In 1991, the world changed. Not only did we receive the second live-action Ninja Turtles movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, but we also experienced something far more spiritual and deep. Yes, we’re talking about Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” — the anthem of every ’90s kid. If you believe Mr. Ice, though, he pulled it off because he’s actually the fifth member of the Ninja Turtles. “I think you have to understand, and be a true ninja, to possess the magic to really pull off the secret sound,” he told GQ back in 2016. Oh, and don’t come here and tell us that you didn’t bust a move to it, because we all know you’re lying and felt the beat in your hi-top.
But enough about the Artist Formerly Known as Madonna’s Toy Boy for now. The second Turtles film blended the sheer insanity of Turtlemania at the time into a perfectly digestible 88-minute cowabunga-fueled adventure. Still, it wasn’t all fun and pizza, as there was a lot of off-screen drama that impacted the final movie – and that’s why we’re here. We’ve done our homework and identified 15 behind-the-scenes secrets. See, it’s not just the ooze that was secretive in this movie.
15. ERNIE REYES JR. PLAYED DONATELLO BEFORE
One of the biggest disappointments of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was that Elias Koteas didn’t return as Casey Jones. Instead, we got Ernie Reyes Jr. portraying the pizza delivery boy Keno, who is arguably the human embodiment of Jar Jar Binks. Apart from his impressive martial arts repertoire, the character did nothing more than annoy the viewers with his awful one-liners and casual misogyny. Why was he even in this movie?!
Even though Keno was a new character to the franchise, Reyes had already been involved in the 1990 film. In it, he was the stunt and fight double for Donatello. Knowing what we do now about Keno, maybe Reyes should’ve stayed on in that role instead of getting his own original character to play.
14. TOKKA AND RAHZAR REPLACED BEBOP AND ROCKSTEADY
When you think of bumbling henchmen, the names Bebop and Rocksteady immediately come to mind. They’re the prototype for incompetence – in fact, the only thing more useless than them is a politician. As soon as news of The Secret of the Ooze broke, many fans were hoping we’d get to see the mutated warthog and rhino in a live-action adventure. No one expected a mutated alligator snapping turtle and Gray wolf named Tokka and Rahzar.
So what gives? Well, Bebop and Rocksteady were originally in the plans for the movie. The problem was that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were against it, due to licensing issues. Despite being a huge part of the lore now, the characters were designed by Laird while negotiating the action figure deal with Playmates and their origins were written by David Wise for the animated show. So, you can see the sticky “who owns what” situation there.
13. THE TURTLES’ WEAPONS WERE BANNED
Back in the day, the Turtles struggled with the censors and even had to rename the show to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in certain regions, because ninjas are apparently bad for kids. Parents and censors weren’t hot on the idea of four anthropomorphic turtles beating the snot out of the bad guys and would prefer they deal with problems like real adults do: through passive-aggressive remarks.
Jokes aside, this issue carried through to The Secret of the Ooze. After the first film received backlash for being too violent, the filmmakers decided to tone it down and not let the Turtles use their weapons in the film – except for Donatello who still used his bō. By doing so, the movie was able to appeal to children, their target demographic.
12. WHERE WAS COREY FELDMAN?
When the original Turtles film came out, it was a coup to get Corey Feldman to voice of Donatello. In those days, Feldman was a huge name and brought some star power to the generally low-budget affair. Hence it was surprising that he didn’t return for the sequel, which was meant to be bigger and better.
In his autobiography, Coreyography: A Memoir, Feldman said, “The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was brought to me in the fall of 1989, when I was already pretty deep in my heroin haze.” By the time of the sequel, Feldman was in rehab and unavailable for the production. Fortunately, he did get another chance to voice Donatello in the god-awful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time, which no one wants to remember.
11. EASTMAN & LAIRD DIDN’T WANT THE SHREDDER
In the early stages of the film’s production, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird weren’t hot on the idea of the Shredder being the main villain of the sequel. After all, they’d created an entire world of characters in the comic book series and would’ve liked to see something (and someone) different for a change.
According to Laird’s original notes, which he posted on his blog, he proposed that only the Shredder’s helmet be shown in the film: “[Eastman and I] both feel that the Shredder should not appear in the second [TMNT] movie, but this might be a subtle enough way to refer to his ambiguous fate and set the scene for his appearance in a third TMNT movie (if that happens).” Laird added that he can’t recall if he ever sent the notes to anyone.
10. JUDITH HOAG TALKED HERSELF OUT OF THE SEQUEL
When The Secret of the Ooze was released, one thing was immediately noticeable: there was a change in the actress playing April O’Neil. No longer was Judith Hoag portraying our favorite snooping reporter, but the role now belonged to All My Children star Paige Turco. It was a strange move considering that Hoag was largely loved by the fans of the first film.
Speaking to Variety, Hoag said she wasn’t asked to reprise the role of O’Neil in the sequel because she complained to the producers about the lengthy six-day shoots and the violence of the original movie. “Everybody was beating everybody up. I thought the movie suffered because of that. It was something I spoke to the producers about. I think they thought I was too demanding, and moved on.”
9. THE UK DIDN’T APPROVE OF SAUSAGES
In the UK, the Turtles caused a lot of headaches. When the animated show was released, there was a big drive to address violence in children’s programming, which resulted in the original series being heavily censored. In fact, the BBC version of the show changed all uses of the term “bummer” due to concerns over the term having a homophobic meaning in British slang.
The Secret of the Ooze didn’t escape the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), either. A case study was released that discusses how the BBFC had the distributors remove shots of sausages from the film to receive a PG rating. The reason for the removal is because Michelangelo made use of the sausages as makeshift nunchucks. So, the next time you buy a hot dog, just remember that you have a weapon in your hand, too.
8. ELMO WAS SPLINTER
One thing that most of us missed in the first two Turtles movies was that Splinter’s voice and puppeteer duties were handled by the same person who helmed Elmo in Sesame Street: Kevin Clash. While Clash wasn’t the first person to handle duties for the little, red monster, he’s undoubtedly the most popular and now legendary figure in the puppeteer world – even if his career came to a grinding halt.
In 2012, two men alleged to have been in relationships with Clash when they were still underage. Clash immediately handed in his resignation from Sesame Workshop, saying, “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.” The three cases against Clash were later dismissed in 2013.
7. “NINJA RAP” WAS WRITTEN IN 30 MINUTES
We’ve already touched upon the awesomeness that is the “Ninja Rap,” but how long did it take Vanilla Ice to come up with such a lyrical masterpiece? If you believe him, it took about 30 minutes to come up with the whole thing. Although, it must be said that he isn’t always the most reliable of sources.
Speaking to MTV, the rapper said he received carte blanche from the producers to come up with whatever he wanted and wrote the song from scratch. “I wrote the song in a hotel room using an SP 1200 (laughs), an old-school drum machine. It took me maybe 30 minutes to write it and the rest we completed in the studio.” The gods of music work in mysterious ways, we guess.
6. LAIRD DIDN’T WANT IT TO BE LIKE THE CARTOON
You gotta feel for Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. It was their comic book series that kick-started Turtlemania, yet more people are interested in the animated show’s tone and stories than the edgier source material. Sure, the Turtles made them extremely rich, but it’s so different from what they originally envisioned.
In fact, Laird said that he wanted the sequel to move away from the colorful and comedic elements the cartoon had become known for in the ’80s. He didn’t want to see goofy characters like Bebop, Rocksteady or Krang in the film, and would’ve preferred the filmmakers had drawn from the comic books’ lore. While he did get his wish in terms of those characters being excluded, the sequel was certainly lighter and goofier than the original film. Let’s hear it for compromises!
5. TGRI VS. TCRI
In the comic book series, the Techno Cosmic Research Institute (TCRI) is a mysterious scientific organization responsible for creating the mutagen that transformed the Turtles and Splinter. It’s later discovered that the facility is a secret base for a race of extra-terrestrial beings known as Utroms that crash-landed on Earth years before.
In the ’90s films, the corporation responsible for the Turtles’ origin was renamed the Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI) and the alien part of the mutagen was removed from the story completely. However, as Laird said, there were plans to link the alien angle and Professor Perry in the initial film discussions. In Michael Bay’s Turtles film series, though, TCRI returned to the fold but the Turtles’ origin story still strayed away from comic book canon.
4. DIFFERENT SHREDDER
For the sharp-eyed individuals out there, the Shredder was portrayed by a different actor in the sequel. And no, this isn’t just about “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash as the Super Shredder. We’re talking about Cambodian actor François Chau who took over the role of Oroku Saki from James Saito.
Fortunately for the actors, the role of the Shredder wasn’t cursed and they all found solid work after their appearances. Chau has appeared in numerous TV shows and found mainstream success as Dr. Pierre Chang in Lost. Saito also moved onto bigger projects, appearing in Die Hard with a Vengeance, Pearl Harbor, and The Devil’s Advocate. Similarly, Nash went on to dominate the wrestling business, becoming world champion in WCW and WWE, and has built up a decent filmography through the years.
3. FRANK WELKER VOICED TOKKA AND RAHZAR
While Tokka and Rahzar didn’t exactly have any award-winning lines in the film, someone was still needed to provide the mouth noises for these two buffoons. Step forth the man who is known for voicing Fred Jones, Megatron, and the rest of our childhood: Frank Welker.
Despite the success and abundance of characters in the original animated series, this was the first time that Welker had worked on a TMNT project. Fortunately, it wasn’t set to be his last. In 2007’s TMNT, Welker provided the voices for several monsters in the movie. Then, in 2012, he made an appearance in the episode “Monkey Brains” as the voice of Dr. Rockwell in Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Let’s hope he’ll also have a role to play in 2018’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
2. DAVID WARNER DANCED WITH VANILLA ICE
While the likes of Jodie Foster might not be a fan of superhero films, UK actor David Warner had a ball on the set of The Secret of the Ooze. The legendary British thespian has appeared in major films such as Titanic, Tron, and The Omen, but he only has fond memories of his time doing the Turtles movie.
Speaking to The A.V. Club, Warner said, “It was just great fun being in a movie like that. You know, for kids. I didn’t often do kids pictures.” He also recalled his interactions with Vanilla Ice. “There was a brief shot of me dancing with Vanilla Ice in the background. You can see me kind of jiving away there. But I didn’t get a chance to have many intellectual conversations with Vanilla Ice [laughs]. He kept mostly to himself.”
1. PROFESSOR PERRY WAS MEANT TO BE AN ALIEN
David Warner’s Professor Perry played a critical part in the film as the head scientist of the Techno Global Research Industries (TGRI) and helped the Turtles create an antidote for Tokka and Rahzar. Still, his role was purported to be even wackier and more important if you believe Peter Laird.
In the comics, the company that’s linked to the Turtles’ origin is also connected to extra-terrestrial beings known as Utroms. Laird said that Perry was originally intended to be an Utrom disguised as a human (ahem, Krang). He added that he’d heard a scene was filmed where Perry lifted up his shirt and revealed the Utrom within. Although, he did state he can’t verify that claim for sure. But how cool would that twist have been?!
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