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12 Times Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Was Deemed Too Scandalous For Children

For those not intimately familiar with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the franchise's long history of censorship may come as a surprise. Whether for outdated regulations or too much action, almost every generation of the reptilian heroes have been edited due to parent or network concerns. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's original 1987 animated series was so heavily edited, the British version of the same show had a completely different name.

With any children's show, parent opinions have to be considered, and that can lead to bureaucratic crackdowns. While the weirdest Ninja Turtle episodes and secretly dirty TMNT jokes thankfully made it to airwaves, there were large chunks of some that did not, and there wa even an entire episode completely banned from American television. 

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  • Several European Countries Edited Out Michelangelo's Nunchucks

    Not content to just turn the Ninja Turtles turned "Hero Turtles," the United Kingdom's censorship laws also stripped Michelangelo of his signature weapons, his nunchucks. In England, Ireland, and German-speaking countries, Mikey's nunchucks were replaced with a grappling hook they called the "turtle line."

    While Mikey's weapon is probably the third most dangerous of the four, but this specific piece of censorship had more to do with Bruce Lee. Allegedly, English gangs in the 1970s started using nunchucks and throwing stars inspired by movies like Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. At the time, the British Board of Film Classification censored violent films if they thought the violence was too extreme or could lead to real life consequences. The board placed a blanket ban on nunchucks and throwing stars in TV shows and movies that lasted well into the 1990s.

  • An Episode Of The 2003 Animated Series Wasn't Allowed To Air In The US

    "Insane in the Membrane" was originally the 97th episode of the Turtles' 2003 animated series. The episode centered around Baxter Stockman, who had created a clone of himself into which he transferred his consciousness. The visuals of his clone rapidly decomposing into a gory, zombie-like condition were deemed way too intense for kids, and the episode did not air.

    When asked about the episode, series producer Lloyd Goldfine said:

    Upon seeing the episode, [Fox Broadcast Standards and Practices] were said to be 'horrified' and that there was no way they could air the episode. I'm not sure I disagree with them - had there been BS&P comments earlier in the process, we certainly would have handled the show differently. But as it was approved at every stage, we went full steam ahead. In the end, I was told it was bad judgment on my part... so there you have it.

    The episode eventually aired in 2015 during a marathon on the Nicktoons Channel. 

  • In The Early '90s, Some Teachers Banned Ninja Turtle Merchandise From Their Classrooms

    It doesn't seem unreasonable for a teacher to ban action figures from their classrooms, those could be distracting. But sending a kid home for showing up in a Ninja Turtle t-shirt? According to a 1990 piece in the LA Times, several California schools put just such a policy in place. Some parents and teachers protested the kids' First Amendment rights, while defenders of the t-shirt ban claimed kids behaved better after TMNT paraphernalia was removed from the classroom.

  • The First Season Of The Original Animated Series Was Cut In Half In The UK

    When the UK picked up the '80s animated version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they did so under a number of conditions, first and foremost changing the name to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. After that, and replacing Mikey's nunchucks, censors also cut out as much violence as possible, shortening the series considerably. 

    In the United States, the first season of the series consisted of five, 20-minute-long episodes. Due to the amount of footage chopped for the UK version, that "season" was condensed down into a single 50-minute made-for-TV movie called How It All Began.