Monday, September 24, 2018

'Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Creators Reveal Concept Art and New Vision

In the 34 years of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' existence, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s pizza-obsessed, sewer-fighting mutant heroes have existed in comics, manga, video games, on the big screen, and on stores shelves as a zillion different action figures. It’s one of those rare evergreen properties that has thrived from being rebooted for new eyes, keeping their “cowabunga” sensibility strong for generations.

The latest is Nickelodeon’s new animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which debuts on Monday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. (ET/PT). A contemporary tale of the brothers four — Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo are voiced by Ben Schwartz, Omar Benson Miller, Josh Brener, and Brandon Mychal Smith, respectively. In this series, they’re already having fun on the streets of NYC when they discover a portal that zaps them, and their buddy, April O’Neil (Kat Graham), to the Hidden City. It opens their world to a host of weird villains like Baron Draxum, and unique mutants of the week.

Developed by artist Andy Suriano and Ant Ward (a supervising producer on Nickelodeon's 2012 CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a more distinct look, and 2-D approach, than its predecessors. SyFy recently talked to the pair about their goals with their show, and exclusively reveal some of their concept art.

How did the two of you come together on this new take on the Turtles?

Ant Ward: Nickelodeon had been playing around with the next phase of the Ninja Turtles for a little bit before either of us were on board. They weren't really finding anything that was sticking. I got a phone call from the network wanting to know if I had any ideas of what I would do with the franchise. I said, "Yeah, absolutely," so I did a little pitch for them and they seemed really eager.

Andy Suriano: I got the exact same call, relatively around the same time. We both put together our own pitches for our version of a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and first they brought us into a conference room together and they say, "Ant, go ahead....” He presented a bunch of images, art, and story points. I was blown away because he not only had similar stuff, but they were really not common images that he'd pulled up. We're both referencing a lot of lesser-known French comics and things like that from the '60s and '70s.

AW: It was very serendipitous. We suddenly found ourselves with a very similar focus.

Ant, you had just worked on the previous animated series, so what did you want to do differently this go around?

AW: I think there are two big elements that I really wanted to zero in on. One was this fantastical element that the 2012 show didn't really play around with. Like leaning into the myth of the Ninja, the mysticism of Ninja, and then also leaning into the hidden world; what is around us, and are we really seeing what we're seeing?

I live in Los Angeles, but my kid was looking at a pizza place across the road and asked me if they were Ninja Turtles in the store. That got me excited [thinking], "What if it wasn't just the store? What if you've got a kid visiting New York and they wonder what's really behind every street corner? What's really in this pizza shop? What's really behind this newspaper stand?"

And the second thing, was that I really wanted to do something very lighthearted and fun and broad, leading into the 2-D animation sensibilities.

What about you, Andy? What was the attraction to dive into this franchise?

AS: I actually had done some work for the 2012 version. I was doing consumer products art and developed the 3-D. I had so much respect for what Ant and the crew had done, previously, that if I was going to be onboard and do something different, then I really wanted to do something different. That was the mandate I put upon myself. There's no reason to retread familiar territory too religiously. So, I just swung for the fences, design-wise. I wanted them to think, "Okay, if this is something I'm going to have to draw, or other artists are going to have to draw, then I want to make it fun and iconic."

Concept art for the new Ninja Turtles

Where did you start with the Turtles and their new looks?

AS: In terms of the Turtles themselves, who are still iconic, if you're going to push away from [the past], then we might as well go big, so to speak. We looked at each Turtle from their personalities. We looked at each brother and, Ant and myself, wanted to make sure that they resonated as a family unit. We wanted them to exist as four brothers. We looked at their personalities and decided, "Okay, which overall shapes?"

As a designer, I look at shapes a lot, so it was deciding Raph would be the square. Donnie's personality lends itself to be a rectangle. Leo is a triangle, and Mikey is a circle. Then it was taking on specific turtle species traits, so we incorporated all of that. We wanted them to each have a distinct voice. If you see the way they move, they move in line with their personality traits. Their size, their shape and their weapons also reflect their personalities.

