Change was afoot in the early 1990s. Walls were coming down, Madonna’s look was going full Marilyn, and four mutated turtles with jaw-dropping karate skills were taking youth culture by storm. After the huge success of the first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, Hollywood was ready to crank a sequel out faster than you can say "cowabunga," but it didn’t come without its obstacles. From exhausting set conditions, to clashes with the creators, to questionable collaborations, the creation of TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze was a rollercoaster ride that could rival the drama of any Golden Age production. Read on to find out how TMNT II became one of the most disastrous movies the '90s had to offer.
These days, franchises choosing to film their sequels back-to-back is not uncommon, with the last two Avengers films and the final chapters of the Harry Potter series being prominent examples. But back in the time of TMNT, it was almost unheard of.
When the first film drastically exceeded its box-office expectations, the financial backers fast-tracked production of the sequel, which came out just under a year after the release of the first entry. Golden Harvest was surprised by the first film's success and, believing audiences would soon lose interest in the Turtles, decided to strike while the iron was hot.
Every once in a while, there comes a piece of cinema whose soundtrack makes as much of a splash as the film itself. Such is the case of Secret of the Ooze. Hot off the success of “Ice, Ice, Baby,” rapper Vanilla Ice was tapped by the studio to create a theme for the sequel, which ended up earning him some substantial screen time in the third act.
While the lyrics of “The Ninja Rap” might be burrowed into your long-term memory even more than the state capitals, the song itself took Mr. Ice a mere 30 minutes to write.
Just like the boy bands of yesteryear, each of the Turtles had their own set of characteristics that made them unique. In the comics and animated show that predated the films, the quartet’s karate tools of choice were a big part of what made them individuals.
It wasn’t until their big-screen debut that parents and educators of kids across America started to really take notice. Several childcare specialists, parents, and psychiatrists of the time identified the action in the first film as a catalyst for a rise in aggression amongst children, which appeared to spook the filmmakers into stripping the Turtles of their weaponry in the sequel.
While nobody involved in the making of TMNT II has ever publicly cited parental backlash as the reason, it’s hard not to notice the radical change in both fighting style and tone between the two films.
During a Q&A screening of TMNT II, Mark Caso (who played Leonardo in the film) explained that a scene in which the turtles are trapped in a net led to a disastrous accident on set. A safety cable snapped and dropped the actors several feet.
One team member ended up with a strained back, while another suffered a broken ankle. Luckily nobody was seriously harmed, but it did put the cast and crew on edge.