Holiday Horrors: We Wish You a Turtle Christmas

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

tmnt_xmas.jpgWhile perusing through some digitzed VHS tapes, I ran across an ad for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze on home video. I contemplated using it as a Holiday Horror entry, mostly for shameful nostalgia reasons.

See, I used to love TMNT, even though I was a little too old to be into it during its heyday. It was probably the last gasp of my “I will watch anything on TV aimed at kids” phase. In retrospect, two things baffle me: 1) Why the cartoon was so insanely different from the original comic book, and 2) Why I kept watching this show well after I got into said comic books. In its original form, TMNT was weird, dark, and vaguely reminiscent of Japanese martial arts movies. The cartoon was goofy and centered around pizza and surfer lingo–and of course was a monster hit among kids during the First Bush administration years.

Unfortunately, the tape that had this commercial was not in the best shape. It looked pretty bad on my computer and even worse when exported to a YouTube-able form. So on a whim, I searched around the interwebs for some TMNT-Christmas stuff. Surely something that was once so huge had tried to cash in on the holidays.

As it turns out, they did. In 1994–well after the height of their popularity–TMNT was responsible a straight-to-video special called We Wish You a Turtle Christmas. That is not a promising title, but the special somehow manages to crawl under even this low bar, with plenty of room to spare. I agree with the sentiments expressed at X-Entertainment*: “You could put my dick in one of those vices they screw on to the tables in middle school woodshop…I still won’t watch it again.”

* I used to read X-Entertainment religiously, yet somehow had never read their takedown of this monstrosity until now. Don’t ask me how that happened.

You see, in addition to three live action movies starring guys in big rubbery costumes, TMNT was also responsible for a live show where they sang and danced and pretended to play instruments (“The Coming Out of their Shells Tour”). Don’t remember it? You may have blocked it from your memory as a defense mechanism. Here’s a reminder:

Yes, it wasn’t good enough that the turtles owned the afterschool cartoon world. They had to be the next New Kids on the Block. As a kid, this disturbed me, and as an adult, it disturbs me even more. There’s something very To Catch a Predator about the whole thing. I’ll just leave it at that. We Wish You a Turtle Christmas clearly originates from this travesty, which makes it even worse than you’d expect from a dying franchise’s cash-in.

This special ramps up the pseudo-surfer lingo and pizza ingestion of the cartoons to 11 on a 10-point scale, while adding endless sequences of turtles with creepy perpetual grins barely moving. Whoever is operating these turtle suits either just learned how to do so 15 minutes prior to the shoot or has serious motor issues, because their mouths flap incessantly, regardless of whether the character is talking or not.

But the fault does not lie with the actors alone, as the director also seems to have forgotten to block any of these scenes. For minutes at a time, turtles literally wander around aimlessly, looking as confused as any viewer might feel about what they should do with themselves (other than prevent anyone from ever knowing they were involved with this train wreck).

In this first segment, the turtles wrap presents, decorate their tree, and “sing” a turtle-riffic reggae-version of “Deck the Halls.” Only the turtles’ indeterminate origins prevent this from being racist.

With this travesty over, the turtles realize they haven’t gotten anything for their sensei, Splinter. So they’ll need to hit the streets and go shopping for him, to the tune of their own version of “Over the River and Through the Woods.” This sequence lasts approximately 97 million years. As the turtles slowly ascend through their sewer home, you can actually see fossils being formed. Once above ground, they meet some grade school budget production of Stomp and a rollerblader, as they continue to debate what to get Splinter in song form.

The next part opens with the turtles in what looks an awful lot like the real Times Square. I’m assuming most of the video’s budget was blown on this location shot, which is inexplicably used as the setting for Michaelangelo to turn into “that opera guy” and sing a song about New York City to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” As if to emphasize how out of place this is in the context of the special, this expensive, for-real shot is immediately followed by a set that looks like a photo developing closet decked with Christmas lights.

The turtles bring their gifts back to the sewer and start to wrap them. Before you read the rest of this sentence, I’m sure you’re fully aware that the turtles rap about wrapping presents. But I’m sure you can’t envision the horror of closeups of the turtles doing some kind of weird dap fingers thing with their gnarled appendages. Please do not watch this part if you are pregnant or have a heart condition.

Finally, it’s Christmas morning, and Splinter makes his first appearance, with his head perpetually downcast so we won’t see that his mouth doesn’t come close to matching his speech. Kicking things off with a spirited “Let’s rock and roll!”, he launches into a version of “12 Days of Christmas” that is so repetitive and reuses so many of the same shots over and over again, it’s like the A/V equivalent of reading Naked Lunch. (Speaking of which, I’ve never done it, but I bet watching this video is even worse than kicking heroin.) Oh, and there are kids running around the turtles’ lair for some reason. As you might expect from a holiday special of this caliber, this never comes close to being explained.

The show ends with a stirring rendition of the title song. Whatever you’re thinking about this song before you hear it, trust me, it’s at least 10 times worse than anything you can imagine. If you miss it, just stick around through the credits and you can hear it again.

Stick around even longer to hear the turtles and Splinter improv about their Christmas adventures over the credits. And when the credits run out, they continue riffing, without any visuals, over a black screen FOR A FULL MINUTE.

As I “watched” this, I seriously could not believe it. Every second that passed, I thought to myself, “They’re gonna cut back to a scene, right? They have to, right?” Nope, it goes on and on without any on-screen action and then just ends, with the curious line, “Hey, gimme some of that?” GIVE YOU SOME OF WHAT?! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

We Wish You a Turtle Christmas is, no joke, one of the worst things ever done by people, non-war-crimes division. It’s not as awful as Candy Claus, but not by a wide margin. I feel like humans owe the cosmos an apology for making it. And if this was ever beamed out into space, I fear the wrath of the advanced alien race that would hunt us down as retribution.

But if I can be positive for one moment, think of this: If dreck like We Wish You a Turtle Christmas can’t kill Christmas, nothing can.