Producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman's live-action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came under fire from the property's hardcore fans seemingly right out of the gate. Bay and company originally intended to drop the "Teenage" and "Mutant" aspects of the turtles' origin story, only to back away from this idea and claim that the "ooze" which gave the turtles their powers was from outer space, but the turtles would remain earth-bound.
The negative fan reaction appeared to influence Paramount's decision to delay the film's release and hire screenwriter Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman) to revise the script. Despite the studio and filmmakers evidently reacting to fan vitriol, the TMNT reboot was always going to be full of divisive decisions, from the casting of key roles - Megan Fox as April O'Neil, Whoopi Goldberg as (possibly) her boss, William Fichnter as Shredder - to which story elements will or will not be included (like Krang, the Technodrome or Bebop and Rocksteady).
The main question about this reboot revolves around the updated look of the turtles. Aside from set photos revealing the actors in motion-capture suits (complete with a shell), word on the overall character designs has been quiet, until now. At a recent toy fair, sources for Idle Hands reported on the first line-up of updated action figures for the movie. None of these descriptions are official, so take this all with a lot of salt.
The new toys sound like a mix between classic, expected elements and newly added components. According the unnamed individual who got a look at them, the turtles themselves appear to be based on their traditional counterparts from the past: each turtle has the weapon they are associated with (a pair of twin katana blades for Leonardo, a staff for Donatello, sais for Raphael, nunchucks and apparently a "three sectioned staff" for Michelangelo) and the correct colors for their masks.
Along with the turtles looking like turtles (and not aliens), the new designs sound like they are likely to at the very least quell the worries of fans expecting some kind of radical departure:
In fact the designs are quite traditional and unremarkable, and feature far less texture than the 90's movie turtles. Eyes are fairly normal and not cartoonishly large. No beak along the nose area like some speculated. Three fingers and two toes.
Still, these new turtles seem to have interesting-sounding details added to each of them - rather than the uniform size and shape of the older toys, each character of the updated line has a different physique and slightly different size, along with a specific style of dress for each turtle which emphasizes their characters.
- Leonardo is given "a sort of pseudo samurai gear get up including shoulder armor, some leg bits, arm bracer and foot wear up to the calf with bindings showing. He might have some armor (non metal) along his chest as well."
- Donatello's costume design is "a mix of techy, modern and a dash of samurai with more normal footwear" with "some gadget on his head and gadgetry coming off of his shell."
- Raphael has "an urban warrior look with white, bandage-like wrappings on his feet, right leg, and right arm. He wears this very conan-esque loin cloth..thing..with leather straps draping down as if he were more suited for gladiatorial battle."
- Michelangelo's costume sounds like the most modern of the bunch: "a hoodie wrapped around his waist, pants and sneakers with the toes cut out, wrappings on his hands and forearms, a necklace (could be puka shell beads?) and his mask ends drape down to his chest."
As for the turtles' mentor and father-figure Splinter, his design sounds the most traditional, with a samurai fob hairstyle, the "Fu Manchu facial hair" we've come to associate with the character, a tattered samurai outfit, "blocky sandals" and a samurai sword. We're assuming Splinter is again a giant mutated rat in this incarnation, since any deviation of that particular detail would have fans howling.
April O'Neil's toy seems to mirror the overall design for the character seen in the set photos: yellow jacket, blue jeans and black boots. The figure comes with a camera and two "sai knives," for whatever reason. The toy seen evidently does not look much like Megan Fox.
The biggest departure from what has been seen before is the new version of the turtles' arch-nemesis Shredder. From the sound of it, the villain's toy design sounds over the top and comical:
Pointy edges coming off of absolutely anything. He'll be the stuff of ridicule for some time. Very overcomplicated outfit.
Shredder's overall costume sounds blade-heavy to the point of overkill: "He's got the shoulder pieces with the blades coming off them, the shin armor with the blades coming off them, black armor areas to offset the steel parts and a cape that looks metal with blades coming down the side."
As is the case with Michael Bay's Transformers franchise, (along with any other franchise so firmly entrenched in the pop culture consciousness) it can be argued that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is meant to be a long-form toy commercial just as much as a modern update to a popular and fan-beloved property. Thus, it makes sense for the toy design to take things a bit over the top.
There is no way to know just how closely the character design of the film will hew to the descriptions of the toys. Given that there has been no official press release for this merchandise (and this anonymous "toy fair" was not named nor a location given), it's entirely possible that the action figures which were displayed might be preliminary mock-ups and may not at all reflect the final design. After the storm of negative press associated with the ninja turtles' intended "alien" origin story, it seems unlikely that the studio and merchandisers will risk alienating fans any further, so the inevitable flurry of action figures associated with the reboot will probably end up as crowd-pleasing as possible.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will open in theaters on August 8th, 2014