For one hour this weekend, it was turtle time during Power-Con 2013, during the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" panel where the creators of the Nickelodeon series looked back at season one with some thoughts on the Fall premiere of season two and beyond.
The panel features "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" showrunner Brandon Auman along with executive producer Ciero Nieli, design supervisor Irineo Maramba, voice actor Greg Cipes (Michelangelo) and character designer Felipe Smith. The quartet have some hefty credits between them with a list of animated titles and--in Smith's case--manga creations to their credit including "Transformers: Prime" and "Teen Titans" who know that fan reactions can often mean everything in the pre-release environment but it ultimately comes down to how they feel about the final product.
"When the fans start getting sneak peeks online and stuff, the fans start getting upset," Nieli told the audience, reflecting back on the first images that made their way online when Nickelodeon announced the CG reboot. Fan reaction can weigh heavily with a reboot, but with these creators, they try to put it in the back of their minds when making these new shows. Nieli continued, explaining that their goal was to find a look for the series which worked, and he personally scoured the original Eastman/Laird comic run for inspiration as well as the role-playing game and the "Return to New York" stuff and '90 movie, but more than anything, it was about trying to nail the aesthetic given the lack of hard and fast canon for the franchise. "The beauty of doing this at Nickelodeon is that we get so much front commitment," allowing them to pace the show and create content gradually.
The initial pitch for the series was based on John Carpenter--hidden amongst humans are these turtles who realize that hidden amongst humans is something else. This was the genesis of Krang--one part "Invaders of the Body Snatchers" and one part "They Live." The original intent was to have Krang revealed slowly at the end of the first season, with people revealing the monsters under their faces at the end. "Halloween" and "They Live" were major points of inspiration, from the look of the series to the way the Krangs walk with a hive mentality.
Pictured (l to r): Brandon Auman, Ciro Nieli, Greg Cipes, Irineo Maramba, and Felipe Smith
They were able to get around the animation S&P about not being able to hit human characters in the face by saying that the Krangs kept their faces in their stomachs.
Newcomer Felipe Smith (creator of "Peepo Choo") discussed joining the team and getting to have a say on the look of the series headed into season two. Smith moved over from storyboards to character design (chat about "Peepo Choo"). "I think the cool thing about this show is that is has everything from martial arts, to sci-fi, to horror... and from a design standpoint, you can do anything with that." He's excited to be in the room with "BTAS" animators like Glen Wong, moving from working alone on his own comics to being part of a team of 100 animators and artists.
With season three currently in production, Smith joked about a particularly gnarly creation: a 25-foot tall tower of tongues and meat. Speaking of season three, fans should keep their eyes peeled for the debut of both hockey mask-wearing vigilante Casey Jones as well as a Triceraton.
With showrunner Brandon Auman on board, voice actor Greg Cipes says "It's really fun as an actor to have good scripts." He's happy that the character has a chance to evolve throughout the series, with Nieli adding that the creators made a deliberate decision to make this Michelangelo younger than previous interpretations in order to allow the character room to grow and develop.
As for his brother Donatello, Nieli described him as too smart for his own good, and inspired, in part by "Star Trek's" Mr. Spock. He's a couple of steps ahead of everyone else, that it causes him to get frustrated with others' shortcomings. April is the thing that makes him more human. Brandon Auman says fans can expect Casey Jones to throw a monkey wrench into the Donatello/April relationship.
Season two of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" will return this Fall on Nickelodeon. Season three is currently in production.