If you've been on the internet lately, odds are a few people were complaining about the latest incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - now brought to you by professional childhood-ruiner Michael Bay. It's your typical fare for a Michael Bay movie (note that he's only producing it) - lots of destruction, military presence, Megan Fox, the words "Michael Bay" appearing on screen sending a shudder down your spine, etc. It looks pretty dumb - but here's the catch: TMNT has ALWAYS been dumb. And dumb in a way that's meant to appeal to whatever generation of kids it's aiming for. This new version isn't ruining your childhood any more than pretty much every single previous version of TMNT. Let's take a look back...
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003)
After a long absence from the world of animation, TMNT returned in 2003. It was an attempt to bridge the gap between the original animated series and the comics that started it all - there were less terrible puns, more attempts at character development, and less goofy slapstick music.
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: After a few seasons, the show was completely retooled multiple times - one involving the turtles training to learn a bunch of mystical abilities in order to defeat some alternate version of Shredder, another that sent them 100 years into the future, and another that sent them back to the present day to battle a cybernetic version of Shredder. By the end, it was a mess of unintelligible abandoned plotlines and directionless virtual reality action. Also, the opening song was REALLY bad.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997)
Finally - a TMNT show that uses the creepy actors-covered-in-rubber aesthetic of the original films! This was a dream come true for kids everywhere who rushed home after school because organized sports was a terrifying prospect.
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: The big hook for The Next Mutation was the addition of a new turtle character - a sister for the core group, named Venus de Milo. Really, the group could totally stand to have another female voice beyond yellow-jumpsuit wearing reporters. Unfortunately, Venus de Milo looked like this:
Yep. They straight up added turtle boobs, which is extremely creepy-looking. You know what the difference between male turtles and female turtles is? Hint: it's not human-esque shell-breasts (it has to do more with the position of the cloaca and the concavity of the shell). Venus was so poorly received that Peter Laird (co-creator of TMNT) will not allow her to ever be mentioned in TMNT again.
However, in the world of erotic fan art, Peter Laird has no power, and GOOD LUCK searching for TMNT stuff in Google Images without running into some seriously upsetting Venus de Milo pictures.
Mutant Turtles: Superman Legend (1996)
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meets anime" is pretty close to the wet dream of every indoor kid from the early 90s. And there was one!
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: ...one that lasted two episodes, each of which was designed to specifically market a new toyline. Also, taking a nod from Power Rangers, the four turtles could combine themselves (Megazord-style) into a single powerful entity called Turtle Saint.
Also, the turtles powered up to turn into ultra-creepy Wolverine-turtle knockoffs. So there's that, too.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Image Comics (1996)
The Ninja Turtles were getting back to their darker comic roots with the Image Comics relaunch of the series, even returning to the black-and-white artwork of the original.
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: ...aaaand it was TOO dark. Like, WAY too dark. Like, an INSANE amount of too dark for a story of mutant turtles who were good at karate, which is sorta an inherently silly, light-hearted concept.
Leonardo lost a hand. Raphael was horrifically burned across his face. Donatello was paralyzed and turned into a cyborg. Splinter became a mutant bat. Raphael eventually BECOMES the Shredder. It was like someone spilled a bunch of Batman plotpoints into the mix. Whatever Michael Bay does, he probably won't resort to this stuff.
After wallowing for years as a cartoon, there was an attempt made to bring the turtles to the big-screen again - and for the first time, as an animated film.
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: April O'Neil and Casey Jones are - for some reason - digging up Aztec relics. Naturally, this leads to a bunch of evil monsters being released from another dimension - real boring, uninteresting, and mostly incoherent enemies, all while teasing the idea that eventually you might see Shredder in a sequel mayyybe. It was a pretty boring, nonsensical plot, even for kids who were into TMNT.
To be fair, there is a pretty sweet fight between Leonardo and Raphael halfway through.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)
The movie that ended the live action TMNT movie franchise back in the day sent the turtles back in time to feudal Japan. From the videogames at least, TMNT traveling through time has a pretty good reputation - so how bad could it have been?
