Back in the 1980s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began life as an underground comic book before continually mutating into one massive pop culture phenomenon after another.
On into the ’90s, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael were a hit cartoon series, then a series of smash movies, groundbreaking video games, concert tours, theme park attractions, and an ongoing line of totally tubular toys.
Since then, the heroes on a half-shell have starred in still more TV shows and video games, as well as a new round of blockbuster big screen adventures. Their latest movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, is set to reinvent the boys all over again.
Throughout their entire extraordinary and ongoing run, though, the TMNT have stayed true to their core values and imparted some key lessons with their every new endeavor. Here are the top ten.
Family Comes First
Leo, Mikey, Donny, and Raph are brothers first, ninjas second—and we all know how much importance they place on being ninjas! The Turtles sense of family has bonded them through conflicts both with enemies and among themselves, always providing the highest possible cause they serve, surpassing even pizza!
Respect Your Elders—No Matter How Hairy They Get
The TMNT owe everything from their very lives to their vast knowledge and highly honed ninja skills to Master Splinter, the mutant rat who raised them in a New York City sewer. All decisions they make happen with one question in mind, “What would the mutant rat who raised us in a New York City sewer do?”
Team Stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More”
As individuals, the Ninja Turtles accomplish can and do accomplish much on their own. Only when they blend the components of their unique skills and personalities, though, do they become an unstoppable force for good. Leo is the levelheaded leader, Donnie is scientifically gifted, Raph is a daredevil who takes risks, and Mikey is the good-humored jokester. Put them all together and you know what happens.
Find What You’re Good At… and Get Great At It
In keeping with the idea of teamwork, each Turtle has his own weapon and martial arts approach that uniquely suits him. Leo sports katana swords, Donnie brandishes a bo staff, Raf wields a pair of sai, and Mikey is the master of nuchuks. Individually, they work out and practice their fighting techniques with a single-minded dedication because, hey, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles know what works.
The Four Food Groups Are All Pizza
All the Ninja Turtles love pizza. Michelangelo seems to worship its cheesy, saucy, crusty goodness, though. Better still, Mikey has always taught us to be bold with our pizza toppings, ordering, as he often does, steaming pies piled high with (among other ingredients) peanut butter, clams, and hamburger.
There’s Awesome Stuff Down in the Sewer: You Just Have to Imagine It
Just about any little kid who’s ever been on city street has wondered what lurks beneath those sewer grates. As adults, we know the foul realities, but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles created an entire world of subterranean lairs, secret passageways, and hidden homes of all kinds of wild creatures. The message is that you can turn even the most mundane and, frankly, gross elements of life into endless resources of fantasy and inspiration with just a bit of imagination.
Women Kick Butt: Take It From April O’Neil!
Human female April O’Neil has accompanied the TMNT on every one of their adventures. Not only is she an equal to the boys in terms of courage, strength, independence and determination, she operates aboveground and therefore performs feats of heroism beyond the Ninja Turtles’ capabilities. She’s always been, and continues to be, a powerful role model.
“Cowabunga!” Can Mean All Sorts of Things
Mikey shouts favorite exclamation of surfer slang to express a seemingly endless series of emotions. He yells “Cowabunga!” when he’s excited, when he’s victorious, when he’s scared, and sometimes just because it sounds cool. What Mikey teaches us is that it’s not that you say “Cowabunga!,” it’s how you say it.
The Ninja Turtles Could Make Anybody Cool
Truly, association with the TMNT elevates even the most cool-challenged among us. For proof, look no further than Vanilla Ice and, when you do, be sure to rap along with him: “Go, Ninja! Go, Ninja! Go, Ninja! Go!”
We All Should Have Held On to Our Original TMNT Toys
For decades Ninja Turtles toys have always rocked. Some from a few decades back, if you’ve still got them in good condition, could also know rock you all the way to the bank. An action figure of the obscure TMNT character “Scratch the Cat,” for example, goes for more than $1000. Time to visit your parents and raid your old toy chest, don’t you think?