Before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arrived in theaters to become a hit warranting a sequel, many fans were upset with the character designs for these four sewer dwelling brothers. Many though that they looked too human, with a lot of complaints aimed at their noses and their mouths. The turtles didn't always look this way, and before director Jonathan Liebesman and his team hit upon the designs we see on screen today, Raph, Leo, Mikey and Donnie went through some substantial changes. Talking with CBM, artist Kelton Cram shared a look at early character design concept art, which offers an alternate take on these iconic heroes in a half shell. He also explains that they were supposed to be different shapes and sizes, each with completely different physical attributes.
Explaining the above piece of artwork, Kelton Cram says,
"They wanted all the Turtles to be unique in shape and size. Tall and skinny to short and stalky to even more brutish."
He then revealed that Shredder wasn't always the hulking mass we see on screen now, which comes complete with massive arm knives and detachable, firing blades. His original design was much simpler.
"Shredder had a lot of changes throughout the process. The script would have big rewrites, and we completely revisited Shredders look and function. I got to spend a lot of time making numerous versions for Shredder."
Here is that early Shredder concept art:
Kelton Cram continued to explain the evolution of the Turtles,
"Because everything was tackled very early on in 3D, there was a lot of work for each change being made that would have to effect all the models and illustrations. Also,: the attachment of the shell, and trying to keep the turtles looking strong but able to move and fight at the same time was a bit tricky.
Probably every TMNT image on the Net was at some point viewed, or mentioned. Originally we worked with concept designer Jerad Marantz. His work was very inspiring and helped influence the overall feel of the characters."
Here is an alternate look at the turtles, with a focus on Raphael, who is a little slimmer than what we see in the finished Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.