When you spend your whole childhood watching and loving a TV show or movie, the news that it’s getting rebooted in the present day can be terrifying. What if the new reboot sucks? What if it’s so bad it ends up ruining the legacy of the original?! That’s a worst-case scenario, but it’s a valid fear for any fan. Thankfully, the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series isn’t here to destroy your beloved childhood characters. Speaking at the 2018 Summer Television Critics Association press tour on Friday, the creators and voice stars of the Nickelodeon animated series took to the stage for a lively panel that sought to assuage fans of the original franchise that they’re not trying to ruin your favorite thing. “It’s not a reboot of the original franchise,” executive producer Ant Ward told the room of journalists. “It’s a reimagining of the original franchise.”
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has already been renewed for a second season ahead of its series premiere, is the latest in a long line of TMNT projects, but this iteration follows the iconic band of brothers as they discover new powers and encounter a mystical world they never knew existed beneath the streets of New York City. Executive producer Andy Suriano stressed that they’re keeping the core DNA of the TMNT property intact by focusing on the “brotherhood” as the emotional heart of the show. “It’s all about the family unit,” Suriano said. “The fighting and the ninja skills is a neat backdrop but it all boils down to character and true family dynamics.”
While the showrunners are making this version their own, there are some key components they’re keeping from past incarnations of TMNT. “Certain qualities of the turtle franchise have been so resilient and popular,” Suriano said. “Ant and myself looked at that and what we liked about it, we played with it like a chemistry set and distilled the elements that we thought would make an exciting show for this generation.” Ward added, “We wanted to do something inherently Turtles but really, really different. Fun was our mantra. Every aspect of this show is infused with fun and energy.”
One of the biggest changes they’re making for the new series is the overall look of the show. “The most obvious change from 2012 to this was we went 2D, hand-drawn animation,” Suriano revealed. “And then we looked at where the turtles haven’t been yet.” Ward explained further that the setting of the show helped drive the plot forward in new ways. “We entered this almost science fantasy play-space that fits organically within the whole franchise as a whole,” he said.
Some other differences from the original franchise come in the shape of the villains. Suriano revealed that he and Ward didn’t want to have iconic villain Shredder as the bad guy, so they went with a couple new characters for the villains. “We want to do a Rogues Gallery of villains,” Ward said, referencing Batman’s famous group of villains. “Otherwise you run into repetition. We wanted to explore a whole new Rogues Gallery of villains so you never know who’s going to show up each week.” One new villain they’re introducing into the mythology is Meat Sweats, inspired by a very unique experience shared by the showrunners. “I was thinking of a meatball eating competition that Ant participated in and I judged,” Suriano revealed to a room full of laughs. “I had just watched him eat so many meatballs. That’s how Meat Sweats came about.”
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles premieres Monday, Sept. 17 on Nickelodeon.