The Story Behind the 1990 ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Film Poster


1990 marked the discharge of one in all my all-time favourite films: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I used to be 9 years previous and that heat fuzzy feeling of nostalgia is burned deep inside me at any time when I re-watch it.

I recall the sensation I obtained when seeing it for the primary time and it’s simple to dismiss in right this moment’s CGI-saturated film trade the sense of awe from witnessing a live-action model of my favourite cartoon characters.

To many, the quote on the poster “hey dude, that is no cartoon” may be very harking back to the 1978 Superman film poster that said, “You’ll imagine a person can fly.” A sign that the movement image takes the viewer on a cinematic journey to a stage none had seen earlier than.

Even after I turned a photographer, I didn’t give a lot thought to who would have photographed the well-known poster or the way it was shot. That’s till I used to be cataloging my journal assortment and got here throughout the September 1990 difficulty of Studio Images Journal that featured a person named Chip Simons, the photographer behind the long-lasting film poster.

Despite the fact that Simons was a really well-known photographer on the time who had been printed in Rolling Stone, Fortune, Forbes, Esquire, and Spin, to call a number of, with an revenue that was, because the Studio Images article put it “nicely into the six figures,” in my preliminary on-line analysis I discovered nearly zero ties between his identify and the poster.

In actual fact, if it weren’t for this 1990 journal interview, I’d don’t have any method of figuring out who the photographer behind it was.

I reached out to Simons with some questions on how this picture got here into existence and was very shocked to get a reply and detailed solutions. I’m very desirous to let you know what I’ve realized as a result of I don’t suppose this info is on the market wherever else on-line.

As talked about, Simons was an enormous affect on pictures throughout this time. Along with the publications I already talked about, he additionally labored with Nickelodeon, MTV, The Tonight Present, and others. He additionally labored on album covers like this one for Cyndi Lauper’s A Night time To Keep in mind.

The Digicam Gear Behind the Picture

First issues, first, let’s discuss gear. To me, one of many fascinating features of studying the historical past of any photograph is what it was taken with. What digital camera? What lens? What movie?

After thirty years and ten thousand pictures gigs, it’d be arduous for anybody to pin down exactly what digital camera and lens mixture was used within the days of movie. Although a few potentialities got here up just like the Hasselblad 500 ELX, after cross-referencing with what was obtainable on the time, and thru dialog and strategy of elimination, it will nearly definitely have been a Hasselblad 500 C/M that captured these photos.

I say “these photos” as a result of this poster is a composite — a reality a few of it’s possible you’ll not have identified. Extra on that in a bit.

We do know for sure which lens was used: a Carl Zeiss F-Distagon 30mm f/3.5 Fisheye.

“It’s actually that lens that made the look of the 80s and 90s with my canine pictures and MTV and Tonight Present stuff,” remembers Chip.

The movie was additionally a lot simpler to nail down: it was Fujichrome 100D RDP, a slide movie.

“It was the warmest and finest movie for a decade,” Chip tells me.

How the Poster Was Shot

After all, much more fascinating was the method of how the poster was made.

After I requested Chip how he obtained the job of taking pictures the poster, he had this to say:

“I used to be fairly large from my canine pictures being printed by Andy Warhol, and I used to be already taking pictures for all of the mags, like Rolling Stone and Spin. I feel this job got here by a girl at one of many magazines… I feel Esquire.”

Armed along with his Hasselblad, fisheye, and a bagful of Fujichrome, Simons set off on his bicycle round Manhattan at sundown and at evening over the course of per week in what was possible the late summer season or early fall of 1989. “NYC was a free for all. I simply rode my bike round and laid on the street, attempting to not get run over.”

By the tip of the week, he had shot 60 rolls of movie! That’s over 700 pictures.

Now in case it wasn’t apparent, the Ninja Turtles weren’t shot on location.

“They flew within the heads and hand from London, and I shot them on seamless paper with the identical lens, and a few with a 40mm lens, within the studio. The hand was positioned by an assistant by the seamless paper.”

The manhole cowl itself, and the outlet from which the turtles are peeking out are laptop graphics.

Because the 1990 article in Studio Images factors out, the picture is definitely a composite of three photos. However in response to Simons, it’s truly greater than that.

The corporate that employed him for the job was based mostly in LA and was in control of all of the scanning, compositing, and graphics. Whereas Simons doesn’t recall the identify, he does do not forget that it was the identical firm that employed him for the film poster of The Pest.

The road is actual and was shot within the rain, and it was both within the West Village someplace or presumably forty third avenue trying down Fifth Avenue.

The Empire State Constructing within the background is round thirty eighth and fifth and the buildings are at sixth avenue round forty fourth, forty sixth, and 52nd Avenue trying north, then flipped for the opposite facet.

In case you look intently, you’ll be able to see the buildings on the precise don’t replicate what’s on the left. You may see open sky. Additionally, the sky itself is modified (although to what extent is unknown).

What we find yourself with is among the most iconic posters of the early Nineteen Nineties, and contemplating this picture is a composite of so many alternative components, it has held up very nicely during the last 32 years.

Humble Earnings from an Iconic Picture

By now you is likely to be considering that Chip Simons is a millionaire from the royalties of this picture alone. Sadly, that’s not the case.

“I obtained paid a studio day for the heads, and prices of movie and I billed like 4 days and made about $2,000,” the photographer says. “No contract they usually owned every part, and I by no means made one other penny.”

In 1991, Chip moved again to New Mexico to lift his children and began focusing extra on inventory pictures. In 2003, his inventory pictures introduced him $200,000 {dollars}. By this yr, that quantity dropped to only $529.

He states {that a} shift in how the trade began working itself was the rationale for the speedy decline in his work.

“Anybody that made jokes about their concepts, or the assignments, or casting, was excommunicated. I’m a comic, so I’ve been blacklisted since 2000.”

As of a yr in the past, Chip is retired from pictures moreover photographing his pugs, landscapes, and meals, however he’s nonetheless energetic on Twitter and posts photos which are ethereal, dreamy, and delightful on the common, and typically ridiculous stuff like this corn canine.

Studying about all of the ins and out of this well-known film poster and with the ability to have a back-and-forth with the photographer has been a tremendous expertise for me, and I hope you discovered it as fascinating as I did.

An enormous thanks after all to Chip Simons for answering all my questions over the previous couple of weeks, and being affected person with me as we work out the small print. Additionally, big because of these New Yorkers on my Discord for serving to me confirm taking pictures areas.

In case you’d wish to see extra of Chip’s work, you’ll be able to observe him on Twitter @chipsimons.

Concerning the creator: Azriel Knight is a photographer and YouTuber based mostly in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the creator. You will discover Knight’s pictures and movies on his web site, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.