Nobody says no to the Mouse, except the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! The 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film was almost a Disney release, but one producer stood his ground. During a panel at New York Comic Con 2022, TMNT producer Kim Dawson shared how the heroic reptiles turned down Disney’s offer.

According to Dawson, the film had already been shot with New Line Cinema set to distribute it. Director Steve Barron and editor Sally Menke were in the process of developing a rough cut when Disney’s interest emerged. “Steve Barron and Sally Menke had an unofficial screening with a Disney executive named Jeffrey Katzenberg, who had turned the movie down for me,” Dawson reminisced.

Interestingly, Katzenberg had rejected Dawson’s pitch multiple times before. But after seeing the rough cut, he changed his tune. “He loved it,” Dawson said. However, producer Tom Gray swiftly nixed the idea of a Disney acquisition, insisting they stick with New Line. Despite Dawson’s curiosity to explore Disney’s interest, Gray’s decision was final.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie hit theaters in March 1990 and swiftly became one of the year’s highest-grossing films. Despite turning down Disney, the Turtles enjoyed a short stint of camaraderie with the company, featuring prominently in Disney theme parks during the early ’90s. It’s hard to imagine saying no to Disney must have been almost as nerve-wracking as facing Shredder!

Fast forward to 2024, and our shelled heroes are celebrating 40 years of pizza-loving, crime-fighting fun. From the hit Last Ronin comic book series to the success of the 2023 film, Mutant Mayhem, the Turtles show no signs of slowing down. Fans can look forward to more adventures, as their enduring popularity sparks new and exciting projects.

What do you think of the Turtles’ decision to stick with New Line Cinema over Disney? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s get the discussion started!

Source: Joshua Lapin-Bertone