Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the longest running, and most rebooted, franchises in history. It’s been at least three different cartoons (all with different continuities), six different movies (with three different continuities), and many, many video games (with, you guessed it, different continuities). It’s outlived He-man, and certainly been more popular than the Power Rangers. But while the latest movies might have fans grumbling, Nickelodeon’s latest cartoon has been a bastion of quality since 2012.
We had the chance to sit down with the cast and crew of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at San Diego Comic Con, where we chatted with them about the upcoming season, and what it had been like to put together the excellent cast they have for the show. Kevin Eastman, the creator of the Ninja Turtles, proclaimed that this cast was his absolute favorite, saying, “You have voices of the turtles in your head, what they sound like…[This version] is all I hear now. I see Michaelangelo, I hear Greg Cipes, I see Raphael, I hear Sean Astin.”
For Astin’s part, he took the audition despite his lack of knowledge of the characters. “The first I learned of the turtles was Corey, and the movies. And I wasn’t a fan…[But] as an actor, if you get a chance to get involved with something that’s so beloved, and you’re not a fan, it’s probably your thing.” He was the last of the turtles to be cast, and he was the final piece of the puzzle for co-creator Ciro Nieli. He had always known he wanted Greg Cipes to play Michelangelo, but having Astin on board allowed him to move forward with Jason Biggs as Leonardo and Rob Paulsen as Donatello. Paulsen was the original Raphael in the 1987 Ninja Turtles series, but Nieli wasn’t originally keen on having him on board. “They were like, ‘Do you like the idea of one of the original Turtles being in the show,’ and I was like, ‘I hadn’t thought of it, and no.'” When Paulsen came in and read, however, it blew him away, and he knew he had to have him as Donatello.
Paulsen, the original Raphael and the current Donatello, is a legend in the animation business. Nieli mentioned fanboying over him because he was the voice of Snowjob in GI Joe, and Paulsen serenaded us during the interview with the voice of Yakko from Animaniacs. But he’s incredibly proud of being a turtle – in fact, of having been fifty percent of the turtles. “It’s been an unqualified privilege to work on two iterations of the show….I get to die saying, ‘If nothing else, I was the original Raphael.'”
In addition to the original cast and creators, we got to meet Gwendoline Yeo, who’s playing brand new character Shinigami on this upcoming season. She’ll be a member of the foot clan, and a witch. There’s wasn’t much more information to be had on the character, but we’re excited to see her debut on this upcoming season.
You can check out all of our interviews with the TMNT cast below.