Thursday, August 14, 2014

'Turtle Power' writer-director talks shop

Randall Lobb said he was making serious-minded documentaries about “deep, dark subjects” such as Cambodian landmines before he made “Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Isaac Eliott-Fisher approached Lobb about making a documentary about the Turtles.

“He’s a lifer fan,” Lobb said during a phone interview last week with Cary's Comics Craze.

“I was skeptical. (But) as I got into it, it’s totally infectious.”

Released Aug. 12, “Turtle Power” features fascinating interviews with co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird plus the many artists, toy and/or animation creators, voice actors and producers who made the four butt-kicking brothers a cultural phenomenon. (For the  full CCC review of this must-see documentary, check out this link.)

Lobb was asked if there was anything he left on the cutting room floor he wanted to use in “Turtle Power.” The crew amassed about 225 hours of footage.

“I could have done a lot more with the first movie,” Lobb said. “We had so much stuff.”

The live-action, family-friendly “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film was released March 27, 1990. It ultimately made just short of $202 million internationally.

“It would have been nice to discuss the second and third movies,” Lobb said, but it became a matter of “talking to the right people.”

Six years after their first appearance, the Turtles were a merchandising juggernaut. The original cartoon first aired Dec. 14, 1987. One year earlier, Playmates Toys Inc. started developing toys. (For a brief, but full, history of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, go to the second half of my review of "Turtle Power.")

A fourth live-action film, which came out last weekend, had one of the biggest August openings ever by hauling in nearly $65.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

But the wise-cracking brothers have humble beginnings. Eastman and Laird borrowed $1,074 from Eastman’s uncle to print 300,000 copies of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES No. 1, published in May 1984.

“My favorite Turtle is not a turtle,” Lobb said. 

“It’s Splinter,” he added, referring to the Ninjas’ martial-arts teacher and adoptive father.

Lobb, 49, resonates with Splinter since the writer-director taught high-school English literature for 25 years. He said he respects how the Ninja master believes in discipline, working hard and “pushing toward something.”

The filmmaker wasn’t even a Turtles fan when he started making “Turtle Power.” But as he heard more interviews, Lobb said he could appreciate what attracts fans to each of the Turtles’ incarnations — an element of fun.

“So many things are dour and humorless,” Lobb said. “I’m a cynical person. Kevin and Peter are not cynical. … I'm a fan of Kevin and Peter.”

Lobb credits the pair in believing in their creation, not giving up on their dreams and “being in the moment.”

“They were loving making comics,” he said.

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