The sequel to the live action/CG blend of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is out. While the first movie got pretty bad reviews, it was still kind of fun and actually did very well at the box office. So for the sequel, the filmmakers have doubled down on what was fun about the movies – the Turtles themselves and their ridiculous cartoon and comic book villains. TMNT has been rebooted or re-envisioned many times across several comic book series, cartoons and movies. So let’s take a look at where this version draws its inspiration from as well as some of the more hidden references.
Baxter Stockman was the second villain the Ninja Turtles ever faced, back in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1 #2 (October, 1984). He was presented a lot like the version in the movie: an African American scientist who is also criminally insane. In the original comic, April is his assistant and he invents mouser robots to rob banks. When he appeared in the 1987 cartoon, he was a white guy who was drafted into working for Shredder, as he does in this movie. In the 2003 animated series he was working for Shredder and the Foot Clan right off the bat. In the 2012 animated series he had previously tried to get a job at TCRI. In this movie he works at TCRI (he may have even created it) but that is a new idea for this film.
Police chief Rebecca Vincent has April O’Neil and Casey Jones in custody at one point and questions Casey Jones where the Turtles come from. He improvises the weak lie “New Hampshire.” But technically that is where the Ninja Turtles are from! Creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman debuted the first issue of the comic book in May 1984 at a comic book convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
At the beginning of the movie, the Ninja Turtles pick up a pizza from a deliveryman waiting on a street corner for them. It’s co-creator Kevin Eastman.
TCRI was first seen in issue #3 of the original comic (March, 1985). It was the company that had created the mutagen that created the Turtles. In the original story, Master Splinter is wounded and found by TCRI employees. Ultimately, the Turtles find him and learn that TCRI is a front for a company run by friendly aliens called the Utroms. They look like brains with eyes and mouths and hide in robot bodies that look human. This was the visual basis for Krang in the 1987 series. TCRI stands for Techno Cosmic Research Institute and it was renamed TGRI for the 1991 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. There it was created by ordinary human scientists and it stood for Techno Global Research Institute. TCRI has appeared in every comic book and cartoon version of TMNT.
The version of Krang seen in Out of the Shadows is primarily based on the 1987 cartoon version – a warlord from another dimension (Dimension X) who wants to conquer Earth and has a robot body that has a bald, expressionless human face with a stylized visor. Krang fits in a control center in the robot’s abdomen. In the 2012 cartoon, the Kraang are an entire race of brain-like aliens that want to conquer Earth. In 2016, they had a crossover episode with the original 1987 cartoon Turtles and revealed they were from parallel dimensions. The Krang from the 1987 cartoon was revealed to have been an exiled member of the Kraang. Little is known about the Out of the Shadows Krang other than he is from another dimension and controls the Technodrome, like the 1987 version.
The Turtles have had a van or similar vehicle in most of their interpretations. In the third issue of the original comic, April had an ordinary white van that they traveled in. In the 1987 cartoon, Donatello builds a yellow and green “Party Wagon” van. The 2003 cartoon had a heavily armored truck. The 2012 cartoon has a van converted from an abandoned railway car, again in yellow and green. In the 2007 CG movie, Michelangelo drove a party van to children’s birthday parties. In the 2014 movie, the film ends with the Turtles having a small yellow and green van. In Out of the Shadows, their van has been built out of an old garbage truck. It shoots manhole covers out of the front grill similar to their 1989 toy “The Pizza Thrower”. The garbage truck says “Tartaruga Brothers” on the side which is Portuguese and Italian (like several of the Renaissance artists they are named after) for Turtle Brothers.
Secret of the Ooze
In Out of the Shadows, Krang provides Shredder with a purple mutagen. Everyone calls this “ooze”. They could have called it almost anything but calling it ooze seems like an obvious nod to the 1991 movie, The Secret of the Ooze.
There are several musical cues that refer to previous Ninja Turtles stories. When Casey Jones visits the Horseshoe Pub to find info on Bebop and Rocksteady, the jukebox is playing Ice Ice, Baby by Vanilla Ice, who appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. In that movie, he improvises Ninja Rap when the Ninja Turtles fight Shredder’s mutants in a dance club.
During the closing credits, there is a remix of the theme song from the 1987 cartoon. In the middle, there’s a segment that remixes Ninja Rap from the second live action film.
When the Turtles argue and split into two groups haflway through Out of the Shadows, Michelangelo expresses turmoil that they won’t be able to finish their Christmas rap album. TMNT once made a direct-to-video live action Christmas musical.
Bebop and Rocksteady
Out of the Shadows marks the first live action version of Bebop and Rocksteady. The characters were originally designed by TMNT co-creator Peter Laird for the Playmates toyline and added to the 1987 cartoon in the early episode “Turtle Tracks”. The version in the movie closely mirrors the original cartoon characters – two gang members who help Shredder and are drafted into being his henchmen. In the 2012 cartoon they were slightly updated: Rocksteady used to be a Russian arms dealer, Ivan Steranko (named after a famous Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. artist) and Bebop was a sci-fi inspired cat burglar named Anton Zeck (another famous Marvel Comics artist). Shredder eventually mutates them. In Out of the Shadows, Shredder mutates them without their permission, like these versions. But they end up loving their new powerful forms. In the current IDW series, Karai offers them the ability to be mutated and they willingly agree. The characters were planned to be used in the 1991 live action movie sequel but creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman objected so the mutants were changed to Tokka and Rahzar.
Casey Jones first appeared in Raphael #1 by Mirage Studios back in 1985 and became part of the team in the ongoing comic. Like in that comic, the Out of the Shadows version wears a hockey mask and fights with a hockey stick. But that’s where the similarities end. While every other version of Casey Jones has him as a vigilante, usually because his father was mixed up with or led the Purple Dragons gang, the movie’s version is a cop who just wears the hockey mask in one scene. It’s a very different origin.
The Technodrome was introduced in the 1987 cartoon and the version that appears in Out of the Shadows matches it almost exactly, including its various weapon arms and the gigantic eyeball on the top of the massive orb. In that cartoon, it had tank treads and primarily moved on the land. In the 2003 cartoon, they ended their run with a made-for-TV movie called Turtles Forever that crossed over with the 1987 cartoon. In the story, the 2003 version of Shredder was also a version of Krang. He was an Utrom alien named Ch’rell who was exiled on Earth in the past and took on the identity of Shredder with a robot body. Ch’rell upgrades the Technodrome so that it hovers in the sky like the one in Out of the Shadows. In the 2012 animated series, the Kraang control several Technodromes which are spherical spaceships.
Krang freezes and imprisons Shredder in the Technodrome. It happens fast but there are other frozen prisoners in the cells beside him. They look large. Speculation is they could be Triceratons, Stone Soldiers from Dimension X or even a new version of Slash, another mutated Turtle. And if the alien Triceratons seems a bridge too far, consider that in the character poster for Michelangelo the top poster you see in Times Square is for a dinosaur exhibit showing a Triceratops dino.
A scene that was cut involved Megan Fox’ April O’Neil meeting a woman played by Judith Hoag. Hoag played April O’Neil in the original 1990 live action movie. We’ll have to wait for the Blu Ray release to learn who she played!