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How Bruce Lee inspired creators of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

 The action-comedy movie series ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ has released its latest installment of the franchise with the animated movie ‘Mutant Mayhem’, a total reboot and a more comic-accurate movie hitting Indian screens on August 25.

Inspired by the popular comic series, an intriguing fact about the comics is that authors Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were inspired from legendary martial arts exponent and actor Bruce Lee.

The two authors were longtime friends, and in the spirit of camaraderie, they wrote the comic series as a parody of comic book tropes out of sheer amusement, never expecting it to become the massive franchise it has become today.

An intriguing twist of fate led to the emergence of the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. In November 1983, the comic creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird inadvertently stumbled upon the concept while sharing some ideas in their studio.

Eastman greatly admired Bruce Lee, who at the time had become a renowned figure in the world of martial arts and Hollywood due to his film ‘Enter The Dragon’ and inventing the eclectic and innovative martial arts practice of Jeet Kune Do.

The fighting style of Bruce Lee inspired Eastman to envision the turtles, with their distinctive personalities, as animals that embody various traits. Talking about how he had envisioned the Ninja Turtles, he said: “The Turtles came out of love, passion and a late-night bout of goofiness. I’m a big fan of Bruce Lee.”

“I thought, if Bruce Lee was an animal, what would be the silliest animal he would be? And so I did this drawing of a turtle standing upright with a mask on, nunchucks wrapped around his arms.”

Co-author Peter Laird was more than onboard with the idea and that became a running gag in the series. “I did a pencil sketch with all four Turtles, each with different weapons,” continues Eastman. “Pete inked it in and added ‘Teenage Mutant’ to the ‘Ninja Turtle’ title. That was it. We fell in love with the idea!” The rest, as they say, is history.

As the concept took shape, the duo infused each turtle with unique attributes, drawing inspiration from their own circle of friends. Elaborating on this point, Eastman said “They evolved out of comparisons to a group that I would hang out with in high school. One was the funny one, always cracking the jokes. One was more technical, taking apart clocks and building stuff.”

“One was the self-appointed leader of the group, and then you had the one that would back you up in a fight. I loved the cross-section of these different personalities.”

“They would be sibling-like, they’d have arguments, they’d be at odds. But they’d always be there for each other too.”

Amid deliberations on names, Eastman’s inclination toward art history came into play, aligning the turtles with renowned Renaissance artists. Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael were swiftly added, while Donatello was a subject of brief dispute.

Eastman confesses: “There was a discussion for about two weeks on Donatello because I liked the sculptor named Bernini better,” says Eastman. “Donatello was almost named Bernini.”

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’ is the seventh theatrical installment to the franchise and is a total reboot. Directed by Jeff Rowe with a more comic accurate and compelling narrative crafted by Seth Rogen, the film revolves around the Turtle siblings’ objective to capture the affections of New Yorkers.

After a prolonged period of seclusion from the human realm, the pizza loving turtles want to secure recognition as ordinary adolescents through valiant acts of heroism, and with the aid of their newfound ally, April O’Neil, they confront an enigmatic criminal syndicate.

However, their mission to get the love of New Yorkers quickly escalates into a different mission as they find themselves caught in a web facing relentless onslaught of mutant adversaries.

The film boasts a power packed star-studded cast voicing the characters, which includes Jackie Chan, John Cena, Post Malone, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Brady Noon, and Maya Rudolph.

Released by Paramount Pictures, the movie hit the US screens on August 2 and will hit Indian theatres on August 25, 2023, and will be released in English and Hindi.

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