You've made Raph the oldest brother, and changed up their weapons. Were you worried about what fans would think?

AS: It's interesting hearing some people comment about some of our changes. They're all on the mark because it does create lots of really interesting storylines for us, and creates drama and conflict within the family unit, which is something that we can really play with. Ant and I looked at the modern family nowadays. We both have two boys each and we looked at our kids, and our kids' friends, and their schools and the world that we live in. The world that we live in now is a little different than when we were growing up, so we really wanted to show a family unit that reflected. I think it suits our origin story very organically, which will be hinted at, and revealed, as the show goes on.

AW: For us, it was about something that's still familiar but was also unique, so we wanted to pair them up with weapons that were 100% different to what fans would be familiar with, but also might be a bit unexpected initially, and then after a little getting used to, I think it all becomes very clear.

April is African-American in this series, which is a refreshing change that feels like it would have always made sense to the NYC storyline.

AS: We wanted someone that fit organically within New York City, within the story that we knew we wanted to tell with the brothers. We wanted someone that we knew could just balance right off of the brothers very organically and naturally.

AW: We touched base with Kevin [Eastman] and said, "Hey, this is what we want to do." We weren't changing things for the sake of change's sake. But we do think in today's day and age, that representation across the board is important. It felt like a very natural point of representation within the franchise, and also a nice homage to what has come before.

AS: Our April's been friends with the Turtles for many years before the show starts, so she really is already integrated into the family and really, she's the sister of the brothers.

Your take on Splinter is hilariously unexpected. He's often been the wise sage in other mediums, but not so much in the first episode here. How did he come about?

AS: I think wisdom comes in unexpected ways sometimes. We know we're leaning heavily on comedy in this version. He was a natural place to play some humor for the kids to bounce off of. That being said, viewers, I think, will have a really fun time watching Splinter's story as the series progresses.

Let's talk about your visual aesthetic. Your stories take place in New York City and in the portal-accessed Hidden City. Talk about how you developed their looks to distingush them.

AW: We wanted a vibrant, modern New York City that, again, reflected today's New York. When you imagine New York in fiction, especially superhero fiction, you imagine Hell's Kitchen. But if you visit New York, you'll notice that it's a city of constant change. There's all this construction going on, and the new meets the old, side-by-side, at a ferocious rate.

AS: We definitely have clear rules, though, in terms of what you're saying. With New York City, you'll see a lot of purples, bright neons and pinks and blues. You won't see any of that in the Hidden City. The Hidden City is more of the earth.

How much of your stories will take place in one, or the other?

AW: I think there's a balance. Obviously, New York is quintessential Ninja Turtles so it's about having a lot of New York represented in the show, say 70, 75%, as we start to introduce the concept of the Hidden City to the audience. As soon as everybody gets a bit more familiar with this incredible place, we’ll be spending a bit more time down there and exploring that location.

Why 2-D animation for this series?

AS: We use a lot of old comics reference and really dynamic posing. As a designer, I like to push the model to the extreme, as far as it can possibly go. That would, in some cases, break the CG model. Whereas here, we can actually just draw it. We do all our own special poses, which end up being key poses for the overseas animators.

And I don't know if you would be able to tell the scope of the stories we tell in CG. Going to 2-D, in this case, has really just opened up a world. We can bounce from location-to-location between episodes.

AW: Also, coming off, maybe 10 years of working in CG, I really wanted to go back to some of my own 2-D roots and just enjoy that side of the medium a little bit. So, it was a selfish reason as well.

AS: And we don't want to replicate what literally just happened in the 2012 series, which was great. So, that was one more thing we could do to distinguish ourselves from it.

Hidden City concept and color art


Also, from /Film:

‘Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Creators Talk Season 2, New Toys and New Splinter [Interview]

During their Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel for the Television Critics Association, Nickelodeon announced they had already greenlit a second season of the new series. That was before a sneak preview of the show and its official premiere on Nickelodeon.

