I’ve been a fan of Jeopardy for a long time and one thing I need to admit to segue into this TIL tale is that after Alex Trebek’s diagnosis and subsequent passing due to cancer, I’ve been holding on to old Jeopardy! episodes and watching them at a slow pace. On some days this has been cathartic, and on other days it’s made Trebek’s death feel a little illusory. Today, however, it’s meant I learned a fact about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that totally caught me by surprise.
Catching up on one of these final Alex Trebek-hosted episodes of Jeopardy there was a clue about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, who created Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo along with co-creator Kevin Eastman back in the late 1980s. The clue, however, made a pronouncement about the Turtles’ love for pizza.
Peter Laird co-creator of these comic book heroes wishes the cartoon had not made them so obsessed with pizza.
Peter Laird And The History Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles And Pizza
I had always believed that the (oft-cited) reason the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were interested in pizza in the first place was because Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird often ate pizza while doing the work needed to bring the characters to life. Yet, early issues of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were more beer-prominent than pizza-prominent when it came to The Turtles’ tastes. The pizza thing became highly popular after Mark Freedman, a licensing agent, got involved with the marketing of the four turtles.
Maybe this is common knowledge to people who read up on every corner of the pop culture interwebs, but it took a little sleuthing on my end. And what I found is Peter Laird’s own blog, in which he touches base more about the things he wishes the cartoon hadn’t done compared to the comics and, yes, “pizza obsession” is among those criticisms.
What Peter Laird Has Said About The Pizza Obsession
Writing about this on his own blog when a fan asked Peter Laird back in 2012, the co-creator admitted that if he had been consulted for the animated series, he would have done things differently, saying,
The point I am trying to make here [sic] is that had I (again, speaking solely for myself and not for Kevin) been making the key creative decisions for that first animated series, it would have been VERY different. Among other things, there would likely have been no moronic henchmen like Bebop and Rocksteady. The Shredder would have been seriously malevolent. April would not have been a reporter and constantly need to be rescued by the Turtles. The Turtles would not have been so ridiculously obsessed with pizza, and the Shredder would not have had as one of his businesses a restaurant called 'Ninja Pizza.' There might have been something that sort of looked like Krang, but it would have been an Utrom in a cool robotic exoskeleton. And the show would not have had a joke or gag every five seconds.
Good thing the internet is forever. Peter Laird has always been a person who has given his authentic opinions on topics. He’s commented on the more recent redesigns of the Ninja Turtles and much more via interviews and his personal blog, so the fact he was wide open about the pizza thing I should suppose should not be a huge surprise to anyone. However, to me TMNT wouldn’t be what it is without the pizza factor, so I am honestly surprised.
The gist, though, seems to be that the pizza thing was fine until it became a mainstay topic in any turtles-related conversation. Laird also told Sequart he likes pizza somewhat but it got to be a little old.
The Turtles’ pizza obsession in the first TMNT animated TV series did get to be incredibly annoying, and in fact I made a point of poking a little fun at that when we did the 2003 4Kids series.
It’s sort of like a band looking back and hating on its most well-known hit because people request it all the time. Of course, there’s other cool stuff bands do outside of their major hits, but a hit is something that will always deeply connect a band to its fanbase and pop culture as a whole. Some people connect with stuff like that, others don’t. Apparently, Laird preferred the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuff he did prior to all the pizza talk.
Anyway, perhaps this is the sort of fact Teenage Mutant Ninja Fans were always privy to, but this was such a new idea for me, so I wanted to look into it more and I’m pretty glad I did. Particularly now there’s another iteration of The Turtles on the way, I wonder if Seth Rogen’s vision will mesh more with the co-creators. We’ll have to wait to find out.