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: Pretty much everything got a downgrade in this movie - the producers cheaped out and used another effects company instead of Jim Henson to design the turtle suits (which ended up looking even cheaper, creepier, and gave them all a bunch of weird spots), the turtles literally give a Wayne's World-style "Schwing!" when seeing April's legs (for those of you unaware, "Schwing!" means 'boner', making it a VERY CREEPY THING FOR THE TURTLES TO SAY), and the film as a whole is a lot more cringeworthy than the previous entries.
And this cannot be said enough: "SCHWING!" is something the turtles say in this film.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
The movie was meant to lighten up the unusually dark predecessor with more humor, a bit more slapstick, and SIGNIFICANTLY more Vanilla Ice raps.
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: I mean, there's an elongated section where Vanilla Ice performs an impromptu rap about turtles who are also ninjas. Imagine if Justin Bieber showed up in the new film and sang an upbeat pop ballad called "Girl, You Know These Ninja Turtles Represent My Love For You." Well, that would be BETTER than Vanilla Ice, because Vanilla Ice was an enormous hack who stole a Queen/David Bowie song and called it his own.
If you're the kind of person who would be upset at the idea of Justin Bieber singing a song during the climax of the new TMNT movie, you should be VERY upset at Secret of the Ooze.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)
The original live action film was actually a lot more ambitious than you might realize - first off, it was an independent film (and the highest-grossing one of its time) and the live-action turtle suits were the most complex thing Jim Henson Studios had ever done (in the words of Jim Henson, at least).
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: You think the CGI turtles from the Michael Bay film are creepy-looking? CHECK THIS SHIT OUT:
But beyond that general level of creepiness and the big, wide dead-eyes of the turtles, the movie had a weird darkness to it - Splinter was being tortured for a good portion of the film, April's surrogate son has joined up with a murderous gang, and the turtles straight up try to murder Shredder by crushing him in a trash compactor (not that he wasn't asking for it, but it was a pretty huge departure from the animated series, where the turtles only ever killed robots).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Animated Series (1987)
'This is it - the big one, the one that truly introduced the Ninja Turtles to the masses and became the foundation of pretty much everything to follow. Find a 25-35 year old on the internet, and they'll probably have a nostalgia-gasm at the mere MENTION of the animated series, the toys, or the cards (that included a pink shard of glass referred to as "gum").
Why It "Ruined" TMNT: It was a ploy to sell toys. That's all it was. It was an elaborate, decade-long commercial to sucker kids into getting their parents to buy them all the toys and merchandise they could afford. You think the Michael Bay movie is a cynical cash-grab? This show was designed from the beginning to make TMNT palatable to kids in order to manipulate them. That's right - your entire childhood is a lie.
You see - before the animated series, TMNT was a niche comic book that was meant to parody and satirize other grimdark comics of the early 80s (Frank Miller's Ronin, Daredevil, and New Mutants mostly). The entire idea was how silly it would look for giant turtles (who you'd think would be super slow) turn into quick-attacking ninjas, defending the streets of New York City.
But the general idea (moreso than the comic itself) was really REALLY appealing to merchandisers - kids love animals, and ninjas! But the comic wasn't very kid-friendly - so why not make a Saturday morning cartoon out of it that makes all the turtles goofy and fun-lovin' and softens all of the hard edges? That's just what they did. And it worked - kids bought into it wholesale.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out Of Their Shells (1990)
It was a live musical tour, sponsored by Pizza Hut, and it looked like this. LOOK AT THESE GLORIOUS PICTURES AND TELL ME MICHAEL BAY IS THE ONE WHO'S RUINING YOUR CHILDHOOD:
How It "Ruined" TMNT: Not convinced yet?
Kids today will probably love the Bay version of TMNT. Which is fine! Each version of TMNT has been designed to appeal to kids of that generation. That's why you feel so much nostalgia for whatever version you grew up with. And that's why newer entries are less appealing to you.
Although, seriously, if there isn't a super-weird pizza order from Michelangelo, I'm gonna flip out.