Now, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premieres today on Nickelodeon with brand new designs for the turtles, new villains and even new music. The line-up is still classic, though: Donatello (Josh Brener), Michelangelo (Brandon Mychal Smith), Leonardo (Ben Schwartz) and Raphael (Josh Brener) team up with April O’Neill (Kat Graham) and their mentor Splinter (Eric Bauza).

After the TCA panel, executive producers Andy Suriano and Ant Ward hung around to talk with /Film a bit more about their plans for a second season, the new toys based on their new designs, Splinter’s reinvented role, and the Pinky and the Brain reunion on their show.

Was this the first you heard you were getting a second season?

Suriano: We’ve known for a while.

Ward: We started working on it a while ago.

Suriano: A month ago [from July] at least. It’s been such an honor that it hasn’t aired yet. We haven’t even done the sneak peak.

Ward: The network were really excited about the episodes that were coming in. An episode takes about a year from start to completion so we’re still in the writing process and the post process at the same time.

Suriano: The animation that they’re doing overseas at Flying Bark is next level stuff.

Now that you have two seasons, do you think down the road you might start introducing traditional TMNT characters like Shredder?

Ward: You know, we have the saying you never know who’s going to turn up. If there’s an organic place that fits within the world we’ve created, then we’re not closed-minded to the possibilities of some old favorites, but it has to feel right.

Suriano: Nickelodeon’s never said, “Hey, you have to do this” or “You have to do that.” There’s never a mandate to change up the turtles or do anything like that. It all just felt organic. We felt like now is the time to shake things up and do some fun stuff as creators. We want to just keep challenging ourselves.

Ward: The amazing thing about the media landscape we live in today is all of those previous incarnations are still available.

Are there any more villains you’re waiting to unveil?

Ward: I think we did a big announcement at Comic-Con. That’s virtually everybody.

Suriano: Well, we have some secrets down the line we can’t reveal now. It’s gonna be fun.

Ward: The big announcement was definitely Comic-Con. That’s pretty much our ensemble of rogues.

Suriano: John Michael Higgins is Warren Stone. Muninn is Sam Richardson.

Ward: Tim Simons.

Suriano: We have Maurice [LaMarche] and Rob Paulsen from Pinky and the Brain are reuniting for the Foot Clan.

Ward: There’s two Pinky and the Brain like Foot Clan members. It’s pretty fun.

But not actually Pinky and the Brain?

Suriano: Not the actual Pinky and the Brain but the actual actors who portrayed them. That’s magic in the booth. You have Maurice LaMarche and Paulsen together. It’s incredible.

Are they doing a toy line based on these designs?

Suriano: Oh yeah. We left them in the green room but the toys are awesome. Playmates Toys who’s had the franchise.

Ward: Since ’87.

Suriano: They are continuing with it. My greatest joy is watching our designs realized in 3D. It’s really fun. My kids get to play with them. That’s the best part of it. We both have two boys so we get the toys, they get to play with the toys. It’s super fun.

Did you just turn over the designs to them and watch the magic happen?

Ward: There’s back and forth.

Suriano: We’re super involved with it. Again, we’re very, very lucky that we’re able give notes.

Ward: It’s very collaborative.

Suriano: Just like everything with this process from the voiceover stuff to animation to background design, the writing. Everything we do is very collaborative.

Does Splinter get involved in the action?

Suriano: Splinter is very involved in the action. He probably has the most interesting story arc of the first season.

Ward: There’s more to the rat man.

Suriano: So far, any animosity towards any of the redesigns might be towards Splinter but there’s more than meets the eye with that.

How is he different than previous incarnations?

Ward: He’s from Cyberton. No, at the end of the day he’s a very loving father who is put in a very precarious predicament.

Suriano: A single dad to four rowdy teenagers.


Also, from

INTERVIEW: Rise of the TMNT Is A Comic-Styled Reverential Reinvention

Nickelodeon’s latest animated series had a shocking start to its life when the first previews of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles proved a hotly debated departure from stories past. But as the producers and stars of Rise tell it, the series is less a change from Turtles shows of the past and more a deepening of the franchise in a way that draws inspiration from both the TMNT’s animated roots and its comic book origins.

