‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ Set Visit: A Classic Franchise Finds Its Footing Again
Posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2015 by Angie Han
New York City is practically teeming with superheroes these days, but there’s always going to be a place for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The “heroes in a half-shell” have been charming fans since the 1980s, undergoing several makeovers in the meantime. Most recently, they returned to live-action with their 2014 big-screen feature — and next year these turtles will be back for more with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Back in June, I had the opportunity to visit the New York City set of the movie. And yes, I do mean a New York City set, not a Vancouver-pretending-to-be-New-York-City set. We visited a law school dressed to look like a police station, and the effect was so convincing that I walked by the set several times trying to find it before I realized what I was looking at.
While there, I got to chat with some of the cast and crew. Among other things, they revealed what they learned from the first film, what’s gonna be different in the next film, and what they’re really looking forward to showing the world. Read my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 set visit report after the jump.
Learning From the First Film
Because the characters mean so many different things to so many different people, the 2014 feature faced the daunting task of figuring out how to satisfy fans both old and new, as well as how to retain the classic Turtles essence while updating them for the modern era. The 2016 sequel, on the other hand, got to build off of its predecessor, benefitting from both its successes and its stumbles. In typical sequel form, it sounds bigger, splashier, more expensive — but also warmer, funnier, and more emotional.
Screenwriter André Nemec, who’d also worked on the first film, was frank about the difficulties of establishing the franchise. “There were so many unknowns in the first movie, the biggest unknown really being how were the turtles going to play out real, were we going to be able to make the turtles feel in the world we were shooting in,” he said. As with any franchise-starter, he said, “You’re sort of getting your bearings and trying to figure out, who are we and what’s our tone, what’s our feel, what’s our storytelling, and what are our visuals and the cinema behind all of it.”
Actor Alan Ritchson, who plays Raphael, admitted they were still figuring out those questions as they shot the last movie. “We made several different versions of this movie last time, tonally trying to find what this was.” It wasn’t until they saw the finished product that the actors even realized what it was. “We all saw it and it was like, ‘Oh! This is a comedy,'” he recalled. “There’s a whole other movie on the cutting room floor. A couple.”
More Heart, More Humor, More Turtles
Once it became more obvious what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was, the talents were able to better understand what made the film click. “Coming into this movie we learned a lot from the making of movie one,” acknowledged producer Andrew Form. The actors were even more specific. “I think the comedy and the chemistry of the turtles was what seemed to work the best the first time, and what is the emphasis this time,” said Ritchson. Added Pete Ploszek, who plays Leonardo, “I think that was clearest in the elevator [scene] the first time.”
The sequel leans into the first film’s strengths, adding more heart to the story. “You’re really going to see four brothers being brothers, and fighting and trying to make up and telling each other how they feel,” revealed Ploszek. Growing pains will also be explored. “I think the movie leans into a very strong theme of what it means to grow up, and leaning into the notion of the teenager part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” said Nemec. There will also be more laughs: “For this movie, humor is the thing we gravitate most towards, finding the humor and the irreverence of the movie.”
Best of all, fans can expect to see much more of the turtles themselves. “The first movie was one-third turtles, this is two-thirds turtles of just screentime alone,” teased Donatello actor Jeremy Howard. Or as Ritchson put it: “So the first time, if it was April’s story, this time it’s the turtles’.” The actors admitted that financial constraints were part of what kept the turtles offscreen or in the shadows last time, which makes the subtitle “Out of the Shadows” seem rather literal.
On the next page, dig into the action of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and learn more about the new characters including Casey Jones.