That's right, you read the title correctly. It's the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) phenomenon. Who knew that radioactive turtles would have such staying power in pop culture?
To mark the occasion, Warner Brothers is releasing a 25th Anniversary Collection of the four TMNT movies to date. Aptly named the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection, it includes a special DVD case with the four DVDs (in the shape of a manhole cover), four turtle masks (one for each one of the Turtles), and a page of temporary Turtles tattoos. All in all, this is an awesome collection that is for collectors and people new to the world of the Turtles alike!
If you need to brush up on your TMNT history, let's go back to the beginning…
In 1984, the first TMNT comic book was released. In those comic pages, the world was introduced to four turtles and a rat mysteriously transformed into intelligent, man-sized creatures by radioactive ooze in the sewers of Manhattan. Leonardo, the turtle with the blue mask, was the leader of this young group of heroic martial arts students. Raphael, with his red mask, tended to punch first and ask questions later. Michelangelo, with his orange mask, was the easygoing surfer dude of the group. Donatello, with his purple mask, was the scientist of the bunch. And Master Splinter, the mutant rat who was a pet of a Ninja master before his transformation, served as their teacher and guide.
And what comic book would be complete without its bad guys? The Turtles fought a fierce battle against the evil Foot Clan of Ninjas and their nefarious leader, Shredder.
Along the way we met other characters in the Turtles' world. April O'Neill was originally a lab assistant in the comic book, but later became a television reporter in the cartoons and movies. She is the Turtles' staunchest human ally. Casey Jones is a sporting goods-wielding vigilante who also fights alongside the Turtles in their battle against Shredder. And he turns out to be April's love interest later on in the series.
By 1987, there was the first TV cartoon series, line of action figures, figurines, and much more. The world grew exponentially with merchandising and licensing and there was a time you could hardly turn the television on without seeing Turtle mania. I have to admit that even I was brought under the Turtles' spell for a time and shouted phrases like "Cowabunga!" and "Turtle Power!" once upon a time.
In 1990, the first live-action TMNT movie was released — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Featuring a quartet of actors dressed in turtle suits, the movie was a big hit at the box office and has been the highest grossing movie in the series so far. The movie showed the origin of the Turtles and the beginning of their battle against Shredder and the Foot Clan. After seeing the Turtles in cartoons for a few years, it was a shock to the system to see the Turtles in the "real world" of New York City. However, their love for pizza and seeing those huge costumes for the first time brought me over to their side of the sewer.
In 1991 there was a live-action sequel — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Here we learn more about the company responsible for the ooze that transformed normal turtles into Ninja Turtles and find that Splinter somehow survived his demise at the end of the first movie. When he discovers the secret of the ooze, he tries to create his own mutant army to stop the Turtles from interfering with any more of his plans. By this point, the fascination with actors in suits had started to wear off, and the box office started to fall off accordingly.
And in 1993 there was another live-action sequel — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time. This time, the Turtles travel through time to save April O'Neill from being stuck in feudal Japan forever. Evidently movie-goers thought the Turtles should have stayed in the past, as this has been the lowest-grossing TMNT movie so far.
And most recently in 2007 after a gap of 14 years, there was an animated feature simply called TMNT that follows the events of the first three movies. In this adventure, the Turtles must stop an immortal warrior and his generals from opening a rift to another universe and allowing monsters to invade and take over the world. As with any group of teenagers, the Turtles had drifted apart after finally defeating Shredder, and they had to rediscover the meaning of family.
The first movie and the animated movie were the best two for me. The original movie captured the campy spirit of the comic book and made it accessible to a whole new audience of kids. There's something about mixing people in suits, puppeteers, and cheesy martial arts moves that made this movie work. And the 2007 animated film provided a great mix of that same campy feel, with updated animation and a story that didn't feel recycled.
There are even rumors of a new TMNT movie coming sometime in 2010 or 2011. We'll have to see whether they choose the live-action route or go with animation next time.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection brought back a lot of memories for me and allowed me to share these movies with my daughters, who were entranced by the stories of these mutant Turtles and wanted to see what happened next. We can only hope that the next generation enjoys them as much as some of the rest of us did growing up in the 1980s and 1990s!
Be sure to check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection at your favorite online or brick-and-mortar retailer.