Besides consuming endless amounts of pizza and kicking Foot butt, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows introduces another reason to love being a turtle: You get to ride around New York in a tricked-out Turtle Van. The Turtles’ primary vehicle of choice since their ’80s animated series, this sweet ride is brought to life in the upcoming sequel to the franchise’s successful 2014 reboot. (Check it out in action in a new clip above.) It’s one of many fan-favorite elements from the original cartoon series that are being incorporated into the live-action Out of the Shadows, which also features the introductions of villainous mutants Bebop and Rocksteady, as well as alien baddie Krang (voiced by Brad Garrett, who replaced Fred Armisen due to scheduling issues). Megan Fox returns for a second outing as the Turtles’ human pal April O'Neil.
Party dude Michelangelo flexes his nunchuck muscles. (Photo: Lula Carvalho/Paramount)
Technically, the Turtle Van made a brief appearance toward the end of the 2014 film, but Out of the Shadows introduces a new-and-improved version with all sorts of bells and whistles added by the quartet’s resident tech genius, Donatello. (Get a closer look with our guided gallery of photos here.) Chief among the van’s fresh features are a manhole cover launcher and giant nunchucks, both of which can be seen in action in the turbocharged clip above from Out of the Shadows, which opens in theaters on June 3. While Donatello pilots the van, the group’s leader, Leonardo, occupies the driver’s side seat, firing manholes at a squad of motorcycle-riding bad guys trying to bust into a bus. Party dude Michelangelo then takes over, applying his nunchuck skills to the van’s oversize metal “arms.” Resident bad boy Raphael is also in the back seat, presumably ready to reward his brothers with a typically withering putdown.
The Turtle Van in its original animated form. (Photo: CBS)
The actual architect of the Turtle Van 2.0 is Out of the Shadows production designer Martin Laing, who tells Yahoo Movies that he was part of the generation of Turtle lovers who grew up on the animated series. “And now my kids are watching it!” he says, laughing. “The great thing about this franchise is that it touches so many generations.” And Laing specifically set out to honor multiple generations of TMNT fans with his design for the Turtle Van, which echoes its cartoon ancestor by retaining the vintage green and yellow exterior while incorporating elements from other incarnations. (For example, Laing says that a “Foot Stinks” decal glimpsed in the van’s interior is a nod to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books.) “What we tried to do was turn all the knobs up to 11. It’s sort of like how they redesign the Batmobile every time there’s a new Batman movie.”
The Turtle Van in its new live-action form. (Photo: Photo: Lula Carvalho/Paramount)
Even though Laing set out to make the Turtle Van a dream machine for teenage turtles and humans alike, he also wanted to keep the vehicle rooted in a certain practical reality. That meant answering one important question: “We know the Turtles hide in the shadows, so how will they be able to get through New York without being recognized?” The designer eventually found his inspiration in the least attractive vehicle imaginable: a garbage truck. “When you look around New York at night, what moves around the city are all these trash trucks. So we realized the Turtles can be in plain sight if they’re in a trash truck. It was a fantastic opportunity to create something that looks ordinary to people on the street, but has all these amazing devices on the inside.”
The Turtle Van’s giant nunchucks in action. (Photo: Photo: Lula Carvalho/Paramount)
The list of “amazing devices” found inside the Turtle Van includes hundreds of painstakingly hand-labeled buttons, a soda machine, video games, and a workout station. It’s part war machine and part teenagers’ bedroom, a combination that Laing says impressed anyone lucky enough to climb inside the Turtle Van during filming. “Everyone who came onto the truck was taken back to being 15 years old again. Back in my day, it was pictures of Madonna and Guns N’ Roses. Here, it’s Orange Crush, dartboards, an Xbox.”
Laing brought the same youthful spirit to the Turtle Van’s weaponry, including that awesome manhole launcher. “They fly like Frisbees,” he points out, adding that manhole covers have long served as a signature logo for the Turtles. And lest you worry that New York is now facing a critical manhole shortage, he’s quick to say that the brothers would never knowingly endanger the city’s citizens by leaving so many open sewers. “The Turtles are scavengers, so they would have found these manhole covers in an abandoned lot and used them. They always get stuff from around the city and turn it into something magical. They’re the best recyclers of all time!”
Having already turned the Turtle Van up to 11, Laing hints that a potential third film could twist the dial to 12. “I’ve done a couple of paintings of ideas for the next movie,” he says. “Maybe some [new] devices to get them around from A to B. I’m not going to say anything more than that!” Are we talking wormhole technology? Or maybe … wings? That would be the ultimate in Turtle Power.
Watch an Out of the Shadows trailer: