I understand they are mutants so it not really too much of a stretch, but it seems more likely that they would have at least 5 finger and toes on each hand/foot as all but sea turtles have 5 digits on each foot. Heck, maybe even a 6th digit sprouting on their hands/feet would be likely.

Was it to make drawing hands easier or like 3 digits look cooler than 5?

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    money.yahoo.com/… Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 21:38
  • Why might a Teenage >>MUTANT<< Ninja Turtle be different from a normal turtle. Hmm. Could it be because of their ninja skills or age?
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 21:51
  • Yeah, I understand it is a no brainier question, but usually in fiction(maybe irl as well), mutants tend to gain extra/new parts rather than lose them. @Valorum Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 21:54
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    Two fingers and a thumb sayeth the original co-artist
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 22:02
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    It is somewhat speculative, but Ninja often wear tabi, split toed socks. The two-toed feet of the ninja turtles seem (to me) to be tabi - and the hands are two-fingered + one thumb (since having only two fingers would be unrealistic...)
    – James K
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


Reducing the number of digits on a cartoon hand is a common trick to make drawing easier. Hands are quite difficult to get right, especially in action comics like TMNJ where they are shown in many different poses and holding a variety of objects in every frame.

Mickey Mouse had three fingers and wore gloves for that same reason. Animating hands is hard. Daffy Duck, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny... most of the early cartoon characters all had reduced fingers on their hands.

This is especially true for characters for which the artist intends (or hopes) will make it to animation.

Any in-character explanation is likely a case of backsplaining.

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    Except that the original line art for the turtles had them with five stubby fingers.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 18:06
  • Which, admittedly, might have resulted in the artist deciding to simplify their life when it became more popular. :-D
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 18:16
  • @FuzzyBoots - In which case, a quote from the artist would make a superb answer. As it stands, this answer is merely supposition. For all we know, the artist preferred the number three because that was his lucky number.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 20:03
  • "this answer is merely supposition" - It's an industry standard optimization which is common domain knowledge. I would have thought the general example would have been sufficient. Considering how many times the question has been asked on redit and elsewhere, I suspect a quotable answer doesn't exist without contacting Eastman & Laird directly. I will, however, dig further. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 1:02
  • @KurtFitzner - Contacting Eastman and Laird would turn this from a mediocre guess into an exceptional answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 6:32

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