Ninja Turtles Redesign Project

These are a series of redesigns that I did of a selection of  Ninja Turtles characters over the course of the last few years.

Bebop, Rocksteady and Krang -  This is the first of the series that I drew.  I started it way back in the summer of 2007.  I wanted Bebop and Rocksteady to appear as if their mutation was somewhat unfinished.  As if Krang and Shredder haven't fully developed the technology to mutate their minions.  I also thought it would be funny to give Bebop a bit of an early 90s hip-hop feel, and for Rocksteady to look like one of those crazy right wing militia members from the same time period.

Shredder -  I was looking at the old cartoon version of Shred Head and noticed that his costume is basically just watered down samurai armor.  Since I didn't have to animate him frame by frame I had some fun with making his armor a bit more elaborate.  This is not a guy you would want a bear hug from.

Foot Soldier - I always thought the foot soldiers were super lame.  Even when I was a little kid.  They were totally harmless.  It seemed that they would explode with even the most minimal impacts.  For my version I wanted to create something nearer to the terminator.  Something nearly unstoppable that actually presented a challenge for the turtles.

Rat King - I took a lot of liberties with this redesign.  I basically rethought his whole origin, making him less of an intimidating figure, and more of an annoyance for the turtles.  In my version the Rat King grew up in the above-ground world, but was always ridiculed by his classmates and then coworkers for his gangley teeth and gigantic feet.  Eventually he sought asylum in the dark passages of the sewers, befriending the resident rodentia.  Currently he is like an annoying neighbor for the turtles, always trying to claim their sewer dwelling as his own territory, mounting ill conceived attacks against the turtles that they easily counter.  He's always spraying them with canned cheese to attract his rat minions, and swinging his dead cat clubs at them.

Casey Jones - Casey was always my favorite character from the turtles universe when I was growing up.  It seemed like blasphemy to change him too much.

Splinter - I was thinking of Splinter as being more like Morihei Ueshiba, the man who created Aikido (the martial art which redirects the force of an attack in such a way as to defend ones-self but also prevent harm to the attacker).  I wanted Splinter to look more like an old wisened sensei figure.

Donatello - does machine.  My favorite of the turtles.  The turtles designs from the cartoon and comic book always seemed a bit too cartoonish to me, and they didn't really look much like turtles.  They looked more like green tinted cabbage patch kids with shells.  I wanted my designs of the turtles to actually look like turtles, and incorporate the traits of a number of different species of testudines.  I also wanted the designs to be more chunky.  I don't like some more recent designs where they look really skinny and lithe.  I based Donatello on a tortoise.  I also wanted his gear to look a bit more modern and technological.

Leonardo - leads.  I based Leo on a sea turtle.  I thought that the sleek shell seemed appropriate, as well as the way that it's shaped like a shield.  I wanted his gear to be more traditional looking so based his belt on the way that samurais used to wear their scabbards.  I also wanted his swords to look a bit more antique, like Splinter passed them down to him.

Michaelangelo - is a party dude.  I based Mikey off of a painted turtle.  It seems appropriate that he's the only one that can retreat into his shell.  Might make him a bit more fearless about doing something stupid because he has a plan B.

Raphael - is cool but rude. Raph was always my least favorite turtle and in recent incarnations has become even more annoying.  I really don't  like how they've made the character so angsty and emo.  I wanted to change up the character a bit, and based him off of the old 80s steroid inflated action heroes.  In fact this pose is borrowed directly from a picture of Rambo.  There's also some thinly veiled jabs at the character in here as well.

April O' Neil - I always thought that the character of April of super lame in the TV show and movies.  She seemed more like a screenplay writer's fetish (tickle torture!) than an actual legitimate character.  For my version of April I really wanted to stray from the typical fanart of her in a yellow jumpsuit with the zipper pulled half way down, and try to actually give her a bit of substance.  I wanted her to look like a non-mainstream journalist.  Perhaps she keeps a blog that outlines her conspiracy theories about the foot clan, and she's independently investigates them.  Mostly I'm trying to stray from the image of her as a shallow television personality.  Those people drive me insane.

Mondo Gecko - My first priority in redesigning Mondo Gecko was getting rid of that creepy hair of his. Horrible.  I included a number of 80s references in this one.  Can you find them all?

Leatherhead - Another of Splinter and Krang's incomplete mutations.  I wanted Leatherhead to be a little less cartoonishly creole than other versions, and DEFINITELY didn't want to make him look like a kung fu alligator.  The Leatherhead from the newer cartoons actually makes me physically angry.

Wingnut and Screwloose -  I know in the cartoon they said that these two were supposed to be aliens, but I think the series is already outlandish enough without introducing beings from another planet (especially when they so closely resemble earth animals). So I designed the two characters to look a bit more like their earth counterparts.  I also based Screwloose a bit more off of Yossarian from Catch-22;  terrified while riding around with a certifiably insane co-pilot.

Slash - I based the villain Slash off of the version from the cartoon, where he is a snapping turtle pet of Bebop and Rocksteady.  I prefer the idea of him as a mindless thug (as an antithesis of the ninja turtles).  I figure that any pet turtle of Bebop and Rocksteady would also have suffered a lot of abuse, (an effigy for the ninja turtles) thus all of the scars and notches.  I think that would also have quite the impact on his sanity.  Perhaps he even suffers from an identity crisis that makes him totally unpredictable, sometimes trying to mimic the heroics of the turtles, but in his own confused thuggish way.

Baxter Stockman - One of my favorites.  I wanted to make him look a bit more lanky and more like a mad scientist.  I based the fly design more off of Drosphila melanogaster (fruit flies) one of the most experimented on animals in the world.  I also tried to work in some disgusting half mutations on his limbs and mouth, and the little arms coming out of his shoulders.

Ray Fillet - For Ray Fillet (Aka Man Ray) I was thinking more along the lines of the traditional super hero and borrowed this pose directly from an Alex Ross painting of Superman.  A marine superhero.  I think of him as being a bit like Aquaman, but way cooler.  His fin/wings work so well as a cape too!

I borrowed more heavily from the body type of a mantra ray for this one.  Instead of giving him that creepy full body leotard I thought it would be cooler to give him large gills across his chest like on a manta ray.  Because manta rays also don't have stingers, I thought it would be funny if Ray fashioned one of his own out of a found harpoon.  And just to give it that same 90s sense of fun that the action figures had I threw that duck floaty on there too.

Ace Duck - I definitely tried to avoid the Disney duck look for my version of Ace Duck.  Instead of one of those white or yellow domesticated ducks, I wanted Ace to look a bit more wild, so I based him off of a mallard (the coloring is also a bit of a shout out to my under-graduate alma mater).  I know it's a bit nit-picky, especially since the show is about mutated ninja turtles, but it always bothered me that Ace Duck had six limbs too.  He isn't an insect.  Therefore I tried to combine the wings and hands in a way that's still somewhat usable.  Finally I decided to give him that pigeon toe that ducks always have, just cause I think it would be funny to see him animated in that way.

I also really wanted to update his costume design, and, keeping with the 80s themes that I have going through most of the redesigns, I based him heavily off of Goose from Top Gun.  When I was a kid I always imagined him acting a lot like Goose (perhaps because they are both pilots named after waterfowl?).  I had to give him that traditional aviator jacket and goggles too.  I think it makes him look like he's having some fun with the role too.  I definitely had to drop that horrible cap that the action figure had though.  Between that and the open leather jacket he looked like the biker guy from the Village People.


  1. Man, these are great. They are well thought out and awesome. Thanks so much for doing them.

  2. "Raph was always my least favorite turtle and in recent incarnations has become even more annoying. I really don't like how they've made the character so angsty and emo."

    "The Leatherhead from the newer cartoons actually makes me physically angry."
    I find statements like this curious, since the more recent incarnations of these characters that you're talking about have actually reverted back to the original 80's comic material, that the 90's 'toon was loosely based on. I understand that you're approaching it as the most popularized concepts being the "right" version, but these are not new characterizations, and even pre-date the classic cartoon. They're just not as well-known to the general public.

    That aside, I think these designs are a lot of fun. The Rat King's spray-cheese cracks me up. I much prefer your ideas for Ace Duck, too.

    1. haha. I will be the first to admit that you have a point there. It's a bit of a strange set of priorities I have.

      I guess I just really liked the abstract wackiness of the early 90s toon. The character designs were more fun. Not to say that they were "better" than what Eastman and Laird did. I just prefer it from a design standpoint. The wackiness is more fitting with my aesthetic.

      And I don't think that the Raph from the old comics was such a caricature of angst that he was in that most recent Turtles film. That got a bit painful.

      Glad you liked Ace and The Rat King! I've actually had a couple of complaints about that Rat King design. I think it was a bit blasphemous for the Rat King fans out there.

  3. These are freakin' amazing. I never realized how "Disney Duck" Ace really was until you mentioned it. He looked just like Launchpad McQuack (although I'm not sure who was created first).

    I love how distinctive each turtle is and how they really look more like real turtles but maintain their "cartooney" cuteness. That's a fine line to walk and you did it nicely. I wish artists like you were in charge of the new Nick series. Instead we get watered down crap with an oversimplified animation style .

    1. Thank you very much Victor! Glad you enjoy the series.

      Yeah... the original Ace Duck design really looked like something out of Duck Tales. I wonder if that was deliberate decision since Duck Tales was so popular at the time...

      Urgh. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks the new Nick series looks like crap. Did you hear the new remixed hip-hop theme song? I started grinding my teeth when I heard it.

  4. Fantastic designs. Your art is impressive to look at, and also really fun and true to the characters. I especially like that the turtles themselves look more reptilian--the "Cabbage Patch" aspect of their design bothers me, too.

    1. Thank you very much! I was definitely trying to make the designs mirror the characters a bit more.

      I've heard some people complain that they look a bit too much like birds... but turtles have beaks. I can't help that! haha.

  5. Man, these are great. They are well thought out and awesome. Thanks so much for doing them.

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