Most Ninja Turtle fans know that James Avery (better known as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) played the Shredder. Some might even be well aware that there was once a female Ninja Turtle named Venus DeMilo. However, something tells me that a lot of fans would be shocked to discover that our first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie could have featured four comedians wearing green paint. In a franchise this big, there are bound to be a few harsh and strange truths that were either ignored or forgotten over time. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some fairly interesting facts about the heroes in a half shell that you might not have known.
1. How Do You Spell Michelangelo Anyways?
Even creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had an issue with this one, and they were reportedly major art history buffs. For about 15 years, Mikey’s name was misspelled in the comics and other iterations of the franchise as “Michaelangelo.” Being that he is named after the famous artist Michelangelo, this was a bit of a problem, and apparently the issue was well known. Unfortunately, due to copyright issues, they couldn’t officially change the spelling of the name until the year 2000. I guess this means that in the world of TMNT lore, either spelling is technically acceptable. I know that I’ve personally used both versions of his name in the past, and I could happily continue to do so without any issue.
2. Not So Cowabunga
Where did this popular catchphrase come from? Well, Buffalo Bob from the classic children’s show Howdy Doody claimed to have come up with the word on his own. As a matter of fact, he was so convinced that he owned the copyright for this word that he filed a lawsuit over the word. Of course, his spelling of the word was “Kowabunga,” but that didn’t stop him from getting some coin for his contributions, as he eventually settled out of court. The word definitely wasn’t a creation of the Ninja Turtles franchise, but the question was whether or not anyone really held the copyright to the word. At this point, it would appear that this is still up for debate, but perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen them use the word in conjunction with the turtles as of late.
3. How Much Did They Spend?
Remember that awful Coming Out of Their Shells live action tour that the Ninja Turtles did in the 90’s? Nowadays it’s more groan inducing than it is endearing, but back then a lot of fans actually fell in love with the event, buying the album and tapes of their performance. To this day you can find clips of the live action tour all over the internet, including the truly disturbing episode of Oprah where the Ninja Turtles showed up to talk about the event. Pizza Hut sponsored the entire Coming Out of Their Shells tour, and the price tag was pretty hefty – $20 Million Dollars. If ever you needed proof that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were truly a hot commodity in the 90’s, this number should drive that fact home. After all, would anyone spend that much money on such a terrible idea today? Probably not.
4. He Was Almost Mikey, Too
Most fans are well aware that veteran voice actor Rob Paulsen was originally cast as Raphael in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series that began in 1987. You might also be aware that he now plays the role of Donatello in Nickelodeon’s iteration of the TMNT. However, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that he could have also played Michelangelo at one point. That’s right, Rob Paulsen initially auditioned for the role of everyone’s favorite fun loving turtle. One has to wonder what his version of the character sounded like, and you can be darn sure that if I ever get the chance to ask him, that will be my first question. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get the chance to play Leonardo as well, rounding out his history with the entire gang.
5. You Thought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 Was Bad?
If you’ve ever found yourself complaining about any of the TMNT movies, perhaps it’s time for a little perspective. After all, the first idea for a Ninja Turtles movie was pretty terrible, coming straight from the home of the schlock-meister himself, Roger Corman. New World Pictures suggested a Ninja Turtles movie featuring comedians Gallagher, Sam Kinnison, Bobcat Goldthwait and Billy Crystal as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The idea was to put them in turtle shell costumes and paint their arms and legs green. If that sounds like perhaps the worst idea anyone has ever had for a comic book movie, that’s because it was legitimately bad. Thankfully, this idea never really took shape, and the movie we eventually ended up with became one of the most successful independent features of all time. Oh, and it was probably the best TMNT movie to date, so there’s that as well.
6. What Happened to Mikey’s Nunchaku?
What would Michelangelo do without his Nunchaku? Well, one doesn’t necessarily need weapons to practice ninjutsu, but these are still Mikey’s weapon of choice. Unfortunately, they were also a major point of contention among parents who feared that their children would mimic the action they saw in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is why we didn’t see many weapons on display in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. In addition to this, Mikey’s Nunchaku were removed from European cuts of the animated series from the fourth season forward. In the US cut, you’ll notice that he uses his weapons from time to time, but for the most part we don’t see him use these customary weapons beyond this point until later in the history of the franchise. Thankfully, parents don’t seem to be so uptight anymore, but that won’t stop a few groups from being wet blankets, as Leonardo’s swords have recently come under fire as well. To appropriate a quote from Ralphie Parker (A Christmas Story), is there no end to the irrational prejudice against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their chosen weapons?
7. That Time Robin Williams Helped April O’Neil
Although he was a much beloved comedian and actor, Robin Williams never really had his name attached to much of anything related to the Ninja Turtles – or did he? Apparently, Williams was a big fan of the franchise, and while he was working with Judith Hoag on the film Cadillac Man, he actually ended up helping her to get into character for the role of April O’Neil. At the time, Hoag wasn’t very familiar with the character and she wasn’t too sure about the role. However, after talking to Williams about the role and learning that he was a huge fan of the comics, she changed her tune and eventually got the role. Many fans consider her to be the best interpretation of April on film, and it’s crazy to think that we might have Robin Williams to thank for that – at least partially.
Well, That Was Unexpected
Did you see anything on this list that shocked or surprised you? How many of these facts did you know beforehand? Let us know in the comments below, and tell us which of these concepts you found the most interesting or disturbing. Oh, and feel free to sound off if you actually enjoyed the Coming Out of Their Shells tour. I know there are plenty of fans who actually enjoyed that event, but I couldn’t help giving my honest opinions about it. Hopefully this doesn’t upset too many fans. After all, it could have been worse – we could have seen a Roger Corman TMNT movie. Let us all collectively shudder at the thought. For more crazy TMNT factoids, check out this video with 107 TMNT Facts!