Adam Wolfe writes,
Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel certainly wasn’t lacking any starpower at NYCC. We were graced by Andy Suriano, Ant Ward (executive producers), Omar Miller (Raphel), Josh Brener (Donatello), Brandon Mychal Smith (Michelangelo), Kat Graham (April), Rob Paulson (Foot Lieutenant) and Maurice LaMarche (Foot Brute)
This new iteration of TMNT comes hot off the heels of the widely acclaimed and loved 2012 CG series. Ant Ward was already working on that series when he began his pitch for the new turtles show. The Nickelodeon executives put Ward and Suriano in contact to work on the new series. The two meshed instantly and found their vision of a “new perspective” for the turtles lined up perfectly.
You might notice some of that new perspective right away. For example, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the first series to feature April O’Neil depicted as an African American Woman. Kat Graham, who grew up as a fan of the original Turtles cartoon, was both surprised and humbled by her selection to the role. She said it was important to depict April with a level of “silliness” as well as “fierceness” to give girls everywhere an empowering figure to look up to. In that same vein, you can expect April to do her fighting alongside the turtles, rather than taking a support role as she has with previous iterations.
Speaking of roles being shifted around, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will see a change in the classic dynamic of the turtles. Raphael is the leader this time, a role usually taken by Leonardo. Both Omar Miller, and Andy Suriano made it a point to say that Raphel is the eldest turtle, and because of that, the de facto leader. Ant Ward chimed in that the main focus of the show is the turtles as a family unit, so it is no surprise a heavy emphasis on the sibling dynamic drives the characterization of the turtles. Raphael was also given some new weaponry for the show, switching out his classic sai’s for a pair of twin tonfas. Ward claimed that he felt the tonfa’s simply fit Raphel’s fighting style, and overall design (big, square, blocking) better than a pair of twin knives. He did, however, hint that Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles covers a “very specific point in the hero’s career” and is very much about their journey to “becoming the characters we know and love.” Maybe we will see those sai’s after all! This also opens the door for better characterisation and storytelling for Leonardo. The show showed promise of delving into what makes Leo, Leo, rather than simply tagging him as “the leader” of the group. I think this can be seen pretty transparently in the clip below!
The biggest takeaway I got from the panel was a shift in tonality from the 2012 TMNT series. Both Ward and Suriano agreed that the previous show dove heavily into the science fiction angles of the TMNT mythos. With Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the duo hoped to push the series into a more “mystic” place. This is heavily represented by the reimagined foot clan, voiced by the legendary Rob Paulson and Maurice LaMarche. The pair’s chemistry in person was as palpalbe as it is on the show. They mused of the role reversal in this show compared to their previous work on Pinky and the Brain. “This time, I play the dumb one” quipped LaMarche. Paulson is also the voice director for the entire show. Though LaMarche said he isn’t used to Paulson being “the boss” Omar Miller praised Paulson for his guiding influence as an experienced voice actor. To have someone like Rob Paulson, who is synonymous with the animated turtles throughout generators, work on this show only bodes well for its success.
There you have it. New weapons, new designs, more magic, same turtles! Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is shaping up to be another stellar instalment in the storied franchise of TMNT. The cast acknowledged they have big shoes to fill from the 2012 series,and have done their best to differentiate themselves from their predecessor. Ward even went as far as to say that simply retelling the stories from the 2012 version would be “disrespectful” and wanted to go into uncharted territory for this version. I for one, can’t wait for a fresh new take on the turtles! Cowabunga!