Nerds and under-dogs unite!
If you’re anything like me, you were a boy born in the ’80s who grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a funny, hokey classic about mutant crime-fighting turtles.
The original and only one for me is circa 1990.
Fighting crime from the sewers, eating pizzas, and joking like stoned teenagers, the Ninja Turtles immediately caught my attention.
They were lean, green, teen fighting machines.
Being bullied regularly, I craved an outlet where my imagination would soar to new heights, and I could engage my foes in battle.
Enter the radioactive-ooze enhanced Testudines (Turtles).
The original comic books were brought to life by Mirage Comics, conceived by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and the idea went on to produce a cartoon series, multiple films, toys, and cult fandom between 1984 to the present day.
Jim Henson, who created The Muppets and performed as Kermit the Frog, designed the movie’s turtle costumes out of model clay and foam rubber latex, claiming they were the ‘most advanced he had ever worked with.’
For all the new kids, this was before CGI.
The Turtles were the last creation Henson would ever make, as he passed away in May of 1990, just after the release.
TMNT brought in the highest revenue for an independent film until Blair Witch came out, grossing over $25 million in its opening weekend, $200 million at the box offices, and reaching #4 in the home-video market.
Golden Harvest produced the movie, a studio in Hong Kong responsible for almost every Jackie Chan flick and other incredible martial arts classics.
Movie Buff Tip: Corey Feldman (The Goonies) is the voice of Donatello.
For those not familiar with the story, a rat named Splinter raises the four Turtles in the sewers, and they are all exposed to a radioactive ooze that falls from a truck with the T.C.R.I company, transforming them into life-size mutants.
Splinter trains them in martial arts and names the turtle brothers after famous artists; Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Raphael.
In Japan, Splinter had been trained by his master, Hamata Yoshi, who escaped to New York after killing Oruku Nagi, a criminal gang leader for the Japanese Foot Clan who was stalking Hamata’s lover.
Oruku Saki, Nagi’s surviving son, follows them to NYC and eventually becomes The Shredder, forming a new Foot chapter.
Saki kills Yoshi and his lover, while Splinter escapes from his cage to the sewers, but not before scarring Shredders face.
The rest is cult-movie history, and you should probably watch it if you haven’t.
My favorite character to this day is the alt-hero Casey Jones, a street kid turned vigilante, referred to as ‘Wayne Gretzky on steroids’ who saves the turtles numerous times and plays a vital role in defeating their adversaries.
Casey Jones and April O’Neil, the hard-hitting female reporter, share an interesting relationship throughout the film.
Nerd Tip: Casey has always been one of my all-time favs because super-powers, unfortunately, don’t exist outside of comics, and other than Batman or Ironman, who have incredible wealth and access to tech, he appeared to me as the most believable hero.
Super Nerd Tip: April O’Neil’s Pop Funko is one of the most expensive of the entire set! She’s making waves with the new generations as a formidable, freedom-fighting, feminine journalist.
Some of the coolest elements of the 1990 version are the cars, which reminded me how old I am, the lack of any cell-phones, Brooklyn-style pizza slices, and the old-school rap track ripped by Partners in Krime; “Have pity on the city!”
I joined Karate as a kid because of the Ninja Turtles, and I met Leonardo in full costume at the local Canadian Tire.
Let me tell you, was I ever fucking excited!
I come from a quiet little town with not much to do, my family is small but closely knit, and I grew up with a younger brother and two male cousins.
As the oldest child, in my mind I was Leonardo, the leader.
My brother was Raphael, which is oddly very similar to his actual personality for any of my friends who know him well.
Our cousins, Alex and Michael, were Donatello (I whole-heartedly agree to this today), and quite obviously, Michaelangelo, the easy-going surfer punk.
All-day long, we would fight the Foot clan in our backyard, at the park, and anywhere they magically appeared.
Since we were children, at dark, we came in and stopped fighting crime in our hoods for apparent reasons.
We even have Christmas family photos from Sears with us all dressed up in our TMNT gear and Karate belts.
Seeing as the flick changed the course of my entire life, I decided to give it another go this week since the governmental overlords (managers of the mind) say we can’t go outside, and it’s winter time in Canada.
Lucky for you guys, that means a few blog posts.
I had an incredible plant-assisted experience (gettin’ PAE’d, bruh) when I re-watched the movie and connected some intriguing congruences that relate to society now.
As the film progresses, it becomes evident that the Foot shares many similarities to another anarchist group of rebellious middle-class kids who wave body-part flags and carry out robberies, looting, and destructive riots in major cities.
The Foot have a tiered system where they recruit kids off the streets to be ‘crime-ninjas’ through a network of abuse that purges them of empathy, self-esteem, or individual thought.
Hmm, where have we heard this before?
Shredder is new-age communism, complete with razor-blade armor, crushing everything in his path towards domination.
The Patriotic Americans become the Turtles, maneuvering themselves through the sewers (internet alt-channels) to save humanity.
Casey Jones represents the country folk and peasantry, who’ve just had enough.
And lastly, April O’Neill is the independent media, openly fighting against the system to uncover the truth.
It’s funny to think that the future of any hope for Freedom in this theme lies in myths and comic book stories, like green testudines or amphibians who operate in the backchannels and hopefully have our best interests in mind.
Either way, if this whimsical idea turned out to be a reality, let us hope you’d be on the right side.
Anyways, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves; as I said, this stuff excites me.
Stay tuned and sign up for the next update to this piece, as we’ll be discussing the symbolism within the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and what ‘pizza’ means in Hollyweird.