Comic-Con International turned green Friday morning as the convention played host to the first look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new animated series premiering Sept. 29 on Nickelodeon.
As fans waited in line for the panel, Nickelodeon staff prompted shouts of “Turtle power!” as they filmed a television promo and rewarded those wearing special TMNT hats with prize packets that included vintage Turtles toys from the personal collection of co-creator Kevin Eastman.
The presentation began with the introduction of Executive Producer Ciro Nieli and voice actors Jason Biggs (Leonardo), Sean Astin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Kevin Michael Richardson (Shredder), Hoon Lee (Splinter) and Mae Whitman (April O’Neil). A “Rudy” chant filled the 2,000-seat room when Astin was introduced, followed by several cries of “Goonies.”
“Sexual chocolate,” Richardson said in his booming voice as he entered the room. Whitman was dressed as Harry Potter, while Cipes came out in aviator sunglasses and orange-and-green Band-Aids on the left side of his face, telling the crowd he forgot his Turtles boxers.
Nieli started by discussing the development process, from pitching the project to Nickelodeon to concept art to a one-minute short. He went on to explain what he thought was most important to make a great Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon, saying he was a big fan of 70s ninja movies and wanted that to be part of the series. He also reminded the crowd about the show’s sci-fi elements, and then revealed concept art of Dimension X.
What seemed to excite Nieli the most was discussion of incorporating the mutants and the monsters into series (character designs for Leatherhead and Rat King flashed onto the screen). He closed with the concept of heart and the family of the Turtles, including April O’Neil, showing four manga-influenced images of the character interacting with each Turtle.
“If we have all these elements we will have a great show,” Nieli said.
Richard Magallanes, Nickelodeon’s senior vice president, then directred questions toward the actors. Paulsen, who voiced Raphael on the original and now voices Donatello, talked about how big the Turtles have become and how much corporate support the show receives. Cipes discussed how the show inspired his passion for meditation and interest in the martial arts. Biggs said he is just enjoying the experience, as this is a new realm for him.
Astin mentioned that he called Corey Feldman, who played Raphael in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to ask if it was okay for him to take over the role.
“Yeah, yeah, we get it! You know Corey Feldman,” Biggs joked.
“My friend Bob Deniro told me to never drop names,” Paulsen said.
It took a bit to get the panel back in order, but Nieli attracted everyone’s attention when he debuted the show’s opening credits and theme song of the show
Whitman then talked about how she enjoyed playing a strong, smart and funny character like April O’Neil. In the new series, April is a teenager, a change Nieli believes will lead her to cause more trouble while forming a family bond with the Turtles.
Richardson offered a great anecdote about his experience with the property, recalling how he used to play the Turtles video game at a convenience store in New York City. “You have this big black man mashing the keys,” he said.
As the panel neared its conclusion, a pizza delivery man rushed the stage, only to be revealed — to great applause — to be Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman.