It has been 30 years since the very first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film hit theaters. Whether it's because of the cast and crew giving 110% or the fans that continue to keep the film relevant (or both!), the film is considered not only a cult classic, but easily the best of the bunch. While three decades sounds like a long time, TMNT really hasn't dated, and fans of all ages continue to quote the movie like it released yesterday.
One major reason for this is producer Kim Dawson enlisting writer Bobby Herbeck to bring some life to the turtles and make them not only relatable, but timeless. However, while the film is seen perfect in every regard by those who love it, that doesn't mean that the minds behind it wouldn't want to change anything, given a chance.
We recently sat down with Kim and Bobby and picked their brains about the classic film, and we asked what they would change if they had the opportunity. Surprisingly, the answers weren't what we would have ever expected!
We also have a longer audio version of the interview that covers even more questions on Literary Joe's Inner Child Podcast. Super-fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can also hear our chat with Shredder actor Tohoru Masamune (Inception) which we have embedded in the transcript below.
Nick Brooks: Bringing the film to the big screen, what was it like that first time sitting there in the theater and seeing all of that hard work pay off?
Kim Dawson: The day before the actual release of the picture, I was in Las Vegas, and we had a test screening where you invite an audience. The audience has to score the picture. In this case, we had about three hundred people in the theater, and there were maybe two hundred kids and their parents.
Our scores amongst the kids and their parents were off the charts. They were in the 96, 97% category, having recommended a picture to their friends. When it did open, it opened to a strong box office of about $10,000 per screening, which is very unusual for a picture like this.
Bobby Herbeck: It held the independent number for a long time.
Kim Dawson: Right up until the Blair Witch Project. We did 133 million at the box office domestically, and Blair Witch did 135 million.
Bobby Herbeck: I only found this out a few years ago that the first one did not play in Asia. They thought we were making fun of martial arts. If it would have played in Asia, the box office number would have been astronomical. It was still a big number for that time. We never thought 30 years ago, 32 years ago, that we would be sitting here celebrating the 30th anniversary because the critics beat the hell out of it.
Said it was a piece of crap or a one-trick pony. We believed in it. It's a blessing that 30 years later, this is still going. Seth Rogan and his team are writing the seventh one for Nickelodeon, not Paramount.
Darth Lexii: If you could go back and change anything, would you?
Bobby Herbeck: When I saw the rough cut, I never liked the little hand puppet cheesy looking Turtles that went "PIZZA!" when they were babies. And I said you're not leaving that in, right? He said, no, we're going to change that. Then I go to the premiere, and there it is. Now, I like it because it's so campy now. People don't care. They think it's cool.
Kim Dawson: If I were to change any one thing, it would be to have given us more time to shoot the picture. We had a tight budget and a tight schedule. I know Steve Baron wanted to do some other things with the picture, and we just ran out of time. Part of that was due to the fact that we were working in Wilmington in hundred-degree temperatures with real high humidity. That causes the suits to break down a lot. Judith, she used to call it a major Turtles meltdown because they broke fairly regularly when it got hot. Those actors suffered in the process. That's all in how it would have changed.
Darth Lexii: Have you ever worn a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume?
Bobby Herbeck: No, I haven't. Someone gave me the mask a long time ago. But no, I am too old.
Darth Lexii: If somebody gifted you one, would you put it on?
Bobby Herbeck: Sure I would!
Nick Brooks: I'm pretty sure Casey Jones attempted to murder Shredder with the trash compactor. But I was curious, was it always the plan to bring him back for the second movie?
Kim Dawson: It was a commercial thing. We weren't sure we were going to make a sequel. We had the rights to do three, but we weren't sure until the box office. It was a week and a half after the opening that Golden Harvest ordered the second picture. I think it was not knowing what was going to happen, where you can leave it over a cliff hanger. You want to give yourself options at the end of the day. It may have been a production decision.
Bobby Herbeck: Did you guys see our pizza party in may that was on? We had a pizza party. It's on Youtube. We had the entire cast Kim and I, Brian Hanson, it was great for World Turtle Day. Many people don't know that Kevin Clash, who played Splinter, is the guy who does Elmo on Sesame Street.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and conducted by co-hosts Dark Lexii and Comic Brooks*
Cowabunga dudes! It has been 30 years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie and the live-action, feature film adaptation of the cult comic book and the popular animated television show, is returning to the big screen! After prolonged exposure to radiation, four teenage turtles--Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and Donatello--have mutated into ninjas and have begun living in the sewers of a large city. Under the guidance of a ninja master Splinter the Rat and television reporter April, the Turtles embark on a mission to run crime out of the city and battle the warlord Shredder.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is back in theatres until the 7th! Participating theaters can be found here, and check out the official store (where you can buy an exclusive script) right here!