Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Hollywood Studios have always found a way to find characters that were popular with children and bring them into the park, regardless as to whether it was a Disney created character or not. One of the earliest incarnations of this feat was the inclusion of four Renaissance artists who fought crime… What? They were turtles? Named after artists by their master after they were mutated from ooze? Yeah, right!
Seriously though, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made their debut at Disney-MGM Studios in the summer of 1990, and stuck around until 1996. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael would roll out onto New York Street in their TurtleVan, also lovingly known as the Party Wagon. While the turtles engaged in a dance-ninjutsu hybrid, April O’Neil would belt out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. After the brief show, the turtles and April would scatter about the street signing autographs and taking pictures for a while before jumping back in the Party Wagon and heading out.
When the turtles arrived on the scene, in the forms of a cartoon series, video games, and films, I was the perfect age to be persuaded by their Turtle Power. Although based upon a comic book series from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the grittier turtles were beyond my reach for a few more years. I always wondered why Splinter didn’t make the journey to meet guests at Disney-MGM Studios, but those thoughts were short lived as I made my way to meet my favorite turtle, Donatello. (I’m the scraggly, scrawny looking kid on the left.)
Whether you were drawn to the characters from the films or cartoons, or just thought the music was catchy enough to draw you over to New York Street to see what was going on, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the preludes to other characters such as the assortment of Power Rangers that have shown up over the years. They may no longer inhabit Disney’s Hollywood Studios (although, has anyone checked the sewers lately?), they occupy a special place in the history of the park’s meet and greets!