CBR caught up with executive producer Andy Suriano, Turtles icon and current Rise voice director Rob Paulson and stars Eric Bauza (Splinter) and Brandon Mychal Smith (Mikey) for an inside look at the series as it prepares for its regular series debut with multiple episodes airing tonight at 6:30 PM on Nick.

“We always say ‘Be respectful, not reverential.’ We wanted to be respectful, but we never wanted to be hindered by that,” said Suriano who holds years of experience both in comics with projects like IDW’s Cosmic Scoundrels and in animation such as the recent run of Mickey Mouse shorts. The creator sees the version of the Turtles on Rise as no different than past takes at their core…this series just digs into new facets of the classic personalities.

“They’ve always had the same basic ingredients since 34 years ago when Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman came up with them. At its heart, we took those elements and said ‘How can we add a little dimensionality to it?’ We just went from there and kept adding layers and layers, and anything that didn’t feel true to the inherent nature of the character, we yanked it out,” Suriano said.

If there are notable differences in the new series, the producer says, they are in terms of the timeline (the show presents the Turtles much younger in their crimefighting career than when they face the Shredder) and in an injection of humor into the show that fits the modern sensibilities of the cast. “One of the things we looked at was that in other versions, typically Mikey was the only funny one. And we felt that people in general have more facets to them than a one note thing. It’s not ‘I’m the angry guy! I’m the leader!’ We’re also seeing the Turtles at a different point in their career. We asked what they’d be like just before we’ve seen them in previous versions.”

RELATED: Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Is Just What the Franchise Needs

Smith noted that part of that humor comes from his castmates’ comedy backgrounds and their ability to play off each other in the recording booth. “The dynamic aspect of each one of us plays out in each character every week. Each one of us is a rock star,” he said shouting out Josh Brener (Donnie), Omar Benson Miller (Raph) and Ben Schwartz (Leo). “There’s so many unique colors that are very different from each of the brothers that stand out in the series. That is highlighted by the unprecedented writing that Andy and Ant are doing week in, week out. They’re really putting in the work, and it’s become easy for us to go in there and knock home runs every week.”

Suriano agreed that the changes made were more updates than revisions. “The biggest change is that Donatello is not the meek wallflower. As our other producer Ant [Ward] says ‘Coding is cool now.’ It’s cool to be a geek! Our Donatello as voiced by Josh Brenner is very confident.”

Bauza himself is a franchise veteran having appeared as Tiger Claw in the last Nickelodeon series. But taking on Splinter was a new challenge for him. “I remember what I loved about the character in the original, and so you’d be a moron to mess that up,” he laughed. “How man versions have we seen? Having watched the pilot for this one, it’s so familiar. It absolutely is the characters you grew up with, but they’re giving it new dimensions and you accept it. We know there are multiple dimensions in this universe.”

Paulsen is settling into his new role after starring as Raphael in the ’80s version and as Donatello in the last series. But he credits the new series’ ability to connect with the franchise on the fact that most of the creators and cast grew up with the TMNT.

“Everybody that works on the show grew up watching it. That’s a big deal. When you’re talking about something that comes from literally a clean sheet of paper to what it has become and everybody knows that story, you better turn it over to somebody that loves it. And as the franchise has grown over the years, you can argue that it’s kept adding layers – even things that Peter and Kevin never would have thought of. They obviously created it, but what it’s turned into has becoming something so much bigger than two guys sitting in Maine. You have people who have utter respect for the franchise, but they’re also bringing a new take on it. It’s not dissimilar from Doctor Who.”

One of the areas in which the show has marked itself out is in the visual style – a distinctly “2D” series in an era where almost all animation is done completely with computers. “Animation-wise we have to bring our A-game,” Suriano said. “Kids today are so savvy that they know the difference between CGI or Flash Animation. We decided to go 2D, but we’re really pushing the envelope of the visuals.”

“I’m just an actor. To be able to bring these things to life with your computer is amazing,” Paulsen said. “I’m old enough that I saw Bambi and was transfixed by it, but these guys are 50 or 60 years down the road. My son is 34, and he was thrilled there would be a 2D version because his kids have see so much CGI stuff that they’re going, ‘I like The Lion King!’ It was very smart to go back to that style.”

Bauza noted that eagle eyed fans will be able to see the depth of detail in this series like none that have come before. “It’s like a moving comic book. Andy is an established comic artist and publisher, and it has really translated to this.”

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuts tonight on Nickelodeon.


Also, from Den of Geek:

How Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Came to Be

Andy Suriano and Ant Ward talk about the um...rise...of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

As the Executive Producers of Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Andy Suriano and Ant Ward get to make Ninja Turtles cartoons all day long. Their relaunch is Nickelodeon’s second Turtles 'toon and it just premiered this week.

Yet, they’re charged with following the beloved 2012 Turtles cartoon. Ciro Nieli’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ran on Nickelodeon channels from 2012 to 2017. It deftly remolded classic Ninja Turtles stories and characters to fit its own style. It’s a Den of Geek favorite, one that sits alongside the original Mirage comics and the 1990 movie as one of the very best versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Who wants to follow that?

Suriano and Ward’s take on the Turtles has a different spin on the material. The new series is bursting with energy, youth, and color. And then there are changes. Some big, some small, all with the potential to cause a very serious case of the internets.

With the show recently greenlit for a second season, we were incredibly appreciative to the pair for taking some time out to talk to us.

I’ve been looking forward to this. I like Ninja Turtles!

Ant Ward: We do too!

That’s good. Imagine if we all hated it. This would be awful.

When did you pitch your idea for Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Andy Suriano: What was it? Two years ago, Ant?

Ant Ward: Yeah, it was about that. It was July two years ago. So the network had been playing around with the next incarnation of the franchise a bit and as far as I’m aware, nothing was really sticking. So I was already on the last iteration as the supervising producer and Andy was very familiar with the network because he was doing all of the consumer products art for the last iteration. So the network gave me a call and asked if I wanted to throw my hat in, if I had any ideas for the next incarnation. I said I’d love to. I had some thoughts.

They were doing the same with Andy at around the same time. We knew each other socially but we’d never worked together before.

So a few days after, I assembled a pitch, went into the network. They really liked the pitch and they said great.

I had really wanted to work with Andy for a while and they said "hey, do you want to meet with Andy? He’s throwing a pitch together as well." Little did we know that our pitch was virtually the same thing. Like, insanely the same thing. The rest is history.

We started working very quickly because our thoughts on what we wanted to do were so streamlined-in on the same wavelength. So there wasn’t a lot of exploring, we knew what we wanted to do straight off of the bat.

AS: We went right to work and in a matter of a few weeks we had a show.

So presumably you’ve had to keep this all secret for 18 months or so?

AS: Yeah, about that. Even our wives didn’t know.

AW: I had to tell my wife I worked for the CIA. It got weird.

I’ve only seen the first episode so far, but based on that and what I’ve seen from the information released, you guys are doing a lot of very new stuff with it. And the recent other versions that have been really successful, the comic books and the last Nick cartoon, they’ve reached backwards quite a lot. Was it a formal decision to break new ground and push forward?

AW: Yeah, very much so. I think, in a way, you might have answered your own question because, Ciro’s version was an incredible show that did a lot of reaching backward and playing with canon and pre-established stuff within the franchise. So coming in so close off of 2012 and wanting to give Ciro’s version the full respect it deserves we didn’t really want to retell those stories.

AS: Because they exist and they’re great.

AW: They were told fantastically. Off the bat, I wouldn’t be able to tell them any better. So why re-tread familiar territory to that degree? So we very much consciously decided it’s a reimagining rather than a reboot. It’s its own cool spin on everything. So there’ll be some very familiar things turning up and also some very unexpected things.

So I guess the change that you’re going to be asked most about, and I’ll get in on that too, what inspired you to make Raphael the leader? That feels like quite a significant change.

AS: There’s a few factors. I think no one could really answer who Leo was other than ‘the leader’ and we really wanted to explore his personality and give him some dimensionality.

