Jul 17, 2023

How TMNT: Mutant Mayhem's Villains Should Really Look Based On The 1987 Cartoon

2023's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" is an action-packed CG-animated feature film executive-produced by Seth Rogen and yet another reboot of the popular "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" franchise. "TMNT" itself first began as a comic book series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published in 1984. The comic series was a parody of the gritty Frank Miller-penned "Daredevil" comics at the time. Other than that, honestly the title pretty much explains the premise.

The new film has a unique animation style based on the original gritty comic artwork — and it looks similar to Sony's comic book-inspired visuals of "Into the Spider-Verse" and its sequel, "Across the Spider-Verse." It also is the first "TMNT" adaptation to cast real teenagers in the roles of the Turtles. However, the upcoming "Mutant Mayhem" isn't the only major adaptation of the classic comics. There was a CG-animated feature film from 2007, a trilogy of live-action films in the 1990s, and a Saturday morning cartoon series that ran for 10 seasons from 1987 to 1996.

Now, the new trailer released for "Mutant Mayhem" has shown off for the first time the many villains who will be appearing in the film. Some of their designs remain faithful to their original designs in the 1987 cartoon show, while others have been updated. So who are each of the bad guys in "Mutant Mayhem," and how do their film versions compare to their Saturday morning cartoon counterparts?

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," like many superhero (and superhero-adjacent) properties, has a large roster of villains the four turtle heroes often do battle with. While many of these villains (including some on this list) are one-offs, or are rarely seen outside of their debuts, a few became mainstays throughout the series. This includes the bumbling duo Bebop and Rocksteady, who were introduced in the 1980s Saturday morning cartoon show in the second episode, "Enter the Shredder." They are both seen working for the Turtles' archnemesis, Shredder, who so far hasn't been seen in any marketing materials for the 2023 film but is prominent in the animated series. Bebop himself is a half-warthog, half-human mutant hybrid. He was originally a street thug who — alongside his buddy, Rocksteady — was convinced by Shredder to become genetically enhanced with super-strength to fight off the Turtles, though he was not necessarily aware of the animal gene-splicing aspect.

In the original 1987 show, Bebop was voiced by actors Barry Gordon and Greg Berg. In the upcoming 2023 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" film, however, Bebop is voiced by the film's executive producer, Seth Rogen, who is no stranger to voice acting, having done voicework on projects like "Monsters vs. Aliens," "Kung-Fu Panda," and "The Super Mario Bros. Movie."

Judging by the trailer, the 2023 CG Bebop and the 1987 animated Bebop have very similar designs. Both sport purple punk rock-styled hair and shades, piercings, and even similar clothes. The CG Bebop, though, has a large beer belly and piercings on his belly button and nipples — none of which are in the design of the 1987 incarnation of the character.

Bebop's partner in crime is his fellow thug, Rocksteady. Instead of a warthog, however, Rocksteady was transformed into a rhinoceros — which seems like a much better deal overall. In the original 1987 Saturday morning cartoon, Rocksteady is voiced by Cam Clarke. In the 2023 CG-animated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," Rocksteady is voiced by former WWE wrestling star-turned-film star John Cena. Cena is no stranger to the "TMNT" universe, as he voices the villain Baron Draxum in Season 1 of the "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" animated series that ran from 2018 to 2020.

Like Bebop, the designs between the CG-animated version of Rocksteady in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" and his 1987 Saturday morning cartoon counterpart are pretty similar, especially his paramilitary-inspired outfit. 2023 Rocksteady wears a yellow shirt that sits lower on his frame than his 1987 counterpart, and they both have a bandolier across their chests. The new Rocksteady design is much more animalistic and less humanoid, giving the rhino mutant stubbier legs, a larger and more imposing build, and a larger horn. He also lacks the yellow eyes of the 1987 design.

Leatherhead is a mutated, humanoid alligator who is also a Cajun tracker and hunter. However, unlike Bebop and Rocksteady, Leatherhead is an animal mutated by chemicals like the Ninja Turtles, rather than being a half-human hybrid. Leatherhead was originally voiced in the 1987 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Saturday morning cartoon by Jim Cummings, better known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh. In the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" animated film, though, Rose Byrne will be voicing the curmudgeonly Cajun croc. This means that a welcome gender reversal is being given to the role, adding much-needed diversity to the Turtles' vast, weird rogues gallery.

Unfortunately, there's not much to see of the 2023 CG redesign of the alligator mutant in the recent trailer for "Mutant Mayhem," as she's mostly covered in darkness during a quick single group shot, off to the side of the frame. The character has glowing green eyes, which could either be a design choice on the part of the animators or some night-vision goggles — which makes sense, if she still has the same hunter-tracker traits of her comic and cartoon counterparts. We do see that she is also sporting her iconic hat, as well as rubber waders (though they appear to be camo in the new movie, instead of blue denim, like the show).

Mondo Gecko is a "radical exxxtreme" skater lizard dude (wearing pads, because safety first, kids!) who also happens to be a human-sized gecko (hence the name). Mondo first made his appearance in the 1987 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Saturday morning cartoon in the Season 5 episode "Michelangelo Meets Mondo Gecko." In that episode, it is discovered that not only were the Ninja Turtles mutated due to the glowing green ooze that gave them sentience and human-sized bodies, but so too was the aforementioned Mondo Gecko. The main difference is that Mondo was taken in by the villain Mr. X, who initially turned Mondo onto a life of crime. Luckily, the Turtles turn him good, eventually. He is voiced by John Mariano in the '87 cartoon and by "Ant-Man" actor Paul Rudd in the 2023 film.

Mondo Gecko was made to appeal to an oft-parodied late-'80s, early-'90s version of "cool." Meanwhile, Mondo Gecko in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" seems to update that '90s skater aesthetic. Rather than skate gear adorned with random skulls, a bright, ripped graphic tee, and a backward baseball cap, Mondo Gecko has an orange vest, bead necklaces, neon-dyed hair, glow sticks, and a gaudy button-up. He sports a real dirtbag influencer aesthetic rather than the TV series' heavy metal skater aesthetic. The cartoon version of the character is more human and generically reptilian, while the updated design has bumps, ridges, a protruded mouth, and buggy eyes that more closely resemble a gecko.

Genghis Frog first appeared in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Saturday morning cartoon as part of the Punk Frogs group. The Punk Frogs were essentially other animals who were also mutated by the mutagen ooze that created the Ninja Turtles; however, the Frogs were captured and raised by the evil villain Shredder instead of being mentored by the benevolent Splinter like the Turtles were. This means the Punk Frogs were taught from birth to fear and hate the Turtles. And rather than being named for Renaissance-era artists, the Punk Frogs were named by Shredder after dictators and conquerors, such as Attila the Frog, Napoleon Bonafrog, Rasputin the Mad Frog, and of course, Genghis Frog.

In the 1987 Saturday morning cartoon version of Genghis Frog, he is very much humanoid in build (similar to the Turtles). He wears a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and a triangle necklace and carries an admittedly badass battle ax. He, like Leatherhead, is voiced by the versatile Jim Cummings.

In the 2023 CG-animated feature film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," Genghis Frog is voiced by stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress. In the trailer for "Mutant Mayhem," we can see how — like many of the film's re-designs — Genghis Frog's body shape is much more frog-like in nature when compared to his more humanoid '87 cartoon variant. The 2023 CG-animated design is more round, and — like a frog — has almost no upper body to speak of. With bulbous, ranine eyes, a long tongue, and a warty complexion, along with cloth shorts and a brown belt, the character's been completely redesigned. He still has the ax, though, thankfully.

Ray Fillet is a character who appears in the 1987 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Saturday morning cartoon series. The character debuts in the Season 4 episode "Rebel Without a Fin," though he's just known as "Ray." The character also appears in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," voiced by Post Malone.

In the 1987 "TMNT" cartoon, Ray is the product of a mad scientist (one of many in the "TMNT" universe) named Dr. Polidorius who sets out to make a race of aquatic supermen. Ray contains DNA from different types of aquatic creatures, such as squid, manta rays, electric eels, lionfish, and blowfish. Ray is the first of Polidorius' experiments. In the comics, the character — like Leatherhead and Mondo Gecko — wasn't intended to be a villain, so the cartoon's version of Ray isn't totally faithful to the character in the first place.

