Ah, the spring of 1990, Mandela was free, the Sony Discman was discovered and neon green shirts were being worn by almost everyone. One thing was clear that year: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were as hot as the pink both guys and ladies wore that summer. I caught wind of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles through the syndicated cartoon in January of '90. At that point in history, the turtles were still kind of playing second fiddle to the Real Ghostbusters. Magazines like Nintendo Power and MAD were giving away the existence of turtles in '89.
Once the first movie hit the big screen, you could not go anywhere without seeing Leonardo. They were in the newspaper, making live appearances in stores, and effecting everything and everyone around them. K-marts across the country held contests and sold the toys. There were stickers being given away with Bonkers candy. For the young folks reading this article, Bonkers candy looked like Starbucks candy with a fruity filling inside.
Aside from the TMNT being pictured on pork rinds, they also appeared in Burger King Kids Club meals. The first promotion started in February of '90 with the rad badges. Following that release, Burger King sold video tapes with the kids meals. It was a relief for most parents then to see that the BK Kids Club tapes were much cheaper than the F.H.E. tapes at the department stores.
Man, it was a truly an exciting time to be alive if you were a child. These were in stores:
Another great addition to the toy line was added around the time the film came out. I'm talking about the pop-up display set:
Unfortunately, the pop-up display set was sold when Turtle-mania really took off. Everyone (and I mean everyone) was purchasing TMNT stuff before the summer began. Scalpers, Jr. High students, parents and children alike were snatching these up. The TMNT were really giants like the first set of giant-size TMNT figures that were marketed that summer.
There was a list of all of the soon to be released action figures on the back of the yellow pop-up display board. Since this set was produced in 1989, only the third series figures were "coming soon". You would have known about Mutanimals like Wingnut through reading the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures" comics prior to the point the pop-ups were out.
In July of 1990, four tumbler cups were distributed with Kids Meals at Burger King. They featured characters like Leatherhead, April 'O Neil, Rocksteady and the turtles saying "Totally Tubular" on them. Unfortunately, also around that time, the Simpsons craze was really taking off. Many young adults had amassed all the action figures up to that point. Those who did not have a complete set had some of the ones they wanted. It was considered chic to wear a white Bart Simpson Underachiever t-shirt, that summer, for many reasons. The summer of '90 was very dry and hot in many areas. Secondly, the Simpsons were new to many Americans.
Only fourteen percent of America noticed them from the Tracey Ullman Show. Because Americans were nostalgic for the late Sixties, the Simpsons became the modern day Flintstones. Bart Simpson overshadowed most cartoons characters from not only the very early Nineties but the decade as a whole. The TMNT action figures and merchandise were still popular for boys and girls during that Christmas season. Honestly, TMNT action figures were THE action figures to own during the H.W. Bush era. Naturally, many of us kids did not stop playing TMNT on the playground until some time in mid to late '93. It is safe to say that the magic of the TMNT will always live on. Turtle Power!