Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990

Mutated turtles fighting crime on the streets of New York led by a mutated and wise rat. A martial arts master from Japan builds a criminal empire using impressionable kids and ninja warriors. A hockey mask wearing vigilante using sporting goods to deal out justice. A yellow raincoat wearing tough as nails TV reporter risking her life to cover it all. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collects a lot of variety in one short movie.

This is one of my favorite movies and my always accurate movie rating scale I give it well-earned Good. Why Good and not Fantastic? It’s a fun movie and it has a lot of laughs, but the budget is both a blessing and a curse. Low budget movies done well have this great raw feel to them, but because of the low budget you don’t always get the best talent. Fortunately, all the upfront characters are fantastic, but the minor characters tend to be caricatures, or simply can’t act.

It has a quirky, cheesy setup with the most elaborate plan ever to steel a wallet. Once the setup ends it immediately goes gritty with the mugging of April and the first “battle” for the turtles. The entire movie has a gritty, underworld feel, and the turtles fit right into it. Animatronic turtles have never been so believable.

Jim Henson

The movie is entirely practical effects, no CGI and thank goodness. In 1990 CGI was still in its infancy. Jurassic Park was three years away. At this time, character animation was ridiculous looking. Thankfully, Jim Henson, the pioneer and perfecter of animatronics was there to make this film reality. Sadly, Henson passed away just two months after the film’s release.

Henson had this ability to create children’s shows without being condescending or infantile. Sesame Street and the Muppets are classics for all ages because Henson found this sweet spot for all of us. TMNT is the Muppet Show on steroids mixing animatronics, puppetry, and human actors. The story is simple but endearing and at times deeply profound.

Character Building

The turtles, while shunned by society have a desire to do justice and help those in need. April is a classic journalist, seeking out the truth without inserting her own agenda. The kids of The Foot gang are hedonists and soon learn hedonism leaves one empty and without a family. Splinter reminds us death comes us for all, but a death without honor is the worst death of all.

I never read the comic book, so I can’t tell you how accurate it was, but I can tell you this; the voices for the turtles are spot on and differentiate them quickly. The animatronics while advance don’t allow for a lot of variety, but the voice actors more than make up for it.

Judith Hoag is April O’Neal. Not only can she pull of the tough reporter character, but every time she showed up in other shows I shouted, “It’s April!”

Elias Stokes as Casey Jones also great. He has the look of a tough guy from the streets and the voice and attitude to go with it. He struggles with how to interact with women and learns to be more respectful without losing his masculinity.


The movie is an endearing look at a blended family, caring for others and doing the right thing even when it requires personal sacrifice. Reaching beyond yourself to do something great without any expectation of reward. Given the epidemic of narcissism, social media “influencers”, and agenda driven “journalism” in the world today, that’s a good lesson to remember.





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