TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles.com: Where does this story start for you? Why a book on the Turtles and why now?
FARAGO: This year is the 30th anniversary of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I was approached by the publisher Insight Editions because of the upcoming release of the new Paramount Turtles movie. The book wasn’t always intended to be a tie-in to the 30th anniversary but then the NINJA TURTLES (2014) movie didn’t come out when it was originally supposed to, so this allowed me some extra time to work on the book. Along the way I got to do some more interviews and we found some more artwork for the book as well once that was announced. After everything was said and done it just turned out that the book is now this perfectly timed 30th anniversary tribute.
The book is completely flawless. It’s so wonderfully designed and beautifully layed out. There’s no stone unturned either in regards to the Turtles…
FARAGO: Yes, I really wanted to be comphrensive with it. I had worked with the publisher Insight Editions before on a project on Looney Tunes. So when my editor Chris Prince called me and said, “Are you interested in Ninja Turtles? And what would your approach be?” I told him, “You start from the beginning. You speak with Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. Then you speak with Mark Freedman of Surge Licensing. After that, you talk to Fred Wolf and David Wise from the ’80s animated series.” Before I knew it I had an incredibly long list of people that I wanted to talk to. Chris liked my ideas and told me to go for it. Growing up I was a Turtles fan. I had a pretty good run of the early Mirage books. I watched the ’80s animated series, and I still have my Turtles toys all of these years later.
Was everyone on board with your book project from the start or was it difficult to get Peter Laird or Kevin Eastman to participate? What about some of the cast members from the new movie that you spoke with?
FARAGO: The most difficult part was just coordinating around everyone’s schedule. Without fail, everyone that I exchanged emails with or talked to that I didn’t interview had nothing but good things to say about Peter and Kevin and working on The Turtles. Kevin was on board from the start. Peter and I were pen pals for about six months before I actually interviewed him, but he was extremely open and thoughtful in regards to every question I had. Vanilla Ice, took some scheduling. I spoke with him while he was on tour and right before he was set to do a sound check. People don’t realize just how big of a fan Vanilla Ice is of the Ninja Turtles. He has Turtles collectables. He has a Turtles tattoo. He told me that the “Ninja Rap” is just as popular today with his fans as “Ice Ice Baby”. Interviewing Brian Henson was one of the highlights of the book. Getting the opportunity to talk with Jim Henson’s son about puppeteering was just phenomenal.
In all of the interviews that you did for the book and all of the research as well…What were some things that you learned about the Ninja Turtles that were a big surprise to you?
FARAGO: There were all kinds of fun things. I think the biggest insights I got were from Fred Wolf and what he went through to get the ’80s animated series made. The project that Fred worked on that brought him to the attention of Mirage Studios was DuckTales. He was working with three identical characaters that you could only tell apart by the color of their clothes. So it was really a no-brainer for Mirage to bring him to the ’80s animated series for that reason. Fred had a hard time securing funding for the series. He went from one company to other pitching the series but no one was interested. As the Turtles comic book was a overnight success, that wasn’t the case for the first Turtles animated series. Fred had to work really hard to get it made. When he found someone that was interested in making the Turtles series, they were only interested in making that original 5-part animated mini-series.
They wanted the animated series made as a way to help sell the toys, and for a while, and I’m not sure how long this lasted, but they were content with only having those 5 episodes because they could take them and release them onto the home video market. Luckily, they saw how well those first 5 episodes went over with the fans and decided to make more.
You interview Jonathan Liebesman, Director of the new Turtles movie for your book….It was interesting to read what he said about wanting to keep the tone of the new Turtles movie true to those early Mirage comics….Do you think the new Turtles movie will be dark like those first Laird/Eastman Mirage Turtles comics?
FARAGO: That’s a good question. Here’s my revelation — I don’t know any more about the new movie than any other fan does. I’m following it just like everyone else. When I spoke to those involved with the new movie for the book everything was sort of really under wraps yet. All of the interviews I did were very brief and the studio had to sign off on them before I could include them in the book.
I love how you remain so neutral and positive about the upcoming Turtles movie in the book…Why do you think Turtles fan are approaching the new film so negatively?
FARAGO: Well, we’re all in the same boat with it. We are only seeing these little bits here and there, and some of these things are filling fans with confidence and some aren’t. Any negative backlash out there is just from those that really care about the source material so much. Everybody has their favorite version of the Turtles and a idea of how the Turtles should be. Michael Bay and Jonathan Liebesman are going to have a different approach to the Turtles, just as Fred Wolf did with the ’80s animated series and Saban had with Turtles: The Next Mutation.
Who’s your favorite Turtles and why?
FARAGO: From the very beginning it’s been Donatello. My introduction to the Turtles was the ’80s animated series. I remember seeing commericals on television telling my younger brother and I when it was going to premiere, and I can remember making sure my schedule was clear so we didn’t miss it when it came on. I think I’m a even bigger fan of Donatello in the current Nickelodeon animated series. I’m a big fan of his gap tooth and I like the fact that he has this kind of crush on April. I think that was a really inspired movie. I like the fact that April is right around the Turtles age too. It really makes for a very interesting dynamic.
For those reading this interview…When will the book be available officially? Can they pre-order it someplace?
FARAGO: It comes out on June 24th, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon HERE: But, if you’re in the San Francisco, CA area you can stop by the Cartoon Museum on June 14th and pick up a copy before anyone else has it and while you’re here you can check out all of Kevin and Peter’s original Ninja Turtles artwork and many of the first covers and interior art from the Mirage run. Nickelodeon artists will be in attendence as well.
Wanna hear more about TURTLES: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL HISTORY? Check out the full uncut interview with Andrew Farago on YouTube HERE: