by Tim May
By 1994, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise had sort of run its course. With the horrendous third live action film in 1993, most children moved on to the classic Japanese/American hybrid Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Still, the powers that be attempted to keep the turtles brand alive for at least another few years before it went away for a while in 1997 with the Chiodo Brothers’ Next Mutation television series.
One of the worst products of this financial and creative dry spell was the direct-to-video Turtle Tunes. Produced in tandem with the terrible Christmas special We Wish You a Turtle Christmas, Turtle Tunes follows the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as they produce a music video compilation show called TMNT TV. As one of the turtles describes it at the beginning of the special, “Us presenting our favorite videos? How could we lose?” Let me count the ways.
First of all, the turtles in this special look like unfinished foam rubber sculptures in a high school art class. None of the dialogue matches the mouth movements in the fucking slightest. All of the turtles are voiced by one person, and that person must be Sloth from The Goonies.
The videos that the turtles produce for their show are incredibly cheap and directed by a sassy urban ’90s pre-teen. The songs are vaguely set to the tunes of classic nursery rhymes. Enjoy classics like “We’re the Turtles,” “Skateboarding ‘Round the Fountain,” “Leonardo Had a Rowboat,” and “It’s a Pity When the City Isn’t Clean.”
In one song, “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” the turtles explain the nineties phenomenon known as “stranger danger.” Not talking to strangers was a bigger subject for children’s television in the nineties than not taking drugs. After the end of the insipid song, Raphael tells us, “Now remember dudes, use that codeword! It could be anything: pepperoni, macaroni, your mother’s middle name, your middle name; mine is Antonio!” Thanks, Raph.
After a brief message from Splinter, who never appears on screen, and who sounds like he died about three months prior to his appearance, the turtles wrap up their show with with “On Top of the Pizza,” a brilliant song with lines like, “There’s no doubt about it (Cowabunga DUUUUUDE!!!); I can’t live without it, it’s my favorite food!” They also describe all the disgusting toppings they put on their pizza, like pepperoni and peas and an apple they found under their bed. I never found the joke about “weird” pizza toppings funny on the cartoon, and it’s even less funny here.
Just when you think the nightmare is over, after the end credits, we get to hear the turtles talking about the quality of the program. “Now, that was a true masterpiece.” “Like, uh, fabuloso.” They then proceed to say goodnight to each other for almost a full minute.
This is truly the most painful entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Worse than the third film, worse than Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, and yes, even worse than The Coming Out of Their Shells Tour. Early in the special, Michelangelo proclaims, “I LOVE SHOW BUSINESS!” Show business does not love you, Mikey, he does not love you at all.
The end credits contain a special thanks to Scott Hyman for his “unending devotion to this project.” Scott Hyman was found dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head one month after the release of Turtle Tunes.
R.I.P. Scott Hyman
Download the Turtles classic “On Top of the Pizza” right here!