the cartoon we all know and love. As luck would have it, some of these cels were saved instead of being destroyed, and you can sometimes come across them in the wild or even in online auctions. That’s right, you can literally own a piece of Ninja Turtles history when you find a cel that was used to animate the turtles.
Thanks to one very fortunate and amazing fan, today we can show you exactly what some of these cels look like. In fact, some of these animation cels were used as models for the characters, including pretty much all of our favorite characters. Here you can see the original model cels for Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, among other important characters in the series. It’s incredible to see the amount of detail that was put into all of these designs, especially when you think about how much work went into animating this cartoon.
In addition to these model cels, this super TMNT fan also had the fortune to obtain some of the original background cels, including some of the backgrounds that were used in the very first episode of the series. It’s not every day that you come across a collection of animation cels quite like this, but we are very thankful for the opportunity to share these with our fellow shellheads, as they truly bring the history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life before our very eyes.
If you’ve ever wondered how the Ninja Turtles made the jump from the pages of a comic book to an animated series that sparked the imaginations of millions, now you can see some of the magic for yourself. More importantly, these cels are in really good condition, especially considering how old they are. We really want to thank the fan who shared these images from his personal collection with us, and we’re glad that we have the opportunity to share them with you as well.
Sadly, we don’t see animation like this very often anymore, and it looks like this type of stuff is quickly becoming ancient history. With that in mind, let’s just look back and remember everything that went into making the cartoons that shaped so many of our lives. If you want to share anything from your collection or any artwork of your own, check out the Fan Art section of our forums or feel free to drop us a line. We love to share things like this with all of the fans, and if we like your work enough, we might even feature it on the front page!