One-On-One: Talking "TMNT" With Director Kevin Munroe

Those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return to the big screen next March in a new animated feature film called, simply, "TMNT." Earlier we spoke with "TMNT" Producer Thomas Gray who spoke about why now is the right time for the Turtles to make their big comeback. CBR News also caught up with Director Kevin Munroe who shed some light on his plans for the films and dealing with the mythology of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Hi, Kevin. Thanks for talking with CBR today.

First, let me say, I love CBR. You guys did a really nice write-up on one of the comic books I did called "Olympus Heights." It got a really nice review, and that's what I associate with CBR; pimpin' my comic!

We live to serve, Kevin. Happy to oblige.

So, watching the trailer and preview clips, the film looks a lot more like the original black & white comics and a lot less like the cartoons. And originally, the comic really something of an "inside joke."

Yeah. It was Daredevil. Let's face it.

But when it moved to the screen, that element of satire was lost.

Nobody knew who Frank Miller was, not that audience; no kid's gonna know that.

Exactly. But now we've had "Sin City," three "X-Men" films, "Daredevil, "which, okay…

I liked "Daredevil." Once I saw the Director's Cut, and bought that DVD, I was like, that's Daredevil; that's what should have been in the theatres. I like the idea of Matt Murdock the detective, and they added that whole undercurrent with the Coolio character, and it was great. I like "Daredevil."

Now that those films are out there, is there some parody, some satirical elements that we're going to see in the new film?

I don't think so, because I think that, especially at the time when I read that first book, I wasn't really aware of those references; it just came across as its own sort of thing. The first issues weren't funny, there was really no humor in it. It was when the Fred Wolf series [the first cartoon series] started that the humor came into it. But there was this element of fun, these weird characters and stuff, and that's the vibe I was going for. It's like, "Ghostbusters" is fun, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is fun… fun isn't funny. So yeah, it does feel like that stuff a lot. I think fans will appreciate it. A lot of people forget the comic, or they think the Fred Wolf series was the birth of the Turtles, and so many people forget the original comic.

The clips I've seen look a lot like the comic.

Speaking of the look of the film, I lit it like a black & white movie. We had like a thousand lighting keys before we added any color to it whatsoever. So there's this great gritty feel to it, like "The Third Man," old films, the stuff that I really got into as a kid.

Can I tell you, I've had that conversation like six times today. People would ask, "Who is the target audience for this?" When I said it's a family film, I saw this one guy at the table [shows slightly disgusted expression, mimicking the person], and I said, "Here's the thing with 'family films'…" For most of them, it's a film you can take your four-year-old to, and it's made for your four-year-old. When I say "family film" for this, you've got the kids, the seven-to-ten age, because they want to move up; you know, my eight-year-old wants to see "Spider-Man 3," so they want to go up. But when we tested the demographics, and I don't listen to them, but it was nice to see that the strongest interest in this film was between 18 and 23 years old. So, to me, when we say "family film" it means, yes, you can enjoy it even if you're above the age of 18. That to me is important.

What people pay attention to is the story, the characterization, and I'm just happy that there are those elements that the audience cares about more than if it's just loud or if there's a cool monster or whatever.

Have you received any negative reactions because "TMNT" isn't more like the cartoons?

Not yet. I don't know. We'll see. Everything that we've read, because we do read the chat boards, before anyone saw any footage, there was a lot of "They should use the original voice actors; they should just have it look like this…."

There were a couple of photos that leaked out, of early footage, that marketing got hold of for a licensing show, and it got out. They had made color and brightness adjustments and it was just horrible, but we had to just say "Forget it, wait 'till Con and see how it looks," and we'll just eat that poison for now. There's a little bit of that, of people saying we don't know what we're doing, but I think that once you see the movie, you'll see that those were very early designs.

There's an inherent unspoken joke with the Turtles, the fact that they're wearing masks; if they take them off, someone might recognize them and figure out that they are those six-foot-tall turtles; does that come into play?

Yeah, a little bit, though I love the idea that there are things that are just accepted. I love mythology for mythology's sake; there are things you just don't explain, like why does nobody recognize Superman? It's because he has his glasses on, of course! It's the same thing with the Turtles' bandannas, but there's also a bit of that in the clip you saw.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In footage shown at Comic-Con International, there was a scene in which Michaelangelo is entertaining at a childrens' birthday party wearing a fake turtle head as a costume.]

In the scene, Mikey is wearing the head, and later he takes it off, and Don [Donatello] asks him where it is, very concerned, and Mikey says "Dude, it's a turtle head; I'm a turtle." He actually ends up having to pretend he's in a costume [Munroe mimes a frozen grin and waves at an audience]. It's a lot of silliness, very fun.

It sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks, Kevin.

"TMNT" hits the big screen March 30th, 2007.

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