Cowabunga, dude! Who didn't love playing with the turtles in a half shell? Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello were better known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and later Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles so as not to look like they were encouraging violence in kids). And like most toys in the 80s and 90s, they were action figures, complete with fully moveable platsic bodies and limbs you could spend hours on end putting into poses. But they weren't always like this...
Originally, the fearsome foursome were relegated to the world of comic books. Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the turtles lived in the sewers of New York, ate a lot of pizza and talked like they'd just hopped off a flight from Hawaii. Really, they had started life as four regular turtles, who accidentally got covered in toxic waste. They turned into 6ft-tall mutations - hence the name The Teenage mutant Hero Turtles - and just like they were our heroes, the turtles had a hero of their own - Master Splinter, a rat with a knack for martial arts and wise words. Under Splinter's supervision, the foursome became great warriors -complete with bandanas in different colours to differentiate them form one another - and took on the likes of petty criminals around the city as well as the infamous Shredder. There was also a reporter often on the scene, named April, who I think quite fancied one of the turtles.
By the late 80s, the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles had gained their own Saturday morning cartoon series, which was swiftly followed by the action figures so we could recreate episodes in our own living rooms. Each turtle came with their weapon of choice: Michaelangelo wore an orange bandana and carried nunchucks; Donatello wore a purple bandana and carried a staff; Raphael wore a red bandana and carried a pair of sai; and Leonardo wore blue and carried swords. Obviously, in the end, every kid wanted to - no had to - own all four!
Playmates toys released a plethora of merchandise on top of this, including PEZ dispensers, skateboards, lunchboxes, toothpaste and even breakfast cereals.
Then, in a move that rocked every kid's world in the 90s (whereas kids would expect nothing less these days), a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles film hit cinemas. As a result, the action figures range exploded, with even more variiations of the main four (like turtles in disguise, where Michaelangelo got to realise his raison d'etre by becoming a surfer),, plus new characters like Bebo who was a mutant pig and Rocksteady, a mutant rhino. Accessories meant extended funtime, too, with the choice of a Sewer Party Tube and an armoured Party Wagon.
It was only when the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit the scene in the early 90s that the turtles were forced back into the sewer. Nevertheless, in 2007 Turtle Power returned with another big-screen hit. And, of course, having been a staple Happy Meal gift in the 90s, many a turtle can now be found at a car boot sale.