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|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|
Cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|First appearance||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1|
|Created by||Kevin Eastman|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|
Cover of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|First appearance||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1|
|Created by||Kevin Eastman|
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (often shortened to TMNT or Ninja Turtles) are a fictional team of four teenage anthropomorphic turtles, named after four Renaissance artists, who were trained by their anthropomorphic rat sensei in the art of ninjutsu. From their home in the storm sewers of New York City, they battle petty criminals, evil overlords, mutated animals, and alien invaders while attempting to remain isolated from society.
The characters originated in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book before their expansion into a cartoon series, films, video games, toys, and other general merchandise. During the peak of franchise’s popularity in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, the franchise gained considerable worldwide success and fame.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in an American comic book published by Mirage Studios in 1984 in Dover, New Hampshire. The concept arose from a humorous drawing sketched out by Kevin Eastman during a casual evening of brainstorming with friend Peter Laird. Using money from a tax refund, together with a loan from Eastman’s uncle, the young artists self-published a single-issue comic intended to parody four of the most popular comics of the early 1980s: Marvel Comics’ Daredevil and New Mutants, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, and Frank Miller’s Ronin. The TMNT comic series has been published in various incarnations by various comic book companies since 1984.
The Turtles started their rise to mainstream success when a licensing agent, Mark Freedman, sought out Eastman and Laird to propose wider merchandising opportunities for the franchise. In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures produced a set of 15 mm lead figurines. In January 1987, Eastman and Laird visited the offices of Playmates Toys Inc, a small California toy company that wanted to expand into the action figure market. Development was undertaken by a creative team of companies and individuals: Jerry Sachs, ad man of Sachs-Finley Agency, brought together the animators at Murakami-Wolf-Swenson headed by Fred Wolf. Wolf and his team combined concepts and ideas with the Playmates marketing crew, headed by Karl Aaronian, VP of sales Richard Sallis and VP of Playmates Bill Carlson.
Aaronian brought on several designers, and concepteur and writer John C. Schulte and worked out the simple backstory that would live on toy packaging for the entire run of the product and show. Sachs called the high-concept pitch "Green Against Brick". The sense of humor was honed with the collaboration of the MWS animation firm's writers. Playmates and their team essentially served as associate producers and contributing writers to the miniseries that was first launched to sell-in the toy action figures. Phrases like "Heroes in a Half Shell" and many of the comical catch phrases and battle slogans ("Turtle Power!") came from the writing and conceptualization of this creative team. As the series developed, veteran writer Jack Mendelsohn came on board as both a story editor and scriptwriter. David Wise, Michael Charles Hill, and Michael Reaves wrote most of the scripts.
The miniseries was repeated three times before it found an audience. Once the product started selling, the show got syndicated and picked up and backed by Group W, which funded the next round of animation. The show then went network, on CBS. Accompanied by the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 TV series, and the subsequent action figure line, the TMNT were soon catapulted into pop culture history. At the height of the frenzy, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Turtles' likenesses could be found on a wide range of children's merchandise, from Pez dispensers to skateboards, breakfast cereal, video games, school supplies, linens, towels, cameras, and even toy shaving kits.
While the animated TV series, which lasted for 10 seasons until 1996, was more light-hearted, the comic book series continued in a much darker and grittier tone. In 1990 a live-action feature film was released, with the turtles and Splinter being portrayed by actors in partially animatronic suits created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The film became one of the most successful independent films, and spawned two sequels, as well as inspiring a 3D animated film set in the same continuity, which was released in 2007 under the title TMNT. After the end of the cartoon series, a live action series in the vein of the films was created in 1997 in conjunction with Saban Entertainment. The series was called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation and introduced a fifth, female turtle called Venus De Milo, but was largely unsuccessful and was canceled after one season.
The property lay dormant until in 2003 a new animated TV series also entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began to air on Fox Box (4Kids TV). The series storyline stuck much closer to the original Mirage comic book series, but was still less violent. It lasted for 7 seasons and 156 episodes, ending in February 2009.
On October 21, 2009, it was announced that cable channel Nickelodeon (a subsidiary of Viacom) had purchased all of Mirage's rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Mirage retains the rights to publish 18 issues a year, though the future involvement of Mirage with the Turtles and the future of Mirage Studios itself is unknown. Nickelodeon has developed a new CGI-animated TMNT television series and will partner with fellow Viacom company Paramount Pictures to bring a new TMNT movie to theaters. The TV show premiered on Nickelodeon on September 29, 2012. However, in June 2012, Paramount shut down their planned production due to script issues, pushing their release date out until May 2014.
Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premiered in May, 1984, at a comic book convention held at a local Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was published by Mirage Studios in an over-sized magazine-style format using black and white artwork on cheap newsprint, limited to a print run of only 3,250 copies. Through a clever media kit that included a press release in Comic Buyer's Guide #542 and a full page ad placed in Comic Buyer's Guide #547, the public's interest was piqued and thus began the Turtle phenomenon. The small print runs made these early comics and trade magazines instant collector items, and within months they were trading for over fifty times their cover price. The name "Mirage Studios" was chosen because of Eastman and Laird's lack of a professional art studio at the start of their career, before their creation made them both multi-millionaires.
Mirage also published a bi-monthly companion book entitled Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, featuring art by Ryan Brown and Jim Lawson, which was designed to fill in the gaps of continuity in the TMNT universe. This put the original series and Tales in the same mainstream continuity, and the two are thus canon to each other. The title's first volume was from 1987–1989, released in alternating months with the regular Eastman and Laird book. All seven issues of Volume One have been collected in trade paperback form twice, and twenty-five issues of Volume Two have been collected in trades of five issues each.
As the TMNT phenomenon proliferated to other media, Eastman and Laird would find themselves administrating an international merchandising juggernaut. However, this prevented the two creators from participating in the day-to-day work of writing and illustrating a monthly comic book. For this reason, many guest artists were invited to showcase their unique talents in the TMNT universe. The breadth of diversity found in the various short stories gave the series a disjointed, anthology-like feel. Fans stuck with the series, and what was originally intended as a one-shot became a continuing series that lasted for 129 issues spanning four separate volumes (having 62, 13, 23 and 31 issues in the four distinct volumes).
In June 1996, Image Comics took over publishing the title in what is considered "Volume 3" of the series. It was a slightly more action-oriented TMNT series and although notable for inflicting major physical changes on the main characters, Peter Laird, co-creator of the TMNT, has said this volume is no longer in canon as he began publishing Volume 4 at Mirage Publishing. As an explanation, he offered in the pages of Volume 4's letter column: "It just didn't feel right."[volume & issue needed]
After taking back the series from Image Comics, Mirage Studios resumed publication of a fourth volume in December 2001, under the simple title TMNT. After the publication of issue #28, writer Peter Laird placed the series on an eight-month hiatus to devote himself to production of the 2007 TMNT movie. However, after that eight months had passed Mirage's official website went on to list the series as in "indefinite hiatus". In January 2008, Mirage had finally confirmed that the series would return in May 2008. Issues 29 and 30 had a limited printing of 1,000 copies each, and were available through the official TMNT website. Although the purchase agreement with Nickelodeon allows Laird to produce up to 18 comics a year set in the original Mirage continuity, no new material has been released since the sale.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was a comic book series published from August 1988 to October 1995 by Archie Comics. The initial storylines were close adaptations of the 1987 TV series, but with the fifth issue Eastman and Laird decided to hand the series over to Mirage Studios employees Ryan Brown and Stephen Murphy who immediately abandoned the animated series adaptations and took the title in a decidedly different direction with all-new original adventures, including the uniting of several of the series' recurring characters as a separate team, the Mighty Mutanimals.
A monthly comic inspired by the 2003 TV series was published by Dreamwave Productions from June to December 2003. It was written by Peter David and illustrated by LeSean Thomas. In the first four issues, which were the only ones directly adapted from the TV series, the story was told from the perspectives of April, Baxter, Casey, and a pair of New York City police officers.
In April 2011, IDW Publishing announced that they had acquired the license to publish new collections of Mirage storylines and a new ongoing series. The first issue of the new series was released on August 24, 2011. Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz write, with Eastman and Dan Duncan handling art chores.
The Turtles have appeared in several manga series.
A daily comic strip written and illustrated by Dan Berger featured an adventure story Monday through Friday and activity puzzles on weekends (with fan art appearing later). The comic strip was published in syndication until its cancellation in December, 1996. At its highest point in popularity, it was published in over 250 newspapers.