As well as, wanting to tell really interesting stories. Even though these are kids' shows and comedies, 11 minute comedies, we also wanted the storytelling to feel very organic and natural, and that would go into the voice casting as well. Once you’ve played with that leadership role, you immediately have a lot of stories right off the bat, and an interesting dynamic. We’re playing a lot with family dynamics and the Raph/Leo family dynamic has always been really interesting to us.

Especially growing up with older brothers, seeing how the natural leadership thing comes about. Whether or not the oldest brother is the best choice. Sort of like Brand from Goonies.

AW: That’s exactly it. We looked at it, almost for the show from a conceptual point of view, this is the brothers as they start their journey to become ninjas. So really we’re putting the teenager first. It’s the family dynamic at this stage is almost more emphasised than that they jump around with ninja skills and sneak around the place.

AS: Which they still do. We didn’t turn our backs on any of that. It’s just trying to add a little bit of dimensionality to the teenager aspect.

AW: Right.

With reassuring people of what’s still there and introducing what’s new, how tough was the first episode?

AW: It wasn’t the first one we wrote or made. We waited 6 episodes or so before we started to crack that one. We knew what we wanted to do but we needed to get a rhythm with everything else before we started doing it. As soon as we started to get the banter and the relationship between the brothers really down, then we felt comfortable going into the pilot.

Some of the new characters you guys have, we have villains with the names Meat Sweats, Albearto, Hypnopotamus and Ghost Bear. Who do I have to thank for those names and what is going on over there?

AW: Those names are amazing, aren’t they Matt? I think it’s a group effort, right Andy?

AS: Yeah. You know, Ant and I are in the writers' room. On our crew we celebrate ownership, making sure everyone has a stake in creating something great. So a lot of the stuff just comes out of people wanting to do the best work.

AW: We have fun with the names, to be completely honest with you Matt, and if it’s a silly pun or a silly play on words and it makes us smile and it’s a silly but fun mutant name and it sticks, then all the more. We have some more coming. That’s just the start. But for us, we’re being a bit playful.

Obviously I need the story of how you ended up with Johnny Rotten playing Meat Sweats.

AW: That was one of our writers, Russ Carney. He’s obviously a huge Sex Pistols fan and he presented the idea to us and I remembered from back when I was living in the UK, Johnny Rotten did a series of butter commercials, which were really fun and he has this really unexpected range and performance and we thought we’d give him a shot. And I think I speak for everybody when I say that we’re delighted with what he did. He’s amazing.

You’ve mentioned the character names coming from your writing room, and I’m interested in how the writers' room works on a show like this, especially with it being such a visual show. Can you tell me a little about it? How many people are in there, how long it takes to break and then script an episode?

AW: We have five, well six now.

AS: We just got a story editor.

AW: We’ll generally be in there with the guys. We’ll break a premise. We break out, it’s 11 minute carts but we do have some 22-minute tent pole story arc episodes throughout the season. So we’ll break those, we’ll break where we want to go with everything, the story, the characters, and then we’ll go back in and fill out the 11 minute standalones with a really nice balance of giving all of our cast and everybody enough playtime throughout the season.

Then we go from there from outline to script. And it’s very much one team.

There have been so many versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over the years, I wonder if you would tell me, other than Rise, your favorite incarnation of Turtles?

AS: I usually go back to the old black and white comics that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird did. But I really liked the 2K3 stuff, and you can probably see a little bit of that in the designs as well.

AW: And I think mine is probably the movie, that first movie. It’s got a special place in my heart.

Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now airing on Nickelodeon. Cowabunga!


Also, from the Khaleej Times:

Your essential guide to the new TMNT

Ant Ward and Andy Suriano

THEY'RE A FIRM favourite of many children of the '80s and '90s in either in comic, cartoon or movie form and their appeal continues to endure with recent live action films starring Megan Fox and Will Arnett. However, arguably the biggest news in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe was reserved for 2018's San Diego Comic Con when it was announced the four heroes in a half-shell were returning for a regular series on Nickelodeon. Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (RTMNT) boasts a new voice cast - Omar Miller as Raph, Ben Schwartz as Leo, Josh Brener as Donnie, Brandon Mychal Smith as Mikey, Kat Graham as April O'Neil, and Eric Bauza as Splinter, along with John Cena as villain Baron Draxum - all performing under the expert tutelage of legendary voice director Rob Paulsen.

