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The first animated series starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the one responsible for the worldwide turtles phenomenon. It lasted from 1987 to 1996.

The story goes something like this: Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki were members of the Foot Clan. Out of jealousy, Saki compromises Yoshi's position in the clan and forces him into exile. Escaping to the New York sewers, Yoshi eventually makes pets of rats living there, as well as four baby turtles which happened to fall inside.

One day, Yoshi finds the turtles immersed in pink-colored ooze, which he gets all over himself while trying to clean it off. Soon, he finds the turtles growing to humanoid size, and himself turning into a humanoid rat; the ooze, which had been spilled by Saki in order to kill Yoshi, was a mutagen that would grant an organism traits from the previous organism it had come into physical contact with. Yoshi decides to raise the turtles, name them, and train them in the martial arts.

Eventually, the turtles rescue April O'Neil, a reporter covering a crime wave seemingly committed by ninjas. With her help, they discover that Oroku Saki, now calling himself the Shredder, had taken control of the Foot Clan, and had allied himself with exiled warlord Krang in order to conquer the world. The turtles, naturally, vow to stop him, and obtain a way to restore Hamato Yoshi--now named Splinter "for obvious reasons"--to his human form.

Unlike the comic book that inspired it, the tone of the cartoon was for the most part more akin to a sitcom than an action series. The turtles were more liable to crack wise than act like the ninjas they supposedly were. The main villain group shared a sitcom dynamic, with Villain Decay setting in almost immediately. Many episodes were Strictly Formula, using whatever stock plots the producers had handy.

After seven seasons, the series was retooled in an attempt to make them more serious. The palette was darker, the Shredder and company were eventually Put on a Bus and were replaced by the alien Lord Dregg and his posse, and the tone became less humorous. Reactions to the "red sky" seasons remain mixed; while some appreciate the shift, others believe it took away from the series' strengths. This new direction lasted for three 8-episode seasons, until the series' end in 1996.

Despite--or perhaps because of--the numerous changes made to the source material, the series became wildly popular, providing the thrust behind a massive toy line, inspiring the Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats cartoon subgenre, and even getting a two-part OVA in Japan. The series continues to influence the franchise today, with every later incarnation of the turtles maintaining at least part of the tone of the series, as well as multiple nods to it.

Thirteen years after its end, the series received a brief revival in Turtles Forever, a crossover between this incarnation of the Turtles and their counterparts from the most recent series.

See also: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (franchise page), the franchise character sheet, and the page for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, the comic book based on the animated series.

This incarnation of the Ninja Turtles includes examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Season 8 set up several possibly new enemies and allies for the Turtles -- all of whom were promptly forgotten about in the following season in favor of Dregg and Carter.
    • It also ended with the implication that members of H.A.V.O.C. were still on the loose and that April would do something important in the far future, things that were never brought up again in Seasons 9 and 10.
    • Although Mona Lisa appeared in just one episode, it was implied her storyline was just beginning.
    • In Season 8 Burne and Vernon do a smear campaign against the Turtles after the destruction of the Channel 6 News building. It gets dropped halfway into the season, though it's implied that Burne fires April for supporting the Turtles.
  • Absolute Cleavage: Subverted: Although April's jumpsuit was occasionally left open enough for this trope depending on the artist, her cleavage was usually left undrawn whenever this happened, as seen in her character model[1]. Fan artists, on the other hand...
  • The Ace: Leonardo is a strange mix of this and The Generic Guy.
  • Action Girl: Lotus Blossom.
    • April also had her moments of this.
    • Also Mona Lisa.
  • Animation Bump: More times than possibly any cartoon in the 1980's and 1990's. The animation style could go from being horrible to decent to near-anime quality, sometimes in a single episode. The first two seasons each kept with a single animation studio (Toei for Season 1, and A-1 Productions for Season 2), but the seasons grew much longer starting with Season 3, resulting in animation being farmed out to several different studios [2]. This continued until the "Red Sky" era, where the seasons got cut down to eight episodes each and a single studio (this time Dai Won Animation[3]) became sufficient to handle all the show's animation again.
    • On top of that, a number of Season 3 episodes and the entire first half of Season 4 was farmed out to Murakami-Wolf-Swenson's studio in Ireland. Some of the episodes ("Turtles in the Jungle" for instance) turned out pretty decent, but most of these outsourced episodes were among the worst-animated in the show's run. Likewise, the "Vacation in Europe" episodes were farmed out to French studio IDDH on a smaller budget than usual, and suffer particularly for it.
  • A Day in the Limelight: There were a few of these in the series. "Bebop and Rocksteady Conquer The Universe" is one of the best examples.
  • Adorkable: A lot of characters, but Donatello, Mikey, and Irma have the most moments.
    • Baxter Stockman. OH. MY. GOD.
  • Affably Evil: Shredder, Depending on the Writer.
  • Aliens Speaking English: "Not only is he from feudal Japan, but also from another dimension. So, of course, he speaks English."
    • Pretty much all extrateresstrials, including those from Dimension X, seemed to master flawless English. Some even had accents to boot!
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version had three different endings.
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: the episode with the giant squid.
    • Also the episode "Case Of The Killer Pizzas".
  • Ambiguously Brown: Shredder, Depending on the Artist.
  • Anime Hair: The Neutrinos take this to ridiculous extremes.
  • Animesque: The first season had a very obvious anime influence -- unusually though, it was for reasons of practicality rather than artistic preferences. The show's original character designer, Ira Turek came up with a load of character designs which were butt ugly and nearly impossible to animate well, resulting in him being fired. He was replaced at the last minute by Peter Chung, who redesigned the primary characters to have a more Anime-inspired look in order to ensure that the Toei Animation team would be able to work with them. The following seasons, for better or worse, largely ditched the Animesque character designs.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: The Rat King falls under the Animal Alias type since he has no actual rat powers. Interestingly, most of the characters in this show fall under Beast Man or Animal Superhero despite the vast number of Animal Motifs.
    • There was also Bug-Man who only showed up in one episode. He was an insect-themed superhero who curiously turned into a powerful superhuman when angered. In the episode, he had become a pacifist but since Michelangel needed his help, he tried his best to make him angry so he would turn into his super-powered form.
  • Animorphism: A lot, both temporary and permanent.
  • Another Dimension: Several, most notably Dimension X.
  • Anti-Hero: The Dark Turtle, the one-episode Alter Ego of Donatello.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Mostly between Shredder and Krang.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "New York's Shiniest", Rex-1 saves April from being arrested by security guards. And these are the charges he recites:

 Rex-1: (holding the guards) You are charged for disturbing the peace...

Fat guard: Put us down, you hunk of tin!

Rex-1: ...resisting arrest...

Thin guard: You ain't never get away with this!

Rex-1: ...and using a double negative. (throws them on the wall)

    • This was also used during the end of the episode "The Maltese Hamster".

  Donatello (narrative): Big Louie was arrested for robbery, racketeering, and pulling those little tags off of mattresses.

  • Art Evolution: For the "Red Sky" seasons.
    • Seasons 6 and 7 also have surprisingly improved animation.
  • Artistic License Engineering: In "The Big Zipp Attack", Shredder and co. try to steal the top of a metal spike from the roof of a building. If the spike's top is removed, the entire building will fall over, as the construction of the building is somehow completely dependent on the top of the spike staying in place (even though the spike itself more or less resembles an antenna mast sticking out of a flat rooftop).
  • Artistic License Physics: Mona Lisa explains to Raphael that she was a college student that was going for her physics major, but in the flashback she is clearly using a chemistry set.
  • Ascended Extra: The Shredder was killed in the first issue of the original comic. (Although he came back a few times, including in the form of a giant, mutant shark.) Here, he collaborates with Krang as the longtime Big Bad of the series.
  • As You Know: Spoofed in the episode "Super Rocksteady and Mighty Bebop":

 Shredder: Only mutants are immune to the Mesmerizer's beam; humans like myself can't be near it when they set it off!

Krang: You don't have to explain it to me; I invented it, remember?

Shredder: I wasn't explaining it to you... (points at the camera) I was explaining it to them.

    • And again in season 5's "Enter Mutagen Man:"

 Krang: We must have that mutagen ready before the rocket takes off this afternoon!"

Shredder: I know, I know, you don't have to tell me!

Krang: I'M NOT! (looks at camera) I'm telling the audience.

  • Atlantis: Plays a part in the episodes "The Lost Queen of Atlantis" and "Atlantis Awakes".
  • Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: "Attack of the 50-Foot Irma".
    • Also, Krang's robotic body was able to grow into this until the Ninja Turtles broke the microchip that enabled it to.
    • In another episode, a scientist accidentally enlarges a monkey, then enlarges Donatello to stop him.
    • Another episode had several giant bugs, created somewhat by accident by Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady (What I mean is it was their intention to make an army of giant ants, but instead Bebop and Rocksteady wasted most of Krang's chemical on only a couple of insects), which included an ant, a praying mantis, a wasp, and a fly. Cue giant monster fight.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The Technodrome. Virtually unstoppable on occasion, but virtually unstartable the rest of the time, as its heavy fuel requirements and tendency to get stuck in various remote locations make it hard to manage.
  • Badass Longcoat: The turtles' trench coats. Also Rat King gets one in the eighth season.
  • Badass Pacifist: Macc, the robot from the future.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Baxter Stockman, after his transformation. Splinter to a lesser extent, though by the end of the second season he's come to fully accept his new self.
    • Inverted by Rocksteady and Bebop. In the first episode of Season 4, Shredder uses a device to temporarily de-mutate them so that they can infiltrate Channel 6, and the two are disgusted at the sight of their original forms.
    • The Channel 6 News crew got temporarily mutated a lot. They have been transformed into rats, bugs, turtles, and fish people.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Casey Jones, a rare male example. It doesn't make him any less intimidating though.
  • Base on Wheels: The Technodrome.
  • Belly Dancer: April and Irma are dressed like this in the episode "Shredderville"
  • Beneath the Earth: The Technodrome in Season 1 and 3.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Kala's pet Grybyx is usually a sweet and docile creature, until you feed it the wrong kind of food.
    • Also Irma, considering that she was able to defeat the Rat King after he paid more attention to April than her.
      • Heck, Irma easily dropped four Zerg Rushing Foot Soldiers (on board the freaking Technodrome, no less) in "Super Irma." When properly motivated, she takes a level in badass.
    • There's also Donatello when he becomes the Dark Turtle.
  • Big Bad: Shredder and Krang for most of the series, and later Lord Dregg.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Krang and Shredder.
  • Bishonen: Would you believe the Shredder? Without his mask, he's rather feminine.
  • Big Eater: Michaelangelo.
    • The others had their moments as well.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Buffy Shellhammer.
  • Black Best Friend: Technically Bebop is this to Rocksteady, despite their mutations.
  • BLAM Episode: "Vacation in Europe' which was 13 BLAM episodes in a row.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Rex-1 for April.
  • Body Swap: "The Old Switcheroo", with Splinter and Shredder.
    • Subverted in "Cowabunga Shredhead" with Shredder believing himself to be Michaelangelo. The entire episode is a Crowning Moment of Funny.
    • Also "Raphael Drives Them Wild", with Raphael and Oscar the cab driver.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Shredder proves himself more than a match for the turtles in armed combat, yet on many occasions when confronted he 'escapes', often with the words "another time turtles!" Why another time? Why not now!?
  • Bowdlerise: Over in the UK, "ninja" has until more recently been a banned word, so the series (as well as the franchise as a whole) would be known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Also, all scenes where Mikey wields his signature nunchuks were cut as much as possible due to the weapon being illegal in real-life. By the later seasons, the series would see Mikey using a grappling-hook weapon instead just to get around these kind of problems.
    • Recently, though, the first few seasons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were released uncensored on DVD in the UK.
  • Brainy Brunette: April O' Neil, Irma, and Mona Lisa.
    • Though April O' Neil is more of a redhead.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Buffy Shellhammer and Foster Fenwick, at first.
    • Also the Polarasoid Kids and the Starchild, initially.
  • Breakout Character: Mikey became a hit with kids.
  • Brother Chuck: General Granitor, the gray rock soldier from "Hot Rodding Teenagers" was never seen again after this episode.
  • Butt Monkey: Baxter Stockman. Unlike the original comic villain, who was his own entity, here Baxter is a shaky ally of Shredder, who eventually swears vengeance against both him and the turtles after they make his life a living hell. This status even carried over to his counterpart in the 2003 show; albeit in Darker and Edgier form.
    • Bebop and Rocksteady can never catch a break.
  • By-The-Book Cop: Shredder's brother, Kazuo.
  • Camp Straight: Vernon. He's extremely wimpy and effeminate but he develops a crush on Irma in "Super Irma".
  • Canon Foreigner: A ton, Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, and the Channel 6 crew being the most prominent. Mona Lisa is also very popular.
  • Canon Immigrant: Antrax and Scumbug in "Night of the Rogues". They are originally from the Archie Comics TMNT Adventures.
  • Catch Phrase: Several, with "Cowabunga" being far and away the most recognizable.
    • "Turtle Power!"
    • Donatello's catch phrase was "That was my favorite bo".
    • Burne Thompson's was "Go go go go go go".
    • Leatherhead's was "I guarantee", bordering on Verbal Tic.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The last three seasons are a mild example.
  • Character Development: This is done extremely well with Lonely Rich Kid Buffy Shellhammer, who goes from a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing to a Defrosting Ice Queen and then to a Jerkass Woobie all in the course of one half-an-hour episode.
  • Chick Magnet: All the turtles fared pretty well in this department.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: This happens to Vernon, Burne, Irma, Leatherhead, Slash, Bebop and Rocsteady, anp and many more characters. Most of them disappeared during the Red Sky season.
  • Child Prodigy: The Starchild.
  • City of Adventure: New York City.
  • City of Weirdos: Giant humanoid turtles fighting an army of mooks, flying around town in a giant blimp, and regularly appearing on the local television news doesn't warrant much comment or outrage from the locals.
  • Clear My Name: This happened in several instances.
  • Color Coded for Your Convenience: In the Mirage comics, the Turtles all wore red bandanas (not that it mattered much in a black-and-white comic), leaving their distinct weapons as usually the best way to tell them apart. Obviously, this series didn't go that way - giving Leonardo blue, Donatello purple and Michaelangelo orange, while Raphael kept red. All succeeding adaptations have maintained this approach.
  • Comm Links: The turtles communicators.
  • Composite Character: In the original comics, Hamato Yoshi was murdered and his pet rat became mutated into Splinter. In this version, Yoshi himself is mutated into a rat-man. A rather poignant episode Lampshaded the fact that Splinter was pretty lonely because of this, since he couldn't interact with other humans anymore.
    • He was mostly a quiet man after all.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The turtles' outfit of choice whenever outside the sewers.
  • Convection, Schmonvection
  • Cool Airship: The Turtle Blimp.
  • Cool Big Sis: April was somewhat like this to the turtles considering she is older than them.
  • Cool Car: The Turtle Van.
    • Also the Neutrinos' cars.
  • Cool Old Guy: Master Splinter.
  • Cool Old Lady: April's Aunt Agatha.
    • Also Shredder's mom, for being able to put him in his place on numerous occasions.
  • Cool Plane: The Turtle Blimp.
  • Cross-Dressing Voices: Vernon's nephew Foster Fenwick was voiced by the late Dana Hill.
  • Cut the Juice: Second variety; April stops one menace of the week this way.
    • Another time, she stops a generator from overloading by pulling the power plug. She stops a GENERATOR by UNPLUGGING it.
  • Da Editor: Burne Thompson, April's boss.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Too many examples to list.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Red Sky Episodes.
  • Dating Catwoman: Leonardo and Lotus Blossom, and Raphael and Mona Lisa.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Raphael, to the point where he should be the picture for the trope.
    • Also Shredder and Krang, usually with each other.
    • Splinter. Fans tend to agree that he has some of the best lines in the show.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Buffy Shellhammer, who ends up being a cross between Lonely Rich Kid and Jerkass Woobie.
    • Also Lotus Blossom.
  • Demoted to Extra: After Carter showed up, April was relegated to sitting in her apartment and researching stuff on the internet for all of Season 9 and the first few episodes of Season 10. Fortunately, she started taking a more active role in the final few episodes once Carter was written out.
  • Depending on the Writer: Every single character is subject to change. Poor Leonardo go hit by this the hardest and never seemed able to keep a consistent personality.
  • Distressed Damsel: April O'Neil, to the point where Shredder once lampshades this by admitting that, when he can't come up with a decent plan, he just defaults to kidnapping her.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The episode "Bebop and Rocksteady Conquer The Universe" features this.
    • Baxter Stockman got vengeance on Krang, Shredder, and the Turtles many, many times. Baxter once turned Mikey into a gerbil and Shredder into an ordinary house fly. Another time Baxter managed to turn all of New York City into bug mutants.
  • Double Entendre: In the opening theme no less, Donatello does Machines.
  • The Dragon: Rocksteady and Bebop were Co-Dragons to The Shredder. Baxter Stockman was Shredder's Dragon for the first half of the second season. The Shredder sometimes falls into this starting in season 2, though the relationship between him and Krang is basically a Big Bad Duumvirate since the plan seems to be for both of them to rule the world.
  • Drill Tank: The Technodrome's transport modules.
  • Dumb Muscle: Bebop and Rocksteady.
    • Also Slash and Leatherhead.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: A relatively mild case -- the show's tone and overall storyline remained pretty much intact from the first few episodes until the "Red Sky" era. The big differences were in the way the first season was animated, with a much more obvious anime/manga influence, but also being prone to moments of sloppiness and Off-Model characters. Raphael was also more similar to his comic counterpart initially, to the point where he threatened to kill Baxter Stockman if he wouldn't tell the turtles where Shredder was.
    • In his 1st few appearances, Krang was undisputed Nightmare Fuel. His later character design was a lot more cartoony, but still a bit creepy.
  • Easy Amnesia: Happens to Shredder in "Krangenstein Lives" and "Cowabunga Shredhead" and Leonardo in "the 3 Musketurtles".
    • Criminal Amnesiac: Inverted in "Cowabunga Shredhead" Shredder thought he was Michelangelo thanks to Bebop and Rocksteady's incompetence. And inverted again in "the 4 Musketurtles" where a blow to the head makes Leonardo think he is The Hero of the Four Musketeers.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The episode "Shredder's Mom" proves that even Shredder himself is not immune to this trope.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Too many times to count.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Michaelangelo for Kala.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Mallory proves this.
  • Evil Counterpart: Mondo Gecko to Michaelangelo, at least until his Heel Face Turn.
    • Also Shredder to Splinter.
  • Evil Knockoff: Metal Head, a robotic turtle.
    • Also Slash, an evil mutant turtle.
    • And Lex-1, Shredder's clone of Rex-1.
  • Evil Twin: The Doku plant used to poison April is the evil twin to the identical looking Gazai plant used to cure April.
    • Also Donatello's duplicate, and the duplicates of the other turtles that he creates.
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • Face Heel Turn: Vernon made one in Season 8. And then he got Chuck Cunningham Syndrome after he became a Flat Character.
  • For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: At the beginning of "Super Irma," the Turtles don't know what they should wear to the Channel 6 Halloween party. Splinter suggests that they go as themselves, and they do.
  • Fiery Redhead: April O' Neil.
  • Fish People: Mona Lisa from "Raphael Meets His Match". She's a former human mutated into a half-fish, half-reptile Mix and Match Critter.
    • Also Alim "Merdude" Coelacanth from the episode "Atlantis Awakes"
    • The episode "Rebel Without a Fin" has Ray, a mutant manta ray, and April gets turned into a fish woman.
  • Five Episode Pilot
  • Flanderization: Bebop and Rocksteady weren't exactly smart in the first season, but were portrayed as serious threats to the turtles. Later seasons toned up their stupidity to ridiculous degrees, and made them even more incompetent.
    • EVERYBODY on the show as time went on.
  • Foe Yay: April O' Neil and Irma have had moments of this with both Shredder and the Rat King.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Michaelangelo, who has had several pets in the past, including his pigeon Pete and his parrot Ditto.
  • The Generic Guy: Leonardo when compared to his siblings.
  • Genki Girl: Irma, when she becomes Super Irma!
  • Girl of the Week: Mona Lisa. It seemed that she was being set up as Raphael's Love Interests, but she only appeared once.
  • Glasses Girl: Irma Langenstein.
  • Grand Finale: "Divide and Conquer", though it was left somewhat open-ended in case more episodes were ordered.
  • Green Eyed Red Head: April O' Neil, as shown in the eighth season.
  • Guttural Growler: Casey Jones, with a slight Eastwood accent. He never takes off his hockey mask in this incarnation.
    • He actually removed it briefly in one episode.
  • Heel Face Turn: Mondo Gecko.
    • Muckman and Joe Eyeball.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The turtles prove this every time they save April.
    • Villains Want Redheads: Both Shredder and Rat King have flirted with April (and Irma) on numerous occasions.
  • Heroes With Bad Publicity: Burne Thompson would invariably paint the turtles as a menace, regardless of the evidence.
    • It was even a plot point of the Red Sky era.
    • After Burne got Put on a Bus, Lord Dregg uses this for his own advantage.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: The turtles, who can frequently be seeing putting around on a blimp. With a giant "Turtles" on it.
    • Not to mention the Turtle Van, which was customised with armored plates resembling turtle shells and laser turrets on the roof.
      • The Turtles themselves weren't quite that astute at not letting people see them, they were known by the general public (it probably didn't help that April kept filming them though). Even Shredder, a proclaimed "ninja master" would often broadcast threats with as much publicity as Dr. Doom.
  • Hot Scoop: April O'Neil.
  • Hot Scientist: Mona Lisa before her mutation.
  • Hot Witch: Tempestra.
  • Hour of Power: The turtles' super forms (!) in the Japanese OVA.
  • Humanity Ensues: Temporarily occurs to Michelangelo in the episode "The Gang's All Here".
  • Identical Stranger: Princess Mallory, to April, in the episode "April's Fool".
  • Idiot Ball: As the plot required.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Casey Jones attacked villains with various sports equipment like baseball bats and hockey sticks. In season eight, he gets a sword and faces off against Shredder, which could be a fencing reference.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: No matter how much ammo the bad guys use, they almost never hit their targets.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: The Neutrinos.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Twice: once in "The Incredible Shrinking Turtles" and again in "Funny, They Shrunk Michelangelo".
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: The episode "Cyber Turtles" featured this.
  • Interspecies Romance: On several occasions.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In "Donatello's Degree", when the other turtles can't locate Don, we get one of these combined with a Fourth Wall break:

 Mike: If I know that dude, he's probably hanging out at the library.

(Cut to Donatello hanging out of a university window in a completely different town)

Don: Actually, Michelangelo's right. I am hanging out at the library.

  • Irony: Macc, a friendly and peace loving robot from the future is built with some of the most destructive weapons around.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Krang and Shredder would have much less trouble taking over the world if they'd just get rid of Bebop and Rocksteady.
  • Just Ignore It: Once, and only once, the turtles stopped the Technodrome by doing nothing.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Lord Dregg is said to be more serious than the Shredder and his incompetent goons.
    • H.A.V.O.C. was this in Season Eight.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: Especially in comparison to the original comics, but also the first season compared to most of the ones that followed, and in turn those seasons compared to the "Red Sky" seasons.
    • Having said that, the series was still criticized for being Darker and Edgier compared to most other animated shows at the time. Considering the restrictions the creators had to work under, it's actually a small miracle that the series didn't end up a total bastardization of the original comics.
      • Peter Laird said in an interview that, faced with the reality of needing to water down his creation for a younger audience, he largely let the show's staff do it for him. This may have been a wise choice on his part, as had he tried to do a more comic-acurate version in the face of the rigid censorship of The Eighties, it quite possibly would have come off as a total bastardization of the comics. As it was, it came off as an extremely loose adaptation but very entertaining when taken as its own entity.
  • The Load: Vernon Fenwick.
  • Lolicon: A mild example. In "Poor Little Rich Turtle" Michealangelo (who's at least 15-16) has a very large crush on Buffy, who's 11 or 12 at most.
  • Long Runners: With nine years, ten seasons, and almost two hundred episodes to its name, this was the Gunsmoke of Saturday morning cartoons. It was the longest running cartoon until The Simpsons came along.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Buffy Shellhammer from "Poor Little Rich Turtle".
  • Mad Scientist: Baxter Stockman.
    • Also Professor Sofo.
  • Masochist's Meal: Most of Michaelangelo's choices of pizza topping combos (tuna fish, peanut butter and grape jelly, anyone?)--and yes, it was Lampshaded. Cinemassacre later made some of the show's various gross-out combinations and sampled them.
  • Masquerade Ball: In "April's Fool".
  • May-December Romance: A lot, but Leonardo and Lotus-Blossom is probably the best example of this.
    • A squickier example is the canonically fifty-year-old Burne and his girlfriend Tiffany, who looks nineteen.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the first episode of the Red Sky series, Shedder and his minions are pinned down by police as they try to retrive a device they need. Shredder hurls a trashcan which he says are filled with explosives at the cops, causing them to scatter. After they make their escape, Bebop and Rocksteady compliment him on his bluff. The trashcan explodes in the back ground, with Shredder stating, "I never bluff." Much later, Shredder has taken the Channel 6 building hostage, and has to threatened to blow it up if the Turtles don't meet him in a certain amount of time. When they get there, they see that the building is still standing, causing them to assume he was bluffing. What does Shredder have to say? "I never bluff." What follows is easily the most dramatic moment in the series.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Krang's Foot Soldiers.
  • Medium Awareness: A regular feature of the series.
  • Mighty Glacier: Rex-1.
  • Moral Dissonance: Poor Baxter Stockman.
  • Moral Guardians: The British censors. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?! No, no; far too violent. Let's call them Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles! Much better!"
  • Motive Decay: This is explicitly pointed out with Dregg. At first he's just trying to take over the world. By the last episode, the turtles have thwarted his schemes so much that he's driven purely by the desire to kill them. Even his right-hand henchman calls him crazy to his face.
  • Name's the Same: In season eight, there's a villain named Megavolt, who shares the same name as another villainous character named Megavolt.
    • There's also some Fridge Brilliance in that episode since Megavolt wanted to destroy the D.W.(Dark Water) company out of revenge. D.W. is also the nickname of Darkwing Duck.
    • Also Baxter Stockman's Mouser robots have the same name as King Koopa's assistant in Super Mario Bros..
  • Nanomachines: Lord Dregg's "micro-bots".
  • Napoleon Delusion: A Napoleon wannabe is in the insane asylum with Baxter Stockman in the episode "Return of the Shredder," voiced by Peter Cullen.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Irma Langenstein.
  • Never Say "Die": Technically played straight, but starting with the second season characters and monsters (mostly the latter) actually die pretty often.
  • Ninja: This one's a given.
  • No Fourth Wall: The Turtles and Shredder quite often stop to address the audience.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Justified with Mona Lisa because she was human before her mutation.
  • Number Two for Brains: Bebop and Rocksteady. Note they fall under both The Dragon and Dumb Muscle.
  • Off-Model: The show fell victim to this quite a bit, especially in later seasons. "The Grybyx" is a good example, and "Mister Ogg Goes To Town" in its entirety qualifies for this.
    • The "Vacation in Europe" episodes are probably the worst for this, as they were animated by a European studio with a much smaller budget than the rest of the series.
  • Older Than They Look: Zack the Tagalong Kid is thirteen. He looks eight.
  • Orient Express: "Turtles on the Orient Express"
  • The Other Darrin: Several voice actors would occasionally have replacements during particular episodes:
    • Shredder was the biggest example, due to James Avery's other work; he was substituted by Dorian Harewood for a lot of the later Season 3 episodes, and them Jim Cummings on and off for the next few seasons. He finally bailed out the show for good at the start of Season 7; Townsend Coleman (the voice of Mikey and the Rat King) voiced him for the rest of that season, and William E. Martin took over the role permanently in Seasons 8-10.
    • Raphael also had a few different voice actors over the course of the show; Thom Pinto voiced him for a few Season 3 episodes, Hal Rayle filled in for the "Vacation in Europe" episodes, and Michael Gough (no, not that one) replaced Rob Paulsen for the final season.
    • Donatello and Bebop, who were both usually voiced by Barry Gordon, were also replaced for part of Season 3 (seeing a pattern here?) by Greg Berg.
    • Vernon Fenwick was voiced by Pat Fraley in Season 1, but for some reason changed to being voiced by Peter Renaday starting with Season 2.
  • Out of Order: Episodes 3 and 4 were shown the other way around on VHS, so kids who didn't see them when they first aired on TV (stations didn't re-air the earliest episodes often) would often wind up confused about who this Baxter Stockman fellow was.
    • Also, a lot of the episodes on DVD are out of order too.
  • Palantir Ploy
  • Warthog Man: Bebop.
  • Plucky Girl: April.
  • Pound of Flesh Twist: Shredder manages to get away with a rare isotope. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the isotope is unstable under high atmospheric pressures (especially those deep within the Earth), and the sample explodes after the Shredder returns to the Technodrome—parked many miles beneath the Earth's surface.
  • Powered Armor: The turtles don these in the episode "Cyber Turtles".
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Admittedly, it's the most loose of all the Turtles adaptations (we'll politely ignore The Next Mutation), but, it does a pretty good job of telling a completely different story.
  • Put on a Bus: The Technodrome villains and the Channel 6 crew (except April), once the retool occurred.
    • Though Shredder and Krang would return for a three episode special in the tenth and last season.
    • Casey Jones was put on a bus as well.
  • Putting a Hand Over His Mouth: Happens to April sometimes when she gets captured. Sometimes the turtles do it to April or Irma, as well.
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Punk Frogs are a notable subversion, as they are tricked into believing that the turtles are the bad guys.
  • Race Lift: Baxter Stockman, from African American to Caucasian (and vaguely European), because the writers didn't think that having the only black person in the cast be a villain would sit too well with audiences.
    • Another reason in Baxter's case is that the writers feared that Shredder constantly abusing his black assistant would be seen as racist.
    • Although many people forget that Bebop was African American before his mutation.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Vernon. And surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), Shredder in one episode.
    • Splinter's kimono looks like pink, or is it some light purple?
  • Recursive Adaptation: The Archie-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, at least in theory.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Dark Turtle.
    • Also Lord Dregg, who naturally has red glowing eyes.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Antrax and Scumbug in "Night of the Rogues".
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Averted hard with the main turtles, but played straight with other characters like Slash and Leatherhead.
  • Retcon: The third season finale showed the Technodrome being destroyed as a result of an inadvertent attack by Krang's allies, and then crashing at high-speed into a huge battlestation. The fourth season premiere changed this to the Technodrome being badly damaged in the attack and then having a relatively soft landing on an asteroid.
  • Retool: The "Red Sky" seasons.
  • Rhino Rampage: Rocksteady.
  • The Rival: Vernon for April, Depending on the Writer.
  • Robotic Reveal: "Did you just say 'clang'?"
  • Rushmore Refacement: Krang eventually does this.
  • Schmuck Bait: In the episode "Shredder's Mom", Shredder's mom was able to trick the turtles into walking right into the Technodrome's trash compactor by taping a paper sign that said "This way to computer room" on the door.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Krang.
  • Sexy Secretary: Irma Langenstein.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: April, in the episode "April's Fool".
    • Of course, April is always hot no matter what. It was just nice to see her in something other than a yellow jumpsuit for a change.
    • Irma also has her moments of this.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Burne, Vernon, and Irma were Put on a Bus sometime in the Red Sky seasons, but not before Burne blamed the destruction of the Channel 6 headquarters on the Turtles, and used Channel 6's airwaves for a virulent anti-Turtle media blitz.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: Howie (a songwriter and a potential boyfriend for Irma) appeared in two straight episodes and was never heard from again.
  • Shout-Out: To Leave It to Beaver, in an episode that had Beaver and Wally Cleaver reimagined as mobsters. No, seriously.
    • Also the monsters in the episode "The Case Of The Killer Pizzas" look a lot like another famous movie monster.
    • The episode "Night Of The Dark Turtle" is an obvious parody of Batman.
    • Rex-1 from the episode "New York's Shiniest" is pretty much a redesigned RoboCop.
    • One episode had Krang stealing a military robot that looks like ED-209.
    • Irma Langenstein doesn't look like Jeanette of The Chipettes by accident... half a season of Alvin and The Chipmunks was animated by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, then Irma was introduced on TMNT the following season.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The villainous Shredder's younger brother Kazuo Saki is actually a cop fighting for justice.
    • Also the turtles amongst themselves.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: This basically sums up Irma in a nutshell.
