Cowabunga! It’s been 30 years since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first graced the cover of a comic book, and now they’re back, bigger and better than ever, in an all-new live-action movie that comes to theaters on August 8.
Fandango visited the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last year to bring you these delicious fun facts about everyone’s favorite pizza-lovin’ heroes in a half shell. Mmmm… did someone say pizza?
10 Totally Awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fun Facts, Dude!
How to Identify the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Blue = Leonardo
Orange = Michelangelo
Red = Raphael
Purple = Donatello
1. The Ninja Turtles Almost Never Existed
The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic debuted in 1984, and it was only meant to be a single issue. Creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were so hard up for cash they had to borrow money from Eastman’s uncle in order to produce it.
2. All of the Turtles in the New Movie Were Based on Existing Movie Characters
To assist in creating the most realistic portrayal of the Turtles ever, filmmakers used popular movie characters as inspiration.
According to Visual Effects Supervisor Pablo Helman, Leonardo has Russell Crowe’s eyes and Nelson Mandela’s lips, as well as the leadership sense of Tom Hanks’ character from Saving Private Ryan.
When it came to the pizza-lovin' jokester Michelangelo, they turned to the sly comedic delivery of Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.
For Donatello, the brains of the group, Leonard Nimoy's Spock inspired some of his more nerdy nuances.
And as for the gruff, misunderstood Raphael, they used a specific Clint Eastwood from the Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns to tap into the character's toughness and grit.
3. For Master Splinter, They Turned to This Iconic Japanese Actor
The Turtles’ mentor and adopted father was based entirely on famed Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who appeared in almost 170 films in his lifetime, most notably for director Akira Kurosawa. Fans of Kurosawa will notice Splinter’s hair looks familiar…
3. The Movie Features Groundbreaking Special Effects
To bring the Turtles to life, four human actors spent days training at a ninja boot camp and wore bulky motion-capture suits that were developed specifically for this production. As Helman explained, this technology has never been used in a movie before.
“Up until now all performance capture has been done with one camera in standard definition. This is HD and two cameras, so we’re able to capture all kinds of nuances in the performance."
Pete Ploszek, who portrayed the motion-capture for Leonardo, added, “Wearing dots on your face every day and having helmet-mounted cameras in your face took getting used to, as did the suit and just understanding the dimensions of moving around with a shell day to day! But honestly it was worth it. This technology is truly the frontier of moviemaking and it was exciting to be part of that.”
4. Megan Fox Was a Huge TMNT Nerd Growing Up
When it came to playing iconic TMNT news reporter April O’Neil, Megan Fox told us it was a part she wanted “badly,” having grown up a fan. “It was one of my favorite franchises as a kid, and I talked about it a lot on the Transformers set,” she said. “I was only like four when I saw the first movie. I was actually born next to a chemical plant in Tennessee, and I’ve seen mutated creatures!”
5. In Fact, Her Very First Crush Was on a Ninja Turtle
For real! “My favorite Turtle [as a kid] was Michelangelo because he’s the funny one. He was my first crush," Fox said. “I know it sounds weird but little girls have crushes on cartoon characters because it’s what we’re exposed to first. So him and Zack Morris [from Saved by the Bell] were my first crushes.”
6. This Is the Most Action Will Arnett Has Ever Done
Actor Will Arnett was recruited to play April O’Neil’s cameraman Vern Fenwick, a little-known character from the comics. “He’s covered action and really just wants to do puff pieces with April,” Arnett said.
Unfortunately for his character, it’s not long before Fenwick is required to jump right in on the action. “He’s a sloppy fighter and unorthodox, but he can take care of himself,” he says. “Apart from putting a roofie in Jason Bateman’s mouth [on Arrested Development], the action in this is a huge departure for me. And I wanted to wait till I was later in life to do it!” Arnett joked.
7. The New Shredder Is Pretty Fierce
It’s not a Turtles movie without their arch nemesis Shredder. In this film he’s in in cahoots with William Fichtner, whose character is obsessed with shogun culture and collects as much as he can. That’s why Shredder’s suit looks larger and fiercer than ever before.
“He has incredible gadgetry on his suit,” Pablo Helman says. “He’s a master of ninjutsu, of course, but in addition we gave him an armored mech-suit that has electromagnetic blades he can throw and retract.”
8. The Movie Is Darker and Edgier...
In creating a more grounded, real-world Ninja Turtles movie, the tone has naturally shifted away from the animated series toward the Turtles' comic roots. "It’s a darker, scarier world than you’ve seen previously, and I think it’s very realistic," Megan Fox said. "That tone sort of separates it from the toys and animated version."
This includes seeing how, exactly, the Turtles came to be. "We’re going to see how they transformed, but from a human point of view," Helman added. "We’re going to see how they grew up and who they are. If you follow the mythology, these are creatures who are not being accepted by the world, and they feel that. It’s part of the movie, too. How did they grow up to be isolated. They’re always fighting in shadows."
9. But It Still Has Great Things to Say About Family and Teamwork
Sure, this may be a more "summer blockbuster" version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that doesn't mean the core themes that have made them so popular over the years are going away. Quite the contrary. "The underlying theme is the need for family and the help and support of others," Arnett said. "That no man is an island. It's about family and inclusion, and that’s always been the message. That’s what kids will be left with."
10. Munchin’ the Numbers
Check out these totally radical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fast Facts:
-- Gain more Turtle cred by calling each character by their nickname: Donnie, Mikey, Raph (sounds like Raf) and Leo.
-- Over 400 animators worked on the new movie.
-- It took two hours each day to get the Turtle actors into suits and apply makeup for digital effects.
-- There are 750 talking Turtle shots in the film.
-- The Turtles new lair is 3,000 square feet of awesomeness.
-- In its biggest year, TMNT sold over 100 million toys (globally) in a single year (units, not dollars!) – a record for an action figure line.
-- The four Turtles are very close to being equal in popularity, with Leonardo slightly in the lead, closely followed by Raphael.