This week Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem marks the seventh big-screen outing for Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo, who never take a break – half-shell heroes have almost always had a TV show or comic book keeping their turtle power between movies.
And despite the quantity, TMNT has one property that has a decent hit rate for quality: the 1990s. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goes a lot harder than anyone would expect, the sequel Secret of the slime is more cartoonish fun, 2007 is fully animated TMNT revived low-budget thrills, and the Michael Bay-produced film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at least nailed the cast behind some polarizing motion-capture-inspired CGI. With high marks thanks to a star-studded but still passionate creative team, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem should continue to evolve the franchise in the right direction.
Here’s the thing: no lengthy or episodic TMNT saga will ever eclipse The Onion’s take on Ninja Turtles in 2014. Today, whenever pop culture reminds me of turtles, I think of this video. It is a joy and a curse. Once you see the images contained in the video below – no, movie — there is no way to ignore it. There will be then and now. Michael Bay Gives Fans A Look At The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Hyper-Realistic CGI Genitals is a work of true comedy genius.
Released in July 2014, around San Diego Comic-Con, The Onion’s Michael Bay Gives Fans A Look At The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Hyper-Realistic CGI Genitals was a perfect parody of entertainment tonight Or Additional segments filled with gushing praise and press kit jargon. It was also an excuse for The Onion artists to add soft penises to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“All we did was one title that was pitched and selected,” says director JJ Shebesta, who kindly replied to my email’s subject line “Question about Michael’s Turtle Genitals Bay” with genuine enthusiasm. “Then the whole group of writers, producers and directors shaped the script and the final product. […] We were about to say it was too dumb or too light at first. But I know I was excited about it because I’ve always loved anything that lent itself to being a world-building, super-gaming show.
Nailed it. The finished product is bathroom humor taken to the extreme and made with smooth motion graphics. Green CG phalluses added to Bay’s footage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look very real. Each line’s delivery is delivered with a specific strain of banal hype that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s watched studio-produced featurettes over the past 20 years.
“Michael Bay was very handy for a producer,” a fake VFX artist says in the video. “From day one, he said these turtles should be gritty with realistic facial expressions and veiny, textured genitals.”
Shebesta says the team’s ear for making-of promo jargon came from a devout love for making-of promos — though he may be leveraging Michael Bay’s finely-crafted TMNT film to laughing is also a love letter. And everyone accepted the mission to push it as far as possible. Shebesta recalls the actor who played the entertainment reporter refusing to use scripted foul language because he would punch holes in the actual parody. “I think not being punched in the dialogue helped soften something that was already pretty rude,” he notes.
As mountains of content pour onto the internet, it becomes increasingly difficult to locate gold that has been produced entirely for the internet. The video era of The Onion has always struggled to break through to the same degree as Funny or Die or creator-run YouTube channels stuck in search of bigger fish – did you know there were two different Onion television on IFC and Comedy Central? — or just too niche, weird, and sophisticated for viral audiences. Even videos that exploded (and Michael Bay Gives Fans A Look At The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Hyper-Realistic CGI Genitals was one of them) today have no place in any comedy canon beyond the vague recollections of those who think “Twitter was good.”
But they should. The videos are fantastic. (See also: True Detective: Yellow King Theory.) We should review Michael Bay Gives Fans A Look At The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Hyper-Realistic CGI Genitals whenever a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thing happens. The Onion team should have the Oscar for best short film. Shredder’s spiky metal sword schlong probably shouldn’t be in Mutant Mayhem 2 for the welfare of the children, but still, it’s a feat.
While The Onion’s video team may be unsung heroes from a bygone era of internet gaffes, Shebesta says the everyday was a bewildering wonder where anything could and did happen.
“I remember we had a talented intern doing monster dong renderings and he couldn’t believe it was a job that people do,” he says. “We couldn’t either. It was a common experience in this position.