Why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Was Hero Turtles in the UK
by Simon Brew
When the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie made it to British cinemas in 1990, there was a disparity that became immediately apparent to the youth of the United Kingdom. By this time, kids around the world were familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series, yet kids in the UK knew it under a different name: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.
So, why the change?
At the time, the British government was on the offensive against violence in children's television, and ninjas and nunchucks were both in the firing line. As such, in spite of the preexisting comic line, it soon became clear that Ninja Turtles wasn't going to be allowed near England's impressionable youth. Thus, the turtles needed to be heroes, not ninjas, and the cartoon theme song lyrics, action figure packaging, and video game box art needed to reflect that.
Since the movie wasn't being screened on children's television, it managed to escape the alterations and keep its original title. However, nunchucks were still taboo, so only brief glimpses of Michelangelo's signature weapon are seen in the UK version of the movie—and they're never used in action. The censorship was so strict, that in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, a scene in which Michelangelo uses a pair of sausage links as faux nunchucks was also edited out, leading to the following note from the British Board of Film Classification: "After turtle takes down sausages and uses them as a flail. Reduce to minimum dazzling display of swinging sausages indistinguishable from chainsticks."
The changes in the cartoon name stretched well beyond the UK and actually affected other European countries as well. Episodes of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles were aired to children in Austria, Germany, Norway, and Belgium, before the title eventually reverted to Ninja Turtles as subsequent reruns began airing years later. And if you visit Nickelodeon's UK website for the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that began in 2012, the name remains unchanged (you can even see a picture of Michelangelo holding some nunchucks).
It's fair to say that the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles name is pretty much no more, but here's a look at the edited intro sequence that British children got to watch: