Some information, clips, and overall bits of character news of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that's coming to Nickelodeon, shown at a panel from the London Expo!
Going into the main theatre, it was great to see all the chairs laid out with free TMNT goodies. The main screen had a clip on repeat (almost like a screen saver) that was just NYC backgrounds (nothing from the actual show) in blue, red, orange and purple hues, occasionally we'd get the hash tag #NickTurtles and the logo. Nick had guys there taping the panel and they came round recording us putting on our bandanas and making hero poses which was fun to watch. They warmed the crowd up having us shout out "I love being a turtle" and did the obligatory please turn off mobiles/recording devices "or a ninja will come and get you". Then they brought out Nick Senior VP Rich Magallanes and, to massive applause, Kevin Eastman.
They talked briefly about their backgrounds and were asked why they thought the TMNT had endured so well and were so popular. Both said it was about the characters, and Kevin said the visuals were very important as well. Kevin reflected on creating the Turtles, saying that they really didn't think they'd even sell the first issue. He and Peter Laird just wrote a comic that they would want to read. The moderator commented on how diverse some of the original stories were (from dinosaurs to outer space) and Kevin said it just all came back to what they were interested in and what they wanted to read, they liked Star Wars so they did the space arc, they wanted to do a car chase so they did one in #3, etc.
The moderator asked if they had a favourite turtle (he even asked Kevin if he was allowed to have one as it must be like choosing between his kids). Rich said Mikey, Kevin said Raph, but said that he absolutely loves Mikey in the new show.
They then started the slide show. The first slide just had some bullet points about the show;
Focus on brothers relationship/sibling rivalry
First time they've been to the surface
There were a few more but I can't remember right now. They said that a big thing for them was making them teenage brothers, noting how several previous versions had them looking very muscular and not really like teenagers. Rich said the muscle is still there but they wanted them to be more like high school gymnast in size. It was said that this also gave them room to evolve the TMNT over the series as they grow up (whether or not this will happen is another matter). They wanted them to have a true brotherly relationship, with all the comradery and rivalry that comes with that.
It will be CG but it will have anime influences (like emoticons). Rich commented on how every time Nick does a new CG show they want to push the boundaries. They did this on TMNT and then pushed it again as they felt it still wasn't enough. Kevin was asked if he'd seen any footage and he said he'd seen it at pretty much every stage (he loves being involved and seeing the process and how it evolves) and he said he loved it. He commented on the depth of the backgrounds, saying how when they're running across rooftops the city can stretch up to 20 blocks into the background.
They also commented on how they all want this to be the best possible series. They even got a Ninja master in to help choreograph the moves. Their storyboard artists would go down to the dojo and record him going through sequences and combinations then come back and board from the video.
Next up were character slides for the 4 Turtles. Each of these had a quote on them.
Leonardo - "Heroes don't ask for permission"
The first thing commented on was the quote. Leo sees himself as the leader and they've given him a cheesy sci-fi show, like Star Trek, that he loves and he wants to be the Captain Kirk figure, which is why he'll come out with lines like "Heroes don't ask for permission". He actually is a great leader but he's not got the experience and can be too enthusiastic about it so he makes mistakes. This again comes back to making the characters believable as teenagers, he's not perfect and has room to grow.
Raphael - "Raise some shell"
Not sure if that quote is right or not. Raph is still the hothead of the group. Kevin was asked if growing up he was more the "want to be the leader" guy like Leo or the hothead like Raph, and he said he was definitely more like Raph.
I can't remember Mikey's quote at all, which is annoying me as it was pretty funny. Mikey will still be the most comic relief of the group, but they stressed he would deliver the goods in the fights as well. They said Mikey is the most inventive of the TMNT and he can often be the one who gets them out of tough spots.
Donatello - "Think you shellbrain"
Donatello is the inventor of the group. They commented on the gap in his teeth, joking he probably smacked himself in the face with his staff in training. They then talked about how they differentiated the look of the TMNT with them all being slightly different shades of green, different heights, different builds, Don's gap in his teeth, the crack on Raph's chest ("no doubt from one of his famous brawls"). Don will have a crush on April that the others will tease him about.
They then introduced the cast, saying who was playing each of the Turtles. Kevin spoke about how when you're casting you always have an idea in your head of how they should be and when he heard the cast he thought they were perfect for the roles. Again Mikey was singled out with Kevin saying he's never met anyone who embodied Mikey as much as Greg Cipes.
Next they played a short teaser showing behind the scenes of the series. There was a lot of sketches and shots that shot by too quick to really take in, the guys at Nick talking about working on the show and how much they were fans of the TMNT. Then they played an "old" teaser. It began with a shot of an NYC manhole before panning up to the rooftops and the 4 Turtles. Leo said something along the lines of "Remember what Sensei said, don't fight against the machine, fight the man inside the machine!" Then they leap down to the street. There are some solo shots of each turtle doing a few moves with their weapons out (there was some dialogue here but I can't remember it all), quick shots of them running across the rooftops (I swear I saw Splinter with them in one shot) as the sun sets in the background, a night shot of Mickey running across a roof yelling "missiles, missiles, missiles, missiles!", jumping a box and running up a water tower to flip off the top as the missiles fly under him and hit the water tower. Pretty sure it ended on a group shot of the TMNT. Some of this was re-used in the longer clip later on so I may be confusing it a bit.
The crowd loved it, massive cheers and applause. The show looks really good in motion and the voice acting was good.
The slide show continued with the supporting cast.
Splinter. They noted that he is younger and taller. He will be more actively involved than in the past. He will be fighting Shredder, "Shredder is coming for Splinter right from episode one". They also want him to be more of a Sensei to the Turtles. No mention was made about any daughter. His CG image looked much better than the figure seen at Toy Fair (and at the Nick booth outside the theatre).
April. Strangely they just showed a 2D image of April not the 3D one we've already seen. It was noted that her age was probably one of the biggest changes they've made. As I said earlier, they said the main reason for the change was to bring her age more in line with the TMNT as a 30 year old woman constantly hanging out with a group of 14/15 year olds could be seen as a bit weird, but did acknowledge that it was also done to appeal more to their target audience. They said April would be more involved in their world and Rich "accidentally" let slip that she would be kidnapped at some point (I'm assuming this is by The Kraang and is her first meeting with the TMNT when they rescue her as revealed at previous Mutation in Progress events).
Shredder - "Tonight I Dine on Turtle Soup" Will not be goofy or stupid. He is menacing and evil. Kevin's favourite Shredder is still the original (he loved getting to play with the character each time they brought him back) then the first movie version (closest to the original) but he loves what Nick are doing with this Shredder. There is a personal conflict between Shredder and Splinter but nothing more was said here (again no mention of any child).
Foot Soldiers. Aim was to make them look more like ninjas than before. Always in groups, never less than 2. They may be used to comic effect sometimes but will always be a threat due to their numbers.
The Kraang. The design looks really cool in CG. They wanted to draw on the popular 80s villain but also go back to the comic roots (Utroms) that inspired the design of the original Krang, hence a whole race of Kraang. They're experimenting with mutagen and want to take over the world. No mention here of any alliance with Shredder. They can only talk when they are in their mechanical bodies. They're all called Kraang, but the panel joked that even in large groups they know which "Kraang" is being talked to, so if one shouts "hey Kraang" at a group of 20 Kraangs, only one would turn and respond.
New York City. They said that in many ways the city itself is a character. They showed some 2D background drawings of places like TCRI and the brownstone where April lives with her aunt above the antique store that her aunt runs. Kevin then spoke about drawing NYC in the comics, saying that he'd never been to New York when he did the early issues of TMNT so he was using Jack Kirby and Frank Miller's New York as inspiration, once he had chance to visit the city for himself he made some changes to how he drew it, combining the real with the fantastical. He noted that they never really used big skyscrapers in the comics, keeping the action more on the East side. The Nick series is taking a similar approach, blending the real with the fantastic.
We were shown some of the vehicle designs, Stealth Cycle and Shellraiser. Donny builds them out of whatever he can find lying around, so they look like they're build from scraps. Stealth Cycle designed so that when looked at from above it can't seen when in stealth mode, Shellraiser is an old subway car, it can shoot manhole covers and garbage. Donny will steal tech from The Kraang (Rich said something here about them being from the future, not sure if this was a spoiler he let slip by accident or if he just meant their technology was futuristic) and incorporate that into his inventions.
