It's been a while since I read the comics or watched the animated show, or the original movies, but have the turtles ever been able to retreat into their shells like normal turtles do?

  • 3
    Comic or cartoon?
    – AncientSwordRage
    May 12, 2016 at 0:30
  • Truth be told, I can't figure out how their long legs, hands plus head would go into that shell......but they do
    – j4rey
    May 12, 2016 at 5:41

6 Answers 6


They certainly can in the films;

In the original 1990 Ninja Turtles film, Michaelangelo shows this ability, before quipping about how much he loves being a turtle.

enter image description here

Leonardo also does this in the 1993 sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time

enter image description here

And in the latest 2014 Ninja Turtles reboot, Michaelangelo and Raphael withdraw all of their extremities in order to disguise themselves as a gigantic product placement Behati Prinsloo's breasts. And no, I'm not kidding. I wish I was.

enter image description here

We also see them do it in the original cartoon TV series.

enter image description here

  • 2
    +1 for pretty pictures. Plus, I had completely forgotten about that 1993 one.
    – Omegacron
    Dec 31, 2014 at 15:49
  • 1
    @Omegacron How could you forget about the sequels? Go ninja go ninja go!
    – KSmarts
    Dec 31, 2014 at 19:10
  • 15
    In the last GIF, in the closeup, they don't seem to have their extremities inside their shells. Dec 31, 2014 at 21:11
  • 5
    @Richard If I tuck my arms in tight in front of me, I can hide them beneath the bulk of my torso. That isn't the same as being able to suck them into my body though. It's less potato/potato, more potato/elephant. Jan 2, 2015 at 0:57
  • 1
    That last GIF is ... really something else :-O
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 10, 2016 at 23:05

in the original movies there is a scene where at least one of them pulls their head into his shell

and I believe the final scene of turtles 2 they float back to the surface of the water completely pulled into their shells although I could be wrong

  • 9
    With the memorable quote "I love being a turtle!" Dec 31, 2014 at 13:09
  • Now that I think about it, I do remember those scenes. Thanks.
    – Robert
    Dec 31, 2014 at 13:12
  • They did that a couple of times in the original cartoon as well. Dec 31, 2014 at 16:10
  • As much as I hate to downvote, In Turtles II you don't see whether their extremities are retracted. All you can see is the tops of their shells in the water.
    – Valorum
    Jan 1, 2015 at 10:43
  • @Richard how about when they dodge the cannon shot in Japan? I saw it over 10 years ago, but I remember this scene.
    – Zikato
    May 12, 2016 at 14:14


I think they all do it at least once, but I could be wrong.

In Image Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Vol. III; #1, Donatello retracts his head into his shell during a long fall:

enter image description here

2012 Nickelodeon Cartoon:

Raphael does this at least once, when one of Leatherhead's booby traps flies at his head.

enter image description here

Michelangelo also retracts completely into his shell at least once.

enter image description here

And pulls only his head into his shell at least twice:

enter image description hereenter image description here

Leonardo does it unintentionally: enter image description here

They've even released a line of toys based on the 2012 cartoon series called "Head Droppin' Turtles"

enter image description hereenter image description here

1990 Movie Series:

In the first movie, Michelangelo does it once.

In the second movie, they all do it at least once:

enter image description here

2014 Movie:

As Richard notes, they also do it in the recent reboot.

For example, Leonardo:
enter image description here

Real life:

I'll just leave this here:

enter image description here


In the older Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, all 4 of the turtles withdrew their entire bodies into their shells, but only for comedic reasons (such as being afraid of a roach), rather than defensive ones (such as avoiding being crushed). The turtles, despite their ability to speedily use this ability, usually don't withdraw into their shells for any reason.


In the first Ninja Turtles movie, when Michelangelo put his head in his shell, they achieved the illusion of withdrawal by raising the shell itself -- the actor in the green body suit didn't move. This may or may not have been the method used in the third movie.

  • Also on Ninja Turtles 1 the movie when Michelangelo put his head in his shell I've always wondered how they were able to do that I actually found out that during that particular scene right when he put his head in the shell it was actually a body with a green bodyno shell was attached to the body someone was holding the shell the person in front of the shell didn't do anything all they did was raised to shell up to make it look like heis head inside the Leonardo on Ninja Turtles 3 I do not know how they did that one I would like to know
    – Curtis
    Mar 10, 2016 at 22:55
  • 3
    A little bit of sentence structure? PLEASE?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 10, 2016 at 22:58

Raphael does this in the 2012 series when Mikey shows him a cockroach. But that time, he actually hides his whole body in its shell.

  • I think the downvotes are a little bit rude for a newcomer, so you have my +1. And welcome to SF.stackExchange! I guess you got some downvotes because you didn't provide any precise reference (photo, or maybe the title of the episode), hopefully if you can give some, the downvotes will disappear.
    – Taladris
    May 12, 2016 at 4:33
  • Not sure why this got down voted, it actually provides just as much of an answer than some of the ones that were upvoted
    – Robert
    May 14, 2016 at 12:41
  • @Robert, I up voted. It takes a bit for new comers to see what constitutes a thoroughly thought out answer. Wait a second, I still am a noob myself.
    – KyloRen
    Jun 5, 2016 at 4:27

In real life, the ability and extent of a turtle's ability to pull into it's shell varies widely. Some can, some can't, some only partially. Given that the TMNT's shell is fairly small relative to the size of their limbs, the TMNT's probably can't fully retract their limbs.

  • 21
    I'm not asking about real life, but a real turtle's ability to do that is why I asked this question.
    – Robert
    Dec 31, 2014 at 13:03
  • 5
    "Actually, we’re fresh water turtles! I suspect we’re derived from the diamondback terrapin but it’s possible we’re common box turtles…" - 15-yo Donatello in Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), contradicting adult Donatello's "Red-eared slider" memory in Tales Vol 2 #18. Jan 1, 2015 at 20:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.