It fell to me to review the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A lot of people hated it. I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. I didn't hate it.

Why not? Because, while not an objectively good movie by any stretch of the imagination,TMNT shouldn't be judged against all other films. It only needs to stand up against various other projects carried out in the TMNT name in three decades. And 90 percent of those have been less than stellar.

The original cartoon series was great if you were six at the time, but have you checked back on it lately? There's a lot of casual racism going on. (Don't believe me? Explain the clientele of Woo's Oriental Palace. And check out these impermeable disguises.)

The original movies were far sillier than the new one, which at least has nefarious villains. And there was the ill-fated "Coming Out of Their Shells Tour"

But all of this is just preamble for our actual purposes here today.

Erik warned me not to revisit past Turtles works in preparing for my review, and this admonishment led me to delve deeper than I otherwise would have. Dwarves-in-the-mines-of-Moria deep. In so doing, I awoke a forgotten, slumbering leviathan: "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas."

At an efficient 25 minutes, the straight-to-video production came out in 1994, as that first enormous Turtle wave was cresting and America was coming to its senses. The plot is boilerplate holiday fare: It's Christmas Eve, and the turtles are feeling smug about having all their shopping done. Then they realize no one's gotten anything for Splinter! There are mere hours left in the holiday shopping season! To avoid breaking their master's heart, the turtles have to brave a New York populated chiefly by bucket drumming children, inline skaters and one very credulous Santa.

And along the way? The turtles sing their hearts out. With insane grins frozen to their teenage faces, Mike, Leo, Raph and Don put down reggae and opera, a rap about wrapping, and this.

The YouTube description calls it "a Christmas Special so awful that it makes 'The Star Wars Holiday Special' look like 'Citizen Kane.'" I'll let you draw your own conclusions, since I find myself suddenly partisan.

On Thursday, I interviewed the woman who wrote "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas," and she was perfectly lovely.

Read all about our very pleasant chat after the jump.

Inveterate childrens author Tish Rabe
  • Inveterate children's author Tish Rabe

Tish Rabe (pronounced "Robby") has been writing songs and books for children for three decades. In 1996—just two years after she penned "We Wish You a Turtle Christmas"—Rabe hit the jackpot, getting permission to publish books under the "Cat in the Hat" banner after the death of Dr. Seuss.

When I reached out, Rabe called me from her weekend home on the Connecticut coast (her non-weekend home is in NYC). I wanted to know what you want to know: How something like "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas" comes about. I don't know that I arrived at any conclusions, and I don't know that it matters. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Portland Mercury: So, uh, how did you come to be attached to "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas"?

Tish Rabe: I have been a children’s book author since 1985. Like forever. I also have written a lot of kids songs. Somehow these people tracked me down. My son was the perfect age, he was five. His whole world was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I got this call. There was absolutely no way I was going to turn it down. I said that’s amazing. I knew everything about them. I knew about Shredder and Splinter.

PM: There is a reggae song in "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas." There is a rap song. There is opera. There is what seems to be an R&B song. Was this part of your idea? To expose the turtles to all these musical styles?

TR: Many times If you have a low budget project—and this was low budget—you use public domain songs and change the lyrics. We took just your classic PD songs. And all I did was write the new lyrics to the songs, to the public domain melodies.

PM: Yes, but then there's a rap?

TR: The "Wrap Rap". The composer just gave me the beat. You know how it is. Just gave this basic rap beat. I wrote the Christmas wrapping thing to that. (Laughs). It’s so funny, I forgot about this project.

PM: And how was this received at the time?

TR: I don’t know. Have you had any luck finding the producer? I don’t remember, to be honest, how he got the rights to do this in the first place. I know he was a filmmaker in New York. He must have known somebody or something. I believe back in the day it was distributed on VHS. Your classic VHS situation. Whether they were successful or they made any money, I don’t know.

PM: You haven't heard anything about it since?

TR: You're the only person who's brought it up to me in two decades. I don't know why somebody posted them [on YouTube], I don't know who posted them, but it was a huge shock to me. I've written over 160 children's books. You do all this stuff and you realize that it never really fades away.

PM: So you saw it on YouTube. Did you get a sense of how people feel about "We Wish You A Turtle Christmas"?

TR: I didn’t see a lot of comments. One person though it was really bad. One person thought it was kinda cute. People are so mean I just try not to go there. Nobody completely thought it was the worst thing ever.

PM: And how do you think it holds up?

TR: I thought it was actually pretty funny. I thought it was cute. I thought the songs worked. I thought the cheesy costume for Splinter was pretty funny. It looked like it had been in the dump. I actually got a kick out of seeing it. It was really pretty cute, considering the amount of money and time we had and everything else. I’m thrilled.