turtle power the definitive history

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the TMNT – A Review

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a DVD documentary from Paramount Pictures, released in 2014. It covers every topic of TMNT lore like the comic book origins of Mirage’s Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Or how uncomfortable the turtle suits were for the actors in the motion pictures released in the 90s.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of the most legendary, fictional super groups of the past four decades. From the adults whose childhood thrived on the cartoons and movies, to the fervor of today’s initiated. Almost everybody knows of them and most likely gets at least a smile when they see them, maybe even have a favorite turtle–mine’s Donatello. Anyway, we’re going to take a look at the superb documentary that you have to see if you want to know everything about these pizza loving ninjas.

It’s pretty safe to say that rare geeky documentaries are my favorite genre at the moment. I saw this at the library, and hadn’t actually heard of it, so I had nothing to lose. It’s always been my understanding that there is a lot of backstory to the turtles tracing back to the original comics, but I never really realized what that story was, since A) I was too young to see that part B) I foolishly never thought to investigate. I did not realize how freakishly huge of a phenomenon the turtles I’d watched as a child had become in the late ’80s early 90’s. In fact, it’s a wonderful story about how independent artists can hit it big if they come up with a really good idea like the Ninja Turtles.

You might make the leap that the TMNT comic book creators sold out when Turtles went big on Saturday Morning Cartoons and the famous toy line. It’s actually not as simple as that though. Everybody loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–well, a lot of people at least. Even now, maybe even more. This documentary makes an effort at conveying just how much you can’t believe how MUCH people love this franchise. And it’s because of an inherently good idea that people who knew how to merchandise took initiative with. (I guess when I put it like that, yes there was some selling out but nobody really compromised the vision, which is the great thing that the documentary shows.)

Turtle Power: Going Deep Into the Sewers in This Doc

The documentary starts off with the story of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird and this funny little comic they made about some ninja turtles. The comics went gangbusters on the indie comic scene! What was it about the idea that stuck with fans? Personally, I’d like to think it’s because turtles and pizza are just inherently cool–which is true. Specifically though, the series touched upon a new wave of cultural aesthetics that really entertained kids and adults. New York City was starting to become a vigorous city again after the depression of the ’70s. Pizza was becoming an American diet staple. And Japan, a producer of much of the popular technology and entertainment of the 1980s, was represented in a thematic, if somewhat stereotypical, core mythos of the Turtles universe. Adding in Saturday Morning Cartoons and some pretty decent TV plots, the fervor for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was instant.

Turtle Power: Drama? No drama.

While the two main creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are very much opposites in personality with Peter being more soft-spoken and serious & Kevin brasher and party-dude, their energy works for the turtles. The documentary talks a little bit about the frenetic relationship the two have and how visceral the history was. Their comic studio, the now famous Mirage Studios, was very serious about presenting a solid integrable line of content for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while still reveling in their sudden extreme wealth and fame. The opposing forces are pretty common in the turtles day to day scuffles. They have compared Peter to Donatello and Kevin to Raphael. It’s very appropriate. The spirit nature of TMNT is abstract at most, but this is a very Taoist energy, which seems appropriate maybe.

The friction really seems to arise in the subjects involved in the marketing of the turtles. Corporate execs who were responsible for merchandising the turtle really didn’t know what the turtles were or even care. The producer of the original movie was a bit scathed by the production as well, although it was a major hit–I’d say the first two acts were pretty solid but the third a little meh imho. The one guy who I think really brought life to the series was David Gross. Who seems like sort of a quiet voice in the history, but it’s obvious he knew how to bring Turtles to the world.

The voice actors of the original cartoon also share stories about learning they were going to do voice work for something called “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It probably seemed absurd to them, but let me tell you, I can hear their voices in my head now even after all these year, these guys knew how to evoke Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo, and it was fortunate they did because it helped kids understand the characters and relate to them. Oh, also did you know that James Avery, AKA Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, did the voice for Shredder in the original cartoon! What! He talks about the role in a later scene, and caught me totally off guard. The guy who does the voice for Krane, Pat Fraley, is also freaking hilarious, I loved his part in the documentary too.

Cowabunga: Toys

I really liked the section about toys. Everybody knows the turtle toys, ’cause there are a bazillion of them and a lot of people had them around. Most weren’t available forever or even really had much to do with the show–or anything, anywhere! They’re still coveted and collected today though, with reproductions and also originals getting snatched up at flea markets and on eBay. I mean it’s a hunk of plastic that looks like mutant rotting garbage people in radical colors. SIGN ME UP! I really do love these toys though. I have to restrain myself from giving in to that too much, but there are turtle artifacts scattered around my room and I need more!

That’s actually one of the interesting things about TMNT. Most of us are aware of the cartoon and toys above else, but the cartoon was actually created for the sole purpose of selling toys for Playmates Toys. And it definitely worked. They sold more action figure toys than in ANY other show in history. After the show was successful, the original plan was to dump it and stop production. The people involved with the show loved its success though, and it was picked up again for its own sake. I’m glad too cause that’s about where I got hooked!

Turtle Power: In a Nutshell

I think this was a very good documentary. It was factual and interesting. If you thought TMNT was a cash grab, you were… sort of right; BUT what we go was SO much more! In 2014 Turtles Issue 1 had its 30th Anniversary. I don’t know when this was filmed, but Peter and Kevin do make an appearance for this celebration. The history is accessible in this documentary because it is mostly about how a fun idea can change the world, so if you like turtles or just pop culture phenomena, I definitely recommend it. If you are into TMNT and want to know exactly what the origins are, maybe you want to read the comics or something or learn the lore, it’s all here.

Anyway, thanks for reading MrDavePizza.com. I enjoyed reviewing this very much, and I hope you enjoy what’s here. If you like what you see, have a look around! Time for ‘za.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top