Random Thoughts: Voice Casting w/ Bryan VanGelder
Dudes and dudettes, welcome back to Random Thoughts ( Voice Casting2 ), our recurring column where Bryan and myself discuss some Turtle topics that have kept us up at night. Last time we covered what we thought would be on each turtle’s playlist, but this time, we’re going in a decidedly different direction. This time, we’re talking about Mutants in Manhattan and the voices behind it. Take it away Bryan:
So with the release of MUTANTS IN MANHATTAN right over the horizon, it got me to thinkin’ about a concept I was toying around with nearly a year ago. Following the release of the Michael Bay produced live action/CGI reboot of the TMNT film franchise, one which cherry picks elements from many different iterations of the Turtle-Lore though being heavily influenced by the 1980s/90s animated series, I personally was curious as to what a proper film adaptation of the current running IDW comic book arc would be like. Needless to say one of the most important parts of a venture like this would be the casting call. Figuring any likelihood of this coming to life would hinge strongly on the utilization of a mix of CG animation and live action, I started trying to consider who would fill these roles contemporarily. My original list is massive and hopefully I will go over more of it soon but for now we’ll focus on the characters confirmed for the Mutants in Manhattan video game, which at present seems like would be the largest scale ‘motion picture’ adaptation of IDW’s stories.
So where I originally started out is far from where I found myself. Essentially, I started to reassemble many original actors who had portrayed TMNT icons in the past… those voices were the ones I found myself ‘hearing’ in my head when I read an issue… much like we all hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil whilst reading Batman. Here is the beginning of my idyllic ‘dream team’:
Raph – Nolan North (General Hospital, The Kraang, Uncharted, Raphael of 2k7’s TMNT)
As much as I am a child of the 80’s/90’s and adored both Rob Paulsen’s Raph (though I argue he’s a better Donnie), and was blown away by Josh Pais from the films, I thought they were perhaps too extreme and over the top. Nolan’s rendition felt more natural, more middle of the road, and came across as more legitimately teen-angsty. He SOUNDED age-appropriate and sounded like he was related to his brothers rather than the stereotypical ‘angry-old-man from Brooklyn (seriously, how come Raph was the only one who ever developed a Brooklynite accent?). The big 2k7 return to film was exciting to me as well as many others, and the raw emotional value of Nolan’s portrayal was brilliant and a key part of the film’s character and story development. This would translate perfectly into the damaged loner that Raph finds himself before developing his bitterness and rageful attitude in the current comics.
Leo – Brian Tochi (Dexters Lab, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, Revenge of the Nerds, Leonardo from 1990’s films)
He was gentle, he was sincere, he was confident yet relatively challenged by the environment around him and could even find himself in over his head – and the voice conveyed all of this. Movie Leo certainly took some cues from cartoon Leo but at the same time set a new precedent; namely one that wasn’t so… well…cartoony. This is the kind of Leonardo who you believe can fall, but you also believe will always recover. The kind of Leo who will struggle on the farm in Northampton after he realizes he’s not actually as strong as he once believed. A Leo that is cautious but also will not hesitate to call the shots when necessary. And couldn’t you just picture the tides turning and Tochi’s sinister ‘Dark Leo’ screaming out to Splinter “YOU LIE!”
Donnie – Sam Riegel (Naruto, Adventures of Pete and Pete, like… every video game ever, and Donatello 2k3 animated series)
I thought this exceptionally meeker version of Donatello was particularly endearing. Donnie in virtually every iteration would be perfectly happy as the pacifist and never raise a fist, but Riegel’s version arguably went out of his way to reduce conflict if not avoid it altogether. All the more reason to expand this character with the justifiably vindictive return to form after being ‘killed’/stuck in a robot body. I think that is what I would like to hear the most; Riegel’s Metalhead, running off all the scientific jargon with Harold. I don’t know, to me he’d come off as very C-3PO and that’d be just fine.
Mikey – Robbie Rist (Brady Bunch, CHiPs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie )
Come on… this guy set the bar. Yes ‘Cousin Oliver’ himself forever trapped Mike in a realm of relative West-Coast-ian gnarly, crunchy surfer-dom. But really, could you picture it any other way? Always at the forefront of every generation of turtles fans, ready to reprise at a moments notice. Heck he is Mondo Gecko currently in the 2012 cartoon… he has the market cornered. Everybody else ever since has emulated what Robbie simply is. Yes Townsend Coleman came first but, Robbie had better pitch, better timbre – he was better, that simple. However, to work in the IDW version I’d have to imagine that Robbie would have to mellow his Mikey out a bit, make him more sweet and innocent. Can’t imagine it being a problem though, the guy has already proven he can cover a broad scope of attitudes in his acting.
Splinter/Hamato Yoshi – Kevin Clash (Sesame Street, Muppets, Splinter from 1990 movie)
Shocking I know – another pull from the OG film. But hear me out. We know Kevin can handle the accent which will be essential to the reincarnation aspect of the plot, but we also know that Kevin has a tremendous range, citing Elmo as an obvious benchmark. His voice is distinguished and grating – he is not the young warrior he once was. IDW’s Hamato Yoshi falls somewhere between the old and decrepit version from the films and the more young and spry version from the current cartoon. Again, simply wanna hear my favorite from yesteryear take a stab at a new bout. Bonus – much like the ‘honor’ speech from the finale of the 1990 film, who better to deliver the poignant farewell to Oroku Saki before executing him in issue 50?
April ONeil- Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim, The Thing, 10 Cloverfield Lane)
COME ON. THIS IS A GIVEN. Her look is effortless, her demeanor is sweet with a touch of snarky, she can make you melt or put you to shame – perfect leading lady material, just like April. Regardless of interpretation April has 3 main components: she is maternal, she is independent if not headstrong, and she is smart. Outside of looking like she was born for this role, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has demonstrated all of these qualities, often simultaneously in virtually all of her previous roles.
Lets watch some April V April if you don’t mind:
That’s Bryan’s Dream Team, collecting many voices from all over the Turtle’s history. What do you think? Come back tomorrow for part 2 of Voice Casting, where I’ll get to lay out my choices for the Turtles, Splinter, and April! Needless to say, I take a slightly different approach. In the meantime, why not leave us your casting choices in the comments? Or, tell us your Random Thoughts. We may feature them in a future article!