On Set Cinema: The TMNT Farmhouse

"It's time to go back."

A pivotal quote from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released in 1990. It's a big moment in the movie. Our heroes find themselves refreshed & recalibrated after a major defeat, now ready to leave their farmhouse escape and return to New York City to face off against the Foot Clan. It signals the Turtle Power has returned.

Like the Turtles, I felt ready to return to the fight. After hiding out the last couple years because of the pandemic and becoming a parent, it was "time to go back." My return wasn't to New York City though, but the general TMNT community. Without comic cons, movie screenings or even the simple meeting of friends, the Turtle Powered experiences have been limited. Enter On Set Cinema - an ongoing, traveling film series that takes the cinema experience a step further with rare movie screenings of cult favorites and horror classics at their actual filming locations. On September 11, 2021 in Currie, North Carolina, On Set Cinema hosted a TMNT event, screening the original 1990 movie at the legendary farmhouse featured in the film. Not only could you watch the film at this iconic film location, but you could also camp there overnight! For me, this opportunity was the ultimate return to the Ninja Turtles community. Indeed, it was "time to go back."

Four heroes made the trek to North Carolina for the event. But instead of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello & Michelangelo, it was Zach, Jesse, Simon & me. We all came from different parts of the country, so it was pretty spectacular to not only be together, but be together at such an iconic location for us Turtles fans. The moment we arrived, we immediately hoofed it to the farmhouse for a photo. Can you really blame us? 

Welcome To The Sewer Den

Awesome. Righteous. Bossa Nova.
The official film about me and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection is here!

Welcome to The Sewer Den is a glimpse into the real-life of New Jersey native & ultimate TMNT fan, Jonathan Zelenak. That's me! Venture inside a fandom full of nostalgia & the value of collecting. Journey with me & a peek into the jaw-dropping collection. The Sewer Den houses childhood toys, one-of-a-kind collectibles, weird rarities & even Ninja Turtles bunk beds! Take a trip with me back to the late 80s, where I recount childhood memories. From there, you'll discover the inspiration behind The Sewer Den & how eating pizza is essential for Turtles culture. This ridiculous but true life documentary doesn't fall short of being memorable, and will be just comedic enough to make you question if this dude is real - and the answer is YES.

Get sentimental. Get silly. Get to watching Welcome To The Sewer Den
It's 9 minutes of your life you'll never regret.

How did we get here?

In January of 2011, my life was at a crossroads. After graduating film school, my friends and I made a 98-minute feature film & toured the country promoting it. In between and after that, I worked for a handful of big entertainment companies on TV and digital projects. It all added up to a fun, memorable ride, but something wasn't clicking... it was time for a major shake up. I quit my job, took a break from movie making, moved out of my Brooklyn apartment & went on a 2-month road trip across the country with a friend. I traveled from state-to-state, camping in the oddest of places in hopes of finding inspiration and discovering my next steps. It all sounds so cinematic... and it was! We had a blast. I returned with a newly-found determination, but not necessarily any direction.

I did what anyone does when lacking clarity and feeling lost - I started combing through my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collection. At the bottom of a box holding vintage action figures and other oddities from the 80s, I found something else... inspiration. And in January of 2011, The Sewer Den was born.

My agenda was simple: assemble the collection, make it visually dynamic & document the fun stuff inside.

Who knew a small blog about Turtles nostalgia would serve as a compass for my life moving forward? It's unreal how it has parted the seas for every step moving forward.

Personal achievements.
Personal growth.
New friends.
New job.
New sunglasses.
And now, new movie.

Now in 2019, almost 9 years after from The Sewer Den's origin, the cowabunga compass points me in another new direction. Going back to my movie roots, I've reconnected with the best dudes out of my film school. Mike Rizzo & Brian Bonz, lovingly known as Bobo Touch, are a Brooklyn-based duo known for their surreal brand of comedy & music. We've stayed well-connected over the years, eager to collaborate on another project. As The Sewer Den grew in popularity online and on social media, we had the gnarly notion to make a mini movie about me and my passion for the Turtles. But could one goofy guy and a collection of old-school junk be a worthy return to filmmaking?

We took a chance. After a few pre-production coffee sessions, we dedicated a weekend in April of 2019 to make the movie. With a utility van packed with gear, a crew of filmmakers made the trek from New York City to Cape May, New Jersey - home of The Sewer Den collection. We crammed way too many bodies into the small space to make a movie dedicated to all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's an exploration into my half shell haven, a nostalgic tour dedicated to rare collectibles and uncommon oddities. Like I've said since 2011, "it's a museum of memories, a collection of cowabunga."

Welcome To The Sewer Den.

