Humanoid turtles who are [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot ninjas]]... and teenagers... and named after famous artists of the Renaissance.

How could this story concept ever work?

Yet it did work, and it worked ''well''. And what with the original comic series, a Saturday Morning Cartoon series, a handful of arcade games and various console games, three live-action movies, a live-action television series (a la ''PowerRangers''), a cartoon series that sent them [[RecycledInSPACE into the future]], and now an anime-styled animated movie... you can't deny that there was ''something'' about this concept that caught public interest.

If only there were some way to make lightning strike twice....

This page, then, is here to discuss the elements that made ''Franchise/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles'' into the worldwide success that it became, and to help you see how you might use these elements to craft your own series.

Don't forget to check out [[SoYouWantTo/WriteAStory So You Want To Write A Story]] for advice that holds across genres.

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!'''Necessary Tropes'''

A team of heroes who fight the bad guys yet ''hide from'' the innocent bystanders. Sound familiar? So far, this is just ''Franchise/{{X-Men}}'', although of course most of the X-Men at least ''looked'' human until they turned their powers on.

The story began as a parody one-shot of contemporary SuperHero comics, especially ''Comicbook/{{Daredevil}}'', but quickly developed into a tough action series in a FantasyKitchenSink setting, without forgetting the characters and their relationships. Once the turtles entered their most familiar incarnation - the Saturday Morning Cartoon version - well, it was a light-hearted action comedy with laughable villains and excellent theme music.

!'''Choices, Choices'''

!'''Pitfalls'''

Well, you can't plan for ExecutiveMeddling changing the whole tone of your story - but then, that cartoon series was probably the best thing that ever happened to the turtles. And it proved that they work well as a concept no matter the trappings.

!'''Potential Subversions'''

After all this time of staying in hiding so that people wouldn't freak out... it could be that society is a bit more understanding than the heroes gave them credit for. Hey, it worked for [[Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer Buffy]]: The students even gave her an award for saving their hides ("We don't exactly know what you've been doing, but we know we owe you one. Thanks").

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!'''Writers' Lounge'''

!!'''Suggested Themes and Aesops'''

The idea of being a hero even when people hated you cropped up more than a few times. However much the team batted the idea around, they weren't about to stand by and watch the humans get attacked, and it didn't matter that at the end of the day, there they were back in the [[AbsurdlySpaciousSewer sewers]].

!!'''Potential Motifs'''

Colors worked well: blue for the calm leader, red for the hot-tempered {{Lancer}}, purple for the inventor, orange for the party dude.

!!'''Suggested Plots'''

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!'''Departments'''

!!'''Set Designer / Location Scout'''

You might not want to go the AbsurdlySpaciousSewer route, but if your heroes are pariahs, you're going to want a place where they can hide from the world. The inside of their hideout should give us a good feel for the personality of these heroes as a group: Notice the homey atmosphere, the sofa and TV, the refrigerator full of pizza... and a training room they made use of every few episodes. Not to mention: bunk beds.

Aside from that, the turtles went to various parts of town, had a few jaunts to other dimensions, and occasionally followed the villains down into their tunnels and the giant burrowing monstrosity that was Krang's lair.

!!'''Props Department'''

Each turtle had a distinct weapon: [[EveryJapaneseSwordIsAKatana sword]], sai, bo, nunchucks. They're not the weapons that the American audience is used to, and they worked out very well. And you know what else? Each turtle suited the weapons assigned to them - the calm leader took the weapon with the most skill and heroic qualities attributed to it, the angry dude took the most savage stabbing weapons that required you to get close and personal, the party guy took the noisy, distracting weapons and the technical pacifist took the least lethal, longest range weapon.

If you're going to go the same route, choose distinctive weapons that are simple yet outside the mainstream. And be aware that ExecutiveMeddling might RetCon the weapons into useless costume artifacts that, if they get pulled out at all, are never used for combat, unless it's against robots... or the odd chance for the villain to disarm the hero.

!!'''Costume Design'''

PaperThinDisguise somehow managed to let them walk around in trenchcoats, hats and freaky-lookin' masks. Heck, they even got into swanky clubs in that getup. Aside from that, they wore... their shells. No, really, no clothes, just shells, plus belts and masks (both color-coded).

Splinter went around in a simple robe, whereas April... okay, that yellow getup of hers was just weird. And let's not even go into Casey Jones and his sports-equipment fetish.

!!'''Casting Director'''

The Turtles form a FourTemperamentEnsemble:

* Leo (the {{Leader}}) is Phlegmatic: rational, observant, unemotional.
* Raph (the {{Lancer}}) is Choleric: dominant, easily angered, charismatic.
* Donnie (the SmartGuy) is Melancholic: creative, perfectionistic, easily depressed.
* Mikey (the Fun Guy) is Sanguine: cheerful, optimistic, impulsive.

You could make a FiveManBand with April (the Chick, obviously). Mikey, who is no larger or stronger than the others, isn't TheBigGuy, unless you want to say he counts for mental characteristics (not exactly dumb, but... more prone to flights of fancy than the others, at least).

Then there's Splinter (the Mentor) and Casey Jones (the SixthRanger), plus a few of April's co-workers who show up now and then.

Now, pay attention, because this is a big one: '''''These guys cared about each other.'''''

It's the secret that boosted ''Franchise/StarTrek'' to its position of prominence, and the secret behind the success of ''ComicBook/ElfQuest'' and ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' and probably the majority of the more [[TheSlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism idealistic]] works from the get-go. ''Passion'' and ''compassion'', as ''ComicBook/ElfQuest'' puts it: Make your characters care about what they're doing, and make them care about each other, and that'll make us care about ''them''.

As much as Raph and Leo ended up fighting with each other over this or that, and even given the few times that Raph stormed out, this team was always a ''team''. They're ''brothers'', and fellow warriors, and they'll stop at nothing to help each other, to save each other. When they did fight or split up, something bad always happened. But that split was always, always, ''temporary.'' They always made up by the end of the episode.

!!'''Stunt Department'''

Hoo boy. This is where you're gonna have fun.

The turtles are an active lot. Outdoors, at least in some incarnations, they used RoofHopping. In fights, they used all manner of acrobatics - especially after the ExecutiveMeddling axed their weapons - and some creative use of whatever was at hand (see Mikey in the first movie, using pepperoni for nunchucks... and he or another turtle using a yo-yo as a weapon). When the turtles charged the baddies and the theme music started up, you knew you were in for a fun ride.

These guys are ''ninjas.'' As the fourth TMNT said, they strike hard, and fade away into the night, and they look good doing it too. Rooftop chases are a great way to show off their Olympic quality acrobatics, and then there's fight scenes where you can put their weapons to good use, or if you're not allowed to, get imaginative with the furniture. Or maybe use the weapons in a way that doesn't kill anybody. It's no less indicative of their skill that they can kick the asses of 200 Foot Ninja without seriously harming any of them.

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!'''Extra Credit'''

!!'''The Greats'''

The turtles often crossed over with Stan Sakai's ''ComicBook/UsagiYojimbo'', a PettingZooPeople story set in FeudalJapan, where the titular ''rabbit bodyguard'' is a ronin (masterless) samurai.

Disney's ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' borrowed liberally from the outcast heroes tropes established by the Turtles.

''WesternAnimation/BikerMiceFromMars'' is at least as good, maybe better, than its inspiration.

Also noteworthy: ''WesternAnimation/SWATKats'', which ramped up the violence while slightly decreasing the humor level.

!!'''The Epic Fails'''

Remember ''WesternAnimation/StreetSharks''? How about the ''{{Cheetahmen}}'' or ''WesternAnimation/ExtremeDinosaurs''? No? Consider yourself lucky. There's a reason Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 three]] [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2003 animated]] [[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2012 shows]], each with a devoted fanbase... whereas the best ''Street Sharks'' got was a parody of being a knock off of ''TMNT'' on ''WesternAnimation/RobotChicken''.
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