Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:The Movie

Released on March 30, 1990 (USA)
Running time: 87 minutes


April O’Neil
Judith Hoag
Casey Jones
Elias Koteas
Michelan Sisti
Leif Tilden
Li Josh Pais
David Forman
Danny Pennington
Michael Turney
Charles Pennington
Jay Patterson
Chief Sterns
Raymond Serra
The Shredder
James Saito
Toshishiro Obata
Head Thug
Sam Rockwell
Kitty Fitzgibbon
Cab Driver
Louis Cantarini
Movie Hoodlum #1
Joe D’Onofrio
Corey Feldman
Brian Tochi
Robbie Rist
Li Josh Pais
Kevin Clash
The Shredder
David McCharen
Michael McConnohie


Steve Barron
Todd W. Langen
Bobby Herbeck
Director of Photography
John Fenner
Music Composer
John Du Prez
Production Designer
Roy Forge Smith
Executive Producer
Raymond Chow
Kim Dawson
Simon Fields
David Chan
John Fenner
Film Editors
William D. Gordean
Sally Menke
James R. Symons
Lynn Kressel
Art Direction
Gary Wissner
Set Decoration
Barbara Kahn
Brendan Smith
Costume Designer
John Hay
Jeff Goodwin
Dalaree Goodwin
Hair Stylist
Michelle Johnson
Production Supervisor
Doug Cole
Production Manager
David Blake Hartley
Executive in Charge of Production
Thomas K. Gray
Special Effects
Ken Barley
Barry Fowler
Dave Kelly
Joe Digaetano
David Fletcher
Visual Effects
Ray Scott
Reginalf Barnes Jr.
Paul Bucossi
Thomas Dewier
Norman Douglass
Gene Harrison
Pat E. Johnson
Yuen Mo Chow
Ip Choi Nam
Shawn O’Neil
Ernie Reyes Jr
Michael Russo
Kenn Scott
Chi Wai Chiang
Deborah Watkins
Paul Beahm



April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) a beautiful, young television investigative reporter at Channel 3’s Eyewitness News, is doing a series of stories on the recent escalation of robberies in New York City. One evening after her nightly newscast, April encounters thieves in the act of robbing one of the TV station’s remote vans.

The street lights go out. We hear the sounds of a struggle. Shadowy figures lock in combat in the darkness behind her.

When the police arrive, they find April dazed but unharmed, with her assailants neatly tied up around her.

Inside the sewers of New York, April’s rescuers are revealed: Raphael, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, and Donatello – the illustrious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – who have returned to their subterranean den to report to their ninja master: an aging, four-foot tall talking rat named Splinter. After some pizza, the tempestuous Raphael goes to Central Park and gets into a fight with Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), a self-appointed vigilante who wields a variety of sports implements as weapons. A martial-arts athlete, Casey announces to himself that it is time to go into the dangerous, criminal world of the streets and save New York. “Somebody’s gotta do it!” he says.

Meanwhile, the silent crimes continue to escalate, despite April’s prodding of ineffective police chief Ross Sterns (Raymond Serra) to clean up the city. April does manage to incite the group responsible for the crimes: a clandestine organization known as The Foot, which attacks her again, this time in the subway.

Again, the heroic Raphael saves her.

This time, however, he brings her to the Turtles’ sewer den. Here, Splinter and his Turtles tell the spooked April the story of their origin, which involves a sewer encounter with radioactive ooze that caused them to grow to the size of men and gave them the gift of speech.

As the Turtles escort April to her apartment, Splinter is “rat-napped” by The Foot.

After the TMNT return home and find their Sensei missing, the heartbroken and confused Turtles return to April’s apartment, while The Foot takes Splinter to its headquarters: a huge warehouse that is a cross between Pinocchio’s “Pleasure Island” and a ninja “Fagin’s Lair.” It is here that The Shredder builds his empire, using an army of ninja-trained teenagers as his thieves.

One of these is Danny Pennington, the estranged son of April’s boss, and Danny tips The Shredder off as to where the troublesome Turtles are.

Armed with this knowledge, The Foot launches an all-out attack, demolishing April’s apartment in a knock-down, drag-out battle as she, the Turtles and Casey Jones (always on the lookout for a good fight, but overwhelmed by numbers this time) all flee.

The heroes arrive at April’s childhood home in the country, where the somber Turtles deal with their defeat, each in his own way.

In the calm serenity of the countryside Casey and April discover each other.

The Turtles now discover, through a mystical communique with their still-imprisoned Master Splinter, that the true ninja is not of the body, but of the mind. Accordingly, they all begin to retrain and hone their ninja abilities.

With their new knowledge and skills, the Turtles return to the city. While Casey manages to rescue Splinter with Danny’s help, the Turtles engage in their final battle with The Foot – in the sewers, on the streets and upon rooftops.

The battle climaxes with Splinter defeating The Shredder, who is revealed to be the assassin of Splinter’s own ninja master.

New York is saved, and the Turtles are reunited with their “father.”

boAn 888 Production and a Steve Barron Film directed by Barron and released through New Line Cinema, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is a story of love and strength, humor and heroism. Based on the characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and produced by Kim Dawson, Simon Fields and David Chan with Graham Cottle as co-producer, and written by Todd W. Langen and Bobby Herbeck, it is the tale of four tiny green turtles owned by a little boy who accidentally dropped them into a New York sewer. Here, they were enveloped by a radioactive ooze which miraculously gave them the gift of speech, caused them to grow very large and to walk upright. Over the years (hidden behind dark sunglasses, low fedoras and high collared trench coats – while making regular forays into the city to see movies and go shopping), they picked up surfer jargon and other customs of their teenage human counterparts. Receiving special strength from the radioactive ooze, they become state-of-the-art super heroes on the half shell, imbued not only with a highly developed sense of humor but also with great physical power enabling them to fight for truth, justice and the American way – and then to sit down and party on with an extra-large pizza!

“We made this movie for both kids and adults,” says director Barron. “The tone is unique. Strange creatures living in a contemporary setting. It touches the subconscious of most people.”

Commenting on the human stars of the Turtles’ picture, producer David Chan says that Judith Hoag is wonderful in the role of April and that it is “a charming sight to see her and the Turtles together. She brings life to April. And Elias Koteas is perfect as our Casey Jones. He and Judith look very well together.”

“She can’t help feeling something for Raphael,” explains Hoag, of her April character. “After all, he saved her life twice! Even though it is kind of a beauty and the beast thing, I think it was important that we created a special connection between them. Of course, that did help cause tension between Casey and Raph.”

Hoag adds that she thinks April does fall a little bit in love with Raphael and that the great challenge in acting out their on-screen relationship was to create something not written. “We projected a rare closeness between a human and a creature – an unspoken, unconditional loyalty and love,” she says. “He is such a hero! Why shouldn’t he be able to cause something to stir in April’s heart?”

When Casey Jones meets April and the Turtles, his character undergoes a metamorphosis. In the beginning, Koteas says of his role, Casey has all this pent-up anger against the thieves and thinks they should all be physically hurt by him for their crimes. He has one focus and that is to “get” these street criminals.

“Then suddenly this beautiful face comes along in the midst of all the scum on the streets,” he explains. “Casey falls for April. He changes. She softens him. He’s not so sure of himself now. He’s vulnerable. But he gets himself together and – along with the Turtles – goes out with her to ‘get’ the punks. She does it with her TV news, and he does it with his hockey sticks.”

James Saito, brings just the right touch of ominous strength to his role of the arch villain, The Shredder. Much like Fagin in “Oliver Twist,” the cunning Shredder is head of The Foot gang, a band of teenage thieves he has ninja-trained to rob unsuspecting citizens in New York City. Sait’s menacing, notable performance – sharp, clear and at times, frightening – is seen especially when he battles the Turtles’ aging ninja master, Splinter. The Shredder, it is revealed, is the demonic assassin who murdered Splinter’s beloved master, Hamato Yoshi, and Yoshi’s beautiful wife, Tang Shen.

One of the teenagers the Shredder has enticed into his Foot gang is rebellious thirteen year-old Danny Pennington (Michael Turney), the son of April’s “Eyewitness News” boss Charles Pennington (Jay Patterson). Restless, impressionable and often left to himself by his busy father, young Danny was easy prey for the Shredder. But finally realizing he must take the high road, Danny abandons his evil mentor to help the Turtles.

