Next up, I take a look at all the iconic gear used by the Turtles over the years- the cheapest toys you could buy kids and still count as vehicles (the Cheapskates) to the mighty Technodrome itself.
Probably the most iconic Villain Base in TV history (even over SNAKE MOUNTAIN from He-Man!), The Technodrome is the home base of Krang, and nearly constantly seen in the cartoon. It was initially a moving vessel underneath the Earth’s crust (within walking distance of NYC’s sewer system, of course), but was frequently damaged, rendered inoperable, and exiled elsewhere. In fact, one of the great signals of time in the cartoon was to see where the Technodrome was THAT episode- it was either under NYC, trapped at the Earth’s core (with lava everywhere), trapped underwater, trapped at the North Pole, or trapped in Dimension X itself. Generally speaking, Krang rarely left- it was up to the Shredder and his minions to leave and engage in field missions, either by way of portal or by those nifty little “Drill Machines” that would shoot him up to the surface.
-Apparently the early plan in the cartoon was for the Turtles to take over the Technodrome and use it as a personal base after the first five-part series… but Eastman & Laird, to their credit, refused this idea, feeling that it was WAY out of character for the more-secretive ninjas to be using a titanic, rolling base. It would often get reactivated or empowered by some shenanigans of the week, then get damaged and be stuck elsewhere- this generally happened at the beginning and ends of seasons. Finally, it was trapped in Dimension X and attacked by a gigantic plant-monster in the eighth season, and was destroyed- it was last seen as a motionless husk in the bottom of a crater.
-There was actually a toy for this, but like “Krang’s Android Body”, it was more of a mythical “wouldn’t it be cool if they MADE ONE?” toy among the kids I knew- we had no clue there ever actually WAS one! The toy was released in 1990, so I SHOULD have definitely been aware of it- I can’t imagine missing out on the ads for it, and they MUST have had images of the toy on the backboards of other toys I owned- I was EXTREMELY thorough when going over the toys I did not currently own, as my poor parents can attest.
The radical, super-cool, Super-Spoiler on top of the van triggers the Foot-pounding tenderizer, whacko bombs, and other party surprises! All this control is now in the palm of your Foot-bustin’ hands! Turtle-plated flip top allows easy access for six action figures—more if you squish ’em!
THE PARTY WAGON/TURTLE VAN (70 ep):
-The Turtle Van (referred to as the Party Wagon in the toyline) was the Turtles’ primary mode of transport in the TV series- a garish yellow van with a green shell roof and a frowny-face on the front (matching the Turtles’ grimaces from their toy packaging & Mirage books), it had a lot of doors (which altered over time- some flipped down into ramps) and room to move about. Typically, the vehicle’s guns were not seen in the show- it’s a bit… un-hero like for 1980s cartoon characters to be blasting away with artillery. It was a CONSTANT fixture, actually- easily the most common vehicle (and the show had a LOT of vehicles- those were the mother lode of toys. Pricier and more in-demand). It was just too handy- you could get all the Turtles in one place at the same time, have them chase after enemy vehicles, and so on.
-The van originally belonged to Baxter Stockman, and they Turtles kept it when he was gone. Though the sewers beneath Manhattan were depicted as large enough to easily walk around in, the FRIGGIN’ VAN was a bit too big- it seems to have had an easy hiding place or two. Thankfully, this NYC was pretty void of hard-to-draw traffic, so the giant van emblazoned with their trademark turtle shell didn’t draw too much attention from civilians, nor get bogged down in traffic.
-An obvious homage is in the Nick Toon, where it’s April’s father’s van and the Turtles drive it in a few episodes, though their usual vehicle was a modified subway car called the “Shellraiser”, with a similar purpose in the show. The IDW Comics feature it as well, keeping the origins with Baxter first owning it.
The streets won’t be safe with this radical street legal skateboard! Be the envy of all your mutant friends! Let your Turtles skate through the sewers in style on this pizza-powered machine. But wait there’s more: comes with muck blower, kick-action Turtle foot, sewer cover sheild, Stench-cutting sewer searchlight and National Turtle Quiz book. We’d give you the kitchen sink but it won’t fit in the box.
I remember the Cheapskate getting a lot of play in one episode, as Donatello goes into detail about how he build them out of garbage and other “cheap” materials, hence the name. This was naturally designed to sell the toys, which were the cheapest of the TMNT vehicles you could buy, and so were fairly popular. They’re basically Motorized Giant Skateboards, but have a pedal up front to boot guys in the ass. One specific memory I have is my friend Paul using the “boot” on his hamster as it wandered around the basement (don’t worry- the boot doesn’t have much velocity). Statistically, it’s just a Motorcycle with better Strength and a “Boot” up front.
Now, with the incredibly wacky Turtle Blimp, you can help the Turtles patrol for the evil Shredder and his band of stinky cohorts, the Foot Clan! Yea, you control the action as the Turtles dive into battle from their zappin’ zeppelin. That’s right! You command the Blimp over the city skyscrapers and swoop in for sneak attacks with the Turtle Glider. No leaky batteries. no tangled strings or rusty springs, just you and good clean fun.
Blueprints included for easy-to-follow assembly. If you’re a know-it-all, toss’em
Detachable Glider has rolling wheels for ground play!
Turtle Trigger releases bombs and Turtles individually or all together!
THE TURTLE BLIMP:
The Turtle Blimp was given a huge push in the show, being used as a vehicle that helped the group take down Krang in his giant-sized Android Body. Naturally, this was so that they could advertise the 1988 release of the Turtle Blimp toy! This was a bit of a “Holy Grail” piece in the line, and one that I never saw with my own two eyes. Even the most spoiled kids (and my brother and I had a LOT of the best- Dino Riders T-Rex & Diplodocus; Powermaster Optimus Prime; a huge G.I. Joe fold-out base; etc.) failed to get it. Though all the same, I don’t recall either of us particularly BEGGING for one. What we REALLY wanted were “Show Accurate” Android Krang and the Technodrome, which weren’t released until much later.
That said, I do have a specific memory of making some “terrific” gift for my brother’s birthday or Christmas or whatever- a makeshift “Turtle Blimp” that was essentially a cardboard box taped to a green balloon with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” written on the side in black marker. I asked my brother about this, and he vaguely remembers it (“Didn’t we put the Turtles in it and it sank?”). I was totally expecting him to be in love with this “awesome present”, to the point where I made my parents hide it in their bedroom for like a week, but in retrospect it was probably terrible and didn’t last long (I mean, it was a BALLOON).
Naturally, you’ll notice the box art is a notably different color scheme than the real toy (which is a green balloon, not a yellow & green detailed thing).
The Blimp was seen here and there, but the Party Wagon/Van was naturally much more common. It was badly damaged in the second-last season and never seen again. And really, this is a team of presumed STEALTH FIGHTERS. What on Earth were they doing with a blimp WITH THEIR TEAM LOGO ON IT?