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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was my thing. Just like any red-blooded American boy I loved me some G.I. JOE and just like any advanced sentient machine boy from a war torn planet in a distance galaxy I loved me some Transformers, but Ninja Turtles was my thing. I ate, slept and breathed Ninja Turtes. Two of those I did quite literally. I horribly disgusting Ninja Turtles cereal, which was basically Chex with rejected Lucky Charms marshmallows, and a Ninja Turtles sleeping bag. If they had sold green canned air with tops in a choice of four primary colors, I’m sure I would have inhaled nothing but. [Side note regarding the Turtles Cereal: They got away with it just being Chex by referring to those pieces as “Ninja Nets.” You know… all those nets they were always throwing around. I think Donatello was the one with the net. Or maybe that was Zeppo.]
From ages 7-10 I spent a good 2/3 of my day as a Ninja Turtle. I had 3 close friends and we each adopted a Turtle persona for recess, which we kept for several years. There wasn’t any fighting over who would claim which turtle. It was just clear. I was bossy and an insufferable know-it-all, so I was Leonardo. Cody was the most violent and we all agreed his wild flailing of the limbs most resembled actual karate, so he was Rahpael. Rob was the smartest and the most sensitive, so he was Donatello. And… fuck me in the sewer lair, I don’t remember who was Michaelangelo. That’s going to bother me. Anyway, we played TMNT at recess every day. We kept up our story lines and picked them up where they left off each day. We wore various bits of costumes at home, and tucked plastic weapons into our belt loops. I even had a blue Leo mask with a green snout on it that smelled like the inside of a tire. We watched the episodes hundreds of times. I had 6 VHS tapes with 2 or 3 episodes each that came from Burger King and played them to the point of ruin. Each and every birthday and Xmas from those years was nothing but Turtles wall to wall. One kid would get a new vehicle or playset and the rest of us would assemble it and place the decals while he enjoyed a piece of cake or a round of TMNT 2 on the NES. One year, Rob (Donatello-Rob from earlier) got the Sewer Lair Playset (probably the rarest turtles playset next to the Technodrome… NO ONE had the Technodrome), and we treated it as if his parents had just given him a car with machine guns mounted to the hood. I eventually got the Turtle Blimp (probably the rarest vehicle in the line), so my status as Leonardo, Chief Intolerable Asshole of the team wasn’t revoked.
I say all of that to say this: I don’t know if I care if Michael Bay fucks up the Ninja Turtles by making them aliens instead of mutants. Sure, that would basically shift the entire original purpose of characters (regular, ordinary creatures are elevated to extraordinary status through an accident of science), but that doesn’t really have any effect on how much I enjoyed them as a child or how fondly I remember them today. You might call fowl, but this is different them George Lucas going back and altering/invalidating my memories through meddling with existing films. And it’s different than Michael Bay taking a steaming cyber-crap all over Transformers since that franchise has never payed any real attention to it’s own continuity (SHUT UP WILLIS! I’VE DONE MY HOMEWORK!) to begin with. I think the only reason people my age were mad at him for Transformers is because he was making the first official live action version of the series. Ninja Turtles already had two great live action movies (we do not speak of the third one… what third one?), which almost perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the franchise in the 80’s and early 90’s and brought to life the version of the Turtles that I grew up with. Sure they were cheesy, but so was everything else back then. And if you’re still upset, remember that the movies strayed pretty far from the cartoon origin story by making Splinter and Hamato Yoshi two different beings. Do you remember the scene where the rat learns kung fu? That shit was ridiculous. [UPDATE: is has been
pedanted pointed out to me NUMEROUS times that the first movie followed the origin from the comics and it was the original cartoon that deviated plot-wise. Well, that just further proves my point that nothing is sacred in the TMNT franchise, so any changes made to the origin are fair game.]
The thing about Ninja Turtules is that unlike almost every other franchise from the 80’s, it never went away. It would go off the air for a year or two at most before it came back with a new incarnation. There were multiple cartoon shows, some continuations, some reboots. There was a live action show, For a while it was about alien Triceratopses, and one of the most recent cartoons took place over 100 years in the future. The only thing Bay talking about changing is literally THE ONLY THING that hasn’t already been changed. The weird thing about Ninja Turtles is every kid who was 8 years old at any point between 1987 and 2012 could have grown up with them, but not necessarily the same ones you did. Hell, I haven’t even mentioned the comics. I say let Bay do his worst. My bandanna is still blue, my katana is still plastic and my memories are intact. Cowabunga, you Fancy Bastards.
COMMENTERS: Feel free to weigh on on the aliens vs. mutant debate. Which Turtles were YOUR Turtles? What was your favorite Turtles toy/ coolest one you never owned? Mine were the rubberized figures released after the first movie. They were more flexible and had realistic skin. What was the weirdest Turtles tie-in product you ever saw? For me it was the “Ooze” fruit pies. I probably ate 100 of them, but damn do they seem toxic in retrospect.
UPDATE: My friend Paul gives his pitch for how the alien turtle thing could work and not make his inner 8 year old weep. He wants to believe SOOOO badly.