Co-executive producers Andy Suriano and Ant Ward were in Annecy for their first time this year to give an in-depth, behind the scenes look at their forthcoming series, “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Held at the Salle Pierre Lamy, the two showed artwork, explained the development process which led to the series, and even screened a two-minute clip from the show, which will be launched by Nickelodeon this fall.
All of the work on the series is being handled by Nickelodeon in Los Angeles, apart from animation which is being done at Australia’s Flying Bark. “They are killing it!” said Ward.
As one might except from the title, Nickelodeon’s “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” won’t be picking up where previous iterations of the IP have dropped off, but rather a fresh retelling of the stories behind Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo, with other TMNT staples to feature. Confirmed so far are a Splinter and April O’Neil.
In Nickelodeon’s new series, the turtles and April will be younger, and the brothers are not yet the martial arts masters that fans might expect. April is no longer the red-headed reporter in a yellow trench, but a mixed-race badass that can hold her own with the boys, and the four turtles are now each different species. Splinter is still a rat, but has a look that will likely catch audiences off guard. Based on its reaction, the audience was.
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Additionally, slight changes were made to the weapons of choice for the turtles.
As for the villains, fans will be happy to see that an updated and stylized Foot Clan will still be harassing the turtles. But that’s where the bad-guy similarities end. A roster of new villains was unveiled, including the John Cena-voiced Draxum. Others announced were Meat Sweats, Hypno-Potamus, Warren Stone and Albearto.
The new crew of baddies won’t just be fodder for the turtles either.
“With Nick we said these are TMNT like we haven’t seen them before,” Suriano explained, “This is the beginning of their careers, we don’t want them to win. We want them to get their butts kicked once in a while.”
Another step in a different direction will be how New York City is represented in the show. According to Suriano and Ward, this New York City will be modern, bright and with a secret underbelly influenced by the film “Big Trouble in Little China.”
“Modern New York is a melting pot,” Ward said at the presentation, “We thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we found a way to explore that melting pot of mythological creatures and fables of all New York? What if it was also Big Trouble in Little Italy, or Big Trouble in Little India?’”
And just like in “Big Trouble in Little China,” those worlds exist underneath the city. Landscapes with distinct cultural indicators were shown in the presentation, often accompanied by very large heads, which Ward explained are some of Suriano’s favorite features to include in set design.
Also announced was the all-star cast that will voice the series characters: Josh Brener (“Silicon Valley”); Donatello, played by Ben Schwartz (“Parks and Recreation”); Leonardo, Omar Benson Miller (“Ballers”); Raphael, Brandon Mychal Smith (“Dirty Grandpa”); Michelangelo, and Kat Graham (“The Vampire Diaries”). April O’Neil, joined the aforementioned John Cena in the sound booth.