Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” panel at New York Comic Con took place toward the end of Friday’s programming schedule, but still drew a large and passionate crowd to the Empire stage at the Javits Center.
The session was moderated by Rich Magallanes, Senior Vice President of Nickelodeon Animation, who started off by mentioning how happy he was to be presenting this panel in New York City, “The Real Home of the Turtles!” After some brief introductory comments, and a mention of how the TMNT’s 30th anniversary is approaching, he brought out the panelists: series executive producer and “Turtle guru” Ciro Nieli; head writer Brandon Auman; and voice actors Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo) and Hoon Lee (Splinter).
The irreverent tone of the panel was set almost immediately, with Paulsen speaking about his history with the franchise — he voiced Raphael in the original cartoon series — and suddenly exclaiming, “It’s good to be a turtle!” Cipes then discussed his role as Michelangelo, giving a brief statement on Mikey’s virtues, strengths and place on the team.
From there, talk turned to the specifics of the upcoming second season, with the announcement that Casey Jones will be introduced and become a major player. Nieli and Auman spoke of their excitement over what happened in season one, and what plots are in the works for this season – apparently, a couple months have passed since the first season ended, and the Turtles have gotten a little soft.
They then lowered the lights in the room and showed the entire not-yet-aired first episode of season two. After a short teaser scene, the theme song kicked in and the panelists led a huge clap-along that got the entire room rocking, and moved Cipes to jump up and dance on the table. From there, the crowd sat absorbed in a fantastic, fun-filled half-hour episode, full of ridiculous inventions, lots of action and an unfortunate incident involving masses of mutagen.
The remainder of the program was equally split between sneak previews, such as an animated sequence from an upcoming episode with the Turtles battling the newly reimagined Pizzaface, and hints from the panelists on what is still to come, like the mutagen giving Michelangelo acne.
Rob Paulsen talked about the creators’ respect and love for the mythology and characters, and how he’s had so many people come up to him — “at least a dozen today” — expressing similar sentiments: that they are passionate about the old show and were afraid to watch the new one for fear it would disappoint, and yet they invariably end up loving it and becoming fans.
Other interesting teases: as season two develops, more about April’s psychic powers will be revealed; a mysterious new character named Kurtzman, voiced by Robert Forster, will appear; and some other “classic” TMNT characters will return. The production staff teased more extra-dimensional adventures, with an entire episode set in Dimension X, and even a brief sequence in an upcoming episode where the Turtles travel back in time and meet the 1980s iterations of themselves — the audience responded with a spontaneous round of applause.
A few more in-progress clips were shown, including Michelangelo singing a catchy little ditty while messing around in the kitchen, an unfinished sequence detailing the history of the Kraang, and the rough version of a scene where Splinter battles the new and improved Tiger Claw.
Lee summed up the entire theme of the panel and the show by saying that he and much of the crew are great fans of the original comic-book source material and cartoon, and that over these first two seasons, they are all “hoping to honor the legacy, but also forge our own.”