Of his Danny Pennington role, Michael says he has seen a lot of kids take the wrong road and is glad he never moved in that direction. The part he plays in this film, he says, is a good lesson for kids because it shows that if you break the law, there’s a good chance you might wind up in jail. “I was arrested in the movie,” he says with a slow smile, “but I’m glad it was only acting.”

Producer David Chan, who was vice-president of international production for the Golden Harvest group in Hong Kong , says that working with the creatures during filming was a slow and painstaking process. But he knew it was well worth the hard work everyone put in when he saw the first “dailies” of the film shot the previous day. An expert on action/adventure movies, Chan has supervised production on such films as “Death Hunt” (Charles Bronson), “The Cannonball Run” (Burt Reynolds), “The Big Brawl” (Jackie Chan), “Lassiter” (Tom Selleck) and “Bruce Lee the Legend.” He also produced the English version of “Jackie Chan’s Police Force.”

Steve Barron directed the much honored “Electric Dreams.” As partners, Steve Barron and Simon Fields made award winning videos on Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” Aha’s “Take on Me,” and the stellar “Billie Jean,” the first single from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album which became the biggest selling album in the history of music business.

When Steve Barron was preparing for the picture, he wondered how he would get a performance from an animatronic rat and four huge living, characterized turtles. The only way to do it, he decided, was to attempt brave new technology.

“It’s an unwritten law that you don’t try more than one new technology at a time in one film,” he explained. “But in this picture, we attempted six!” Even though there were some initial problems – everything fell into place in just the right way and “overall, we did get wonderful performances from our four hard working Turtles and Splinter – and all our other actors as well!”


About the Sets and Locations:

Besides the film’s very authentic looking New York rooftop sets created at the North Carolina Film Studios by production designer Roy Forge Smith, one of the picture’s most important sets was the studio’s back lot where the company filmed night scenes for almost two weeks.

To prepare for creating the design sketches, Smith and his art director, Gary Wissner, went to New York City about four months before filming was to begin and took still photographs of the rooftops there and the tenement area on Bleecker Street where they imagined Casey Jones would live and April’s junk shop/loft apartment would be – with manholes in the street close by that would lead to the Turtles’ sewer den.

Smith’s talented construction team – using his sketches – then set about matching as closely as possible the film studio’s back lot street to the photographs. When the carpenters finally had the sets reinforced, and in some cases, rebuilt, the painters came in and renamed some of the shops, restaurants and apartment hotels, and aged all the buildings with a mixture of various kinds of ink, paint and plaster. The result was an extremely authentic look and the same kind of feeling that is present on the real life Bleecker Street in Manhattan.

One of the problems Smith had, he says, was with the two manholes leading to the sewer. An eight foot square room had to be constructed below each manhole for the Turtles to go in and out of on their way to and from their sewer lair.

“When we started digging in the street we hit water at about five feet because – we found out – the whole North Carolina coastal area near the Cape Fear River is swamp land and just under the surface it is all a natural spring,” explained Smith. “We finally solved the problem by pouring concrete into the underground rooms to keep the water out.”

Smith, who has designed such films as”Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” says that when he first was given the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” assignment, he did not do anything the first week except meditate about the project – which is the way he approaches every new film.

“To get motivation for the proper atmosphere in the designs, I started out by imagining I was a Turtle living in the sewers under Manhattan,” says Smith. “Our director, Steve Barron, had story boards drawn for all the action scenes, so that was a big help. I wanted to get the Turtles’ domestic environment, their den, just right because it is important to a lot of kids out there who follow the adventures to create the definitive home of the Turtles, the one the kids will recognize, rough but inviting, furnished by junk swept down the storm drain and made workable by Donatello, the fix-it genius who can repair anything.”

In the designs’ early stages, Smith showed his drawings to two young boys he knew. They said: “Yeah, that’s it! That’s it! But where are the empty pizza boxes?” Needless to say, their advice was heeded, and pizza boxes were added to the set.

While in New York City, photographing Bleecker Street, Smith and Rissner also tried, without success, to gain access to a city sewer hoping to get some ideas to help give the picture’s sewer set a look of authenticity. They were, however, allowed to explore a long-abandoned, one-hundred year-old Brooklyn subway system – originally built for steam trains – whose structure principle is the same as a sewer. They also went into a water tunnel which had huge water pipes running through it that were used to pump water into the Central Park reservoir. Smith shot still photographs of these two underground explorations and used them as inspiration in creating the Turtles’ den and the film’s actual sewer corridors. “Then our set decorators dressed it with a dilapidated couch, old chairs, a cracked but working TV set, second-hand books, a weather -beaten table, a shattered mirror, a hanging tire, an ancient stove, splintered bunks and a faded hammock to sleep in; torn pictures on the wall and a battered old telephone in a broken-down phone booth where the Turtles phone for pizza all the time.”

Smith went on to say that to make the den even more authentic-looking, he imagined that it would have been flooded many times, so he gave it a tide mark – a ring on the walls indicating a long ago high water mark. And knowing such a room would acquire layers of soot, condensation, rust and algae, he tried to get the maximum amount of this texture by covering much of it with brick, plaster and a kind of stucco paint put on with a roller that combines different elements of aging colors with the base color which is literally splattered on the wall with a pump spray to give it that derelict texture look as though dampness over time had slowly flecked away at the paint leaving flakes all over. “We put rust marks running down the walls, ceiling leak marks and rusty colored water marks everywhere — all done with inks, paints and plaster,” adds Smith who, at the beginning of his career, had intended to become an artist. “To me, the whole thing is like a three dimensional canvas which is a projection from my original sketches.”


About the Creatures:

The outrageous, fearsome-four green teen Turtles, Raphael, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Donatello and their ninja mystical master Splinter were all brought to life by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in London. Although the full extent of what they are is a carefully guarded secret – a broad over-view of their creation may be told.

Jim Henson said that the creatures are the most advanced he had ever worked with or created. “It is a lot easier to put everything you need inside a creature when you are able to start from the beginning with your own designs.”

Henson said he thought the reason his projects have been so successful is because of the puppeteers. Led by Creature Shop creative supervisor John Stephenson and production supervisor William Plant, work on constructing the Turtles and Splinter began in February of 1989.

“We first made fiber glass body casts of each creature taking great care to give them all their own individual characteristics,” says Stephenson who has developed characters for such films as “Dark Crystal,’ and “Return to Oz,” plus the NBC television series “The Jim Henson House.”

When the body casts were completed, they were given to sculptors to be rebuilt with clay. “They sculpted the muscle structure in the feet, calves, thighs, chests, shoulders, necks, upper arms and then hands and forearms – and, finally, the head and shell pieces,” Stephenson revealed. They were then produced as molds to cast the whole body in foam rubber latex – and then painted, giving each character its own distinctive marks and coloration.”

Once the foam latex form was completed, complex, detailed work on mechanizing the fiber glass heads began.”A system was worked out that had never been done before,”notes Stephenson. “Our electronics computer expert, Dave Housman, developed new technology utilizing radio control, computerized speed, power and simplicity of operation.”

In the past, a close-up of an animatronic’s head, Stephenson explained, has required several puppeteers and much rehearsal to produce the required expressions. For the Turtles’ movie, a way had to be found to enable close-up Turtle heads to lip sync fast and efficiently combining all their extreme cartoon type facial expressions.

With a talented array of over fifty team members consisting of supervisors, designers, sculptors, mechanics, costumers, seamstresses, plasterers, painters and an electronic computer expert – all working together – Henson’s Creature Shop was able to complete work on the Turtles and Splinter in a very short eighteen week period and have them delivered on time to the North Carolina Film Studios for the start of filming.

The movie’s chief puppeteer and second unit director was Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) who had the important responsibility of directing many of the stunt scenes and also making sure that all the puppeteers perform their characters to the very best advantage.

Before filming began, Brian ran rehearsals with the performers and the characters so he would know their performance capabilities and could be of important assistance to director Steve Barron during the actual shoot. One of his favorite scenes, he said, was where Raphael carries the unconscious April into the Turtles sewer’ den. “There’s a nice feeling between the two of them and it is a lovely sort of image to see these four huge Turtles and a giant rat living in a home in the sewers under New York City.”

When aspiring puppeteers seek his advice, Brian says only that they must regard puppeteering as a creative craft you have to work at and train for so that “you can finally get your hands to do what you, instinctively want them to do. And once you are there performing, you must have the ability to pull yourself up and out of yourself and into your hand.”

A step further, he says, is when you learn “to perform the character while looking at the character only on the monitor. Then you are just concentrating on the screen character – and that’s the character you really bring to life – without thinking of your hands. The effect is much more believable and more magnificent.”



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