Barbara Walters has drawn lots of celebrities out of their shells, so the thought of the ABC newswoman interviewing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a short spot on her annual Academy Awards evening special is, in a word, awesome.

Walters headed for the Carolco Pictures' Studio in North Carolina this week, to get up close and personal with teen-age terrapins Raphael, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Donatello on the set of their sequel, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze."New Line Cinema will distribute the Golden Harvest production March 22 in 2,500 theaters. (Look for hot rapper Vanilla Ice to do "The Ninja Rap" in a special number, with the turtles doing backup dance.)

Walters declined to discuss the impending interview, but sources say she will be accompanied by a crew of 25 and three cameras for a taping to air March 26, Oscar night. (Still to be announced are three other heavyweight guests.)

The plan, at this writing, is for a begowned Walters to descend an iron stairway to the turtles' new underground habitat - an abandoned 1906 subway station, complete with platform and antique subway cars. There, sources say, she's likely to probe such sensitive issues as the fab four's feelings in the event they are snubbed by the Oscar nominators.

Known for causing her subjects to weep, Walters may even grill the orphaned quartet about their parents.

Watch out for turtle tears. - PAT H. BROESKE

- Power Trump:

HOLLYWOOD - Hot on the heels of his "Rocky V," director John Avildsen is preparing to jump back into the ring. But this time, heavy themes accompany the heavy punches. The central character of "The Power of One" lives in South Africa, circa 1950, when the country is in transition from an English colony to an Afrikaner state.

"The story takes place as the curtain of apartheid is descending," says screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who previously teamed with director Avildsen for the three "Karate Kid" titles. "Quite against his will, our character finds himself caught up in a collision of cultures."

Of English descent, the white teen-age welterweight defies convention by living and working in a black township, aligning himself with a young Zulu fighter - and romancing a young Afrikaner girl, whose father is one of the architects of apartheid.

Adapted from the 1989 novel by Bryce Courtenay, "The Power of One" will begin filming for Warner Bros. in March on location in Zimbabwe. Casting is under way in London, New York, Los Angeles and Johannesburg. Arnon Milchan is executive producer, with John Tarnoff, Steve Reuther and Avildsen producing. The budget is in the $18 million to $20 million range.

Kamen insists that this is not another film about the black struggle as seen through a white man's eyes.

"He doesn't bring the white experience to it all. He's led and influenced by them. The black experience dictates what happens to him. He becomes caught up in the myths of Africa.

"This isn't a movie with a lot of political diatribe. It's about feelings." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Praise the Music:

HOLLYWOOD - Irene Cara is in the studio to record "No One but You," the love theme from the Christian-funded feature film "China Cry" - which has been in release for more than three weeks. The song will be hurriedly edited over the credits of 200 existing prints of the film as they are in transition to new theaters.

The belated, highly unusual move will also result in a single to be released by Warner Alliance, along with the sound-track album, when the movie broadens its release in January.

"No One but You" was originally created as an instrumental, part of the score by composers Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Response was so strong to the instrumental, says distributor Tim Penland, that Kasha was asked to add lyrics. He wrote the theme about timeless love immediately following the death of his brother, producer-director Larry Kasha, on Sept. 29.

Inserting Cara's vocal will involve "a simple edit" costing about $75 for each print, says Penland, a sound investment if the song gets radio airplay or a best song Oscar nomination.

"China Cry" is the true story of Nora Lam (played by Julia Nickson-Soul), a dedicated Chinese Communist in the 1950s who risked her life by openly converting to Christianity. Her romance with a fellow "comrade" figures heavily in the story.

Filmed for $6 million and aggressively promoted on producer Paul Crouch's Trinity Broadcasting Network, the picture has earned roughly $2 million in its first 20 days of release, currently on 120 screens in about 25 cities.

"We're thrilled with the way it's played," says Penland, noting that he's working with a promotion budget of only $2 million that must stretch through the spring as the picture plays out.

Christians have been strongly supporting the film, he says, but he also insists "that a general audience is coming.

"We feel we're reaching out beyond the Christian audience."- JOHN M. WILSON

- New Life for Moto and Chan?:

HOLLYWOOD - Two venerable Asian movie detectives - Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan - are being revived, possibly to become lucrative series characters in the profitable mold of James Bond.

Producers Gene Kirkwood and John Hyde are developing "The Adventures of Charlie Chan" for Warner Bros., inspired by the detective created by fiction writer Earl Derr Biggers, the subject of some 20 films, most shot in the '30s and early '40s. A series of Caucasian actors portrayed Chan, who spouted pseudo-Chinese philosophy.

The goal, he add,s is "a Zen detective," with one Japanese and one American parent, "who has a foot in each world." --JOHN M. WILSON