Earlier this week, Pizza Hut announced that — as part of a promotion for the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie — the company would unveil a real-life version of the team’s pizza-throwing van from the ’80s/’90s cartoon at San Diego Comic-Con:
Nostalgia-susceptible fans (full disclosure: myself included) immediately delighted online, but this isn’t the first time the heroes in a half-shell have been, y’know, half-shills. Let’s take a look back at their selling out to Big Crust over the years…
The Original 1990 Movie
Subtle, Don and Mikey, real subtle. Hey, kids, did you know that Domino’s delivers in half an hour or else your parents don’t even have to pay for it?!
And Domino’s apparently didn’t have the exclusive tie-in rights, because Pizza Hut got to put a commercial at the very beginning of the film’s VHS tape. These turtles ain’t loyal!
The “Coming Out Of Their Shells” Tour
This 1990 nationwide live show — in which the Turtles were re-imagined as a hair band without actual hair to promote an album of cheesy synth rock — is famously insane, with Shredder even rapping about how much he hates music. (Humblebrag: I owned the cassette and VHS tapes.) Just try to survive this concert footage kicking your ass so hard…
Pizza Hut sponsored the whole marketing campaign, reportedly to the tune of $20 million. Here’s NinjaRap.com on the matter:
“Over 2 million cassette tapes of the show’s soundtrack were sold that year with the purchase of a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. The official Turtles Tour video made no attempt to hide that Pizza Hut was the real captain behind the wheel. Even Senior Vice President of Marketing for Pizza Hut, David Novack, appeared midway through to deliver a press statement on Pizza Hut’s behalf: ‘We’re just absolutely thrilled to get the world’s most famous pizza eaters to hook up with the number one pizza company in the world. Pizza Hut will launch the most aggressive promotion ever done in the record industry to support the Turtles’ new music, which I’m sure all of America will love.'”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game”
An entire generation spent most of our childhoods playing this ridiculously fun game, both at arcades and at home on Nintendo Entertainment System. (The NES cartridge even came with Pizza Hut coupons.) Did it seem weird at the time that Pizza Hut logos dotted the entire digital landscape? Nah, we were too busy beating up the Foot Clan to notice.
The New Movie
For awhile, the Turtles traveled to ancient Japan for some soul-searching and went back to their artistic roots. (We mean literally artistic: The 2007 “TMNT” animated movie and modern cartoon series.)
But now they’re back in live action, and even though they look a little different — with nostrils to better smell how delicious chain pizza is — they’re still eager to take a quick buck from their 1% overlords: Sitting on a couch made of Pizza Hut boxes, designing their own specialty pizzas that fans can order, driving around in that (admittedly f–king awesome) branded pizza-shooting van. The marketing onslaught is just beginning!
But hey, there are unhealthier things they could be glamorizing to young people instead, right? At least nobody ever OD’d at a pizza party…