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When little known Playmates Toys Inc. was approached about producing a TMNT action figure line, they were cautious of the risk and requested that a television deal be acquired first. On December 28, 1987, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first cartoon series began, starting as a 5-part miniseries and becoming a regular Saturday morning syndicated series on October 1, 1988 with 13 more episodes. The series was produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Film Productions Inc (later Fred Wolf Films). Mirage Studios does not own the rights to this cartoon series. The show places a much stronger emphasis on humor than the comics do. Here, the Ninja Turtles are portrayed as four wise-cracking, pizza-obsessed superheroes who fight the forces of evil from their sewer hideout, and they make their first appearance in masks color-coded to each turtle, where previously they had all worn red.
The cast included new and different characters like Bebop and Rocksteady and the Neutrinos. Original characters like Splinter, Shredder, and the Foot Soldiers stayed true to the comics in appearance and alignment only. Instead of being Hamato Yoshi's mutated pet rat, Splinter was a mutated Hamato himself. The Foot Soldiers changed from human ninjas to an endless supply of robotic grunts, allowing large numbers of them to be destroyed without anyone dying (this was a very important decision in terms of the show's child audience; excessive violence would have alienated parents of children, the show's target demographic). Krang, one of the series' most memorable villains, was inspired by the design of the Utrom, a benign alien race from the Mirage comics. The animated Krang, however, was instead an evil warlord from Dimension X. Baxter Stockman, whose race was changed from black to white either due to apprehension toward depicting a villainous African American character in a children's cartoon or that for Shredder to boss around a black Stockman would be perceived as racist. Either way, Stockman was rewritten as a shy and meek lackey to Shredder, later mutating into an anthropomorphic housefly. During the final two seasons of the show, in order to combat the rising popularity of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the lead villain switched to Lord Dregg, an evil alien overlord bent on world conquest by trying to distract the public into believing that the Turtles were the enemy instead of himself.
Starting on September 25, 1989, the series was expanded to weekdays and it had 47 more episodes for the new season. There were 28 new syndicated episodes for Season 4 and only 13 of those episodes aired in 1990. The "European Vacation" episodes were not seen in the United States until USA Network started showing reruns in late 1993 and the "Awesome Easter" episodes were not seen until 1991. These episodes were delayed because of animation or scheduling problems. The turtles are also well known for their use of idiomatic expressions characteristic of the surfer lingo of the time, especially by Michelangelo. Words and phrases included "bummer", "dude", "bogus", "radical", "far-out", "tubuloso", "bodacious", and possibly the most recognized, "cowabunga". On April 21, 1990, a drug prevention television special was broadcast on ABC, NBC, and CBS named Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue that featured some of the most popular cartoons at the time; representing TMNT was Michelangelo, voiced by Townsend Coleman.
Starting on September 8, 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its run on CBS. The CBS weekend edition ran for a full hour up until 1994, initially airing a couple of Saturday exclusive episodes back to back. There would also be a brief "Turtle Tips" segment in between the two episodes which served as PSA about the environment or other issues. After 1994, the show was reduced to just a half hour and only 8 episodes per season were produced, grouped into a "CBS Action Zone" block that also featured WildC.A.T.s. and Skeleton Warriors, both of which were canceled after one season; though TMNT retained its "Action Zone" pre-intro. The two shows in the block were also produced by Fred Wolf Films. The series ran until November 2, 1996, when it aired its final episode. Its enormous popularity gave rise to its numerous imitators, including the Battletoads, Cheetahmen, Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, Road Rovers, Street Sharks, Extreme Dinosaurs, and Biker Mice from Mars. Currently, all 193 episodes are available on DVD and VHS.
In addition to the American series, a Japan-exclusive two-episode anime OVA series was made in 1996, titled Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen. The OVA is similar in tone to the 1987 TV series and uses the same voices from TV Tokyo's Japanese dub of the 1987 TV series. The first episode was made to advertise the TMNT Supermutants toys. It featured the Turtles as superheroes, who gained costumes and superpowers with the use of Mutastones, while Shredder and Bebop and Rocksteady gained supervillain powers with the use of a Dark Mutastone. As with the Super Sentai and Power Rangers franchises, the four Turtles could combine to form the giant Turtle Saint. The second episode was created to advertise the Metal Mutants toys in which the characters gain Saint Seiya-esque mystical metal armor that can transform into beasts.
