The room was nearly full with families and enthusiastic cosplayers when the early evening “Teen Titans Go!” panel started at WonderCon in Los Angeles excursion. As the panel opened, a new episode “The Art of Ninjutsu,” written by Ben Gruber — was shown, with fans continuing to filter in until the room reached capacity. The episode featured Robin leading most of the team, dressed as ninjas, in a chase for “the MacGuffin,” with Beast Boy declaring ninjutsu lame before coming around to its inherent coolness.
Former Comic Book Resources Executive Producer Jonah Weiland moderated the panel, declaring, “It is my honor to moderate my third ‘Teen Titans Go!’ panel.” He introduced the panelists as they came out — director Peter Rida Michail, producers Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, and voice actors Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Khary Payton (Cyborg) and Scott Menville (Robin).
“We’re going to start with the creators of the show here, because there are a couple of really exciting, fun episodes coming up,” Weiland said, asking first about an April Fool’s Day episode. Jenenic asked if he should make a big announcement about the popular show “Young Justice.” Weiland told him to “go for it,” while Payton scoffed and said, “At some point, you guys are going to have to stop believing anything Michael Jelenic says.”
“We’ll save it for the end,” Jelenic added.
“Save it for the end,” Cipes agreed. “It’s a big announcement.”
“It’s a big announcement,” Payton agreed before whispering into the microphone, “There is no announcement.”
“We’re talking about an April Fool’s Day episode,” Weiland said, trying to steer things back on track.
“Oh, I get it now,” Cipes said, referring to the “Young Justice” shenanigans.
“April fools!” Weiland declared, a moan rising from the audience.Â
Explaining that this was the same kind of prank as was played on the holiday-themed episode, where Horvath said, “The pranks get a little out of hand.”
Payton described another episode where the Titans meet their number one fan as inspired by a real life instance. “The number one fan was supposed to come see an episode of the show,” Payton said. “But he got drunk at the airport. We couldn’t get him out of the airport bar. We found another fan, he wasn’t as big a fan, but he was — less inebriated. We enjoyed him coming, and that’s the truth.”
“No, it’s not!” Cipes protested.
“That is the opposite of the truth,” Jelenic admitted. “We found out we had a fan of the show, we were super excited to find out there was somebody out there who liked our show. This was a real person, and we were like, ‘A real person likes us,’ so we decided to do a whole episode about this person.”
“He liked our show, he didn’t like us,” Payton clarified.Â
“We wrote an episode about Titans having a fan,” Jelenic continued, “and it’s about a little kid named Wally T.”Â
Payton and Cipes began saying “Wally T” like a chant or cheer, emphasizing the last syllable, and Jelenic explained, “every time you say ‘Wally T,’ you have to shout that.” Cipes led the crowd in doing so with a call and response and was pleased after they responded. “That’s what’s up!”
“That’s for you, Wally!” Payton yelled.
“They don’t even know what we’re talking about,” Cipes added, “but you will!”
“This will be a really special moment in your life,” Payton agreed, “but not for a couple of months.”
Weiland next asked about the upcoming “Pig Latin” episode. “Seems to me that’s the episode where you’re trying to mess with the voice cast,” he said.
“I feel like I should take Greg backstage, because he literally had an out of body experience,” Payton said.Â
“I barely speak English,” Cipes complained.
“Greg Cipes never made friends with the ‘Pig Latin’ episode,” Jelenic admitted.Â
Menville was apparently as great with pig Latin as Cipes was bad at it. “You must talk to your children like that on a regular basis,” Payton said.Â
“Michael Jelenic wrote an entire monologue for me, wait for it, in pig Latin,” Menville said. “Which was pretty fun to do. I almost got it in one take, then messed up at the very end.”
“Do you remember it?” Jelenic asked.
“He calls me every night and recites it,” Payton said.
Menville leapt into the opening of the monologue, which got cheers from the crowd.Â
“This is a year later, and he remembers half the monologue,” Jelenic said.Â
Weiland posed one more question before opening up the panel to the audience, asking what’s changed the most over three seasons. “Season 1, I used to be on the big screen with everybody else,” Menville said, referring to the video screens bracketing the dais, “but by Season 3, they cut me out!” The camera man panned over to include Menville in the shot, cutting Jelenic out and leading to humorous complaints.Â
“It looks better now,” Payton said.Â
The line for audience questions was lengthy, so the panel jumped into answering them. A young man asked if they ever considered bringing back Slade Wilson, the villain who plagued the Titans through most of the previous, less comical series.Â “Dude. I believe we brought Slade into the show,” Payton answered. “He had an incredible episode. Don’t you remember the character development?”
