Documentary celebrates 25 years of turtle power

Andrew Paulsen

Filmmaker meets creators of his childhood heroes

More than 25 years ago, an idea struck Kevin Eastman while he was watching TV with fellow artist, Peter Laird. Eastman picked up some paper and drew an unusual sketch of a turtle – standing upright and holding nunchucks. Peter Laird liked the idea so much that he drew his own turtle as well. Soon the duo created four turtle characters and gave the squad a name – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1984, Eastman and Laird independently published their first Ninja Turtles comic and the rest is history.

Fast-forward to 2009, and you can see the cultural phenomenon that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has become. Mention “Cowabunga, dude!” to anyone that grew up between the late 80s and today and odds are you will find a Ninja Turtle fan. One such person who shares a fanatic enthusiasm for the Ninja Turtles is filmmaker, Isaac Elliott-Fisher.

Elliott-Fisher ironically did not see much of the Turtles cartoon growing up. Instead, he fell in love with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael through the toys. He remembers counting up his pennies to go to the store and purchase his first Donatello action figure and still has all of four of his original Turtle figures nearly 20 years later.

In honor of the Turtles’ 25th anniversary, Elliott-Fisher presented an idea to friends Randall Lobb and Mark Hussey to work together on a Ninja Turtles documentary. Lobb and Hussey liked the idea and set the project in motion. Lobb contacted Mirage Studios, the company behind the Turtles property, to try to gain financial backing, but Mirage ultimately declined affiliation with the project. However, Mirage supported the idea and encouraged the group to create their own fan project.

Elliott-Fisher, Lobb and Hussey decided to continue moving forward with the documentary, financing the project entirely out of pocket – a feat that wasn’t as intimidating as one would think because of the group’s access to equipment, including Elliott-Fisher’s production company, “i Productions.”

In 2009, Elliott-Fisher embarked on a trip to the New York Comic-Con and then to Mirage Studios’ headquarters in North Hampton, MA to contact many of the comic’s writers and artists along with Turtles originator, Peter Laird.

While in New York, Elliot-Fisher got a pleasant surprise.

Turtles creator Kevin Eastman was also at Comic-Con and Elliott-Fisher was able to sit down and share the project concept with him. Eastman liked the idea, and after he agreed to an interview, the remaining Ninja Turtles connections and contacts came pouring in. Elliott-Fisher, Lobb, and Hussey began shooting and now have more than 135 hours of interviews and footage, including a reunion of the voice cast of the original Ninja Turtles television cartoon.

Elliott-Fisher, Lobb and Hussey are now waiting for a distributor before they complete the documentary, tentatively titled “Turtle Power,” but hope to see a release around the time the upcoming live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie opens in theaters in 2011. Until then, all Elliott-Fisher can do is build support for the documentary and enjoy the incredible experience he’s having.

“Sometimes I kind of pinch myself while we’re doing it,” he said. “It’s just really cool to be able to sit down with all these people who were involved with everything from toys to cartoons, to movies, to lives show to whatever.”

To learn more about the Ninja Turtles’ history and 25th anniversary, visit, and go to to keep track of progress on the “Turtle Power” documentary.

Contact features reporter Andrew Paulsen at [email protected]