It might have started out as a joke by the creators, but when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie hit the big screen in the early 90s, it was anything but a joke to the people who lined up to see it in droves. Let’s be real for a minute, based on how popular TMNT was during the 80s and 90s, is anyone actually surprised that the movie was as successful as it was?
Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo were everyone’s favorite (or at least top 5) Saturday morning superheros, so when they went big screen, everyone took notice.
As fun as the movie was to watch, there was a lot going on behind the scenes that you likely didn’t realize. So here are 9 facts about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies that you didn’t know.
1. The movie was set in New York City but it wasn’t filmed there.
Though the shots that dealt with the iconic aspects of New York City were actually shot there, the movie itself was filmed in North Carolina. North Carolina actually allowed the director to close down entire streets for shooting. They also gave them a huge discount on what it would have cost to film the movie in NYC.
2. It was wildly successful for an independent film.
In the history of independent film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tops the list as the most successful indie film ever produced. It cost the production company $13.5 million to make it, and got a return of over $200 million for their investment.
3. Splinter was a puppet.
The puppet that the director used to act in place of Master Splinter took a lot of work to control. It actually required three people to be working it at the same time in order to it to work properly.
4. The fight scenes were pulled off in a unique way.
The fight scenes were some of the best parts of the movie. But when they hit final production and editing, the scenes had to be sped up. That’s right, they were filmed in slow motion because the turtles costumes weighed so much, it would have been impossible to film them at normal speeds.
5. Corey Feldman got screwed by producers.
Even though he was one of the biggest actors of the 80s, when Feldman signed on to be the voice of Donatello, he was paid a ridiculous $1,500. As he was just getting his life back on track after a battle with substance abuse, he figured the part would be a good way to make some quick money.
6. Tatsu was supposed to be a soulless killer.
The right hand of the Shredder, who was responsible for training all the foot soldiers for the Foot Clan, Tatsu is a bad-ass killing machine in the comics. The movie’s producers didn’t want it to be such a dark film, so they took out that particular aspect of Tatsu’s personality.
7. Jim Henson left his mark on the movie.
The turtles animatronic costumes were designed and built by the Jim Henson Company, the same company that brought you The Muppets and Sesame Street. The costumes were so complex and difficult to design, that they had to include roughly 60 pounds worth of mechanical moving parts in them.
8. Playing Raphael wasn’t easy for Josh Pais.
Pais was the only actor in the movie to do both the voice, and wear the costume for his character. It wasn’t easy for him: he suffered from sever claustrophobia while wearing the costume. It was so bad, that every time the director would yell “Cut,” he would immediately remove the head from his costume in order to get some fresh air.
9. It was one of Sam Rockwell’s first roles.
Before he landed roles in The Green Mile, Moon, Iron Man 2, and Galaxy Quest, Sam Rockwell made his major acting debut in the original TMNT movie. He played one of the teenage thugs who wound up working for the Foot Clan. He was also the character who helped lead the cops to the Foot Clan’s hideout.