In the new CG "Mutant Mayhem" film, Ray Fillet seems to be the most distinct from his 1987 Saturday morning cartoon variant. Whereas the cartoon series' Ray is a muscular, swim trunks-clad character who looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Ray Fillet of "Mutant Mayhem" is much less humanoid. He shows clear signs of experimentation, with one sewn-up eye and another bulging one, concealed by a scuba mask. Unlike the cartoon series' design, this Ray has cephalic lobes characteristic of manta rays, while the series' Ray looks much more like a catfish.

Scumbug, like many "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" villains, is a human-creature hybrid — in this case, a mixture between a human and a cockroach. This genetic mutation gives him some superhuman abilities — such as mandibles that can bite through metal — but in the '87 Saturday morning "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon, Scumbug also has an acid gun that seems to be connected to him through metal Doc Ock-esque tentacles that go into his chest.

Scumbug's voice actor in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" has not yet been revealed, but judging by his non-verbal screaming seen in the trailer, there's a possibility that only speaks in unintelligible screams and noises in the movie. This would be a major departure from the '87 Saturday morning cartoon show, as voice actor Barry Gordon portrays Scumbug.

In the new film, Scumbug has a similar — if more exaggerated — face to his '87 counterpart, but otherwise there are many deviations in appearance. For one, the "Mutant Mayhem" version doesn't seem to have many human characteristics, outside of his height, teeth, and bipedalism. The '87 cartoon version has flesh showing on his arms and part of his leg.

Wingnut is a batlike creature who made his first appearance in the 1987 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Saturday morning cartoon series in the Season 5 episode "Zach and the Alien Invaders." In that episode, Wingnut and another villain, Screwloose, are aliens from planet Flagenon who try to take over Earth, a plan the titular heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obviously foil by the episode's end. Wingnut is another gender-flipped character in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," as actress Natasia Demetriou, who plays Nadja in the FX series "What We Do In the Shadows," voices the character.

It's hard to tell if the new Wingnut design will feature the character's purple armored space suit, metal wings, or blue gauntlets and boots they sport in the cartoon. One thing we can tell for sure when comparing the 1987 Saturday morning cartoon version of Wingnut to her 2023 CG-animated counterpart, is her size. While the 2D-animated Wingnut is human-sized, the "Mutant Mayhem" version seems much more diminutive in stature. Finally, it seems her backstory may have been changed and that she will be a mutant instead of an alien like in the cartoon and comics. But we'll have to wait and see on that last point.

Besides Bebop and Rocksteady, mad scientist-turned-super villain Baxter Stockman is probably the most prominent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" antagonist to appear in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem." (As far as the first trailer goes, there's no sign of Shredder, the Foot Clan, or Krang anywhere yet.) Stockman is voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, famous for his villain roles in "Breaking Bad," "Better Call Saul," and "The Mandalorian." His character is seen briefly in one shot of the trailer, mostly obscured by glowing green test tubes.

Esposito's casting in "Mutant Mayhem" hopefully returns the character to his origins in the original Mirage comics. The character is Black in the comics and the Michael Bay-produced live-action "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films, in which Stockman was portrayed by Tyler Perry. One of the unfortunate changes that the 1987 Saturday morning cartoon makes is to have the character blatantly whitewashed. Our only glimpse of Baxter in "Mutant Mayhem" comes in a shot where he's blocked by a glowing test tube, so time will tell if his appearance holds true to his comic origins more than his animated series counterpart.

Baxter Stockman is a mad scientist character known for becoming a human-fly hybrid, in a reference to the 1958 Vincent Price film and 1986 Jeff Goldblum-led remake "The Fly." However, the character's mutant fly design from the animated series seems to have influenced the creators of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem." The film's villain, Superfly, voiced by Ice Cube, seems to borrow heavily from Stockman's mutant fly design. Other than this influence, Superfly is an entirely original character.

The origins of many of the villains will likely be different from how they were in the comics and 1987 Saturday morning cartoon. For instance, we see in the aforementioned glowing green test tubes that mutated creatures are grown rather than created in this film. Maybe all the mutant characters in "Mutant Mayhem" are creations of Stockman's, or maybe they're truer to their canon origins. This would explain why Giancarlo Esposito isn't playing the role of Superfly himself (which he could've easily done well). It would also explain why Superfly isn't wearing a white lab coat, or why he is much more insect-like than even the '87 design. Only time will tell.