In 1997–1998, the Turtles starred in a live-action television series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation that directly follows the events of the first three movies. A fifth turtle was introduced, a female named "Venus de Milo" who was skilled in the mystical arts of the shinobi. The series was a loose continuation of the movie franchise, as Shredder had been defeated and the Ninja Turtles encountered new villains. Other connections to the feature films include the fact that Splinter's ear was cut, the Foot Soldiers were humans, and the Turtles lived in the abandoned subway station seen in the second and third movies. The Next Mutation Turtles made a guest appearance on Power Rangers in Space. It was canceled after one season of 26 episodes.
In 2003, a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series produced by 4Kids Entertainment began airing on the "FoxBox" (later renamed "4Kids TV") programming block. It later moved to "The CW4Kids" block. The series was co-produced by Mirage Studios, and Mirage owned one-third of the rights to the series. Mirage's significant stake in creative control resulted in a cartoon that hews more closely to the original comics, creating a darker and edgier feel than the 1987 cartoon, but still remaining lighthearted enough to be considered appropriate for children.
This series lasted until 2009, ending with a feature-length television movie titled Turtles Forever, which was produced in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the TMNT franchise and featured the Turtles of the 2003 series teaming up with their counterparts from the 1987 series. 4Kidstv.com featured all the episodes of the series, up until September 2010; 4Kids no longer owns the license to the show, meaning that it can no longer be viewed at 4Kidstv.com.
Nickelodeon acquired the global rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. and announced a new CGI-animated TMNT television series. The series premiered in 2012 and has proven to be a hit, having already been renewed for a third season.
The Turtles have appeared in four feature films. The first three are live-action features produced in the early 1990s: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993). The Turtles were played by various actors in costumes featuring animatronic heads, initially produced by the Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The fourth film is a CGI-animated film titled simply TMNT and released in 2007. A reboot is currently in production by Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures, and is tentatively due to be released in 2014.
Among the first licensed products to feature the Ninja Turtles was a pen and paper RPG titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, published by Palladium Books in 1985 and featuring original comics and illustrations by Eastman and Laird themselves. The game features a large list of animals, including elephants and sparrows, that are available as mutant player characters. There were several more titles in this genre, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, Truckin' Turtles, Turtles Go Hollywood, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Guide to the Universe, and Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In 1986, Dark Horse Miniatures in Boise, Idaho produced an attendant set of lead figurines; unlike later incarnations the bandannas on the store's display set were painted all black before the multicolored versions were released to help younger readers distinguish between the four characters other than their weaponry. Palladium allowed the license to lapse in 2000, in part due to declining sales stemming from the "kiddification" of the animated and live-action incarnations to that point. However, Palladium's publisher, Kevin Siembieda, has indicated a potential willingness to revisit the license given the franchise's recent moves closer to its roots.
During the run of the 1987 TV series, Playmates Toys produced hundreds of TMNT action figures, along with vehicles, playsets, and accessories, becoming one of the top collectibles for children. Staff artists at Northampton, Massachusetts-based Mirage Studios provided conceptual designs for many of the figures, vehicles, and playsets and creator credit can be found in the legal text printed on the back of the toy packaging. In addition, Playmates produced a series of TMNT/Star Trek crossover figures, due to Playmates holding the Star Trek action figure license at the time. Playmates employed many design groups to develop looks and styles for the toy line, including Bloom Design, White Design, Pangea, Robinson-Clarke, and McHale Design. The Marketing VP of Playmates, Karl Aaronian, was largely responsible for assembling the talented team of designers and writers, which in turn, helped germinate continued interest in the toy line.
Never before in toy history did an action figure line have such an impact for over two decades, generating billions of dollars in licensing revenue. The series was highly popular in the UK where, in the run-up to Christmas, the Army & Navy Store in London's Lewisham devoted its entire basement to everything Turtle, including games, videos, costumes and other items. Playmates continue to produce TMNT action figures based on the 2003 animated series. The 2007 film TMNT also gave Playmates a new source from which to make figures, while NECA produced a series of high-quality action figures based on character designs from the original Mirage comics. In 2012, a new toy line and a new classic toy line from Playmates were announced to be released.
The first Famicom/NES TMNT game was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, released by Konami/Ultra in 1989 and later ported on the many home computers and eventually for the Wii on the Virtual Console. Also released by Konami in 1989 was the first TMNT arcade game, also titled simply Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, later ported to the NES as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, leading to an NES-only sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, which used the look of the arcade game, as opposed the first NES game. The next Turtles console game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, was released in 1991 as an arcade game, and was later ported to the Super Nintendo in 1992. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist was also created for the Sega Genesis in the same year, and used many of the art assets from TMNT IV. There was also a trilogy of TMNT video games for the original Game Boy system made by Konami, consisting of: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back from the Sewers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue. As the video game series progressed, and the Ninja Turtles' popularity began to decline in the mid-1990s, the video games changed direction. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters was released as a set of one-on-one fighting game similar to the Street Fighter series.; each console's version if the game was a distinct game.
