NOTE: Before I begin, I should note that everything that I mention regarding the new Teenage Mutant Ninjs Turtles Nickelodeon show is, at the moment, a MUTATION IN PROGRESS. Nothing yet is set in stone. Storylines and Voices can still be changed and replaced. Mutation In Progress, keep that in mind!
About a month ago, a representative for Nickelodeon contacted me regarding attending a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles preview event in Burbank, California. Now, I get a lot of emails, but this one was pretty far out there. And lets not forget, most of my emails pitch T-Shirts, not mutant turtles. Needless to say, I was curious and so I replied back (the email said I needed to reply within the day in order to be considered). The next day, I was informed that the following week I would be contacted by some Nickelodeon representatives to discuss the Turtles. Neat.
Turns out, Nickelodeon was recruiting TMNT fans throughout the country, to attend a fan preview event at their studios in Burbank, California. I figured, I wouldn’t be chosen considering that I’ve only just blogged about the turtles a few times on this blog and each time it was in regards to TMNT themed T-Shirts. In retrospect, though, and looking back at those videos and TMNT posts, I spoke pretty passionately about the turtles and growing up with them. Despite this, I thought I had no shot … I mean there must be tons of other more uber mega super Turtle fans out there. Like, serious, serious fans. I certainly would not be chosen.
I was chosen. The madness begins.
About a week before I was scheduled to fly out to Burbank for the even, I received the official invite to the event. Can you guess how they delivered it? As a pizza! That’s right, someone dropped off pizza to my home in a custom TMNT pizza box. It was a pretty good cheese pizza too! At this point, I’m pretty excited because they are obviously going all out for this event.
The day of my departure arrives. I had an early flight, and I’m out of Honolulu at 8am on March 29th. I arrived at LAX at around 4pm and I have a personal driver (arranged by Nickelodeon) waiting for me at baggage claim to drive me to my hotel. Nice.
I arrive in my room and lo and behold, what’s there waiting for me? Ninja Turtle stuff! It was more like a big, circular gift box (made to look like a manhole/sewer) filled with goodies to keep me occupied throughout the night. Inside were some pretty dope snacks, as well as a TMNT T-Shirt and a VISA Gift Card. Awesome!
The big day arrives. I really didn’t know what to expect. Should I wear a TMNT shirt or not? I came prepared with three. I am a T-Shirt blogger after all. I decided to go with Heroes In An Art Shell by John Hillier from Threadless. 8:30pm rolls along and all of the people that flew in for the event meet up in the lobby of the Hotel Amarano. We are then driven to the Nickelodeon Animation Studios.
After waiting in the transportation van for a bit, we are finally allowed to enter the NICK lot. I should note, that they really know how to build up the tension. As we were all waiting in the van, each and every one of us was boiling with excitement. We didn’t know what to expect!
We were then finally let in and are told that we needed to give up our cell phones and any recording devices during the event. Meaning, I unfortunately could not take any pictures whatsoever. This sucked. Plus, I kept reaching for my imaginary iPhone in my pants pocket throughout the day! Those imaginary phones can be such a distraction. Once we turned in our goods, we were treated to a pretty good breakfast spread of baked goods. All the while, we mingled with our fellow TMNT brothers and sisters. Now during this time, we were unknowingly being treated to some music that they were considering for the show. This included music from Handsome Boy Modeling School and DJ Shadow. Pretty good vibe so far.
We were then officially led inside the studios (breakfast was in the front courtyard) and brought into the official NICK gym. Of course, they converted the gym into something more like a TMNT fanboy’s dream man den. It was seriously cool. Imagine lot of green uplighting and barrel’s of oooze and TMNT paraphanilia. The room itself elicited a bunch of ooohhs and ahhhhs from many of us.
Once inside, we each took a seat. We were then introduced to the president of Nickelodeon Animation, Brown Johnson, who welcomed us to the studio. We were then each asked to introduce ourselves to the group. One-by-one uber turtle mega fan after another introduced themselves. It was pretty crazy. There were people there known for being Sexy April in the cosplay world to the current Guiness record holder for largest gathering of people dressed as Ninja Turtles. We had people there with Ninja Turtle Tattoos, large Turtle toy collection, and webmasters of the most popular TMNT fansites and forums. It was pretty insane that they were able to put together such a group of TMNT fans. I guess, thank you to Google and their amazing search engine?
After the introductions, we were then given a tour of the NICK Animation Studios by Rich Magallanes, Vice President Current Animation Series Production at Nickelodeon. We first stopped in on a live voice recording for Fanboy and Chum Chum. We then passed by the areas dedicated to shows such as Avatar and Sponge Bob Square Pants. All the while, passing by all of the awesome artwork that hang in the hallways. Speaking of the hallways, many of the walls are made of whiteboard to encourage people to doodle when they feel inspired. Neat!
Afte the tour, we were then treated to a little snack session. And by little, I mean they went all out. They were handing out smoothies and milkshakes for crying out loud.
Post snack session, we returned to the gym turned makeshift Turtle den. Now came the good stuff. We were now treated to a sneak peak of the pilot episode in animatic format. Think moving storyboard with the voices. This wasn’t the CGI stuff that they are promising for the actual show and again, they emphasized that this was a “Mutation In Progress”, meaning that what we were seeing, may not even make it to the final version of the show. Makes sense, if they had made up their mind then why would we be there in the first place. I watched the animatic intently, it was about 25 minutes long. I can tell you that the rendered images of the Turtles looked great. Again, the characters looked great and each were well defined.
Following the animatic presentation of the pilot, Playmates gave a short presentation of the new Turtles toy line that will be released in conjunction with the new TMNT series.
Following the Playmates presentation, we were then treated to yet another surprise. Up to this point, we had no idea who the voice actors were going to be. And we had no idea that we would be treated to a script reading by the actual cast. This was fucking awesome. I was excited. We were all stoked. One by one, they introduced some of the producers, writers and then voices for the show. Of note were Jason Biggs as Leonardo, and Ron Paulsen as Raphael. Meeting Jason Biggs was exciting, but meeting Ron Paulsen was epic (he was the voice of the original Raphael voice and even the voice of Pinky from Pinky and the Brain). Trust me when I say that during the script reading, we all had big smiles on our faces – we were all so excited to be there. I should note, however, that the voices have not yet been finalized. An official announcement of the TMNT voices should be coming from Nickelodeon shortly.
Lunch time. As expected, there was pizza and pasta, as well as some throwback snacks from our childhood … can you say dirt pudding cups with gummy worms. Seriously, we were all in 1980′s heaven at this point. What’s even better is that the voice actors hung around for lunch. Jason Biggs even stopped by my small table to chat, as did Ron Paulsen. They were both super cool, Ron even did a few of his vintage voices! I had lunch with Pinky from Pinky and the Brain! Crazy insane.
After lunch, the real work began. For the focus groups, we broke up into small groups of four. I’m not going to go into detail about what we specifically talked about, but I will say that we discussed both positives and negatives of the new series.
We ended the day with a nice Q&A session with the writers and developers of the show. These were all questions that we had handed back to them after seeing the animatic and prior to lunch.
And that was the day! After the Q&A, we were given a poster and thumb driver with some key art for the show. Following a group picture, I was then driven straight to LAX, and I was back in Hawaii at 8pm on March 3oth. This was one 24 hour trip that I will never forget.
So quickly, some things about the new show:
- The animation is top notch.
- The action sequences looked great.
- Not a big fan of the changes they made to April Oneil’s character. She’s 15/16ish and emo!
- No mention of the origin story, they made it a point not to tell us this.
- The renderings of Shredder looked badass (though he wasn’t in the trailer).
- Loved the dark tone.
- The city landscape look great, it just feels like New York.
- Splinter is big, agile and not crippled. He can fight!
- It was funny without being campy like the 1987 series.
- Didn’t hear cowabunga or turtle power once.
- Each of the turtles look slightly different (height and weight differed).
And that’s my roundup of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Preview Event at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios. It was seriously a great time, and I am so happy that I actually checked my email the day they initially sent me the invite (thanks to Philip Ross of the Pitch Agency for finding me)!
Here are some sites you should check out that are run by some of the TMNT preview event guests: