Written/Created by: Matt
Posted on 2.21.03.

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With the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon gaining momentum and creating hordes of new fans, a lot of people are becoming more and more curious about the show's roots. It all started on the pages of a pretty edgy and highly regarded comic where the goofiness was kept to a min, but I'm not really the person who should be telling you about that. I'm more knowledgeable about how far the Turtles were able to surf their wave of popularity, and to what embarrassing lengths they'd take themselves on the almighty mission to cash in before their stock crashed.

Case in point: The 'Coming Out Of Their Shells' Tour.

Picture a Broadway musical with the production values of your local meat market's cable television commercial, only starring a bunch of guys in crappy rubber suits rather than the friendly neighborhood butcher. If your vision includes any moments or traits that can be considered 'positive,' eliminate and replace them with stuff you find more annoying. That's almost as bad as the Turtles' musical tour. If you want the complete effect, picture everything mentioned above, but also factor in the added grievance of having duck shit smeared across your face. Now you're getting closer.

Naw, it wasn't that bad. I'm sure little kids loved watching the Turtles, up on stage, singing about friendship and pizza while pretending to play guitars. The shows weren't 'high art' by any stretch, but children rarely notice things like that, instead preferring to monitor how many pictures of Splinter giving the peace sign could be found in the official tour souvenir program.

But, that's not what we're reviewing today...

I still can't believe it exists, but I've seen it, and I own it, and the sordid truth is right here in front of my smoke-strained eyes. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Making of 'The Coming Out Of Their Shells' Tour." The plume of great marketing tactics that sifted from TMNT's merchandising tower was usually pretty on the mark, but this? I dunno about this. I don't want to say that they went too far, but it became pretty hard to think otherwise once I watched the video. If nothing else, this thirty-minute cassette proved to even the most devout fans that it was time for the Turtles to put their swords and bandanas up on the shelf for a few years. Simply put, there was nothing left for them to do. If the franchise was sucked dry to the point where they were selling videos featuring the Turtles having fictitious band practice sessions for their short-lived vaudeville act, maybe they needed a little sabbatical.

The video is brutal - very brutal - but at least the people who made it didn't take the project seriously. It's just a goofball show, mixing bits from the tour with scripted 'behind the scenes' clips. They play it all off as a parody more than anything else, so even if it's incredibly stupid at points, at least the people in charge realized it was incredibly stupid. And sorry guys - that's really the biggest compliment I can give to this video. 'They knew it was stupid.' Here's the full review...

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Things kick off with the bargain basement version of April O'Neil interviewing kids before they see the show. Oddly, there seems to have been a conscious effort on the part of the director to only show interviews with kids who had absolutely nothing to say. April will ask a question and receive nothing but blank stares in return, making everyone involved look ill-prepared at best or like a complete fool at worst. I think the child up above summed it all up pretty well: 'I'm here to see Raphangelo."

And there's the Turtles! Now over the years, I've noticed an interesting trend as far as the live-action Turtles went. In the first movie, they looked terrific. In the second movie, they still looked great, but not quite as realistic. By the third movie, they looked more like nauseous hobos than Ninja Turtles. The costumes and creature effects got progressively worse with each appearance, and by the time they were putting on rock concerts, all of 'em seemed to have dropped forty pounds along with the ability to make their mouths move.

On the plus side, I don't think you'll ever see happier Ninja Turtles. They're practically shitting smiles in this video. Their usual gear has been modified to look more rockin', an effect that appears to have been accomplished with the aid of the famed Bedazzler. Hey, if you like your crimefighting reptiles in sequin, this tape's for you.

There's some scenes where you can visibly see the people inside the costumes, with their sweaty heads peering out of the Turtles' mouths. In close-up shots, they eliminate this problem by stuffing pink paper in their mouth openings. I guess they're supposed to look like tongues.

Michaelangelo tells us that they've been preparing for their rock concert, and that it's just about showtime! If you're in awe that a turtle was able to tell us this, consider the extra bonus -- he did it without ever once moving his lips.

Okay, now that's just something we didn't need to see. If they wanted to go for the mock documentary feeling, that's fine. I just think there's better, less offensive ways of going about it than showing us a bunch of stagehands trying to push the Turtles into position by tickling their backdoors. It's no casual gesture, either. The video is thirty minutes long, and approximately 7% of that time is dedicated to shots of random people shoving their hands up Turtle asses. Our heroes brush the gesture off, being professionals and all, but it's still pretty creepy for those of us watching at home. Well, creepy or sensual. I'm undecided.

We're shown some clips from their tour, and I've gotta be honest - I know some people who saw it when it was out and when they were of the proper age, and they absolutely loved the show. I can rail on it all I want, but it made a lot of kids happy, and I suppose that's all that counts. As with any franchise that attracts fans of an obsessive nature, there were plenty of people who wondered how the Turtles' creators could sell them out like this. Huh? How could they not?! The guys who did the comic already had their original vision out there. Whatever grand plans they had for Don and Leo were already accomplished, but on the same token, I don't think they were set for life by that alone. People are fickle; it's hard enough to strike gold once, let alone multiple times.

The T.M.N.T. gravy chain wasn't going to be duplicated, so for the sake of those who sacrificed quite a bit of their lives to making the lore grow, it's tough to argue with their decision to milk it for all it was worth. Besides, this is certainly something to take pride in. If you can make cartoon turtles so engaging that companies sponsor huge stage shows based on 'em, you've obviously got some talent.

Unfortunately, I can't speak as positively about the Turtles' practice session, where they're filmed singing and playing instruments despite the very clear point that they're not doing either one of those things. Instead, they just kinda rock back and forth like the animatronic beasts at Chuck E. Cheese, looking about as musical and energetic as the rocks I threw at the television when this scene came on. Actually, the point of this video completely escapes me. I don't think we could construe it as promotion for the live show, since by the time kids got their hands on this tape, the Turtles were off the stage for good. It's not easy to call it another revenue stream either, as there was already a video based on their performance that was far longer than this one and advertised much heavier. Somebody must've tripled dog dared one of the producers to market this thing.

Remember Splinter, the giant mutant rat who served as mentor to the Turtles? He's here too, and if you thought he looked like crap in that Christmas video I reviewed, check this out...

Splinter's hands are currently being represented by garden rakes covered up with colored saran wrap, with his movements limited to an eerie back-and-forth rocking that, depending on your view, makes him look either very chilly or in the midst of a Satanic ritual. Splinter drones on and on to our heroes about how proud he is of their current endeavor, even going as far as saying that their work as musicians will prove to be more important than their ninja training. That's a bold statement. When they were ninjas, the Turtles typically saved the planet at least four times a day. They're gonna have to work some serious magic into their lyrics if they want those stupid songs to approach anywhere near the same level of greatness. I suggest a cover of the Amen theme song.

We get some short scenes featuring each specific Turtle doing their thing in preparation for the big show. Since the tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut in real life, there's a lot of references to their pizza. No, I mean a LOT of references to their pizza. Empty Pizza Hut boxes are onscreen more than the Turtles themselves, and virtually every sentence spoken in the video is prefaced with: "And when the great guys at Pizza Hut..." They even show clips from the press conference (the real one) that announced the tour dates, and some guy from Pizza Hut gets way more air time than any of our heroes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since at least the Pizza Hut guy's voice doesn't come from a stereo speaker four miles away from the stage.

They performed these shows across the country, but it all started at the Radio City Music Hall in NY. To celebrate their climb to the top of the charts, the Turtles performed one of their hit songs on the roof of the place, to a crowd of twelve kids and thirty-thousand pedestrians who looked extremely confused about what was going on.

Imagine the poor tourists from distant nations who traveled to Times Square to soak in all the culture. They might not have ever heard of the Ninja Turtles, so when they're passing by Radio City and see these four green monsters on top of it singing the world's worst ballads ever heard, it had to be a scary little moment. To draw a comparison, this would be like you going on a trip to Guam and having four guys in giant orange bird costumes telling you to 'rock out' in their native tongue upon your arrival. Sure, it'll give you a great story to tell down the road, but you're probably not going to make it through the ordeal without pissing yourself. The last thing you want to do to four orange birdmen from Guam is offend them.

The Turtles finish their act, and now it's time to see what they can really do on stage. Up to this point, we've only seen scattered clips that weren't enough to truly gage their musical talents. The video, which had already repeated the same stuff six times over by this point, instead opts to close out the remaining minutes with an in-depth look at the Turtles' 'Coming Out Of Their Shells' tour...

Shredder appears on a bridge over the stage to throw various insults and words of warning at our heroes. He then sends members of his infamous 'Foot Clan' to destroy the Turtles. If you'll recall, the 'Foot Clan' consisted of a bunch of ninjas in black clothing who knew how to kick and punch really well. In the concert, they still wear black clothing and they're probably still ninjas, but the punches and kicks look a lot more hip hop than usual. The ninjas are one with the rhythm. Pizza Hut Pizza Hut Pizza Hut.

There's April, singing her song. I could describe the sound of it to you, but if you're gunning for something truly indicative, go buy a wild boar and stab it repeatedly with scissors.

All in all, the tour didn't look that bad. I never had a chance to see it in my T.M.N.T. days, but those who did remember it fondly. Still, I'm not sure it was necessary to put out a 'Making Of..' video, unless it was some kind of inside joke that was meant to amuse the people who produced it while driving everyone else to madness.

The Turtles perform one last song, and after the end credits roll, we get a final scene that sums up the entire video quite nicely...

Splinter takes some kind of elevator into an attic of unknown origin, looks to the camera, and says something that I still find troubling a week later. "My Turtles are definitely. Happenin'. Musically." Thanks for the verbal gem, Splinter.

If you're dying to know what kind of songs the Turtles sing, click here to download their new number one hit, 'Coming Out Of Our Shells!' Don't blame me when you find yourself humming it later - it's surprisingly catchy. Especially when you picture a guy in a turtle costume trying desperately to look like he's singing it.

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