Welcome back to Random Thoughts voice casting, our recurring column where Bryan and I talk Turtle topics that pass the time on the train. Yesterday, Bryan took you on a nostalgia fueled trip down memory lane, picking an all-star cast of Turtle luminaries that he’d like to see reprise their roles. Today is my turn, but instead of looking at Turtle alumni, I looked for voices who have never portrayed a character from the Turtle-verse. My choices come from some of my favorite non-Turtle animated shows of the last decade. Not all of my choices will be obvious at first glance, but I think once you hear the elements I’m pulling out, the personality trait that each voice actor draws on, you’ll see where I’m coming from. Let’s get started.
Raphael – Benjamin Diskin (Eddie Brock/Venom from The Spectacular Spiderman)
Benjamin Diskin’s portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom in Spectacular Spiderman is one of my favorite versions of the character. In this version, Peter and Eddie are best friends, to the point where they call each other brothers. This friendship is ruined, however, through a combination of Peter not coping with being a superhero, and the symbiote. Once Eddie becomes Venom, he drips with edge and sarcasm. The way he still calls Peter “bro”, in a mocking of their former friendship, is brutal and tragic. I can just see Diskin use this edge for Raph, highlighting both the attitude we’ve come to love, and the sometimes tragic nature of his feud with Leo. Even better, imagine that sharp edged “bro” being turned around on him when Leo gets brainwashed.
Leonardo – Jason Marsden (Huan in Legend of Korra, Impulse in Young Justice)
Jason Marsden’s Huan was a relatively small character in Legend of Korra, but his portrayal of the young passionate artist gave me everything I needed to cast him as Leo. The fact that he’s played several superheroes in his career was just an added bonus. His portrayal of Huan gave what I think is a perfect timbre and tone for Leo. The IDW Leo is more serious and emotional than his other interpretations. He’s more of a loner too; not in the way Raph is, but rather he often keeps his true feelings from his brothers unless he is pushed to open up.
Marsden brought this same “misunderstood” quality to Huan, and Impulse in Young Justice. For Impulse, he was literally a man out of time, since he traveled from the future. Sometimes the IDW Leo feels like he came from the past, far more in touch with his family’s historical roots than his brothers. I feel all of these qualities give Marsden a great frame of reference for Leo, the leader who isn’t always sure of himself; the brother who doesn’t always get along with his family; the one who always had his family, until it was ripped away from him, and now finds himself trying to readjust once he got them back.Meelo Voice Casting
Donatello – Josh Keaton (Peter Parker/Spiderman in Spectacular Spiderman)
This is another one that might seem out of place, but let me explain. One of the things I loved about Spectacular Spiderman (besides it being the best animated Spiderman series ever) was that it brought the scientific edge back to Pete. I’ve always thought that Peter’s brilliance was just as much a super power as his ability to stick to walls. So with Josh Keaton’s experience voicing a character of high intellect, but also has the adventurous spirit I feel Donnie shares, I think he’s a perfect fit for Donatello. It also has the added benefit of giving Donnie a voice that isn’t your stereotypical “nerd” voice. Keaton’s voice isn’t high pitched. He doesn’t come across as the know it all, but he can still articulate all the various experiments and theories that Donnie is known to spout. Keaton creates a character who is a normal teen in an extraordinary situation. Plus, nobody quips better than Spiderman, but Donnie is a close second.
Michelangelo – Jason Ritter (Dipper Pines in Gravity Falls)
Ok, so Gravity Falls was one of the best cartoons on TV and I couldn’t resist throwing some love it’s way. But this isn’t just a throw away choice. When Bryan chose Robbie Rist, he said that everyone after Robbie just emulated him. And it’s true and honestly I’m hard pressed to think of a better voice than Mr. Rist for Michelangelo. But that’s why the next Mikey should be different than Rist.
It’s easy to think of Mikey as the surfer dude, but let’s face it, it’s not as prescient a reference as it was in the 90s. So I think we need someone who has the vocal range, exuberance, and youth of the modern youngest Turtle brother. Jason Ritter’s Dipper realizes these qualities. That’s not to say that Greg Cipes isn’t doing a great job. He is. It’s just that the ages of the Turtles are more important in the IDW comics, and Dipper Pines of Gravity Falls is a 13 year old trying to make sense of all the craziness that involves being a teenager, while also dealing with the craziness of his supernatural world. It’s perfect for Michelangelo, who in the IDW-verse is still the party dude and can come off as naive, but his ideals are uncompromising. Both of these characters share determination, and Jason Ritter would bring that to Mikey.
Splinter – Greg Baldwin (Iroh in Legend of Korra, part of Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Listen, I understand that a rat having a Japanese accent doesn’t really make sense, but that connection to the Japanese lore of the Turtles is something I’ve always loved in Splinter. Because of this, my favorite versions of Splinter were Kevin Clash’s in the original movie, and Mako’s in the 2007 sequel. Mako brought gravitas to every character he voiced, and while I remember him fondly for his portrayal of Splinter (not to mention Aku from Samurai Jack), I believe the character his voice career will be most remembered for is Iroh, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Mako passed away, Greg Baldwin took over the part for him, and subsequently reprised the role in Legend of Korra.
This connection is why I’d like to see Greg Baldwin be the next Splinter. He has the presence that Splinter requires, and strikes the balance between age and ability.
April – Linda Cardellini (Wendy in Gravity Falls)
Aha! I got one more Gravity Falls actor in! April in the IDW comics is older than the Turtles, and Linda Cardellini knows how to play a character who for some reason is hanging out with people a lot younger than her in crazy situations. She’s got the voice of an April who is down to earth, strong, and big sisterly. Not much scares her, but even the stuff that does doesn’t make her back down. It’s a good juxtaposition to a voice cast that highlights voices for the Turtles that sound a little younger than what we’re used to. But I think one of the greatest appeals of the Turtles is that they’re young kids trying to make their way through extraordinary circumstances. Having an older friend who looks out for you, emotionally as well as physically, is something that many of us can relate to. April brings out the humanity in our turtle friends.
There you have it! Voice Casting: Hero’s Edition. What did you think of my choices versus Bryan’s? Did you like his nostalgia trip or my new wave? As always, let us know in the comments and stay tuned! We might just have a Villains Edition coming up soon…
All good suggestions, they would have to put on a new voice for TMNT characters. Maybe one day.
Good suggestions, especially Mikey. Totally would fit his IDW counterpart perfectly. I have to say that I love Hoon Lee’s Splinter because his voice has a certain edge/authoritative quality to it that other Splinters did not. He can be both the disciplinarian sensei and caring father. I love that dichotomy of Splinter’s character and Lee does a really great job pulling it off.
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