Monday, June 15, 2009

Finally! A post about the history of turtles in television and cinema!

I admit it--I'm a sucker for turtles. I had one as a pet whilst in college at San Francisco State. He was a semi-aquatic box turtle named "The Amazing Turtle." My wife (then girlfriend) Jenny even wrote a simple song about him, with lyrics like:

"The Amazing Turtle
He is so amazing
Swims and eats a lot
And he also sits there gazing
The Amazing Turtle
Likes to decapitate fish
Don't know if he likes it 
but he finds it quite a dish
The Amazing Turtle!"

Let's face it. Turtles have had very little impact on television and film throughout the years. But for those brave, slow shelled souls who have made it to the big screen and the boob tube, I offer this fond look back at them. I guess we should start with the biggest turtle franchise...

Memorable quotes: "Cowabunga!" "Wise man say forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza," "A Jose Canseco bat? Tell me you didn't pay money for this," "Chevy Nova?"

Man, was I ever into TMNT. The comics, the roll-playing game (yes...the roll-playing game. Let's just say I had an ass-kicking buffalo named "Chips."), the cartoon, the movies. I was so obsessed with winning a large stuffed Donatello at Circus Circus I threw a shit fit when my parents cut off my game money (had to settle for a Turtles sports bottle instead...*sigh*). The first live-action film really nailed it (at least to a 12 year old boy). It was fun, fast-paced and had guys in suits instead of CGI, which is just downright charming. Plus, Elias Koteas made a kick-ass Casey Jones. It also taught kids that you can accomplish anything with teamwork...oh, and radioactive ooze. Gotta have that. The second film was...ok, at best. The third...well, anything with "Tarzan Boy" for a theme song is not good. It just isn't. Still haven't seen the computer-animated film, so I guess I should add it to the ol' Netflix queue. 

Memorable quotes: "Yay dad!" "I'm scared of Prince John. He's cranky." "If I tattletale, I'll die til I'm dead."

Poor Toby. Slow of foot AND visually impaired? Still, Toby stole every scene he was in, particularly his flag-waving support for his father in the archery games. I do find it kind of odd that he hangs out exclusively with a bunch of rabbits. 

Memorable quotes: "Chocolate ice cream goes in the freezer," "I'm not supposed to eat the Legos," "Crayons taste like purple," "I love ashtrays!"

FOX's short-lived puppet parody Greg the Bunny featured Seth Green, Eugene Levy, Sarah Silverman and stand-out puppet performer Tardy the Turtle, whose random lines and simplistic phrasing were a pre-cursor to Steve Carell in Anchorman. I felt bad laughing at him...I just kept telling myself I'm laughing with him. Oh...and after the show wrapped, Tardy was STOLEN from the production. To this day, the creators haven't recovered him. 

Memorable quotes: "Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like "whoa", and we were like "whoa", and you were like "whoa...,"  "Dolphins, yeah! They think they're so cute. "Oh, look at me, I'm a flippy little dolphin, let me flip for you. Ain't I something?"

Ah, Crush. Destroying the turtle stereotypes by being a fast-swimming surfer-dude. More power to you, forward-thinking terrapin! Crush's scenes in Finding Nemo came in a dangerous lull section of the film, helping to pick up the pace and plunge the film into its third act. And if you are ever at Disney's California Adventure or its counter part in Florida, I highly recommend checking out Crush's Turtle Talk, in which an animated Crush interacts with audience members. 

Memorable quotes: "Whenever something doesn't feel right, my tail tingles. And let me tell you something, everything you've said so far is driving my tail crazy," "I thought we'd be dead by step two, so this is going great."

I didn't really read the comic strip, but the animated film was pretty decent. Gary Shandling voiced Verne, the sensible leader of the odd gang of woodland creatures, whose tail can sense danger. He really anchored the film while Steve Carell's Hammy the Squirrel and William Shatner's possum chewed scenery.

Memorable quotes: Um... "Hey, I'm gonna teach you stuff," er..."Get your learn on!"...or something

Based on the popular children's books by Paulette Bourgeois, Franklin the turtle and his friends (A bear, a goose, an owl, etc.) go on educational adventures, such as: Franklin goes to school, Franklin Plants a Tree, Franklin In The Dark, Franklin And the Tooth Fairy, and Franklin's Birthday Party. I can only hope they kick it up a notch in episodes such as Franklin Goes to the Museum of Tolerance, Franklin and the Cast of Frasier, Franklin Sticks it to The Man, Franklin Hopes They Renew Jericho, and Franklin Meets Franklinstein. Is it apparent that I know little to nothing about Franklin? He's a turtle...that's all I need to know.

Memorable quotes: "We called him "tortoise" because he "tort-us."... He tort us reading and writing..."

Lewis Carroll's fictional turtle is a beloved creation from Alice in Wonderland, named after a Victorian meal called Mock Turtle Soup. As Alice has been brought to the screen numerous times, the list of actors who have portrayed him are immense: Gene Wilder, Cary Grant, Roy Skelton, Donald O'Connor, John Gielgud and Ringo Starr (pictured above), among others. Not too shabby...


Created in 1965, this Japanese giant fire-breathing flying turtle was made to rival the success of Godzilla. Mutated during an atomic blast, Gamera can retreat into his shell and enter a coma-like state to heal if injured. But, most importantly, he is a GIANT FIRE-BREATHING FLYING TURTLE. Which rules. 

I'm sure I've missed a few famous half-shelled heroes, so feel free to leave me comments to correct the oversight. TURTLES!

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