TMNT: The Complete History Of Everyone's favourite Pizza-Loving, Radioactive Turtles

If you were a kid in the 1980s or 90s, you probably spent some time reading, watching, or playing with four adolescent reptilian martial arts experts with irregular DNA.

To make sure I got the scoop on everyone’s favourite heroes in a half-shell, I went straight to the source—co-creator Peter Laird—who was kind enough to answer our burning questions about the franchise. If you’re looking for a thorough history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this is a pretty good place to start. 

Check out the complete history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles >

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Artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created TMNT in 1983.

The first comic book sold 3,000 copies within a few weeks, making it an instant success.

The Teenage Mutuant Ninja Turtle brand started to expand in the late '80s.

  • TMNT ran under the Mirage Studios banner from 1984-1995 for 75 regular issues, as well as dozens of mini-series, one-shots, and limited series spin-off titles.
  • Archie Comics used the cartoon Turtles for 72 issues of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, which ran from 1988--1995.
  • The Mirage Turtles moved to Image Comics in 1996 for 13 issues and a mini-series, before being canceled in 1999. While at Image, the series took some odd turns: Splinter became a bat, Donatello changed into a cyborg, Leonardo lost a hand, and Raph became the new Shredder.
  • When Peter Laird brought the Turtles back to Mirage in 2001, he completely ignored the Image years and they are no longer considered part of the TMNT canon. His new series ran until 2010 with 30 issues in print, and #31 available only online. Although the series was not officially concluded, Laird has no immediate plans to publish more.
  • Since August 2011, publisher IDW has been running a new TMNTcomic, featuring artwork from co-creator Kevin Eastman.

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Ever wonder why TMNTs love pizza so much? Don't ask the creators.

The TMNT cartoons became a hit in 1988 and ran continuously until 1996.

A TMNT CGI cartoon show is now in the works.

In 2000, Eastman sold his stake in the Turtles to Laird, who in turn sold the rights to Viacom in 2009. Through Nickelodeon, they plan to release a CGI cartoon and accompanying toyline later this year. The full cast has yet to be announced, but so far so good!

Rob Paulsen, who voiced Raphael in 1988, will return as Donatello
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Jason Biggs of American Pie is Leonardo
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Sean Astin from The Goonies and Lord of the Rings stars as Raphael
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Phil LaMarr from MadTV plays Baxter Stockman
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Mae Whitman, from Arrested Development and Scott Pilgrim, plays April O'Neil

The TMNT action figures was the third most popular line in the first four years of Turtlemania.

Before TMNT, Playmates Toys made almost exclusively dolls and plastic playsets for toddlers. But they were looking to get into the lucrative action figure market, so when TMNT's licence manager Mark Freedman approached them, it was a perfect match.

From 1988--1997, Playmates produced around 400 TMNT figures, as well as dozens of vehicles and playsets. For the first four years of Turtlemania, about $1.1 billion worth of toys were sold, making the Turtles the #3 top-selling toy figures ever at the time, behind only G.I. Joe and Star Wars.

Playmates has made nearly all the TMNT figures produced, including the ones for the upcoming Nickelodeon series.

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Director Steve Barron—a MTV music video pioneer—signed on to direct the first TMNT movie.

The second TMNT movie features a cameo from Vanilla Ice.

The Turtles reached a new generation of kids when a computer-animated film was released in 2007.

There were some pretty crazy ideas for TMNT that never made it into the show or movies.

The TMNT arcade game and video games were also a huge hit.

The Turtles have been featured in 23 arcade and home video games since 1989, on just about every console and computer system imaginable. Their self-titled debut is one of the best-selling NES games not made by Nintendo, with roughly 4 million copies sold, despite also being considered one of the toughest games for the NES.

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The Turtles hit the road for their stage musical tour in 1990.

In 1990, Pizza Hut sponsored the Coming Out of Their Shell Tour, a stage musical that featured the Turtles as a rock band. The show debuted at Radio City Music Hall, then set out on a 40-city tour across the country. However, if you missed the show, a live recording, as well as a making-of special, were available on VHS (and now YouTube).

The soundtrack was in record stores, but you could also get a copy at Pizza Hut, free with the purchase of any large one-topping pizza and a commemorative collector's cup.

TMNT almost added a fifth turtle to its crew, Kirby, in the mid-1990s.

Turtlemania got a little out of hand in Britain...

The Turtles also went green in 1991, when they starred in a kids' environmentalism book.

One episode of the cartoon series was so violent that it never even aired in America.

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