Konami also acquired the license to adapt the 2003 TV series into a video game franchise, resulting in a new series of games with 3D gameplay inspired by the old TMNT beat 'em up games (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 video game), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare).
In 2006, Ubisoft acquired the rights of TMNT games, beginning with a game based on the 2007 animated feature film. A beat 'em up game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack was released for the DS in 2009, to coincide with the series' 25th anniversary. In 2013, Activision released the downloadable game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, based on the 2012 TV series and developed by Red Fly Studio for the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam.
During the height of their popularity (1987–1996) the Turtles had a number of food tie-ins. Among the most notable of these products was Ninja Turtles Cereal, produced by Ralston-Purina as a kind of "Chex with TMNT-themed marshmallows" which also came with a small pouch of Pizza Crunchabungas, pizza flavored corn snacks in the shape of pizzas (the commercial starred the Ninja Turtles as Will Vinton-created claymations); Hostess Ninja Turtles Pudding Pies, featuring a green sugar crust and vanilla pudding inside; and Royal OOZE Gelatin Desserts, distributed by Nabisco under "Royal Gelatin" in three different flavors: orange, strawberry, and lime. Shreddies used to give out TMNT toys in their boxes when the cereal advertising was still geared toward children. One example of a TMNT prize was rings featuring a character on the cartoon (1992). There was also green Ninja Turtle ice cream with different toppings according to which turtle flavor one ordered. Chef Boyardee also released a canned pasta with the pasta in the shapes of the four turtles themselves.
To capitalize on the Turtles' popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17. The "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello, keyboards; Leonardo, bass guitar; Raphael, drums and sax; Michelangelo, guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O'Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the turtles have to rescue her. The story had a very Bill-n'-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music. A pay-per-view special highlighting the concert was shown, and a studio album was also released. Stylistically, the music's genre was closest to hair metal/power rock. The track listing is as follows:
Since the tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut in real life, there are many references to their pizza. Empty Pizza Hut boxes are seen onscreen in the "Behind the Shells" VHS. As part of a cross-marketing strategy, Pizza Hut restaurants gave away posters, audio cassettes of "Coming Out of Their Shells", and "Official Tour Guides" as premiums. The original show of the tour was released on video with a making of video also released. The song "Pizza Power" was later used by Konami for the second arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.
On June 30, 1990, the TMNT appeared in the "New York Street" section of Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Orlando. Emerging from their Turtle Party Wagon, they would "ninja dance" across the stage while April performed the theme song to the show. After the main show was done they would pose for pictures and sign autographs. The Turtles also made appearances in Disney's "Very Merry Christmas Parade" to sing their own rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". They also appeared during the Easter parade dancing to their single "Pizza Power!" The Turtles' live shows and appearances ceased production in 1996.
Although the TMNT had originated as something of a parody, the comic's explosive success led to a wave of small-press, black and white comic parodies of TMNT itself, including Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, Pre-Teen Dirty-Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos, and a host of others. Dark Horse Comics' Boris the Bear was launched in response to these TMNT clones; its first issue was titled "Boris the Bear Slaughters the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters". Once the Turtles broke into the mainstream, parodies also proliferated in other media, such as in satire magazines Cracked and Mad magazine and numerous TV series of the period.
In keeping with the "grim 'n gritty" feel to parody Frank Miller's Ronin/Elektra material, the Turtles engaged in a greater amount of overt violence in the pages of the early Mirage comic book series by Eastman and Laird. As the TMNT were introduced into the mainstream, they were radically redesigned. In issue #19 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the creators published an editorial addressing any possible concerns of readers as a result of this. It stated, in part: "We've allowed the wacky side to happen, and enjoy it very much. All the while, though, we've kept the originals very much ours – forty pages of what we enjoy and want to see in our books, whether it comes from our own hands or from those of the talented people we work with." In the film Turtles Forever, the original Mirage Turtles refer to their descendants as "sell-outs", in reference to their colorful accessories (the originals are conveyed in black and white).
