Before speaking to the panel of TMNT producers we viewed an upcoming episode of season 2, ‘Attack of the Squirrelanoids’. Making its UK debut at 9:30am 25th January on Nicktoons, it’s a love letter to Aliens and pulp sci-fi comics in which our heroes must face a ninja’s natural enemy- mutant squirrels. Scary, funny and of course awesome, it shows that season 2 is set to be a good one.
Speaking live from LA to present a run-down of the coming year’s animation output were Rich Magallanes (Senior Vice President Animation, Current Series), Ciro Nieli & Peter Hastings (Executive Producers, TMNT), Ant Ward (Supervising Producer, TMNT) and Brandon Auman (Story Editor,TMNT).
Rich began by mentioning Nick’s success in animation had been founded on inventive, creator driven content such as Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats and Doug. A new generation of creators who had grown up with these shows and an awareness of Nick’s identity were now bringing the next wave to life. The first example of this is Sanjay and Craig, airing currently in the US and the UK. This will swiftly be followed by Rabbids Invasion, a spin off of Ubisoft’s popular games franchise which will make its UK debut on Nicktoons Monday 3rd February at 4:30pm. Dialogue free and driven by slapstick comedy, each episode will contain three 7-minute stories as the Rabbids cause chaos in their exploration of the planet.
This was followed by Breadwinners, launching soon in the US and due to air later in the UK. Created by Steve Borst and Gary DiRaffale, the comedy series focuses on energetic duck buddies SwaySway and Buhdeuce as they deliver bread in their rocket van. It will be Flash animated, with the onscreen action timed to flow with the music soundtrack for a unique experience.
Next was Carl Greenblatt’s Bad Seeds. Greenblatt is famous for his previous show Chowder in addition to working on several other populated animated series including Spongebob and Billy & Mandy. Described by Rich as ‘naughty but nice’, Bad Seeds will focus on the friendship between sweet natured bird boy Harvey and trouble making orphan twin siblings Fee and Foo, with Harvey attempting to help the pair fit in with a community that looks down on them.
The last comedy series previewed was Pig Goat Banana Cricket. Created by Johnny Ryan and Dave Cooper, both comic artists who worked on several issues of Nickelodeon Magazine, each episode will be split into one story for each of the titular eccentric roommates; naïve Pig, bohemian Goat, selfish Banana and mad scientist Cricket.
Counter balancing the comedic focus of the aforementioned shows will be the ongoing second season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As established in the season premiere, the Turtles will be on an ongoing quest to secure the many canisters of Kraang-produced mutagen scattered across New York. The quest will see a range of fascinating and freaky new mutants appear before the turtles, with certain familiar faces amongst them. Many more mutations will follow, running from dramatic to comedic.
As the stakes rise higher and the battle extends further, the brothers gain a new ally in the form of teen vigilante Casey Jones. An iconic character who has been present in many past TMNT incarnations, the producers are very excited to bring him into the new show and explore how he interacts with the already established main cast (even if his trademark potty mouth won’t be coming with him).
Episodes of the show take roughly one year from conception through to completion, with a new episode being started roughly every two weeks. Combined with the nature of CG animation, the producers estimate TMNT has three times as many staff as other animated shows.
No firm plans are currently set for the upcoming 30th anniversary in May but work is underway to make it a celebration fans will be happy with.
Concerning potential guest stars, Ciro and many of the team are big horror movie fans which has led to actively casting horror movie alumni in the show, such as Jeffrey Combs as Rat King. They’d like to continue that trend and cast actors including Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame. Ultimately, however, the crew are committed to casting strong performances that can help create interesting characters.
In terms of the frequent fan requests to bring back older characters, there are several the crew would love to bring into the current series so long as they can be made to work in the story. They comb through tons of incarnations for inspiration such as the Archie comics and roleplaying games (and joked about the more infamous Coming Out Of Their Shells Tour and live action Christmas video).
Lots of work goes into the prop design, partly because CG animation allows props and settings to be reused far more easily than hand drawn animation. As a result the designers and animators instil several hidden jokes into props such as posters and food packaging. They note that viewers who paid attention in season one will have found graffiti left by Casey across the city, well in advance of his actual debut.
All told it looks to be a very strong year for Nickelodeon with some very intriguing and visually dynamic shows in the pipeline. For TMNT fans, the fun has only just begun and there will be some big moments and fun ideas before season two rolls to a close. What does that tease entail, exactly? You’ll need to keep watching to find out.
Toonzone would like to thank Nickelodeon UK for arranging this opportunity and the collective producers for taking the time to speak with us.
New episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles air every Saturday at 9:30am on Nicktoons UK, continuing 25th January with ‘Attack of the Squirrelanoids’.