The top 11 questions about the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes

The original TMNT costumes

Yes, 2014′s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a hit, but the new turtles are 100% CGI. That inspires some nostalgia for the original live action gang, so we’re answering the must common questions about the first heroes in a half-shell.

The basics

Q: Were the original turtles CGI? Are the new ones?

The new teenage mutant ninja turtles are CGI, but the old ones were a combination of people in suits and puppetry.

Q: Who made them?

The first two TMNT movies featured costumes made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, while the third had work by All Effects Company.

Q: How did they work?

Basically, the faces were controlled just like a puppet’s face might be, while the body was controlled by the person wearing the suit (we’ll get into some details later).

Wearing the TMNT suits

Q: Did they wear the same suits all the time?

No. According to TMNT co-creator Peter Laird, there were different suits for conversations and for stunts. The suits for acting had more sophisticated animatronics, while the stunt suits focused on making the suits lighter and more flexible.

Q: So how did the suit actually work?

Michelan Sisti, who played Michelango, told all in a fan interview. During the first movie, facial motors and a computer were hidden behind the shell on his back. A nest of cables connected them to the animatronics in the head. In this way, the body and head were constantly attached. The first suit weighed more than 70 pounds.

For the sequel, the servos were all in the head itself, though some were still hidden in the shelf. The second suit was about 15 pounds lighter, but neither suit was comfortable.

Inside the turtle, actors could hear their puppeteer and the rest of the set.

Q: What was the hardest part?

Actors agree the heat and weight made playing a turtle tough.

Q: Did the turtles control their own faces?

No. A puppeteer nearby actually moved the turtles’ faces and did the voices.

Q: How could a puppeteer control from nearby?

Radio controls.

If you want to see a full video, this bootlegged documentary is excellent.

Q: What does the head look like on its own?

This is from the third movie, but the technique is similar.

Behind the scenes

Q: What else did the turtles do?

The benefit of puppet turtles is that, unlike CGI, they can tour. Turtles did concerts, personal appearances, and even an interview with Barbara Walters.

Q: Why did the third movie use a different company?

According to Sistani, All Effects had a similar technology and underbid Henson’s Creature Shop by half. Most fans and reviewers prefer the Henson-era costumes.

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