The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles originated from the Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird 1984 comic books. The comic, intended to be a parody, took a wild turn, and became the bedrock of what became one of the most successful multimedia franchises in the world. The franchise consists of numerous movies, four more comic books, and a lot of television series, including animated series and live-action series, video games, and lots of other media.
In considering characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the 80s, the only media worth looking at is the fantastic, animated television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though UK audiences may remember it as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Otherwise, fans simply call the show TMNT 1987.
The 1987 Cartoon
This animated series is another television miracle because of its rapid rise to becoming one of the most popular animated television series in the history of television shows. Although based on the original comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the show heavily modified the Turtles’ story to suit the ratings for the intended customers (Kids and early teenagers). The animated television series is also the most successful and most popular media in the series.
Murakami Wolf Swenson, Inc and IDDH produced the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. The animated television series premiered in December 1987. The animated television series featured Splinter, a humanoid rat who used to be a human, Hamato Yoshi. Yoshi was once a respected ninja master and member of the Foot Clan, who was set up by one of his students, Oroku Saki. After Saki betrayed him, the clan banished Yoshi for a crime he knew nothing about. Yoshi arrived in Manhattan, New York City, and lived in the sewers where his only companion were the sewerage rats.
That all changed when a young boy accidentally dropped four baby turtles into the sewer drain. One day, Yoshi returned from exploring the city to find his Turtles covered in some strange glowing ooze. This ooze transformed both Yoshi and the Turtles into the last living organism they encountered. So, Yoshi transformed into a humanoid rat, and the Turtles turned to humanoid Turtles. Yoshi then named them after his favorite artists, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo, and began training them in the fighting art of ninjutsu to fight crime and protect the city. They also named him Splinter.
To meet the period of the 80s, we only examined characters from the first three seasons of the animated television series.
Presenting the top ten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters from the ’80s.
10. Burne Thompson
Pat Fraley voiced the character, Burne Thompson, among many characters that he also voiced in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series.
Burne was a hot-tempered and stubborn boss of April O’ Neil at the Channel 6 News. Nearly immediately, Burnes gained a complete hatred of the turtles and their activities. Burnes’ hatred for the Ninja Turtles was inaccurately correct since the city regularly had to clean up after the Turtles’ battle and pay damages. With lots of damaged property, Burne Thompson made up his mind that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were, in fact, a menace to society. He also blamed the Ninja Turtles for events they know nothing about.
Burne Thompson created an anti-mutant campaign and used his post at Channel 6 News to encourage bad media publicity about the Ninja Turtles.
Barry Gordon voiced the mutant henchman character in the 1987 cartoon, Bebop.
Originally, Bebop was a young black man with what is his signature 80s funk appearance including a mohawk, sunglasses, and nose ring. Bebop used to be part of a street gang before he met Shredder. Shredder exposed Bebop to the same mutagen that had transformed Splinter and the Turtles to humanoids. However, Shredder wanted to ensure that he had fearsome mutants. So, he exposed Bebop to a warthog that his troops had stolen from the zoo. Thus, Bebop became a humanoid warthog henchman and one of Shredder’s most trusted underlings.
Bebop provided a worthy opposition to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and was constant trouble for the Ninja Turtles.
8. Vernon Fenwick
Pat Fraley also provided the voice for the cameraman, Vernon Fenwick, in the 1987 cartoon series.
Vernon Fenwick was April O’ Neil’s dim-witted, cowardly, opportunistic, and selfish cameraman and co-reporter. He shares Burne Thompson’s hatred for the Turtles and even joined Burne’s anti-mutant campaign, forgetting that the Ninja Turtles had saved him multiple times.
Vernon Fenwick also nurtured an unhealthy rivalry with April O’ Neil. He would do anything to prove he was a journalist; he even stole some of April’s work. Unfortunately, when he discovers the story is too dangerous or difficult, Vernon Fenwick will quickly retreat and slip away to the background.
7. Baxter Stockman
Pat Fraley voiced the mad scientist, Baxter Stockman, in the 1987 animated television series.
Baxter Stockman was a brilliant inventor who designed and produced rat-catching Mousers. His intention to sell his invention to a Pest Control company proved abortive, and out of desperation, Baxter joined forces with the evil Shredder. Under Shredder’s orders, Baxter modified his Mousers to hunt down the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their master. However, Baxter’s Mousers failed as it was no match for the Turtles’ fighting skill. Baxter Stockman was subsequently arrested and thrown into a mental home.
Eventually, Shredder broke Stockman out of the mental institution so that he can become his underling. Unfortunately, time after time, Baxter’s inventions failed to stand up against the Turtles. Disappointed by his consistent failures, Krang sought to destroy Baxter. However, rather than disintegrating the human, the machine merged Baxter with fly and turned to a humanoid fly.
6. April O’ Neil
Ranae Jacobs voiced the April O’ Neil character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated television series.
April was a brave, courageous television news reporter who works for Channel 6 News. After she inadvertently discovered the home of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the sewers of Manhattan, she became their friend and trusted ally. She has even helped the Ninja Turtles to debunk rumors and bad publications about them.
When her friendship with the Turtles became public, she became an easy target for anyone who wants to harm the Ninja Turtles. Thus, Shredder and other villains in the series regularly captured and kidnapped April to use her as bait to lure out the Turtles. Luckily, in every situation, the Turtles triumphed and eventually rescued April.
Cam Clarke provided the voice for the leader of the turtles, Leonardo, in the 1987 cartoon series. Leonardo is the turtle with the blue mask, whose signature weapon is twin katana blades.
Leonardo was a powerful and serious character. He was also the closest to the turtles’ ninjutsu teacher, Master Splinter. He was the leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, maybe because he is the “teacher’s pet”. Leonardo was a brave, level-headed, and skilled leader who values his leadership above all else.
Townsend Coleman voiced the fun-loving partier of the turtles, Michelangelo, in the 1987 animated television series. This character’s orange-colored mask and his pair of nunchakus distinguished him from his brothers. Michelangelo easily became a fan favorite character because he was a real worry-free teenager.
Some of Michelangelo’s exciting characteristics are goofiness, playfulness, fun-loving, and the use of surfer slang. He is also obsessed over pizzas, so much more than the rest of the team. For instance, Michelangelo experiments with various pizza toppings. Although others see him as dim-witted, especially by Raphael, Michelangelo is the most laid-back of the Ninja Turtles. He also serves as one of the sources of the television series comic relief.
Pat Fraley also provided the voice for the alien invader, Krang, in the 1987animated television series.
Krang was a disembodied extraterrestrial brain from Dimension X who was very intelligent and experienced in the act of plotting evil schemes. Krang controls the Technodrome, a machine intended to use to conquer the Earth. While he originally had a body of his own, he lost his body during his exile from his home, Dimension X.
Although Krang does not harbor any premeditated enmity towards the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he sees them as obstacles to his charge on Earth’s dominance. Krang funds and help Shredder plans his attack against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles eventually defeated him and sent him back to his Dimension X.
2. Oroku Saki / Shredder
The talented, late James Avery provided the voice for Oroku Saki, Shredder, in the 1987 cartoon series.
Oroku Saki was a former student of Hamato Yoshi within the Foot Clan until he devised a plan to usurp Hamato Yoshi by setting him up. After the success of his plan, the Foot Clan exiled Hamato Yoshi. Then, Oroku Saki climbed the ranks to eventually become the leader of the Clan.
Oroku Saki assumed the identity of Shredder and quickly turned the Foot Clan into a criminal empire. Then, he made it his mission to destroy Hamato Yoshi and conquer the world.
1. Hamato Yoshi / Master Splinter
Peter Renaday provided the voice for the Turtles’ mentor, Hamato Yoshi or Splinter, in the 1987 animated television series.
Hamato Yoshi was a disciplined sensei in the Foot Clan before being set up by one of his students, Oroku Saki. Afterward, the Foot Clan banished Yoshi for a crime he did not commit. Eventually, he traveled to the United States and settled in the sewers of Manhattan. There, he became content with the rats and four newly found turtles as his companions.
One day after returning to his sewer home, he found his turtles covered in some glowing chemicals. After exposure to the chemicals, he transformed into a humanoid rat while his turtles became anthropomorphic creatures. Hamato Yoshi, now named Splinter in his new form, began to train the turtles in the art of ninjutsu and taught them to fight crime and lawlessness.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a vibrant world full of colorful characters. There are dozens of other characters that have made the show memorable decades after the run finished. The impact of these characters has kept the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise relevant even 3 decades after it originally aired. Did your favorite characters make it onto our list?
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About the author
Author: Chris Ingledue
Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!