Memories of David Wise

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have so many different things that get people to think about them.  Some of the most powerful things to bring the Turtles to minds are pizza and the word Cowabunga!  These were first introduced to Ninja Turtles in the 1987 cartoon series.  Right away in the very first episode we learn of the Turtles’ love for pizza and Michaelangelo breaks out into the call “Cowabunga!” as he surfs through a flooding building.  These were things written into the Turtles by David Wise.  A writer who helped turn the Turtles from an adult comic book where the Turtles were trained to kill the Shredder into a children’s cartoon sensation where they eat pizza and break the fourth wall to talk to us fans. If not for David Wise many of us Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans may never have gotten to know this green team.  Sadly, David Wise passed away on March 3rd, 2020 from lung cancer.   So today I am going to take time to remember the man who created the first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I ever saw. 

David Wise has been a man of entertainment for years.  He wrote for a lot of my favorite TV shows from my youth from Smurfs to Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  He is not just a man of great talent bringing life to these characters that covered our TV screens, he is also a fan of entertainment and had his own collection from series he enjoyed from Doctor Who to Mystery Science Theater 3000.  He took his love of entertainment and ran with it, writing things that fans around the world could embrace, knowing what he would love and putting that passion into his own work.  It was a gift you could truly feel while watching these shows and getting pulled into his work. 

I was only 11 years old when I first got into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The first episode I saw was “A Thing About Rats”, one of the first five episodes of the series as it ran in reruns October 1989.  I got hooked on the series as David’s writing pulled me in to learn more about these Turtles.  The first year of my fandom was mainly the cartoon, true I enjoyed the movie as well.  But it was the cartoon that got me running home everyday to watch with my brother.  I was caught in Turtlemania and it changed my life.  That first Turtle cartoon I saw was an episode written by David Wise. 

As a kid I did read every interview I could come across about the Ninja Turtles.  And shortly into my fandom I started to meet people who worked on the comics and other areas of TMNT.  It was in the mid 90’s, the internet was already in my life and I was trying to figure out away to do interviews myself when I met David Wise online.  I was so thrilled to have a chance to talk to him on the phone as he agreed to do an interview.  I went to my parents' room, as they had a speakerphone.  I set up a tape recorder as I got ready to make the call.  David was the first person from the original cartoon series that I made contact with.

I still have the tape though I have not listened to it in years.  I do recall that during that phone call I learned that he felt much like I did about Carter and Dregg.  He blamed CBS and told me more about the behind the scenes than I knew at the time - how the station held all the cards and forced those characters into the show.  I learned how his favorite voice actor was Townsend Coleman and he loved that Townsend was able to pick up on the character he wanted for Michaelangelo in that first script.  And he let me know how he always put the Turtles full names into the episode as he felt their names were so great and it would not feel right to call them by shorter names like Mikey or Don.  That interview was not a really long one, but it was a powerful one to me.  I do hope to someday transfer it to digital to share with everyone. 

I did try to stay in touch with David through the years, though like most guests that I’ve had the honor to meet I do not ever want to be a pest.  So I would only contact him every now and then.  In 2007 though something truly amazing happened.  I got to meet David Wise at New York Anime Fest.   He was just as amazing in person.  He signed some DVD covers and animation cels, as well as my Ninja Turtle autograph shirt I’ve been working on.  He was so nice to us and answered all of our questions.  It was an honor to finally meet him.   Shredder, from TMNT-L, and I were both taking the time to pop over and say hi to David. 

A few years later I found David Wise was also on Facebook, and added him to my friends list in 2010.  Facebook helped us stay in touch better.  And even gave us some really funny conversations.  One I remember early on was about a dream he had that included Robbie Rist, the voice of Michaelangelo from the first three Ninja Turtle films and myself, both being guests with him at a screening for the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in Hollywood. 

I am so glad that when I started up Cowabunga Corner I was able to get an interview with David Wise.  I always knew that I wanted Cowabunga Corner to not just talk about their careers on Ninja Turtles but their origin stories.  How did they choose their jobs and what took them in the direction that brought these talented people to Ninja Turtles.  David was happy to share all of this amazing information from his first job working on writing a Star Trek cartoon to getting Hefty Smurf to dress like Smurfette in an episode of Smurfs.  The interview was very informative and a lot of fun, it’s 45 minutes and totally worth the watch.


Miki and I enjoyed our visit that day, as we got to learn how much we truly have in common with David.  He showed us some of his fandoms that he had collections of; we talked about movies, actors, and so much more.  We were planning to come back some day to just visit without the cameras.  Sadly, that never happened as life kept shifting us one direction or another. 

I did stay in touch with David over Facebook.  He even sent me a bootleg TMNT toy I did not already have, to add to my collection.  And in early 2018 I helped a TV show get a hold of David.  The show is on Netflix, called “The Toys that Made Us.”   Earlier that week they spoke with me for the first time to decide if they were going to interview me or not.  A few days later they contacted me asking if I knew anyone with David’s contact information.  I called David up and he gave me permission to pass along his email address, and I’m thrilled to say that he was one of the people they used a lot through their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode. 

I am glad that David’s story is out there for others to hear and enjoy learning.  He really did make a big impact on the industry and created some of the biggest changes in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that many of us fans cling to, even now 30+ years later.  I know many fans that have loved his work spreading over different TV series and cartoons through the years, as he has touched billions of us with his work.

David opened his life to many fans through the years.  He was open to talking with people through Facebook and events.  He had a heart of gold and his soul shined bright for all to see.  I know so many people touched by that light through our life and know many more will be born to see the same shine of greatness that we grew up with.  I can never thank David enough for all he did for my life.

Thank you David Wise!  I will always remember you as the great man you are!

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