CBM: What was your first reaction to the new Turtles?
PETER LAIRD: I was impressed with what I saw of the production values -- if nothing else, it looks like the new TMNT movie will have a lot of stuff going on and looking good (that toppling tower, for example) -- but the changes to the basic design of the Turtles seemed to me to fall into the "fixing what is not broken" category. It's altogether possible that, in the context of this new movie, these designs will work well and not seem so odd, but I still point to what Jim Henson's "Creature Shop" team did with their rendering of the Turtles in rubber and paint as the best translation (in live action, anyway) of the Turtles as Kevin Eastman and I created them.
That being said, so far I have only seen this short trailer with just a few brief glimpses of the Turtles. My opinion could change. One thing that comes to mind if how cool it would be if someone did CGI versions of those same Henson designs, with all the incredible flexibility and seamless action potential available with today's CGI.
CBM: Instead of just having color-coded masks, these Turtles wear pieces of flair to show their personalities. Raphael wears sunglasses and a do-rag. Leonardo has bamboo armor. Donatello has goggles. Michelangelo gets a shark tooth necklace. Do you feel as they are over-stylized?
PETER LAIRD: It may just be a personal preference of mine -- and one informed by twenty-five years with the Turtles as co-creator working on those green dudes -- but the extra "stuff" added to the Turtles' outfits just seems extraneous to me, and a bit silly in spots (I mean, thin bamboo armor for a Turtle's shell?). Maybe it will work, but right now, I don't see it. I prefer the simpler versions.
CBM: I'm especially interested in your thoughts on Donatello's goggles. It somewhat resembles a design choice you were exploring with Donatello for the never-filmed fourth live-action TMNT movie, tentatively titled “TMNT: The Next Mutation.” Was that a nice surprise, or you wish they had stayed away from that idea?
PETER LAIRD: I have no problem with the addition of goggles to Donatello, though unless the plan is to make him near-sighted as we planned to do years ago, I think it might be better if he didn't wear them all the time. The goggles and gear I have seen in photos of Donatello from the new movie seem a bit unwieldy to me, but maybe they will work.
CBM: These Turtles are much larger than they've been in the past. Does that concern you?
PETER LAIRD: A little, but maybe it will work. I'll wait until I see the whole movie before I make up my mind on that one.
CBM: One of the biggest complaints that I've heard from fans about the trailer regards April O'Neil's father having worked with Shredder on creating the ooze which led the Turtles transformation. Doesn't that addition diminish April as a investigative reporter?
PETER LAIRD: I can't quite fathom your reasoning here. What does one have to do with the other? Why couldn't April be an investigative reporter while at the same time her father is colluding with the Shredder? I don't see these elements as being mutually exclusive.
That being said, I am not sure there is enough revealed so far to allow a conclusive judgement on what connection, exactly, there is between what the Shredder (with or without the involvement of April's father) is doing and how the Turtles became mutated. Something is suggested, but it is not entirely clear what.
I do have to say that my gut reaction to having what MIGHT be such a close connection between April and her father and the Shredder and the Turtles's origin is that I am not crazy about it. However, I am open to being surprised by a plot which makes that odd (to me) twist make sense. I guess we'll see if it does when the movie opens.
CBM: Another thing I found odd, but a predictable change, is that Shredder says, "Heroes are created." This seems to imply that the Turtles are not products of an accident. Hollywood hasn't seemed to embrace things just happening by accident. Everything has to be connected these days. Are you okay with that possible change?
PETER LAIRD: As you know, in our original conception of the TMNT, the Turtles' existence as mutated beings WAS the result of an accident… or several accidents, if you count
-- TCRI canister jolted out of truck
-- canister bouncing off head of young guy saving old man from getting run over by truck
-- canister on new trajectory now hitting and smashing open glass container with the pre-mutated turtles in it
-- canister and turtles falling into manhole together
-- turtles crawling around in ooze from canister
-- Splinter (in pre-mutated form) observing all of this, and then getting into the ooze himself as he gathers up the turtles.
I have always found that accidental, somewhat random series of events culminating in the creation of the TMNT to be a significant part of the charm of the story. Somehow, retconning it to make their origin the result of deliberate action seems like a mistake. However, perhaps the writers have found a clever way to make this seems more palatable. We'll have to watch the movie to find out.
CBM: Shredder's motivation for creating heroes is so that he can clean up the city. Seems like they are pulling from Batman Begins, adding a Ra's al Ghul element to Shredder. Thoughts?
PETER LAIRD: I think you are perhaps making some unwarranted assumptions about what the Shredder is doing, because the very brief snippets of dialogue released so far do not -- to me, at least -- necessarily lead to that conclusion. For one thing, is it the "civilian identity" of the Shredder (in our comics, and in the animated 2003 series, for example, that "civilian identity" would be Oroku Saki -- I don't know what he is called in this new movie) speaking to April… or is it the "evil ninja clan leader identity"? Depending on which one it is, the meaning of his words could take on quite a different nature. Is he lying, or telling the truth?
I confess I don't remember enough about the plot of "Batman Begins" to really answer your question adequately. Blame that on "The Dark Knight Rises", which made me want to forget that whole trilogy.
CBM: Megan Fox is rocking a yellow leather jacket instead of April's yellow jumpsuit. Do you like April's new look?
PETER LAIRD: It looks like a nice jacket. And making it yellow is a nice tip of the hat to the fans of the old animated series.
It was recently announced, Johnny Knoxville ("Jackass") will be voicing Leonardo and Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") will be voicing Splinter (replaced Danny Woodburn). Do you like those choices?
PETER LAIRD: I am not familiar enough with Johnny Knoxville to have an opinion, but from what I have seen of Tony Shalhoub's work, I think he certainly has the vocal range to make a good Splinter.
CBM: A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan (via Reddit) gave the newly-designed Mikey and Leo a bit of digital plastic surgery. What do you think of them?
PETER LAIRD: It's interesting, and well done, and I think it points up one of the big problems (for me, anyway) with the new look created for the upcoming movie -- with those noses and very expressive lips, their faces look too human. Perhaps it is just my own personal preference, but the "noseless beak" look for the Turtles which Kevin and I used in all of our comics, and in pretty much all of the licensed material during the Mirage days (and which was really there from the very beginning, when Kevin drew that first "ninja turtle") is, in my opinion, a great way to immediately show that these guys are not human -- they're mutated reptiles. Creatures.
Of course, I could be wrong about the new design -- maybe in the context of the movie, it will work fine. From what I have seen so far, it is an excellent example of state-of-the-art character CGI. Perhaps it will become more popular than the noseless style which was used for the first twenty-five years. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
PETER LAIRD: I do have to make one further comment about it, though. When I watched that trailer for the first time, and came to that bit near the end where Michelangelo takes off his bandana, revealing his full face to April, complete with human-looking nose, I immediately flashed back to the early days, back in 1984 or 1985 when we were living in Sharon, CT and just beginning to take steps into the world of licensing the TMNT. It was during that time that we received a letter from a small movie company -- I think it was New World -- offering us a deal to do a live-action TMNT movie, wherein they suggested that the way to go was to choose some (at that point in time) "hot" young comedians, dress them up in Turtle costumes, but leave their faces bare… except for a layer of green paint, so their zany comic expressions could be easily visible.
As you probably know, we turned that one down. Remember, this was well before the first animated TMNT series was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. It's intriguing to contemplate what the history of the TMNT might have been had we accepted that first live-action movie offer.
The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES directed by Jonathan Liebesman ("Wrath of the Titans"), and produced by Michael Bay ("The Rock"). The script was written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The cast includes: Megan Fox as April O'Neil, Alan Ritchson as Raphael, Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Danny Woodburn as Splinter, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Pete Ploszek as Leonardo, Will Arnett as Vernon and William Fichtner as Shredder. It lands in theaters August 8, 2014.