First introduced back in 1984 as a comic book (see separate box out), first licensed products arrived a year later, followed by a five-part cartoon mini-series in 1987. The brand continued to build – with merchandise including toys, food tie-ins, pinball and arcade machines and video games among others – while the first film was released in 1990. To this day it remains as one of the highest grossing independent films of all time. Concert tours, albums, live stage shows, more films, TV shows and video games followed, with the most recent activity involving the CGI film TMNT in 2007.
Now, 4Kids is planning a flurry of new activity to coincide with the milestone anniversary next year, as well as keeping a focus on the retro appeal of the brand.
“The Turtles have never really gone away,” Charles continues. “TMNT is seen as an evergreen brand, particularly in the US and UK markets. Adults who remember the brand from the 80s and 90s have a real affinity for the Turtles and younger kids buy into the action and adventure of the series.”
Charles explains that there are four separate programmes for the Turtles brand: TMNT TV series, TMNT Movie, Retro and 25th anniversary.
4Kids has developed seven seasons of TMNT for TV screens. Currently, TMNT Fast Forward (season six) is airing on the CITV Channel in the UK, while season seven – TMNT Back to the Sewer - has just been picked up by the station for launch next year. It’s anticipated that the series will enjoy wide TV broadcast across Europe and other parts of the world.
Playmates Toys, which holds the worldwide master toy manufacturing rights and distribution rights in the US (Vivid Imaginations handles distribution of the line in the UK), has developed a special 25th anniversary toy line including a classic comic figurine assortment – featuring the Turtles, Splinter, Shredder and the Foot Clan. Playmates is also re-releasing all ten original first season figures featuring the initial deco and accessories, with characters including Rocksteady and Bebop, Splinter and the Foot Clan.
The major plans for the 25th celebration ‘Shell-ebration’ are being kept under wraps until nearer the time, although 4Kids will say it is in discussions with the Marine Conservation Society in the UK, while an exhibition of the original comic artwork will be running at the Animation Art Gallery.
International plans, meanwhile, will include consumer advertising, retail activities and tie ups with fashion schools for the retro programme targeted at 17-35 year-olds.
The retro programme will focus on apparel, stationery, underwear, nightwear and gifts, while partners already on board include Chunk, Trademark Products, Bravado and Vacant Designs. Vivid will distribute the new toy line in the UK, while Playmates’ local distributors will handle the range in other territories in EMEA.
4Kids cites the constant reinvention of the brand with new themes and creative elements for keeping it fresh and, more importantly, relevant for today’s audience.
“In today’s world there is certainly more choice for consumers – more TV channels for kids to choose from and more properties to buy into,” Charles continues. “Children are also getting older faster and move onto older brands a lot more quickly. They also spend more of their time online and playing computer games, so the brand has had to adapt to this growing trend.”