This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a cause of controversy long before Michael Bay became involved in it. The original comic book was no troublemaker, but once it became a cartoon/toy/movie/pop culture phenomenon parents became concerned that it was too violent for children.
In Great Britain it was subject to mondo censorship, dude. Ahem. The BBFC, the British Board of Film Classification, had chunks of the first film removed. The cartoon series was renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and weapons and violence were removed (television broadcasts are not subject to BBFC classification and so others were responsible for those cuts).
In 2016, the BBFC released a case study on the classification of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret Of The Ooze, and it is a fascinating insight into the bizarre, panicked approach to censorship that surrounded Ninja Turtles. The strangest part? When classifying Secret Of The Ooze, the BBFC had the distributors remove shots of sausages from the film in order to receive a PG rating.
The offending sausages were only present in the film to appease those who found the violence in the first Turtles film objectionable. On the Secret Of The Ooze commentary (available on German releases of the movie – an essential part of any Ninja Turtles movie collection, as you’re likely aware) director Michael Pressman explains that the film was meant to be more child-friendly. As a result, throughout the film you’ll rarely see the Turtles use their weapons.
The scene with the bothersome bangers is set in a small shopping complex where the Ninja Turtles foil a band of robbers, right at the beginning of the film. Michelangelo doesn’t use his trademark nunchucks (or ‘chain sticks’ as they’re referred to in the BBFC case report). Instead, he fells a group of baddies with a yoyo before grabbing two sausage links from a food booth and using them as makeshift ‘chucks. He fights the bad guys with the food, throwing in some showy sausage spins for style.
When reviewing the film for certification, a BBFC examiner was apparently unable to tell the differences between sausages and nunchucks and so suggested cuts. Even once their status as sausages was established, BBFC director James Ferman insisted that the sausages would look like the real weapon “to any streetwise 8 year old.” Even once their status as sausages was established, BBFC director James Ferman insisted that the sausages would look like the real weapon “to any streetwise 8 year old”. That sentence appears twice to ensure that you’re able to take it in. The head of the British Board of Film Classification could not tell the difference between a martial arts weapon and a sausage, and believed that children would be similarly bamboozled.
By coincidence, I actually was an 8 year old when the film came out and have never had the impression that Michelangelo was using anything other than sausages. Perhaps I’m not streetwise enough.
The case study also includes a quote from the original report sent to the distributor: “After turtle takes down sausages and uses them as a flail. Reduce to minimum dazzling display of swinging sausages indistinguishable from chainsticks.”
If you have children, please do explain the dangers of sausage dazzling to them.
The report is a fascinating read. It’s interesting to see the change in attitude from the BBFC, which is a very different entity from headline grabbing body that existed back in ‘video nasty’ age. It’s possible to read in this report a bafflement at the generation that came before them. You get the feeling that very few weaponized dinners would cause the classification board any great concern today. It also mentions that the subsequent classification report for the home video release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret Of The Ooze described Ferman’s list of cuts as “a tiny bit ludicrous.”
Both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret Of The Ooze have been available uncut in Great Britain for more than 10 years.
You can find the BBFC report here. It is recommended reading.