Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Co-Creator Kevin Eastman Shares His Favorite TMNT Movie Moments [Exclusive Interview]


The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Like so many other children of the '80s (and, thanks to this franchise's incredible staying power, children of every decade since then), I watched the animated series religiously, dressed up as the characters for Halloween, had Turtle-themed birthday parties, and played with those awesome action figures. 

So when Paramount was putting together some press opportunities to promote the home video release of its excellent new animated film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" and offered me the chance to speak with Kevin Eastman, who co-created the original Turtles comic with Peter Laird back in 1984, I immediately said yes, even though our conversation could only last five minutes. That's not nearly enough time to delve into all the different eras of the Turtles throughout their storied history, but in our short interview, Eastman told me about his favorite "TMNT" movie moments, what it's been like to see the franchise he co-created explode into popularity beyond his wildest imagination, and more.

'There's so many wonderfully iconic moments throughout the years'

Do you have a favorite moment from any Turtles adaptation, in either TV or film?

Man, there's so many wonderful, iconic little bits and pieces, from the original Steve Barron[-directed moment], "Pizza dude's got 30 seconds," to the new film, I'm just thinking [about] Jackie Chan going, "You're freaking me out!" as Splinter. There's so many wonderfully iconic moments throughout the years that we've been lucky enough to have, with so many unique and wonderful visions.

Have there been any adaptations of the Ninja Turtles that you were either aware of or involved with yourself that were never actually made?

No. Well, not really. I'm just a little trepidatious only in that we were developing a fourth movie back in the early days, which included the creation of a fifth turtle named Kirby, and that evolved into a live-action series when we added a female turtle, which was my idea — Venus. No, so there's nothing that I wish we'd done yet that hasn't been done. So many wonderful explorations and so many Turtle ideas far beyond what I ever imagined originally, for sure.

Gotcha. Yeah, I was just curious if you'd ever heard a pitch for an adaptation that was so wild that you were like, "What is going on?"

It was only that — and I know it exists somewhere — but back in the earliest days, [before] the first Turtle movie, there was a pitch from Roger Corman's company, New World Pictures, which was like, I think it had a bunch of comedians like Sam Kinison and a couple others that were going to be the turtles' voice [and] just basically paint their faces green and wear a shell. But it was a really low budget, crazy idea that Peter and I were not impressed with [laughs], so we said no. And wisely so, I guess.

'After 40 years, what more could be done?'

From your perspective, what has it been like seeing a comic that essentially started out as a parody take on a life of its own and blossom into this mega popular franchise?

Yeah, I use the word "humbling" a lot and quite sincerely in that, when you think back in the days where we weren't sure if we'd sell enough copies of the first issue to pay back our uncle, who loaned us the money for the first issue, to then have it go on to the original animated and movie series, to other iterations updated and franchised, too.

When you get to "Mutant Mayhem" and you think, well, after 40 years, what more could be done? And to have these incredibly talented [folks], Jeff Rowe and Seth Rogen and Evan [Goldberg], come up with this story that has such great bits of originality. It's got its foundation, of course, but then to come up with an original story, an original take that is wonderfully heartwarming, beautifully animated — the animation, to me, resonates so much with the original, very organic style of what Peter and I did in the early days of the underground version of the Turtles — was ... Yeah, man, what a treat with that voice talent and the soundtrack. I feel like it's this perfect storm of creative elements coming together to tell a wonderful story that works.

Definitely. How do you feel about the way that other creators have reinterpreted your characters? I imagine it's a surreal experience for you to watch an adaptation having been so closely associated with this for so many years.

It's been a great experience. Growing out of the comic genre, pop culture genres of, especially comics where you would have a creative team on, say, "Daredevil" — one of my favorite characters, as you know. And this particular story arc is written and drawn by this person and you don't hate it but you don't love it, but it's still your character. And then you have Frank Miller come on and it goes to that level [raises his hand high]. So I feel like different versions of the Turtles, even the earliest days of the comics, when somebody would approach us with an idea that — especially when Peter and I were in full control, there were some that we liked the concept and some executions we loved. Some we didn't love as much, but we didn't hate them in any sense of the word. 

But to see it interpreted and now that I don't own any part of the Turtles but I get to sort of be brought in [for] different stuff. With "Mutant Mayhem," I had nothing to do but watch it unfold as a fan and see this brilliant concept of our characters be executed in a way that just made me a proud papa. [laughs]

'Perhaps there's an opportunity to do a live-action or an animated version down the road'

I was wondering if, after the success of "The Last Ronin," you've heard anything about there being interest in a more mature, darker adaptation of the Turtles?

Well, what I love is Nickelodeon and Paramount, they're always spot-on with what they'd like to do with the Turtles and where they make sense to utilize them. And I love that they're going to do a video game of "Last Ronin," because I feel like perhaps there's an opportunity to do a live-action or an animated version down the road. But the best place for "Last Ronin" right now is to be executed certainly in that edgier, older audience intended style. And I've been working with the creative team on it, and dude, it's fantastic. I mean, they're really taking stuff right out of the comic book and bringing it to life in this video game that I think fans of "Last Ronin" are going to love. But at the same time, kids of all ages like us, we still get to enjoy all things "Mutant Mayhem."