When the Ninja Turtles played Radio City Music Hall, your childhood died

Illustration for article titled When the Ninja Turtles played Radio City Music Hall, your childhood died

In 1990, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kicked off the "Coming Out of Their Shells" hair metal tour, a corporate cash grab so abysmal and confounding that it made children everywhere doubt that friendly genetic abominations lived in Manhattan's sewage.


Between lunch boxes, cereal, fruit pies, action figures, video games, comic books, TV shows and Halloween costumes, the Ninja Turtles franchise dabbled in nearly every market (excluding birth control and firearms). At the peak of their popularity, they were cross-marketed more than KISS and as such, during a much simpler time (1990), it only made sense for them to put on a rock show.

Hatched by the marketing geniuses at Pizza Hut, the chain exclusively released the Turtle-penned "Coming Out of Their Shells" album through their own restaurant. Along with the record, a whirlwind concert tour was launched, featuring a live-action turtle adventure revolving around the album itself. The Radio City Music Hall show was filmed and released on videotape as well as aired on Pay-Per-View, exposing many a cable-less child to the cruel world of scrambled programming that they could never afford.


All the major players in the Turtle World appear in the show. The turtles themselves are the logical focal point and appear decked out in the only logical choice for wholesome arena rock— matching rhinestone-studded denim blazers and leggings. Unfortunately it becomes evident early on that animatronics weren't up to modern standards in 1990— as each turtle addresses the crowd or sings their mouths flap aimlessly in a vain attempt to even moderately match up with the vocal track.

Fortunately, the actors compensate for this by flailing their arms spasmodically in order to alert the crowd to which turtle is speaking. They spend the majority of their performances alternating between feigning playing their instruments and running through snippets of choreography (likely depending upon how energetic each actor felt while smothered by 28 pounds of an airtight rubber suit).

The rest of the TMNT cast appears as well. Shredder naturally hates the turtles' feel-good power ballads, and raps his desire to destroy them (remember, this was the 1990s — rap was the corrupter of suburban innocence). April O'Neill makes an appearance, sporting a hairstyle so violently teased and blown out that it could clean up the Deepwater
Horizon disaster if only we had access to it today.

Master Splinter shows up and provides a track of his own, the Pure Moods-esque "Skipping Stones". This moment of tranquility gives the audience time to relax, reflect, and picture the calming image of a mutated anthropomorphic sewer rat throwing stones across a serene lake. When combined with the fact that he sounds like Tom Waits doing a Bruce Springsteen impression after three cartons of Marlboro Reds, it provides the most oddly entertaining portion of the show.

The show goes on in typical adventure fashion. Shredder takes over, berates the crowd for ten minutes, raps about hating music, April sings her girly song, the turtles reappear, realize that it's all about the music, and rock so hard that Shredder dies.

Illustration for article titled When the Ninja Turtles played Radio City Music Hall, your childhood died

Basically it's just incredibly uncomfortable to watch in your twenties, but you ate this shit up when you were six. Unfortunately for the Turtles, "Coming Out Of Their Shells" lacked the staying power of such cartoon musical side projects as Cold Slither. However, its tradition of senseless musical crossovers carries on today, a time when ubiquitous mutants lazily excrete novelty records that are immediately forgotten.

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Ahhhhh... yes... "Coming out of Their Shells", was so epically awful and shameless that it was the only that brought the rivalry between the Nostalgia Critic and Angry Video Game Nerd to a truce.

However for me, as a child more of the '90s who went through both a Turtle and Power Ranger phase, my childhood officially ended with the "Power Rangers in Space" episode "Shell Shocked". That was an episode where a past-its-peak Power Rangers cast teamed up with the TMNT team... who now included a female member. I didn't even know the turtles had a sister then; and I was a better person for it.