Shout outs! 
This movie wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the skills & contributions of the following:

My Mom & Dad: the 2 Splinters of my life!
Mike Rizzo & Brian Bonz: creative angels, film pals for life
Chris Consalvi - owner of House of Fun: filming in your toy store was pure heaven
Simon aka Necrotic Doctor: my dude who has been sifting through toy junk with me for years
John Kent aka Toyfinity: master of toy connections & maker of awesome toys
Scott "Mojo" Modrzynski: he made the movie poster & logo, a true renaissance man
Merso X: the best TMNT game ever was made by this dude
Robert Lum: creative master, good dude & the best TMNT fan
Steven Lowe: voice over master who's been in my films since college
Zach Norris: podcast guru, Turtles homie with all the positive vibes
Jessica Z: my beautifully wonderful wife who inspires & embraces my Turtle Power, along with bringing Sewer Den Jr. into this world!

And my cats, cause why not?

Rare Junk: TMHT Bath Kit

* Rare Junk is dedicated to those unintentional, yet completely outlandish discoveries - ultra-rare TMNT items that you’ve never seen listed on eBay or at your local toy show. No action figures, only bizarre merchandise that decades ago found its way into existence. *

There’s gold. And then there’s garbage. Which side does a 30-year old bath set belong?

This Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles bath set is the definition of rare junk. It’s a unique rarity that I’ve never seen beyond this one. It holds a special quality that keeps me in awe, but also begs the question "why do I have this?!" It shouldn’t still exist after all these years, but it here it is. And with the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles naming, that means it's straight from Europe. Imported rare junk!

My extensive collection houses lots of rare finds that fetch a pretty penny. I’m doubtful this is a money-maker. Despite its uncommon uniqueness, the market for vintage bath products isn’t as demanding as action figures and toys. Too bad! That seems like a fun, cutthroat collecting world I want to be a part of.

The Sewer Den Movie Update

It’s been a hot minute since I broke the news about the upcoming film based off me, my Ninja Turtles collection & the overall power of mutated nostalgia. I’m here to shell out updates!

We’ve got a rough cut, friends. Call me biased, but I can honestly tell you the movie is a blast. It’s silly, funny & even heartfelt. You’ll puke nostalgia, giggle & then your heartstrings will be tugged in ways you weren’t expecting. The film is currently clocking in at about 10 minutes. Short enough to keep your attention & impossible to put you to sleep.

I can’t wait. We can’t wait.

And the best part? We’re involving the Ninja Turtles community! A handful of people have contributed already in so many cool ways. Got a skill or suggestion on ways YOU can participate? Let me know! The more pals involved with this project, the better it’ll be. Drop me a message on social media @TheSewerDen or email at JZfilms@gmail.com

We’re eying a late summer or fall release, so there’s still time to get involved. It’s going to be a shell-shockingly good time. Stay tuned for more bad puns and news about the movie!

Peace, love & Turtle Power,


Rare Junk: Promotional Cereal Box

Rare Junk is dedicated to those unintentional, yet completely outlandish discoveries - ultra-rare TMNT items that you’ve never seen listed on eBay or at your local toy show. No action figures, only bizarre merchandise that decades ago found its way into existence.

Breakfast was beautiful. The late 80s birthed one of the greatest gifts to mankind. Better than the internet and more exciting than your smart phone, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal was breakfast bliss. You've likely admired this iconic box before... with its exquisite cartoon artwork, mouth-watering photography featuring the marshmallow-topped cereal & games covering every inch of the packaging. Kids loved it and nostalgic adults still do. It's a happy memory for most and now a prized possession in any fan's collection. But there's something about this particular box I have that makes it a true rarity...

Coming Soon: The Sewer Den Movie

Lights. Camera. PIZZA.

Big news, dudes. I’m thrilled to announce a movie about me and my passion for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is coming soon! The tour-de-force will take you from New York City to my parents' house in Cape May, New Jersey, the home of my collection. Decades in the making, this short film will serve as a museum of memories, a collection of cowabunga.

The Sewer Den teamed up with Bobo Touch, a Brooklyn-based duo known for their surreal brand of comedy & music that’s just as mutated as the Turtles themselves. I’ve known these dudes since my film school days and am truly excited by the creative insanity they’re bringing to the table. The combination of my adventurous storytelling and their warped humor is going to make this one fun flick. Hold onto your butts.

What else can you expect? Without giving away too much, this is a tale of bizarre nostalgia, embracing absurdity as an adult, and the spirit of collecting a bunch of junk. It’s going to be beautifully weird in all the right ways.

Keep an eye out for the film’s release this summer!

Rare Junk: Tissue Box

Rare Junk is dedicated to those unintentional, yet completely outlandish discoveries - ultra-rare TMNT items that you’ve never seen listed on eBay or at your local toy show. No action figures, only bizarre merchandise that decades ago found its way to store shelves all across the world.

Boogers! Or at least that’s what this one is intended for. This is just your basic tissue box, but my, oh my is the artwork is a thing of beauty. It reminds me of a box of cereal, with eye candy occupying every space of the package. Heroes and villains are on display, giving you visual joy every time you blow your schnoz.