How Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Honors TMNT's Creators

Mutant Mayhem has multiple nods to TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is now in theaters and the animated movie lovingly references the almost 40-year history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in several ways. There are Easter eggs calling back to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys from the 1990s and Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman even gets a Stan Lee-like cameo in the film. However, that voice cameo isn't the only way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem honors Eastman and his fellow TMNT co-creator Peter Laird. The film pays homage in multiple ways, including with name drops and allusions to their original work on the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. SPOILERS follow for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

As mentioned, Eastman has a voice cameo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. He's credited as "Good Human," the human who helps Splinter up during the film's climactic battle with Superfly. Eastman also lends his name to the school April O'Neil attends, Eastman High School.

Mutant Mayhem references Laird with a large sign for "The Laird" that stands above April and the Turtles while they share a pizza after their first meeting. It's unclear what "The Laird" is, but the name on the sign is a clear reference to the Turtles' creator. 

The film also nods to the Turtles' creators with some visual shifts in the movie. In the beginning, we see the Turtles through Leonardo's imagination, and their eyes are whited out under their masks. That appears to be a reference to how Eastman and Laird drew the characters in their original, self-published comics, which had a more gritty and serious tone. Similarly, when the Turtles imagine what life would be like if they got to go to high school, the art style is clearly reminiscent of those old comics

Eastman and Laird co-created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1984. Together, they created the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series and oversaw the franchise during the height of Turtlemania after the 1987 cartoon debuted. In 2000, after their relationship became strained, Eastman sold his share of the Turtles to Laird. Laird involved himself in the creation of the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which debuted in 2003, and continued creating and publishing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. In 2009, Laird sold the Turtles to Viacom (now Paramount) but continued publishing his Turtles comics through 2014. Following the sale to Viacom, Eastman began getting involved with the Turtles again, especially the IDW Publishing comics line. In recent years, Eastman and Laird have seemingly made amends and rekindled their friendship.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem marks the latest movie in the long-running media franchise, and a new reboot for four turtle brothers.  Seth Rogen produced the movie, and lends his voice to its huge ensemble cast. In the film, the titular heroes venture out into the real world after years of living isolated in the sewers. Though they try to be recognized as normal teenagers by their heroics, a crime syndicate with an army of mutants makes everything more difficult for them and threatens their plans for joining society. The voice cast for the film includes Micah Abbey as Donatello, Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo, Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo, and Brady Noon as Raphael. TMNT: Mutant Mayhem includes a slew of celebrities as well like Ayo Edebiri as April O'Neil, Jackie Chan as Splinter, Seth Rogen as Bebop, John Cena as Rocksteady, Ice Cube as Superfly, Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman, Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko, and Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem opened in theaters on August 2nd.