Platinum Dunes’ live-action movie reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise is now playing in theaters (read our review) – and so, Turtles fans are now able to properly weigh in with their thoughts on the film. Reactions have varied to the movie’s physical designs of such characters as the Turtles and Splinter (brought to life via motion-capture performance and/or CGI), though overall the response to this iteration of the principal TMNT players – including the villainous Shredder – has only improved, since the comparatively hostile reaction prompted by the initial reveal(s).
TMNT concept artist Kelton Cram has also contributed to several other 2014 blockbusters that offer tweaked designs of previously-established characters and/or properties, including Amazing Spider-Man 2, Maleficent, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. CBM interviewed Cram about his experience working on the TMNT reboot – shedding new light on why, ultimately, director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) settled on the designs that are used in the final movie product.
We previously interviewed Liebesman, along with TMNT producers Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller, about how the balance was maintained between renovating the Ninja Turtles property and honoring previous iterations of the series. Cram offered some additional food for thought on that process, during his CBM interview (see below).
Jonathan Liebesman had a lot of the ideas in his head about the different personalities of each Turtle, and how that would determine the size, costume, and accessories. It was all based on the original TMNT, but with a more cinematic approach. Donnie, the brain with the gadgets, Mikey the surfer, Leo the traditional one, and of course Raph the rebel.
The process was very thought out and took about 6 months. I was fortunate enough to work with Liebesman very early on and help design the Turtles in 2D. once the basic silouettes and ideas were approved, we quickly moved into 3D, where we sculpted and resculpted the different Turtles multiple times. Liebesman loved being able to go into Zbrush with the artists and push and pull the anatomy. Ultimately he was able to achieve exactly what he wanted through this process.
Cram’s TMNT artwork, like the example featured below (via Movies.com), illustrates just how much the Ninja Turtles’ anatomy changed over the course of development on the reboot.
One element of the Ninja Turtles live-action movie reboot that has, in general, been well-received, is how the film manages to aptly distinguish the Turtles in terms of their personalities – something that, ultimately, the somewhat controversial accessories that Cram referenced, helped to accomplish. However, although the Turtles ended up being virtually identical in shape/size, originally the plan was to instead make each individual Turtle unique in that respect – ranging from “tall and skinny to short and stalky to even more brutish,” as Cram put it, and as the pic above shows in full.
If you go to the link above, you’ll find additional TMNT artwork depicting the Ninja Turtles’ alternate physical designs; that includes a version of Raphael who is noticeably slimmer and less bulky than the one in both the above concept artwork and the actual movie. Similarly, alternate designs for Shredder’s armor reveal that, at an earlier stage in development, the villain’s outfit bore a closer resemblance to the armor worn by the Foot soldiers in the film reboot – albeit, with blade attachments (not so many as he ultimately ended up having, though).
Cram, during the CBM interview, said that the TMNT script underwent a number of “big rewrites” that resulted in the Shredder armor’s functional abilities and general look being completely overhauled. Indeed, that makes sense, seeing how the film’s version of the iconic Ninja Turtles baddie was shrouded in secrecy, throughout the marketing; even in the final weeks leading up to the movie’s theatrical debut, it wasn’t altogether clear who, exactly, would actually be donning Shredder’s gear.
How do you feel about the alternate designs for the Turtles and/or Shredder in the TMNT reboot? Are you glad the filmmakers ultimately went a different path, or do you suspect one (or more) of the abandoned designs would’ve proven to have been superior in action?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is now playing in theaters.