Crime is running rampant in New York City. Theft of merchandise keeps rising and pickpockets seem to be everywhere. No one really knows who is doing it, but some think that it is a gang of teens that are the culprits. Reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) has been hearing rumors from Little Tokyo. They believe that a mysterious group of Ninjas is responsible for the thefts. This group is known as the Foot Clan. Police Chief Sterns (Raymond Serra) ignores April’s claims but the head of the Foot Clan, The Shredder (James Saito), knows that April could be a problem for him. He orders his henchmen to silence the reporter.
Several ninjas attack her in the subway. A figure wearing a trench coat and fedora comes to her rescue. April is knocked unconscious. The figure takes her to a hideout in the sewers. When she comes to she is surrounded by four giant turtles and a giant rat. The rat tells April that his name is Splinter and once he was a regular rat. He learned ninjutsu by watching his master. Eventually he ended up in the sewers.
One day he found a broken jar and four baby turtles. The turtles were crawling around some green goop. The goop changed the turtles and Splinter into giant intelligent creatures. Splinter taught the turtles the art of ninjutsu and named them Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo and Michaelangelo. They are teenage mutant ninja turtles.
What the turtles don’t know is that one of the Foot Clan ninjas followed Raphael to the hideout and reported back to Shredder where the hideout was. While the turtles escort April home Shredder’s ninjas attack the hideout and kidnap Splinter. Not knowing where to go the turtles end up back at April’s apartment to spend the night.
Splinter is like a father to the turtles. Without him they are unsure what to do. With April on their side, and the assistance of a hockey stick wielding vigilante named Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), the turtles summon the strength to take on Shredder and his minions and find their hideout to try to rescue Splinter before it’s too late.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was released in 1990 and was directed by Steve Barron. It is a superhero/martial arts/fantasy film. Despite mixed reviews it was the highest grossing independent film up to that time. There are three films in the original franchise and two in the re-boot series. The franchise has a large fan base. It is a franchise that adults, which grew up with the turtles, are introducing to their kids. I can’t blame them. The movie is fun and silly with a bunch of one liners and a lot of ninja stuff. It never takes itself seriously and neither should you.
The four Turtles are named after artists of the Italian Renaissance: Donatello Bardi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Raffaelo Santi. The names of Michaelangelo and Raphael as Turtles have been Anglicized.
The Turtles themselves were created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London. Jim Henson said that the creatures were the most advanced that he had ever worked with. They were first made out of fiberglass, and then remolded out of clay. They were produced as molds to cast the whole body in foam rubber latex. The work at the Shop was completed within 18 weeks. This was the last theatrical film that Jim Henson was associated with before he died.
Puppeteers: Martin P. Robinson as Leonardo (facial assistant) David Forman as Leonardo (in-suit performer) David Rudman as Donatello (facial assistant) Leif Tilden as Donatello (in-suit performer) Ernie Reyes Jr. as Donatello (in-suit martial arts stunt double) David Greenaway as Raphael (facial assistant) Josh Pais as Raphael (in-suit performer) Kenn Troum as Raphael (in-suit martial arts stunt double) Mak Wilson as Michelangelo (facial assistant) Michelan Sisti as Michaelangelo (in-suit performer) Kevin Clash as Splinter (puppeteer) Rickey Boyd as Splinter (facial assistant) Robert Tygner as Splinter (assistant puppeteer).
The voices: Leonardo Brian Tochi (voice), Donatello Corey Feldman (Voice), Michaelangelo Robbie Rist (voice) Raphael Josh Pais (voice). The in-suit turtle actors also played minor cameo roles as well. Josh Pais played both the in-suit and voice of Raphael. The voice of the puppet Splinter was Kevin Clash. It takes three people to work it.
Much of the film was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina. The interior scenes in Wilmington were shot close to a nearby airport. It presented problems with the turtle performers' radio controlled animatronic heads. They would receive signals from the control tower, causing their facial expressions to go into involuntary spasms.
The Foot Clan is a parody of the Hand, a clan of ninjas from the Daredevil comics from Marvel.