ISSUE 33: MY WISH LIST.Nickelodeon has served up a solid premiere season of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Our favorite reptiles have momentum back on their side. What seems like an endless supply of episodes (in high definition!) has once again brought TMNT merchandise to store shelves. Stand back and take it all in. Does this mean we are on the cusp of another TMNT golden age? Fingers crossed, but that remains to be seen. With at least two more seasons hitting the airwaves, there will be plenty more ninja nonsense from the green guys.
There are other areas to be conquered for a complete Turtles' takeover. There are specific things that proved successful in the past and solidified the Turtles as pop culture icons. If these guys want to relive their glory days, I have a Wish List that will make it happen. This Top Ten is a blueprint to their triumph - tapping into the essence of what kids love about TMNT. Nickelodeon, turn these wishes into a reality, and you've got gold. Nostalgic fans and young guns too.
Ring in a new era of ninja with a blast from the past.
10. PIZZA POINTS
The action figures from Nickelodeon's TMNT series have surpassed my expectations with huge levels of success. Even with only one season under its belt, the Turtle toys have been hitting store shelves nonstop. Seeing them again awakens that nostalgic eagerness to wander down the toy aisles. The figures and packaging are modern, but still embrace the classic tone us old-school fans crave. But, one thing is sadly absent - Pizza Points.
Those Turtle tokens were an essential part of the toy collecting experience. The action figures, vehicles, play sets - everything carried the illustrious Pizza Points. You cut 'em out, collected em', and then cashed in your stash for mail away TMNT merch. The process was long, but was very rewarding. In some ways, I'm sure it taught kids the art of responsibility. Saving your money (or Pizza Points) was a valuable lesson. The whole "good things come to those who wait" philosophy.
WISH: Nickelodeon (and Playmates), how about smacking Pizza Points on TMNT toys once again? You know, for the sake of learning.
9. COMING OUT OF THEIR SHELLS TOUR
Moms, dads, dudes, and dudettes flocked from their homes to see this musical escapade. From coast to coast, the Turtles got their groove on. The costumes were lousy, the songs cringe-inducing, and the "plot" was riddled with holes. But even with all that being said, I'd still love to see an encore.
Witnessing the Turtles come to life was a jaw-dropping experience as a child. It's a moment in time that I'll never forget. Similar to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in a local mall, seeing the Turtles in the real world carried that same whimsical flare. It's the combination of their makeshift costumes that tiptoe on the line of creepy, but harness the power of real life height and weight. Seeing six foot tall Turtles hooks your sense of wonder as a kid. It fascinates you, but baffles too. Why is your favorite animated cartoon existing in reality - and on stage belting out musical numbers?
My Mom brought me to a nearby mall that was presenting some sort of Coming Out of Their Shells Tour experience. It wasn't the entire performance, but a small sample of the tour (it was free). Although the memories are foggy, some aspects remain crystal clear. My main takeaway from the event? The crowds. The event was standing room only. Pockets of whiny kids and bored parents flooded back from the stage. Unfortunately, my Mom and I were stuck in the rear of the audience. My little blonde-covered head couldn't peer over the sea of people in front of us. We were able to hear the silly songs, but alas, we didn't see much of the performance.
In an attempt to capture the moment, my Mom snapped a photo of the Turtles stage (at the time, she had the height advantage). When we got the film developed, the result was hysterical. Most of the image captured the crowd. The foreground was plagued with the backs of peoples heads. Off in the far, far distance there was something that possibly resembled a stage. But in the middle of everything, there was a Turtle and a tiny, yellow dot. What was this yellow spot in the middle of the photo?
April O'Neil. Our whole Coming Out of Their Shells Tour experienced was summed up by that speck of yellow. Out of reach, but I still loved it.
WISH: So Nickelodeon, how about a reunion tour?
8. COFFEE MUG
Kids don't need coffee. But kids who liked the Turtles in the 90's, and are now adults, DO need coffee. Nothing gets your day going like a piping hot cup of joe. When Nickelodeon fires up a new episode of TMNT, I'm usually taking it in on a Saturday morning. As an adult, my TMNT-watching and a tasty cup of coffee are hand in hand.
Throughout my travels, I've never come across a TMNT coffee mug that I truly love. Sure, many mugs exist, but each entry falls short of perfection.
Problem 1 - Plastic.
Many of the original cups from the 90's aren't meant for hot beverages. Geared at kids, these mugs are plastic and small in size. Perfect for a few sips of juice, but not for gulping down caffeine. I guess the creators weren't thinking about the kids of the 90's hankering for a cup of coffee 25 years later.
Problem 2 - Ordinary.
The mugs built for brew don't push the creative envelop. Over the last few years, the market has been flooded with TMNT coffee mugs, but their designs are very basic. Familiar TMNT visuals are slapped onto the side of a mug. This type of thing was okay in the 90's when the Turtles were first introduced to the world, but decades later, I demand more originality.
Problem 3 - Creative, but not for coffee.
Not all TMNT cups lack imagination. The classic cartoon spawned a handful of cool designs. Aimed at royalty and rappers, this goblet can carry a hefty amount of beverage. But unfortunately, not so hot for coffee.
Hey Nickelodeon, how about this? Craft a mug like this green guy.
Kermit the Frog from The Great Muppet Caper. I stumbled upon this creative cup in an antique shop. Three bucks later, I had myself the perfect mug. I've been sipping my coffee from Kermy's hollowed out head for months.
WISH: Nickelodeon, steal this design. But, mutate the mug from frog to Turtle.
7. HALLOWEEN COSTUMES FOR KIDS
Trick or Treat needs a ninja upgrade. Even though their hiatus from TV was short, the Turtles lost momentum. Kids instead flocked to other popular super heroes when Halloween rolled around. As a result, TMNT costumes have been few and far between.
The costumes still exist - people are still ponying up the cash to be a Ninja for the night. But the sad part is, they're mostly adults. The costume can go two ways...
1. The Dudes.
There are guys like me, embracing their nostalgic past. The Turtles have been a part of their lives since childhood. They've watched all the shows, seen the movies, and played with the toys. Dressing up like Raphael or Splinter for a night, is a shout out to the past - reliving those memories full of Turtle Power.
2. The Dudettes.
Somewhere along the line, something mutated. The normal Halloween costume transformed into a wardrobe piece from some Vegas show. Fighting the Foot Clan was no longer the mission - showing as much skin as possible became the objective.
As a guy, I'm certainly not complaining about a few sexy Turtles roaming around on Halloween. But, since the green machines are rooted so much to my childhood, the whole concept still strikes me as strange. The Turtles were geared towards kids - so how did THIS happen? There's no sexy Sponge Bob or risque Sesame Street characters. WHY the Turtles?
Would Splinter approve of such skimpy costumes?
Kids need to recapture a TMNT Halloween for themselves. There's nothing cuter than a bunch of little tikes running around pretending they're mutated Turtles. Although I love rocking a silly TMNT costume in late October, this one belongs to the kids.
WISH: Next Halloween, children are kicking the shell out of ghouls and ghosts dressed in their TMNT costumes.
6. ICE CREAM
Every summer, you hear that melodic sound. Off in the distance, but it's coming closer. The theme is etched in your brain. The classic tune bellows from a shoddy speaker and enchants the ears of children. They come running in droves from their homes and line up for a chance to gobble down dessert.
It's the ice cream truck.
The last few summers have been a bit of a bummer at the truck. The menu is lacking its best item - a TMNT popsicle. This summer staple lasted a long time. For decades, I always managed to snag a cold TMNT treat. Clockwork that kept me cool, dude.
Now, I'm at a loss. Ice cream trucks no longer carry them. Sure, I can be spontaneous and sample something new. But, why? There was a science behind the perfection of the TMNT popsicle. Artificially-flavored dessert topped with gumballs? I'll take two.
WISH: Summer is approaching. The heat will be upon us. Nickelodeon, you brought the Turtles back to television. Now, bring them back to the ice cream truck. Tasteless bubble gum eyeballs and all.
Nickelodeon, you made the choice. Your version of the Turtles still has them eating pizza. Every new episode seems to have the brothers chomping down some sort of pie.
The tie-in is obvious. Frozen pizzas are piled high in supermarkets. Pizza Huts are still covering the country. Even Dominos, Little Caesars, and Papa Johns have all upped their game over the years. Opportunity is at your fingertips. Grab ahold of it. Don't let go.
WISH: It seemed like the Turtles were on every pizza box in the 90's. Pizza is still popular. Nickelodeon has made the Turtles popular once again. It's a match made in heaven.
Heck, if we can't get pizza, can we at least get some pizza gyoza?
4. TERRIBLE TEAM-UPS
When you hit a certain level of success, you've gotta roll with the right crowd. Forget your friends. It's not "show friends" - it's "show business."*
The Turtles were rolling deep back in the 90's. They were livin' large. From a hit TV show to lining the store shelves with merchandise, they sat on top of a thrown. Obviously, they couldn't let just anyone stroll around in their entourage. The Turtles picked their crowd carefully. They were a very selective bunch. When the verdict was out, who was the lucky duck to hang with the boys?
Can Nickelodeon throw together another crazy collaboration?
WISH: Hook into pop culture with another celebrity-mutant mash-up. Throw the Turtles and a fiercely famous star into a wild scenario. If this situation produces a legendary song and dance, even better! Trendy hip-hop is acceptable too.
* Yes, that is a quote from the film, Jerry Maguire.
3. ARCADE GAMES
Most arcade centers are long gone. The days of dumping quarters have been replaced with home gaming consoles and an internet connection. But back in the day, the Turtles reigned supreme. Their 4-player games provided the ideal arcade experience. You and your friends (and sometimes even strangers), crammed coins into the machine for the chance to defeat Shredder.
The classic, side-scrolling adventures of the TMNT arcade games were a blast. I remember our summer vacations at the Jersey Shore were filled with multiple trips to the gaming emporium. It was the pinnacle excursion on all vacations. After plopping down just one coin to play, you became addicted. The time flew by. Hour by hour, I would make friends with other kids who were also hellbent on conquering the Foot Clan. We spent our quarters, we killed the time, we all bonded.
Nickelodeon has given new life to this old franchise. The modern age of online gaming beckons to be embraced by the Turtles. With an online connection, 4 friends (or strangers) could once again play as the Turtles and fight for justice. The physical arcade might be gone and the need to stock up on quarters too. But, the magic of a TMNT arcade-like adventure can certainly live on.
WISH: An engaging, brand new 4-player arcade-style TMNT game featuring the Nickelodeon Turtles. Let friends and strangers alike bond for the ultimate goal of taking down the Foot.
Wheaties may be "the breakfast of champions," but what about Ninjas? Well, they were treated to the power-packed crunch of TMNT Cereal. Kids started every morning with this killer combination of "ninja nets" and marshmallows (in the shape of the Turtles & their weapons). Totally tubular - totally tasty!
On school days, my breakfast ritual consistently had me scarfing down cereal. Usually, my customary Turtle bowl was filled with the healthier brands - Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and Kix. But once in a blue moon, you'd find me wolfing down the sweeter stuff. Marshmallows and sugary bits of breakfast would be piled high in my bowl. Spoonful after spoonful, I'd gobble it down as it transformed my meal from routine to fun.
The act of eating the sugary cereals wasn't the only merry moment. The playful artwork on their boxes was hypnotic. I was lured in by the wonderland of colors and characters that covered the packaging. Heck, there were even games! The healthier brands definitely couldn't compete. Lucky The Leprechaun blew Cornelius Rooster out of the water. No contest.
But really, don't all marshmallow cereals taste the same? It's the packaging and box art that separates them. People don't argue that one cereal is tastier than the other - it's more of a debate on which one has the better mascot. So when the TMNT Cereal hit our breakfast table, it was the best of both worlds. A sweet treat branded with my favorite green machines. I wanted breakfast three times a day, for every meal.
WISH: Bring TMNT back to breakfast! Nickelodeon, you don't even need to update the recipe. Just jazz up the box with the new versions of our favorite heroes.
My favorite film has not changed since 1990 - when the original TMNT movie hit the silver screen. The entire experience had me in awe. The costumes, the dark tone, the acting - I loved it. The action and comedy were pretty top-notch too. Nothing disappointed me.
Unfortunately, the same can't said for the sequels. Each entry ushered in a new take on the mutated teens that never quite stacked up to the original. But, I still enjoyed the sequels. Each time the Turtles released a new flick, I was first in line to buy a ticket. I ate my popcorn, laughed at the jokes, and basked in the glory of my favorite heroes being on the big screen. But now, it's been 6 years since their last cinematic adventure. Time is ticking. Thanks to Nickelodeon, momentum is once again on the Turtles side. The big screen hiatus needs to end.
WISH: Release a new TMNT movie - a film that captures the hearts of fans both new and old. Cram in action, adventure, and solid storytelling. And don't forget to throw in a few laughs too. It's a hefty ask, but my fingers are crossed.
Well, there you have it. The Sewer Den's Wish List full of wild TMNT dreams. Over the next few years, we'll see how this thing pans out. Hopefully I'll be scratching these items off the list one by one.
What do you guys think? Am I forgetting anything? If there's something special you'd throw on your Wish List, speak up. Nickelodeon has the power - the Turtle Power.