Then came the world premiere of the new footage. It started with the TMNT being stealthy in an alley before Mikey gets out his 'chucks and starts dancing around. He treads on a can making some noise and the other three all turn and tell him to "sssshhh", this was one of the more anime inspired emoticon moments, I'm not really an anime fan but it looked alright. It wouldn't be my personal preference but I didn't hate it and it certainly didn't put me off the show at all. Four Foot Soldiers appear around them. Leo says something like "4 against 4, sucks to be them." Then a load more Foot Soldiers appear and Leo backtracks a bit with "Or not!". Next we got a great looking fight scene between the Turtles and the Foot. The staging and the movement of the camera really gave this a feel of comic panel in motion. The Kraang appeared and start shooting lasers into the mix, and there was a really nice shot of Leo slicing one of the robot bodies vertically in half. We see a damaged Kraang exo-suit on the floor and Mikey is holding a Kraang upside down going "see it's a little squishy brain!" The Kraang wakes up and climbs up Mikey's arm and onto his head causing him to scream as he drops to the floor. The next shot is the other Turtles stood over him with Raph saying "How come even when he's right he manages to look stupid?" Then we cut to the NYC manhole and most of the earlier footage that was shown with the BTS video. Then we get a new shot of the Turtles in an alley saying something like they think that's all of them beaten or what's next, there's a really dark menacing laugh as Shredder comes out of the shadows behind them and that's the end of the footage before we get a full reveal of Shredder. I really hope Nick air this soon as I would love to see it again. The series really does look amazing and the crowd was loving it.
Just quickly going over what I've already covered
Bebop and Rocksteady - doesn't sound like any plans but this could change, are characters that fill those roles
Karai - didn't sound like any plans, but we know Kelly Hu has done some voice work for her.
Casey - again they skirted round the question a bit saying they're not doing anything with him at the moment (they didn't mention what's been previously said about him being in Season 2) but they did talk about character ages, saying they wouldn't be making big changes to Casey when they did use him. Rich said Kevin is doing a teenage Casey in the IDW series but he's still the same Casey, Kevin joked that he thinks he was just "born Casey".
Other villains - Leatherhead, Baxter and Rat King were all confirmed
Multiverse/other worlds - They've very aware of the rich mythology of the TMNT and want to respect and draw from it. No plans for the multiverse right now, but they did tease at Triceratons so expect some space stuff.
And new stuff;
Cowabunga - They tried to dodge this one. Rich said they were trying some new stuff and Mikey's catch phrase was going to be "booyakasha" and when Leo said it Mikey replies "it sounds funny when he says it" to which the others reply "it sounds funny when you say it". He then said they are listening to the fans (they encouraged the use of #NickTurtles) and are listening to them and appreciate their input. He asked if the audience wanted Cowabunga which got a big applause and Eastman just said "it's in".
Theme Song - One audience member asked if the classic theme song was going to be used or if it would be something new. Rich and Kevin kinda looked at each other before Rich laughed a bit nervously saying how much they loved the original theme and wanted to respect what had come before, but at the same time they would probably need to update it a bit and if we could read between the lines of what he was saying, because he can't confirm anything, we'd have the answer. So basically expect the classic theme song to be coming back.
Michael Bay/Alien Turtles - It won't affect the Nick show. Kevin spoke about other reboots like 2K3, IDW and Nick, noting that all of them made changes but he said that all of them are true to the heart of TMNT. He said that when the guest writers and artists first came in on the Mirage comics and offered new takes it showed him other avenues for the characters that he hadn't thought of before and they (he and Peter I'm assuming) were able to take some of these new ideas and use them in their own work. He wished he could tell us more because he's seen a load of really cool stuff, but said that we wouldn't be disappointed
Venus - Poor Kevin got all the tough questions! When asked if Venus would be in the show Kevin laughed and said he loved Venus but there weren't any plans for her to be in the Nick show at the moment.
Toys - Playmates is following the show's lead for the moment so don't expect them to introduce a load of new characters as toys that haven't been on the show (this could change of course, if I remember right the classic toy line started off by following the show before creating dozens of its own characters in subsequent years).
New Weapons - This is just something they're trying with Don and Mikey, they wanted to bring in more Ninja stuff.
Stand Alone Episodes Vs. Episodic Story - They were planning on doing more stand alone stuff with more important game changing episodes every 9 episodes or so. But when they were doing this they realised that they couldn't do story A until character 5 had been introduced, etc. so they switched up and it sounds like it will now be more episodic. They stressed that the individual episodes will stand alone, you can watch episode 3 and still enjoy it, but you'll get more from it if you've seen episode 2. So very much more like 2K3 than the 80s series.
The new TMNT cartoon will be shown on Nick during the fall of 2012.
Source: Detailed Info from TMNT Panel at London's Expo
Written or Contributed by: Zechs
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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