Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (known as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles in Europe due to controversy at the time) is an American animated television series produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. The pilot was shown during the week of December 28, 1987 in syndication as a five part miniseries and began its official run on October 1, 1988. The series featured the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters created in comic book form by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The property was changed considerably from the darker-toned comic, to make it more suitable for children and the family.
The initial motivation behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series was that, upon being approached to create a toy line, Playmates Toys was uneasy with the comic book characters' small cult following. They requested that a television deal be acquired first, and after the initial five-episode series debuted, the California toy company released their first series of Ninja Turtles action figures in the summer of 1988. The two media would correspond in marketing style and popularity for many years to come.
David Wise and Patti Howeth wrote the screenplay for the first five-part miniseries. When the series continued in the second season, comic artist Jack Mendelsohn joined the show as the executive story editor. Wise went on to write over seventy episodes of the series, and was executive story editor for four later seasons as well. Wise left the series partway through the ninth season, and Jeffrey Scott took over as the story editor and chief writer for the rest of the show's run.
The show was in Saturday morning syndication from October 1, 1988 to September 9, 1989. After it became an instant hit, the show was expanded to five days a week and aired weekday afternoons in syndication in most markets, from September 25, 1989 to September 17, 1993. Starting on September 8, 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its secondary run on CBS's Saturday morning lineup, beginning as a 60-minute block from 1990 to 1993, initially airing a couple of Saturday exclusive episodes back to back. There would also be a brief "Turtle Tips" segment in between the two episodes which served as PSA about the environment or other issues. Beginning in 1994, the show began airing as a 30-minute block until the series ended. The series ran until November 2, 1996 when it aired its final episode.
The show helped launch the characters into mainstream popularity and became one of the most popular animated series in television history. Breakfast cereal, plush toys, and all manner of products featuring the characters appeared on the market during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A successful Archie Comics comic book based on the animated show instead of the original black-and-white comics was published throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. Action figures were top-sellers around the world. In 1990, the cartoon series was being shown daily on more than 125 television stations, and the comic books sold 125,000 copies a month.