Jelenic said, “We had an episode, I don’t know if you missed it, it was called ‘The Return of Slade.’ It dealt with Slade in pretty good detail. I would go check that episode out.”
“I actually teared up a little,” Payton added. “I think we all got a little misty.”
A young lady cosplaying as Harley Quinn asked if Quinn or the Joker’s Daughter would appear on the show.
“You know what?” Payton asked. “There was an episode called ‘The Return of Slade’… if you listen really closely to the subtext, there was actually a whole Harley Quinn backstory that happened there. I think we all got a little misty.” The crowd chuckled at this.Â
A young lady asked Greg Cipes how he channels his “inner Beast Boy” when he starts recording.Â “I hang out with my dogs,” Cipes replied. “I call my son ‘wingman.’ Beast Boy is such a part of who I am anyway, it’s kind of a natural thing. These master creators right here have definitely given me a playing field, a playground for us to play in. Beast Boy has influenced me to be even wilder and crazier in my own life. It’s more like, how does Beast Boy prepare me for the rest of my day?”
“He demands that we bring a puppy in and just rub dogs on him for fifteen minutes before we start,” Payton quipped. Â
A fan asked, “What do you think is truly better: the burrito or the hamburger?”Â
“The burger, man” Payton said quickly.
“As long as they’re vegan, either one is cool with me,” Cipes offered.
“I can’t deal with a serious philosophical question like that in a venue such as this because first, you keep talking,” Payton said, referring to Cipes. “And they start snickering and it’s not funny. It’s life.”
“When choosing between burger and burrito,” Menville said, “you have to go with the waffle.”Â
“Waffles, waffles, waffles?” Cipes asked.
“Waffles, waffles, waffles,” Payton and Menville responded together.
“Waffles?” Cipes asked.
“Waffles,” Payton answered.
A young child asked if the actors would like it if Beast Boy and Cyborg switched bodies and asked the producers and director, “would you do that?”
“Are you asking us on a spiritual level or a physical sort of thing?” Payton responded.Â
Jelenic and Horvath asked the boy what should happen when they switch bodies, “like what would Cyborg say if Beast Boy was in his body?” The child responded, “Um …”
“No that’s a good first line,” Payton said as the boy paused. “I would say, ‘Um..’ ’cause I’d be like, ‘What just happened?’ I’d be like, ‘Um…’ Let me write that down — that’s a good first line.” Looking at the boy, he said, “I don’t know what you do for a living, but you should think about writing.”Â
“Better watch out, Michael and Aaron,” Weiland joked. “This kid’s after your job!”
A young woman asked if any of the actors could relate to the Titans characters.Â “I don’t,” Payton said simply, getting more laughs from the audience. “I don’t think I can. Honestly, that’s why we’ve done as many episodes as we have. I think they’re just waiting for me to relate to one of these characters. I think maybe by [episode] #362, I might just get there.”Â
“A lot of people say how Robin obsesses over stuff, gets all crazy over stuff,” Menville said. “I can’t relate to that at all. I’m not like that at all. Like, why am I not on the screen?” He pointed to the video displays and noticed that he had been included in the shot. “Oh, wait…”
“Yeah,” Cipes said serenely. “We’re so much like our characters.”
A woman asked if transitioning into the goofier versions of the characters from the more serious previous series was difficult.Â
“There was an original series?” Jelenic asked facetiously.
“The crazy thing,” Payton said, “is that first of all, we don’t like to talk about the original series, because Michael’s never seen one episode of the original series.”
“It was like our show, right?” Jelenic asked.Â
“It was sort of like that,” Payton answered. “The funny thing is that Michael was joking the first time he ever interviewed about the show. He was saying he’d never seen any of the old episodes. For some reason, because of Michael’s impeccable joke-throwing qualities, everybody thought that he was being serious. Of course, he’s probably seen more ‘Teen Titans’ than anyone in the known universe.”
“This other series, was it popular?” Jelenic asked, continuing the joke.
“On a serious note, it was a little bit of a learning curve for me the first couple of episodes,” Menville said. “I was like, ‘Guys, I don’t think Robin would freak out like this,” and they were like, ‘Yes, he would.'”
A girl expressed her gratitude over how the actors were basically her entire childhood with the two “Titans” shows and said, “I was just wondering…”
“If that made us feel old?” Payton interjected.
