The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were as hot as ever in 1991, firmly established leaders of toy sales, television ratings and promotional tie-ins. Any lingering doubters were silenced after the release of the Turtles' first movie in 1990, which banked an impossible 135 million in U.S. theaters alone. Even with the waning popularity that followed in the coming years, TMNT managed to keep its scope strong well into the mid 1990s. Of course, tack on a few more years, and the Turtles have begun their journey to success all over again. There's one minor difference regarding the current resurgence of the Ninja Turtles: no pudding pies.

1991 ushered in a junk food so incredibly strange that its name lives on in infamy to this very day: "Ninja Turtles Pies," from Hostess, modified the pastry leader's beloved pudding pies with a radioactive green crust and "vanilla puddin' power." The pies were absurd, obscene beasts, impossible to resist due to the TMNT-inspired packaging and all the promises of free trading cards. I couldn't stomach the thought of biting into these bulbous, gooey masses of unknown terror, but I still picked 'em up at every opportunity for the damn wrappers and cards. With consumer interest boosted by an animated commercial featuring the Turtles' promising that their snacks were "fresh from the sewer," kids went nuts for the green pies from outer space.

By and large, they're the strangest artifacts of Ninja Turtle lore. The "Ninja Nets" inside each box of Ninja Turtles Cereal and the marbleized oddity of TMNT Cookies were something, but the pies are in a league of their own. Jumbo-sized and insanely messy, children who ate Turtle Pies were easily identified by the amount of gloppy off-white (or sometimes green, memories differ) vanilla crud hanging around their lips, served with a gruesome collection of green food particles staining their teeth like villain characters in an animated Crest toothpaste commercial.

Turtle Pies haven't been produced in over a decade, and their easily perishable nature has made it impossible for me to locate the real thing. All I have are the wrappers and a couple of consolation drawings of what the pies looked like. Really, just envision one of Hostess' pudding pies with a more sugary crust, dyed a pale-yet-assaulting shade of green. Not sure if Hostess still makes pudding pies (not around here at least), but the gooey insides always seemed too frightening for me. I barely remember what they tasted like, and can only associate them with biting into a giant spider's egg sac. Spiders probably don't like that.

The pies, all singularly sold, were a bit bigger than you might suspect. Since those wrappers drew kids' eyes like nothing else could at the time, people frequently bought Turtle Pies only to find out later that someone had previously driven their finger through its shell. The criminals were typically vile, nasty children who couldn't afford to buy any pies. We soon learned to inspect and molest each pie prior to purchase; if our fingers got wet, we picked one from the back instead.

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I'm embarrassed to tell you how thorough my search for any existing Turtle Pies has been, but suffice to say, I've been hunting 'em for a long time. With the amount of old Ninja Turtle crap sold regularly on eBay, you'd think there'd be some kind of Hostess promo poster or something, but nope. The pies are remembered by many, but all evidence of their existence seemed lost. Finally I stumbled onto these three wrappers, which at least correctly identify the much debated year of release for these legendary tombs of slime.

I wonder, is it possible that a single Turtle Pie still exists somewhere? Was there a fan obsessive enough to control a Turtle Pie's surrounding climate and atmospheric conditions for over ten years? Perhaps a rarely swept deli that hasn't switched up its pastry offerings since the early '90s? To date, no answers, no pies. I won't give up hope, but this might be a lost cause. It's already a pretty sad cause. I bet there's people who'd beat me up if they found out that this was my cause. I'm ashamed of my cause.

Each wrapper contained a cutout "Pudding Point," presumably to be used for some mail-in freebie offer I've never heard about. The Turtles' action figures and vehicles came with "Pizza Points," and I'd be really curious to find out which one was worth more. Pizza seems obvious, but it's pretty tough to replace a Pudding Point. Scratch this paragraph.

The biggest coup of eating these monsters was the free trading card/sticker included with each pie. There were two sets that I'm familiar with -- the first were five simple stickers depicting our heroes as they appeared on the cartoon, while the second featured their more lifelike likenesseses from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. Remember, with Kickin' Kato? And April-2? The freebies were a great way to make repeat customers of kids who would normally never twice order green pies filled with slimy guts, and since children would've collected ostrich claws if someone said they had ties to the Ninja Turtles, we were buying these pastries by the truckload.

Though the cards were pretty much free of any true ties to the pies they were given out with, I noticed something interesting in a few examples from the first set...

On the first card, Leonardo is satiated. On the second, Mikey is chewing. I suspect covert pie-eating action.

I don't have much faith in Hostess birthing more Turtle Pies in this lifetime, even with TMNT's successful return. The historic delicacies shall forever remain in the past, tucked between Ecto Cooler and a box of Quackers in a floating white pantry. Should I ever come across additional information, you'll be the first to know.

-- Matt (5/20/2004)

UPDATE!! (6/12/04) Reader Christopher Lawrence took the liberty of e-mailing Hostess to find out if we'll ever see those Turtle Pies again. Straight from the horstess' mouth, here's what they had to say:

"Thank you for contacting Interstate Brands Corporation regarding the Hostess Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pudding Pies. I appreciate your love for these pies, however, the TMNT pudding pies were produced as a marketing joint effort with the TMNT movies that came out in the late 1980's. The pies were always meant to be a limited item and I'm afraid we do not intend to re introduce them to the marketplace. Thank you for your interest."

I appreciate your love for these pies? I'm going to marry that sentence someday. So, no new Turtle Pies. Don't even think it. You'll never see them again. You will never sleep again. To end on a more uppity note, reader Matt Kibry sent me a scan of the fifth Turtle Pie wrapper, this time featuring all four of the green heroes standing as one green hero mass. I believe this was actually the first wrapper in the series. Here, here's your wrapper. Go look at your wrapper.

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Tunnel Rat: What are you doing?!

Donatello: Painting these lemon pies with green food coloring.

Tunnel Rat: Why?

Donatello: So I can trick people into believing Hostess still makes Turtle Pies.

Tunnel Rat: With a giant paintbrush? Your plan is flawed.

Donatello: Nah. I just gotta make sure it's in constant movement so nobody can get a close look.

Tunnel Rat: See, Donatello? Those Entenmann's pies aren't even the same shape as your old ones. And they're supposed to be filled with vanilla pudding, not lemons! This is pointless!

Donatello: Okay, now this is interesting. Swear to God, I wasn't holding any pies when they took that picture. I thought Photoshop wasn't invented until last year?

Tunnel Rat: I think they brightened your teeth, too.

Donatello: Fine, you win. The Entenmann's pies don't look like Turtle Pies. I guess we better throw my little art project away and tell everyone we did nothing the wholllle afternoon.

Tunnel Rat: Thank you. I'm always right. So, what should we do instead? Any good movies on?

Donatello: None at all. Best one I found was Tom and Huck. In Spanish.

Tunnel Rat: Fuck. K, let's toss the ol' pigskin. What's the weather like outside?

Donatello: It's raining fire.

Mikey: Hey, what are you guys doing?!

Tunnel Rat: Painting these lemon pies with green food coloring.

Mikey: Why?

Tunnel Rat: Ask Donatello.

Mikey: You guys gotta come to the window. That old dog across the street just caught fire.