The Heroes in a Halfshell had a shell of a panel during this year’s Comic-Con at Home event with a panel that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. As a lover of all things anthro animal-themed, I just had to tune into the panel and see what it was all about.
Hosted by Chris from The Old Turtle Den YouTube Channel, the panel featured none other than TMNT producer Kim Dawson, and screenwriter Bobby Herbeck.
I could tell right off this was gonna lead to some cool memories.
Kim revealed that the idea for the movie came from Gary Propper, who’d by chance stumbled upon the TMNT comic book while out on a road trip. Gary loved the comic, told Kim about it, and Kim was initially doubtful. But after seeing the comic and talking to Gary about the idea more, soon loved it as well.
Kim knew about Bobby from various scriptwriting and comedy gigs that the latter had done, and felt he had a good sense of humor that would work great with the film’s premise. The two met over burgers at an In-N-Out in Westminister, CA (with the aside that “there should be a placard there”) and Bobby caught on to the spirit of the film right away.
Bobby was currently working on a script for Golden Harvest (known as “Orange Sky Golden Harvest” today), which was known for their martial arts films. He knew mixing in martial arts and comedy was great so he brought the idea to his boss, Tom Gray who….don’t want to be bothered with the “Ninjin Pinjin Turtle Stuff”.
Once Bobby told Tom to ask his kids about TMNT however, things changed. At least for Tom. Gary and Kim were struggling to find a distributor for the film but with Howard the Duck and Garbage Pail Kids and their bombs still fresh in Hollywood’s minds it was an uphill battle.
But the duo was able to score small victories that added up: they eventually got Gray’s full support (“by one butt cheek” recalls Kim); Bobby was able to work out a satisfactory story with comic creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastwood; and Steve Barron, who directed the “Billy Jean” music video, was hired to direct.
Steve had also worked on The Dark Crystal, which got him acquainted with Jim Henson Studios who, after more tentative meetings, also jumped on board with things.
Kim felt the movie was a series of “starts and stops”, as every time they made progress, something would happen that would knock ’em back into the sewer.
Kim was eventually able to get a distribution deal with Fox, but a new CEO that had no time for Turtle Power came in and canned the deal. He almost lost a prospect with New Line’s CEO…but once again, asking his kids saved the day.
Bobby and Kim also went into other details about the film’s production, such as what it was like for Bobby to be living in London with Steve while writing the script. He became known as “the bloody yank” by the locals of the area.
Kim had a lot to say about the Turtle costumes themselves, saying that, “they had a human quality to them that was completely unique, a tribute to the Jim Henson Creature Shop, they were able to make them human. . .”
The duo also went over what it was like going up to the film’s release, and post-release. The movie pulled in about $26 million on the opening weekend alone. Kim and Bobby both were amazed that the movie had gone on strong all these years and remarked that they never imagined this would happen.
There was also a short QA session where Chris read off questions that fans sent in, including favorite scenes, characters, and if the duo would ever consider a reboot.
It wouldn’t be a proper Comic-Con panel without some good reveals, however. Kim teased a digital remaster of the film being released theatrically in the fall (COVID pending, of course). Bobby added that there will be “surprises along the way”.
There’s also a new website fans can check out that will feature all-new merch – like a copy of the original script. Cowabunga!
It as a pretty cool panel, and it was great to hear Bobby and Kim talk about the TMNT movie. If you want to check out the full panel (and you should!) check out this video below!