Cartoon Corner: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) Animated Series
Updated: Nov 20
Show Name: Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles (aka Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and TMNT '87)
Genre: Action, Comedy and Drama
Developed: David Wise and Patti Howeth
Number of Seasons: 10
Number of Episodes: 193
Air Date: December 28th, 1987 to November 2, 1996
Like many kids around this time, I loved TMNT. The action figures were cool and the animated series was fun to watch. I remember the excitement when the first original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was released in 1990. I went to see it at the movie theatre which was an awesome treat, especially when you are 10 years old. Let us see if the original animated series still holds up to this day.
The concept for the show was inspired by the comic books of the same title.
The name of the original series was actually Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. This was especially true in European countries. The reason for this is that at the time, certain weapons such as nunchaku, were controversial and many of the first season's scenes with these weapons were replaced. It is weird to think about that in today's day and age but this is how it was back then.
Like many animated series of the time, toy lines were created due to the popularity of the series. Although, unlike He-Man or Transformers, the driver of the TV show was not the toys. It was the other way around, where the TV show inspired the toy line.
The TV series was loosely based on the comics. One of the main differences is with Splinter. Splinter is the humanoid rat that takes care and is sensei to the 4 turtles (Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael). He used to be a human named Hamato Yoshi. In the TV show, he rescues the turtles as a young boy drops them down the sewer. He realizes that they are in this strange green goop called mutagen. While washing of the goop, the and the turtles change. Since Yoshi was living in the sewers and was living with rats, he turned into a humanoid rat. While the turtles turned into humanoid type turtles. In other iterations of this cartoon, Splinter was the pet rat of Hamato Yoshi.
The main flow of the story is that you have the Splinter and turtles and they fight the evil Shredder and the Foot Clan. They also battle Krang which is a talking brain. He comes from Dimension X and he is hell bent on taking over the world with his army of Rock Soldiers.
During the show you meet other characters such as April O'Neil which is an investigative reporter and helps the turtles keep their identity a secret. She is also their eyes and ears in the real world as the turtles cannot be seen by the public. There is also Casey Jones which is a guy that looks like Jason (Friday the 13th) but fights for justice.
As explained above, Shredder is the main villain in the show. He is the arch nemesis of Hamato Yoshi. He vows that someday he will always catch those turtles. He was also voiced by James Avery (Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel Air). He has that distinctive voice that fits the character perfectly. He is also accompanied by 2 dumb guys BeeBop and Rocksteady. These two are essentially the comedy relief as they are always screwing up plans and can never carry out orders properly.
What do I like this show?
1) TMNT Original Theme
I keep repeating myself but many of the great TV shows have great themes, that you remember for a long time. This theme is no different. I still listen to it from time to time when I want to listen to an old school 80's theme.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) Theme
2) The Toyline
Everyone that I knew, that was my age wanted to have the TMNT action figures. The rich kids would have the whole collection with the Technodrome. Although the Technodrome was not great as a toy, it was awesome in our eyes.
I only had Michelangelo. But just having that alone was cool.
3) The Characters
There is a connection to these characters. Everyone had their favourite turtle. For some it was Raphael and others Leonardo. My personal favourite was always Donatello as he was the science nerd of the group.
The villains are worthy of that moniker. As mentioned above the main villain is called Shredder. What a kickass name for a villain. He is evil through and through. I also always liked Krang. Although he always made Shredder seem inferior.
Due to the fact that Krang was not in all the episodes, it was awesome when it was there. It felt like a treat. The banter between Shredder and Krang was always enjoyable.
Does this show still hold up?
For me the answer is yes. At least the first 7 seasons do. They had action, comedy and some serious moments. The last 3 seasons had a change of tone and for me personally, it was not as good as I remembered.
I always liked the animations at the time. I do not care what people say. There is a difference between hand drawn cartoons and computer generated graphics. For me hand drawn is so much better. Yes it is not perfect and it takes more time to complete, but they have that perfect finish.
Although the new remakes of the movie were ok, I still hold this TV show and the first original movie to be the standard for this franchise. There were other animated series that came after this and I guess I had grown out of it but I did not like them as much. At some point the Ninja Turtles were fighting in space and I just thought that they were stretching it.
All in all, I would recommend watching this series if they would appear on Netflix or other streaming services. It could get quite expensive buying the seasons.
Rating: 4 foot clans out of 5
What do you think? Was I way off base? Let me know at the coordinates below.