  • Snow Means Cold: In "Take Me to Your Leader," Shredder and Krang use a Solar Siphon to drain the sun's energy and make the Earth cold. The turtles discover something's amiss when it starts snowing in July.
  • Soap Within a Show: Krang is shown to have a specific fondness for a soap opera of the "Oh John! Oh Marsha!" variety. In fact, that's pretty much all the show seems to be.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Constantly used on April.
    • Also on Irma every so often.
  • Stone Wall: General Tragg and the rock soldiers to a literal extent.
  • Straw Loser: Vernon to April.
  • Surfer Dude: Michaelangelo.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Krang actually says a variation of this in one episode. "Morons! I'm surrounded by morons!"
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The Technodrome, which the turtles would usually infiltrate with ridiculous ease.
  • Tagalong Kid: Zack, a young kid in a turtle costume and so-called "fifth turtle".
  • Talking to Himself: Constantly, as most of the show's voices were done by a handful of regulars.
    • One example that stands out is Pat Fraley who did the voices of Krang and Baxter Stockman, and has one scene where the human Baxter is sent to the Technodrome's disentigrator, and begs Krang to spare his life only to have Krang refuse him. That means that Pat Fraley was begging himself to spare his life, and he refused his own request for mercy. This scene is also played very convincingly due to Pat Fraley's enormous voice acting talent, and to think he also did several other major characters on the show is nothing less than amazing.
  • Teen Genius: Donatello.
    • Also Zack, the "fifth turtle".
      • His friend Caitlin also falls under this.
    • Also Buffy Shellhammer, who was able to use Shredder's own technology against him and trick him into making the wrong formula to free the Technodrome. Instead of rocket fuel, it turned out to be firework fuel.
    • Also Vernon's nephew Foster Fenwick, who creates a solar magnet that is actually powerful enough to draw the Earth towards the sun. Subverted as he's stated to be 11.
  • Tempo
  • Terrible Trio: The Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady.
  • Theme Naming: The turtles are, of course, named after artists, then there's Bebop and Rocksteady (both musical genres) and Splinter/Shredder (both destructive).
    • The punk frogs are named after historical tyrants who are Shredder's heroes.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • This Is a Drill: The transport modules that Shredder and the other villains used most of the time.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Bebop and Rocksteady.
  • Three Amigos: The Neutrinos.
  • Title Theme Tune
  • Took a Level In Badass: Irma, on several occasions.
    • Also Donatello when he becomes the Dark Turtle.
  • Totally Radical: The turtles, especially Mikey. The Neutrinos take it Up to Eleven.
    • Justified with the turtles, since, in the first episode, Michelangelo tells April that they learnt all about humans from watching TV.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pizza. And how!
  • Transformation Ray: Many.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The Neutrinos, Zack, Dask, and Kala.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Is it ever!
  • Vague Age: Irma looks and acts like a young teenager but is apparently old enough to own an apartment and have a steady job.
    • And to a lesser extent, Shredder.
    • Even more so with Splinter, he sounds and acts like a very old man, but in his human form he can't be above early 40's.
  • Victory Is Boring
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: The Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady, invariably.
  • Villain Team-Up
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Lord Dregg, initially. That is until the Turtles unmasked him to the people at the end of season 9.
  • Villainous Crush: Strangely enough, Shredder sometimes seems blatantly attracted to April in some episodes. It really depends on the writer, though.
  • Wait, What? Whoa: In "Burne's Blues", Burne and Vernon spend the entire episode unsuccessfully looking for a news story about the Turtles. Just as soon as the reporters find the Turtles frozen on a factory loading dock, the two get randomly abducted by aliens that look like Elvis.
  • Wham! Line: "I never bluff!" The line Shredder says before he destroys the Channel 6 news building in the first episode of season eight.
  • Wham! Episode: The first episode of season eight "Get Shredder" mainly because of the ending where Shredder destroys the Channel 6 news building.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Baxter Stockman has an accent. Just..an accent.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In a later season we learn that Leonardo is terrified of snakes.
  • Wonderful Life: The episode "Shredderville".
  • The X of Y: A few examples; probably the most well-known is the Eye of Zarnov, an alien artefact that formed a Story Arc for the first half of season two.
  • Yandere: The alien computer Zee for Baxter Stockman.
  • You Have Failed Me: This is Shredder's reason for sending Baxter into Dimension X, and sacrificing him so that Bebop and Rocksteady can be sent to help fight against the turtles.
    • Dregg does this to his number one man Hi-Tech in the tenth seasons premiere, by launching him into space.
  • Younger Than They Look: Baxter Stockman. He looks like a middle-aged man but is implied to be younger than Shredder.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: In "Super Irma," Vernon isn't impressed when the Turtles show up as themselves to the Channel Six Halloween party.

 Vernon: Hmm, I don't think they're realistic at all! I've met the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and you don't look a bit like them.

Notes

  1. The first one is from the original cartoon and the second is its Turtles Forever reproduction
  2. Wang Film Productions, Pacific Rim Animation, Luk Film, Kyung Kang, Island Animation, Varga Studios and Hanho Heung Up, with an occasional episode by Toei, none of them credited
  3. and Morning Sun for season nine
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