Upon TMNT's first arrival in the United Kingdom and Ireland the name was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" (or TMHT, for short), since local censorship policies deemed the word ninja to have excessively violent connotations for a children's program (in Ireland, however, the first season aired as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" before changing to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles"). Consequently, everything related to the Turtles (comic books, video games, toys, etc.) had to be renamed before being released in these nations, as well as in the German-speaking countries.
The lyrics were also changed, such as changing "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens" to "Splinter taught them to be fighting teens". The policies also had other effects, such as editing out use of Michelangelo's nunchaku (which were at the time banned from appearing in 18-rated movies) and generally toning down the usage of all the turtles' weapons. To head this problem off, the showrunners elected to remove Michelangelo's nunchaku entirely during season three, replacing them with a grappling hook called the "Turtle Line" that served as Mikey's signature weapon for the rest of the show's run.
In Italy, Spain and Portugal, they kept Michelangelo's nunchaku but the "TMHT" logo could be seen in the intro, as it was not edited to reflect the title in each of those translations. In Spain the cartoon was originally aired in regional TV channels and thus had different dubs in addition to Castillian: Galician and Catalan; in the Galician version, the title As Tartarugas Mutantes ("The Mutant Turtles") was used. The Italian and European Portuguese dubs also had few edits.
However, when the live-action movie came out in 1990, the Ninja of the title was kept even in the UK. In time, nunchaku scenes were retained in previously-censored movies such as those of Bruce Lee. The same went for the PAL releases of the early video games, which had Michelangelo's weapon of choice fully visible and usable. By the time of the 2003 TV series, these censorship policies had been abolished, and no changes have occurred in the content of the show. The name "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" remained unchanged for the 2003 TV series. As a result, in the UK, the 1987 TV series is still called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and the 2003 TV series is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 2009, Lionsgate Home Entertainment released the 25th Anniversary Collectors Edition on Region 2 DVD in the UK. This 3-Disc set contains all the episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 and 4 episodes from the final season, as well as a 1-Disc DVD with the first few episodes of Season 1. This release features the original, unedited episodes under the "Ninja Turtles" title, and also marks the first time the show has been released uncensored in the UK.
Due to various movie and television deals, the various TMNT films and television series have split between various companies, with Mirage Studios having retained copyright and trademark until October 19, 2009, at which point the rights for the entire TMNT franchise were sold by co-creator Peter Laird to Nickelodeon.
The original animated series (1987–1996) was produced by Fred Wolf Films Dublin (as Murakami Wolf Swenson (MWS) and Murakami Wolf Dublin (MWD) during earlier seasons), and syndicated by Group W. The series itself is owned by Wolf Films, with home entertainment rights residing with Lions Gate Entertainment, and until recently, syndication rights belonged to Nickelodeon's former corporate sibling CBS Television Distribution. The initial five-part miniseries (retroactively considered the first season) was copyrighted by Playmates Toys, although it is unclear if they still hold any rights or interest to the series.
The second animated series (2003–2009) was a co-production between Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment. Nickelodeon's October 19, 2009 buyout of the TMNT franchise included an approximate $9.75 million payment to 4Kids to terminate its right to serve as the merchandise licensing agent prior to the scheduled expiration of the representation agreement in 2012. Due to the buyout, all future TMNT film and television series rights are owned by Nickelodeon.
The first three TMNT live-action films were produced by Golden Harvest, with New Line Cinema (now a sister company of Warner Bros. Entertainment) distributing the films in the United States, with 20th Century Fox distributed the second and third films in most other territories. The first two films were copyrighted by the UK-based Northshore Investments, who according to the legal indicia for the comic book adaptations of those films, owned the supporting characters Keno, Tatsu, Chief Sterns and Professor Jordan Perry. The third film was copyrighted by Clearwater Holdings.
The fourth film was produced by Imagi Animation Studios, and released by Warner Bros. Entertainment in association with the Weinstein Company. Michael Bay is set to produce a feature film titled "Ninja Turtles" that reincorporates the extraterrestrial connection from the comic books.
Initially, Mirage allowed employees and freelancers to retain the rights to characters they created for the TMNT Universe but had never licensed for media and merchandise outside comic books. Eventually, due to the difficulty of keeping track of everyone's rights, Mirage made TMNT character creators sign retroactive work-for-hire contracts. One creator who did not sign over the rights to his TMNT work was Swamp Thing veteran Rick Veitch.
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