'I like turtles' kid was an OG viral sensation. Here's why he's back. (2024)

In 2007, a 10-year-old kid in zombie face paint became a viral sensation long before there was ever a term for it — all thanks to three simple words.

Jonathon Ware broke the internet after a 17-second clip on YouTube made the rounds across social media, which was then in its infancy. The clip shows a local news reporter approaching him at a local arts festival, where he’d just gotten his face painted.

When asked by the reporter what he thought of the paint job, a young Ware blurted out: “I like turtles...”

Ware’s hilarious deadpan became one of the earliest viral memes, ultimately shaping the spontaneity and unpredictability that would come to define internet culture. “Turtle Boy,” (sometimes called the “Zombie Kid”) was a cultural phenomenon. Cameos on The O’Reilly Factor and Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 further solidified his place in the zeitgeist.

“It still makes me laugh,” Ware, now 26, tells Yahoo Entertainment when looking back on the moment. “It’s like in the Marvel films when Groot says, ‘I am Groot.’ That’s me, except ‘I like turtles.’”

“Seriously, I just like turtles,” he proclaims with a laugh. “A kid’s mind wanders and goes, Oh s***, what am I gonna say on a news channel? I wasn’t nervous or shaking or anything. I was just like, well, I guess I’ll say, ‘I like turtles.’”

Last week, Ware broke the internet — again — when he appeared in a new trailer for the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, during which he repeated the famous tagline. It was a proud moment for the self-proclaimed introvert, who enjoyed “staying hidden” from the public all these years. When the film’s producers reached out, he says he decided it was time to come out of his shell.

“If I can make someone laugh, smile or change their mood and make them have a better day, I'm all for it. That's what it is about and that’s why I did it,” he says. “I thought, you know, maybe people can relieve some stress because they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, he’s back.’ That’s what I was hoping would come out of it anyway, for people to say, ‘Is this 2007 again? Look, he’s all grown up — but he hasn’t changed!’”

Now, Turtle Boy is eyeing a comeback, mostly as a way to “bring joy” back in people’s newsfeeds.

"After I did all this promotion work for the movie, I created accounts on TikTok and Instagram for the character: the Turtle Boy,” he says, noting that there's “new, amazing content” in the works. “You’ll just have to wait and see."

To that end, Ware gave a full update to Yahoo Entertainment about what life has been like since becoming internet famous. Here's what we found out.

Yes, he still loves turtles.

“Why not turtles?” he poses. “It's a pop culture phenomenon: You got Super Mario with [the turtle character] Bowser and all that. You got all the shells you can use in Mario Kart. Obviously, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Franklin the turtle. There's a lot of pop culture references.”

He loves turtles so much that his colleagues nicknamed him “Raphael,” after the lead character in TMNT known for being moody and eccentric.

"I was a produce manager for Fred Meyer and my store director found out who I was," he recalls. "He started calling me Raphael. He was like, ‘You like turtles, right?’ So, they changed my name tag and everything to Raphael."

Beware of the Turtle Boy 'copycats'

A basic Google search will show several pages of folks claiming to be the real “Turtle Boy” — including reports that he created a YouTube show called “It’s Turtle Time.” Ware, to say the least, was shell-shocked.

“I’ve never created a YouTube channel!” he confirms. “People copy me all the time, claiming they are me to get that clout and all the other stuff to get followers. They haven't really bothered me, but there are times where I have some flare ups. I'll make a burner account [to see what they’re saying]. Especially the ‘It's Turtle Time’ one. When people put that guy out there, ugh, that gets me.”

He's found a silverlining, though. “All these credited websites post about it and I’m just like, Man, that’s not me! But I’m just gonna let you look like a clown at the same time because when you get the actual me, you'll have to go back and re-edit it. And that's gonna be your problem.”

But seriously, there's no bad blood. Ware, an avid boxing and wrestling fan, even has a playful message for all the copycats: “Meet me in the boxing ring and we’ll see who ends this match.”

He doesn't like telling people he's Turtle Boy

“I kept it hidden, except for some people I work with and my close friends,” he says. “Nobody outside of that knew, and the only way they’d know is if my friends brought it up. When they did I’d be like, ‘Dude, what did you do?’ because people would be like, ‘No way! You're the Turtle Boy?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, it’s true,’ then I’d give them resting bitch face.”

His wife gets a free pass: “She finds it hilarious. She’ll bombard me 10 times a day to say ‘I like turtles.’”

'I like turtles' kid was an OG viral sensation. Here's why he's back. (1)

Ware preferred keeping his identity secret because “I just wanted my privacy," but that's changed, especially now that he's forging new plans as a content creator. “I wanted to wait until I was older, more mature and developed to see where [Turtle Boy] would go, and how my mind would develop creatively.”

“I'm 26 now. I'm more confident and have great ideas,” he says. “I'm not using [social media] all in one shot. I’m giving you guys a little tiny piece here and there, you know, I’m not gonna be posting constantly. That’s part of the character. It's mysterious, nobody knows about it.”

'Today's influencers are milking it'

Ware admits there’s plenty of perks to being internet famous, but for young people who find themselves in his situation, he advises them to cherish the moment before attempting to "monetize" yourself.

“My rule of thumb is to wait,” he says. “Watch what happened over the years. You don’t see anything from ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ or anything like that because they used all of that back then. They didn’t cherish the moment.”

Much like Ware, “Charlie Bit My Finger” became one of early internet culture’s most talked about videos — featuring a toddler holding his baby brother Charlie, when the laughing baby bites his finger. The toddler then looks to the camera with tears in his eyes and says, “Charlie bit my finger.” The clip, like Ware’s, was a viral sensation.

Back then, going viral didn’t exactly guarantee a career. Much has changed, Ware point outs, given the rise of mega-rich influencers who've found ways to make money on social media. (Something that was virtually non-existent in 2007.)

“Today’s influencers are milking it,” he says. “They’re posting too many videos and they're always trying to do something to impress their followers. If you want to keep a following that's loyal to you, give them just a little bit here and there. But no, they keep posting content to keep up their moneybags and to be famous.

"The real thing is to make people happy," he says. "For me, that's what it's all about. And I'm excited to see what comes next in that regard."

'I like turtles' kid was an OG viral sensation. Here's why he's back. (2024)


Why did Jonathan say I like turtles? ›

The news interviewed Jonathon after his video went viral to inquire as to why he'd responded the way he did. He said he'd just been to a display of turtles near the face-painting booth. A combination of excitement about the turtles and nervousness about the interview led him to spout the famous phrase.

What condition does Turtle Boy have? ›

He's a super nice kid who loves turtles, but all anyone tends to see is his micrognathia, a condition that causes a deformity on his chin. Because of this, he spends most of his time alone in his room with his turtle friends he found at the nearby marsh.

When did I like turtles go viral? ›

In 2007, Jonathan Ware was interviews on KGW 8 in zombie make up. Dubbed Zombie Boy he said, "I like turtles," and became an internet sensation. Yes, Zombie Boy still likes turtles. It was in 2007 when Jonathan Ware, with his face painted like a zombie, announced (contextlessly) to the world, “I like turtles.”

What is turtle slang for? ›

In answer to your question, Pranab Das's question: "What is turtle slang for?":- It means that they think you block too much instead of punching back. You crunch yourself up, hiding in your protective "shell", hence "turtling". It can be annoying if someone holds guard for most of the match and barely fights.

How old is the turtle kid now? ›

“I wanted to wait until I was older, more mature and developed to see where [Turtle Boy] would go, and how my mind would develop creatively.” “I'm 26 now.

What is the I Like turtles kids name? ›

Sixteen years ago, Jonathon Ware delivered his iconic "I like turtles" line live on KGW. Now he's back in a promo for Paramount's new Ninja Turtles movie.

What does turtle say her real name is? ›

Answer and Explanation:

Turtle's real name is Tabitha-Ruth, but she tells her partner Flora Baumbach that her name is Alice because she hates being called Tabitha Ruth.

What is the name of crush the turtle's son? ›

On their way, Marlin and Dory become trapped in a forest of jellyfish. After being stung and knocked unconscious, they awaken in the East Australian Current with a large group of sea turtles, including Crush and his son, Squirt.

What is Turtle Boy's real name? ›

Aidan T. Kearney (born December 1981) is an American journalist, blogger, author, and conservative activist, also known as Turtleboy. Kearney is the senior editor of the website and podcast TB Daily News.

Can turtles be intersex? ›

Intersex turtles have been observed in several places around the world. Limpus et al. (2009) reported an intersex green turtle Chelonia mydas on Raine Island (Australia) that was male externally, but female internally based upon laparoscopic examina- tion.

What is the back 40 in Turtle Boy? ›

I'd much rather be in my room, taking care of my turtles and their habitats, than doing anything else—with one notable exception: walking the trails of the Back 40. The Back 40 is the nature preserve behind school. Some trails I've walked a hundred times. Some I've barely seen.

What does it mean if you love turtles? ›

Turtles symbolize tranquility and healing. They are associated with emotional depth and divine connection with our intuition. These sea animals represent groundedness and connection between the material world and our inner guides. They are associated with ageless wisdom and maturity.

How old is Jonathan the turtle today? ›

His approximate age is estimated to be 191 as of 2024, making him the oldest known living land animal. Jonathan resides on the island of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.

How long ago was the I Like turtles kid? ›

The clip that inspired the new promo happened 16 years ago, way back in 2007 during a live broadcast on KGW. Ware was 10 years old at the time and had just gotten out of the face-painting booth with his ghastly glow-up.

Why did the turtles split up? ›

As the Turtles' commercial success waned by the end of the 1960s, they became plagued with management issues, lawsuits and conflicts with their label, White Whale Records, leading the group to break up in 1970.

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