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 Whether for outdated regulations or too much action, almost every generation of the reptilian heroes have been edited due to parent or network concerns.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. 

Photo: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze/20th Century Fox / Amazon

  • The Word "Ninja" Was Banned From UK Airwaves

    The Word "Ninja" Was Banned From UK Airwaves
    Video: YouTube

    In the '80s, local censorship rules in the UK decreed that the word "ninja" carried too many violent connotations. One would think this might be an issue for the show, considering the word is literally in the title, but that was no problem. They just changed the title (and theme song) to call the team the "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles." While that was a relatively simple fix, the show also had to remove the word "ninja" every time it came up in an episode's dialogue, which must have been a tedious process. 

  • Parents Demanded Less Violence In The Second Ninja Turtles Movie

    The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was pretty dark for a movie meant to capitalize on a popular children's cartoon. The action was more intense than parents were prepared for, and they definitely didn't expect Raphael to swear multiple times.

    As a result, unhappy adults demanded the second installment in the series cut down on the violence considerably. The studio obliged, which is why you'll rarely see the turtles wielding weapons in Secret of the Ooze; virtually all of the combat is hand-to-hand instead.

  • The US Version Of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters' Removed Some Sexualization

    The US Version Of 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters' Removed Some Sexualization
    Video: YouTube

    While America didn't censor the Ninja Turtles on TV nearly as much as much as other countries, they also weren't quite as loose with their representations as Japan. The SNES game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters featured a female ninja named Aska created exclusively for that game, since there were very few female characters to pull from canon.

    There were some differences in Aska's design in the US version compared to the Japanese version. In Japan, the character wore a thong and her breasts bounced when she won a fight. In the US, she was depicted with a more conservative outfit and her breasts remained stationary in victory.

  • The Use Of Sausage Weapons In 'Secret Of The Ooze' Had To Be Cut Down To Achieve A PG Rating

    When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze hit theaters in 1991, fans noticed the turtles hardly used their signature weapons. Donatello got to use his bo staff, but Leonardo and Raphael only pulled out their weapons for show, never actually using them in fight scenes. Parents had concerns about the amount of violence in the first film, so the filmmakers made a conscious effort to reduce it and keep them happy. There's even a scene where Michelangelo fights with sausages instead of his traditional nunchucks.

    As it turns out, even sausage nunchucks push the limits of decency for the British Board of Film Classification. The BBFC director James Ferman wanted to cut as much of that scene as possible, arguing the sausages would look like real nunchucks "to any streetwise 8 year old."

  • 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.