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Posted on Jul 3, 2014

TMNT: A 30-Year Visual History Timeline

TMNT: A 30-Year Visual History Timeline

Everyone’s favorite heroes in a half shell are returning to the big screen in a little over a month! The newest film in the TMNT franchise, titled simply, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, stars Megan Fox and Will Arnett and hits theaters on August 8, 2014.

One of the hottest topics surrounding the new flick is the turtles’ new look: gone are the goofy, cartoony looks of previous CGI installations, like 2007’s TMNT, replaced by gritter and more alien-esque visages. Because of this – and because this year is also the 30th anniversary of the first original TMNT comic book by Mirage – we decided to take a look at how Leo’s, Don’s, Raph’s, and Mikey’s appearances have evolved (mutated?) through the years.

You know TMNT costumes are going to be huge again this year come Halloween, so let our infographic inspire you!


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1984: Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics


When Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird of Mirage Studios created the first-ever Ninja Turtles comics, they didn’t intend for it to be anything more than a one-time parody of the martial arts genre. It was grittier and more over-the-top than most other Turtles tales, and each turtle had a more uniform, red-masked look.

1987: Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated Series

This is the iconic look that got millions of kids into Turtle Power for the first time. Every character had their own unique color, and the show helped establish of their signature personality traits – Michelangelo being a party dude, for example.

In the United Kingdom, the show (and associated merchandise) was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles instead. Apparently, the word “ninja” is too violent for kids. Whatever, we turned out okay.

1988: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures Comics


This series of comic books was produced by Archie Comics and was published from 1988 to 1995. It took place in its own universe, separate from the cartoon and disconnected from other comic book series, but it did give the Turtles one of their most recognizable art styles.

1990-1993: Live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film trilogy

Kids these days with their CGI and their Michael Bay explosions don’t know what they missed out on. Things were so much cooler back in the days of practical effects. The Ninja Turtle costumes seen in these movies were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and they took 18 weeks to build.

Also, you can totally see Donatello’s actor’s mouth for a couple of frames in the first one:

1996: Mutant Turtles: Choujin Densetsu-hen

Of course there was an anime version of TMNT. Why wouldn’t there be? Actually, it was a two-episode-long OVA, and it used the same voice actors from the Japanese-language dub of the 80s cartoon. Here’s a YouTube clip of the opening sequence – it’s got everything you could possibly hope for (read: giant transforming robots).

1997: The Next Mutation

Did you know that there were five Ninja Turtles at one point, and one of them was a girl? Neither do a lot of people, because the show that Venus de Milo appeared in was so terrible that it was canceled after a single season. Picture the live-action movies, but pretty much worse in every way, and you’ve got this. (Update – Thanks to reader Dan for reminding us about Slash, another “fifth turtle.” Slash was a villain in the 1980s cartoon but has had more of an anti-hero role in the Nickelodeon cartoon, occasionally allying with the Turtles.)

2003: Second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated Series

It would be six years before anyone tried making another TMNT show after the failure of the last one. But, when 4Kids rebooted the Turtles in 2003 with an updated and edgier look, it was awesome. This cartoon actually followed the original Mirage storylines closer than the 80s cartoon did, and eventually spawned a comic series spin-off of its own, published by Dreamwave.

2007: TMNT

This movie is a direct sequel to the live-action trilogy of films from the early 1990s, even though it came out 14 years after those did. Peter Laid himself was also on board as an executive producer, and the film did well at the box office despite mixed reviews. The Turtles looked most similar to their Archie counterparts, but realized in 3D instead.

2012: Third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated Series

The newest (and current) TMNT TV show is produced by Nickelodeon, who bought the franchise from 4Kids and Mirage in 2009. The Turtles are still all-CGI, but it’s a much more stylized and less realistic feel. Also, “Booyakasha!” has replaced “Cowabunga!” as the Turtles’ catch phrase. Once again, kids these days don’t know what they’re missing out on.

2014: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Released just this year is the latest Turtles movie, with (fittingly), the same title as the original comic book. The turtles were given their biggest makeover ever, with an almost uncanny valley alien-inspired look.

Which iteration of the turtles is your favorite? Is the nostalgia of the original 80s cartoon too strong, or are you a fan of the more modern versions as well? If you liked this graphic and want to see more like it, let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter! Check out our Pinterest boards too, for even more awesome infographics and costume ideas.

Shop Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Costumes

TMNT costumes for kidsTMNT costumes for adults • Leonardo costume • Donatello costume • Raphael costume • Michelangelo costume • Female TMNT costumes



  1. BTW Venus wasn’t the only fifth Turtle, there also was Slash.


  1. The Visual History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Infographic) | et geekera - […] via Click to […]

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