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follows the Turtles on all-new adventures as they master new powers, encounter absurd mutants and battle bizarre villains, each with their own motivations. Ranging from mystics and madmen, new creatures and villains emerge to take on Raph, Leo, Donnie and Mikey in battles across New York City. From the tallest skyscraper to the dankest sewer drain, the brothers learn to work together and navigate the perils of The Big Apple and the hidden realms below in order to fulfill their destiny to become a team of heroes.

Debuting on UAE screens next month, we spoke to co-executive producers Andy Suriano and Ant Ward to find out more about the 26-episode series.

What made you decide to reinvent the animated Turtles franchise? How far did the success of the recent films impact your decision? Were you fans of the late-eighties cartoons and what similarities have carried over from those cartoons to RMTNT?

We wanted to create a series that encompasses elements from the previous incarnations that we liked, while bringing new, fresh elements that we've always wanted to play with, and seeing the turtles in new settings we've always wanted to see them in. The Turtles have become more than just films or a television show - they're a cultural phenomenon. There's something about each version that we've liked, and elements of each that have carried over. For example, this show is in a 2D style that harkens back to the '80s version, as well as bringing back a lighter, comedic tone.

What is your most treasured original TMNT memory either from the past animated series or the '90s films? Who was/is your favourite character? Has that favourite character changed after your involvement with RTMNT?

Andy: Going to the comic shop in the '80s with my dad and picking up the original black and white comics is definitely a treasured memory. I always liked Ralph - he always seemed really cool. Now I've found something to love about every one of them, and that's what makes Turtles so great - the accessibility of each character.

The voice cast on your show is amazing. How easy was it to find such a talented line-up? Were you looking for "star power" or did it just turn out that way? Who should we most look-forward to seeing/ hearing?

We've been very fortunate with the amazing talent we've gotten for the show. It was a very arduous and selective process. We were striving for an organic and conversational banter between the characters, so chemistry was very important.

We didn't search for "star power" - we listened to everyone and chose actors who brought the chemistry we were looking for. We originally had two distinctively different potential casts - one that was more expected and another that strayed from the norm. We decided that nothing we're doing with this series is expected, so why not carry that over into the cast selection.

What was it like having Rob Paulsen involved with the project? What did he bring?

Rob brings not only a history with the franchise, but also a mentorship to the cast and anyone that walks into the room, where they immediately feel safe to explore as artists.

What informed the animation's aesthetic in RTMNT? The characters appear to have harder, more 2-D edges to them compared to previous versions. Why was that decision made?

We said we wanted to do 2D - firstly to separate from the previous CG series, and secondly to go back to the comic book roots of TMNT. There are a lot more spotted blacks and comic book influences, notably from French and Belgian comics. Doing 2D allows us to push poses and the shape language allows for an expressiveness that is important to our acting and storytelling.

The Turtles' character profiles appear to remain similar to the ones we remember, though April looks like she has gone through a welcome change. How important was it for you to evolve the show's cultural makeup for a modern audience?

We looked at the world around us and wanted a cast that reflects the diversity of the cultural melting pot that we live in.

What do you believe an international audience will get out of RTMNT?

There's an accessibility to Rise of the TMNT that is fun, kinetic, and funny for all audiences. Animation is a visual medium and we're hoping our stories will transcend any international borders.


Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles debuts Monday, September 17th at 6:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon USA. Following its US launch, the series will roll out globally across Nickelodeon's channels and branded blocks in 170+ countries and territories, including in the UK and Ireland on Saturday 22nd September 2018 at 10:00am BST on Nicktoons UK & Ireland and Channel 5.

Did you hear? Nickelodeon has renewed Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a second season! COWABUNGA!

More Nick: Nickelodeon to Host 'Rise of the TMNT' Panel at NYCC 2018!

Originally published: Thursday, September 13, 2018.
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