Gritty, funny, heartfelt, and action-packed, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie opened in theaters on March 30, 1990. For a generation of Turtles fans, seeing Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael on the big screen was a childhood-defining experience.
Thirty years after its release, the movie holds up incredibly well. The jokes still land. There’s real pathos when Raphael goes into a coma from the beating he took on April’s rooftop. Casey Jones has an honest-to-God character arc and learns to love his new friends like family. Shredder, and his Pied Piper-esque recruitment of young kids to the Foot Clan, is far creepier in retrospect. And the costumes, which were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, are still unrivaled; they hold up far better than the CGI Turtles from the 2014 reboot.
Here are 42 Easter Eggs, facts, and trivia about the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which is currently available on Netflix. Cowabunga! (I made a funny! Ha-ha-ha-ha!)
1. Product Placement: Burger King
There’s product placement all over the movie; here’s some Burger King packaging circa 1990. At the time of the movie’s release, Burger King did a cross-promotion where they sold video cassettes of the TMNT animated kid’s show for $3.49 each.
2. Meet April O’Neil
Judith Hoag plays April O’Neil. April is not the only month-themed reporter in the movie. The news anchor at the same TV station is named June, and April’s direct competition at Channel 5 is named May Williams.
Hoag did not appear in either TMNT sequel, and she was replaced by Paige Turco. By Hoag’s own admission in an interview with Variety, she complained about the six-day shooting schedule and the movie’s violence, which led to her not being invited back.
3. Channel 3 News
April works for Channel 3 News in the movie. In the 1987 animated series, she reports for Channel 6. In the original comic, she’s a computer programmer rather than a news reporter.
4. A Homage In Yellow
The moviemakers originally wanted April to wear a yellow jumpsuit like she did in the cartoon. They had Hoag put on a white jumpsuit dyed yellow, but they ended up abandoning the idea. April does, however, wear a yellow raincoat in the alley scene where she’s mugged.
5. The Domino’s Noid Mascot
In the opening credits scene, we can see an action figure of Domino’s Pizza’s mascot, The Noid, lying in the sewer water. The Noid had its heyday in the 1980’s, although he’s been brought back for occasional revivals and cameo appearances in the years since. And this isn’t the only nod to Domino’s Pizza in the movie.
6. Corey Feldman, Voice Actor
Corey Feldman (The Goonies, Stand By Me) performs the voice of Donatello, although he did not reprise his role for the second movie. Robbie Rist (The Brady Bunch), who voiced Michelangelo, and Brian Tochi (Revenge of the Nerds), who voiced Leonardo, were the only actors to take part in all three original TMNT movies.
7. The Splinter / Elmo Connection
Splinter was puppeteered and voiced by Kevin Clash, one of Jim Henson’s final protégés. You might know him better as the original voice and puppeteer behind Sesame Street’s Elmo
8. Michelangelo’s Body Actor
Every costumed Turtle performer appears out of costume elsewhere in the movie. Michelan Sisti, who did the body performance for Michelangelo, also plays the Domino’s Pizza delivery guy who sticks the pizza box down the sewer grate to Michelangelo.
9. Product Placement: Domino’s Pizza
When the Domino’s delivery guy drops off the pizza, Michelangelo shorts him three dollars: "You’re two minutes late, dude!" This is a reference to an old, now-abandoned Domino’s Pizza policy; if they did not deliver your food in 30 minutes or less, it would be three dollars off (the original 1979 policy was that the pizza would be free!). The policy was discontinued in 1993, after a number of high profile incidents–a fatal car accident and even a hostage situation–placed Domino’s in a bad light.
10. Critters Cross-Promotion
The movie that Raphael goes to see (and later expresses disbelief at) is 1986’s Critters. Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Critters was also distributed by New Line Cinema.
11. Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid
When Casey Jones first meets Raphael, he calls him "Bogie." This is a reference to legendary Hollywood actor Humphrey Bogart, who wore a similar trench coat and hat in the 1942 romantic drama Casablanca.
12. Jose Conseco Gets Dragged
When Casey Jones swings a baseball bat at Raphael, Raphael catches it and exclaims, "A Jose Canseco bat?! Please tell me you didn’t pay money for this!" In 1990, Conseco was an outfielder and designated hitter for the Oakland A’s.
He was a part of Oakland’s World Series team in 1989, although he missed nearly 100 regular season games that season due to injury. He also faced several legal troubles that same year: a reckless driving charge, and a charge for carrying a semi-automatic pistol in his car.
13. Raphael’s Body Actor
The body actor and voice actor for Raphael is Josh Pais. Pais also plays the taxi cab passenger who’s headed to LaGuardia Airport when Raphael flips over the cab’s hood. Raphael is the only Turtle whose voice performer and body performer are the same person.
14. Donatello’s Body Actor
Leif Tilden does the body acting for Donatello (Corey Feldman does Donatello’s voice). Tilden also plays the Foot Clan ninja who slaps April across the face in the subway station.
15. Stallone And Cagney Tributes
Michelangelo does movie character impressions to make April laugh when the Turtles visit her apartment. The first impression he does is of Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) from Rocky (1976). The second is of Matt Nolan (James Cagney) from Taxi (1932).
16. Product Placement: Pepsi
Pepsi products are seen throughout the movie. Ocean Spray is a cranberry fruit drink company that’s a close partner of Pepsi; the soda corporation tried to create a joint venture with Ocean Spray in 2008.
17. Non-PG Blood
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) is rated PG, but there are several violent scenes that snuck past the review board. When the Turtles discover that Splinter has been kidnapped, you can see a massive blood puddle on the floor of their home.
18. Young Sam Rockwell
The young hoodlum who’s offering filtered or menthol cigarettes to the newest Foot recruits is played by Sam Rockwell, who also played Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2.
19. Narc Arcade Game
The Foot Clan lair is framed as a Pleasure Island for New York’s disaffected kids; here, they can do whatever they want. One of the arcade games is Narc (1988) which was criticized at the time for its explicit violence.
20. High Speed Pinball Machine
High Speed is a pinball machine in the Foot Clan lair that debuted in 1986. Like Narc, it was also designed by Williams Electronics.
21. Product Placement: Saint Michael’s Malt Beverage
You can see more Pepsi products in this shot. You can also see a Saint Michael’s can in the foreground, which is a type of non-alcoholic beer. These delinquent kids respect drinking laws.
22. Meet The Shredder
Like the Turtles, Shredder had two actors; James Saito did the body acting, and David McCharen did the voice.
23. Danny Pennington, Punk Rocker
Danny is evidently a Sex Pistols fan; every shirt he wears in the movie has a picture of bassist Sid Vicious on it.
24. Ninja Kick The Damn Rabbit!
In April’s apartment, Donatello and Michelangelo are watching an episode of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which showed an adaptation of the Tortoise and the Hare fable.
25. Bingo Beaver Action Figure
The toy that Leonardo is looking at in the thrift shop is an action figure of Bingo Beaver, a member of the "Get-Along Gang" from the 1980’s. The Gang was a collection of greeting card characters that got their own TV show in 1984.
26. Dangerous Nunchucks
Michelangelo’s weapon of choice, the Nunchucks, have been alternately banned and restricted in multiple countries. It got to the point that in the second Ninja Turtles movie, The Secret of the Ooze, Michelangelo never used the actual weapon; he uses sausage links instead from the deli stand instead. In the cartoon TV series, the writers eventually gave Michelangelo a grappling hook and made that his primary weapon.
27. Tatsu, Real-Life Badass
The man who plays Tatsu, the Foot Clan’s second in command, is Toshishiro Obata. He’s extremely intimidating in the movie, but he’s even more intimidating in real life. He founded a sword style known as Shinkendo, which blends multiple Japanese tactics into a single form.
28. No, He’s Alright Guys!
In the original script, Tatsu beats one of the Foot ninjas, named Shinsho, to death. This plot point was altered in post-production; the moviemakers added breathing sounds and dialogue to show that Shinsho was still alive.
29: Product Placement: Archie Comics
In the Foot Clan warehouse of stolen goods, you can see a box of Archie Comics off to the side. Archie Comics published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures from 1988-1995, and they even had a crossover even with the Riverdale gang where they saved Veronica from being ransomed by kidnappers.
30: A Mouth Within A Mouth?
If you look closely, you can see the actor’s mouth inside the Donatello costume’s mouth, during the scene where Raphael wakes up from his coma.
31. Truncated Blindfold Scene
While the Turtles are hiding out at April’s family farm, we’re treated to a training montage. Among the many scenes that flash by, we see Leonardo fighting his brothers while blindfolded. This scene was fleshed out in the novelization of the movie by B.B. Hiller; Leonardo is trying to teach his brothers to rely on their other senses, not just their eyes.
32. Mikey’s Tears
When the four Turtles experience their vision of Splinter in the campfire, Michelangelo is the only one to cry. It’s a subtle callback to earlier in the movie, when it’s established that Michelangelo has difficulty talking about his emotions. When Donatello asks him about how he feels about Splinter dying, Michelangelo changes the topic to pizza delivery.
33. An Adult Joke In A Kid’s Film
There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay joke near the end of the movie, when Donatello is teasing Casey about being scared of small spaces.
Donatello: "You’re a claustrophobic!"
Casey Jones: "You want a fist in the mouth? I’ve never even looked at another guy before!"
April then explains to him what claustrophobic means, at which point he storms out.
34. Moldy Pizza
After Donatello investigates the old leftover pizza in their lair, he jokes to Michelangelo, "Do you like penicillin on your pizza?" Penicillin is an antibiotic drug derived from mold.
35. Eastman and Laird Homage
The Sam Rockwell hoodlum tells the police that the Foot Clan hideout is at the "east warehouse on Lairdman Island." Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are the co-creators behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
36. Product Placement: Bazooka Chewing Gum
You can see a box of Bazooka chewing gum in the Foot Clan’s lair. The Topps company, which manufactured Bazooka, also produced TMNT chewing gum and trading cards.
37. The Symbol On His Brow
The Japanese character on the Foot Clan’s gear–which Shredder refers to as the Dragon Dochi–is "oni," which translates to "demon."
38. Leonardo’s Body Actor
Every costumed Ninja Turtle actor cameos as a flesh-and-blood human elsewhere in the movie. David Forman, who did the body acting for Leonardo, appears as a Foot Clan member during Tatsu’s standoff against Casey Jones.
39. Kevin Eastman Cameo
Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, appears in the movie. According to Eastman, he was supposed to have an extended spot, but it ended up being a background cameo.
It’s hard to pick him out, but here he is; we circled him in the screenshot above. While the Turtles are fighting the Foot Clan in the street, he pulls up in a garbage truck–the same garbage truck that Casey later uses to crush the Shredder.
40. Raphael Hugs Splinter
The movie establishes that Raphael has a special emotional bond with Splinter. At the very end of the movie, right before the fade-out and the end credits, all of the turtles are dancing and celebrating on the rooftop except for Raphael, who goes over and gives Splinter a hug.
41. T-U-R-T-L-E Power!
The end credits song, "Turtle Power," was performed by hip hop duo Partners in Kryme. Evidently, they needed to familiarize themselves with TMNT a bit more; they erroneously refer to Raphael as the leader of the group. Every Turtle fan knows that "Leonardo leads" and "Raphael is cool, but rude."
42. Box Office Smash
The movie made over $200 million at the box office. It was, at the time, the highest grossing independent film ever made.