She asked if she should start a petition to “make you guys the voice of Teen Titans forever — movies, all these type of shows.”
“You just won a place in our hearts,” Menville replied.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Payton said. “Let’s talk after.”
A mother said that her bonding time was watching cartoons with her two boys, and said her favorite episode was “40% 40% 20%,” and she wanted to know how the story for that came about.
“Pete pulled that track for use in another episode,” Horvath said. “We loved it; we couldn’t stop listening.”
“Every time we would record after we recorded that episode, we would just start singing that song,” Payton said. “People on the Internet started talking about it.”
“You know who loves that song more than anybody?” Menville asked. “Hynden Walch, who plays Starfire. In between takes, she’ll just start singing it. Any random recording…”
Payton started humming the tune aloud.
“It’s a powerful song,” Horvath admitted. “I think the song made us make the episode, if that makes sense.”Â
“If you’ve seen the ‘Transformers Movie,’ the ‘You’ve Got The Touch’ moment,” Jelenic said. “Basically, when he’s like, ‘You’ve got the touch,’ and he opens the thing, you know what I’m talking about — that’s how that song made me feel. So we made a whole episode based around my childhood feeling of the ‘Transformers Movie.'”
“There it is!” Payton agreed. “That’s a good feeling.”
“Didn’t the guys who wrote that song put the band back together based on that episode?” Cipes asked.
“We don’t wanna say that we put the band back together and that there may be a follow up,” Jelenic said. “But… there may be a follow up. We may return to that crazy, crazy world.”
Asking about the episode that was played that day, a young boy asked who thought of the MacGuffin and wondered if it was a reference to McDonald’s restaurants.Â
Horvath explained the concept and said, “We thought it’d be funny to have them go after a MacGuffin and talk about how not important it was.”
“I don’t know if it was Aaron’s joke or my joke,” Jelenic said. “I wanna take credit, but he’s taking credit.”
“In twelve years, watch ‘Pulp Fiction,'” Payton said, “What’s in the briefcase is a MacGuffin.”Â
A young lady asked the voice actors, “Which is better, Marvel or DC?”Â
“She brought it!” Payton exclaimed.
“Oh dang,” Menville said.
“Honestly, I was a Marvel kid growing up,” Payton answered. “But as I matured, I have nothing but DC, baby!”
In Beast Boy’s voice, Cipes answered, “No comment.”
“They’ve both paid us to act,” Menville explained. “We love them both.”
Will Robin and Starfire ever get together? “Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please!” Menville said.
“In your dreams, brah!” Cipes responded. “In your dreams.”
“They always seem to get about this close together before it all falls apart,” Payton agreed.Â
“Maybe in the old series,” Cipes said. “Maybe in Season Six of the old series.”
A questioner asked if it was fun doing the “Waffles” episode and wondered if anybody got annoyed.Â
“I think millions of parents across America were annoyed,” Jelenic responded.Â
“We got a lot of kids grounded,” Cipes added.
The questioner said her whole school was repeatedly saying “Waffles,” which Payton took great pride in.Â
“What is five plus five? Waffles!” Cipes declared.
The final question was about each actor’s favorite episode. Cipes turned the question around, and the young girl said she loved the “Waffles” episode.Â
“The Waffle House and the International House of Pancakes should probably just pay us a dividend,” Payton said. “The last couple of years, they’ve been making some money.”
Again there was reference to a Young Justice announcement, but instead they called every Titans cosplayer to the front for an impromptu contest, with Cipes emceeing. In theory, every panelist was going to pick a finalist for the crowd to judge while a song by Cyborg and Beast Boy played. Junior High School Starfire, a pint sized Red X and a diminutive Raven got the best responses, but at the end, only Red X and the tiniest Raven were chosen to come up on stage. When she spread her cape wide, the crowd cheered.Â
“You all are winners,” Cipes said. “We’ll send you something nice… or not.”
Payton helped the tiny Raven, a little girl named Natalie down. She asked him, “Did I win?” and he told her yes. She fist pumped and said, “Yes!” “That’s a serious Raven,” Payton said, “Raven staying in character.” She then wanted to say something on the microphone, which Payton gleefully went for.Â
“I still don’t care. You don’t care!” she said, saying a line from the show.
“That’s what’s up,” Cipes agreed.
Weiland asked once again about the “Young Justice” announcement, and Jelenoc said, “The big announcement is…”
“Yeah, we don’t have time,” Weiland interjected
“Sorry!” Jelenic said, as a huge round of applause closed out the panel.