You'll notice that in today's cinematic landscape, most major characters needing a voice in a CGI or motion capture family film are supplied by an established A-list actor (see Johnny Depp in Rango) or a known celebrity (Taylor Swift is fourth billed in Dr. Seuss' the Lorax). Twenty-two years ago, way back in 1990, that wasn't the case. Take Beauty and the Beast for instance. In 1991, Robby Benson, the lead voice actor in the film, had been absent from the spotlight for many years and was cast primarily for his talents on the microphone, not any sort of marquee value. Angela Lansbury served as the only real stunt casting. If the film was made today, we'd see Anne Hathaway serving as Beauty, with Hugh Jackman stepping in as the Beast. Even a smaller part, like Chip or Stove, would be supplied by any given member of the Apatow repertoire.
Should Corey Feldman and the Workaholics voice Ninja Turtles?
One of the biggest franchises from the 90s had a certain lack of known talent as well. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a film that opened March 30th, 1990, hitting number one on the box office charts for four consecutive weeks without nary a big name personality in sight. No mean feat, this cash cow won audiences over based solely on the existing property name alone, and its already established franchises in the world of cartoons and comic books. New Line Cinemas, a struggling studio at the time, kept the movie on the cheap and didn't have to hire known talent to portray the Turtles. Or any of the other cast members for that matter (though some of us at the time still held an affinity for Casey Jones' Elias Koteas based on his scene-stealing performance in Some Kind of Wonderful).
Puppeteers trained in martial arts embodied the four turtle suits designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London. Brian Tochi, best known for supporting roles such as Cadet Tomoko in Police Academy and Takashi in Revenge of the Nerds supplied the voice of Leonardo. Robbie Rist, aka Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, was Michelangelo. And Josh Pais, a primarily unknown American actor, was Raphael both in and out of costume. That brings us to the biggest name in the entire cast. Corey Feldman. He played Donatello.
Feldman had reached the end of his child actor faze and was quickly petering out as a teen heartthrob when he took on the role of Donatello, a part he jumped into only to fuel his spiraling drug habit. He remained clean while working through the film, but his hard partying ways outside the office drew some much-unwanted attention. He was replaced by Life Goes On's Adam Carl on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze by producers that felt Corey was a bad role model. It was a firing that actually helped get the actor back on the straight and narrow path to recovery.
Love him or hate him, the thing about Corey Feldman is that he has a unique vox for cartoon and voice over work. Fans at the time noticed his absence in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, which only added to the vitriol most aimed at the poorly made sequel (it ditched violence almost entirely, a horrible move for a movie with NINJA in the title).
Sure, Robbie Rist might heartily disagree (have to love the man's comments about Michael Bay the other day) but Corey truly brought the one audibly distinguishable persona to this burgeoning franchise, and with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, he was gone. That much needed flavor was missing. Maybe you are too young to remember, but people noticed. Fans made a stink about it. And so did Feldman. He was quick to address both disgust at himself and the producers of the film. He knew he was in the wrong, yet he felt slighted at the same time. And if you ever get a chance to meet the actor at a convention signing, he'll tell you that Don is one of his favorite characters he's ever played.
The Internet wasn't what it is today way back in 1993. So this flew somewhat under the radar, but fans of both the franchise and Feldman rallied around the actor. They demanded he be brought back for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (aka Turtles in Time). He got himself clean, and he came back to play Donatello once again. His voice is iconic to the franchise.
At least those in charge of each new incarnation seem to think so. Donatello's voice was altered in the animated series to sound more like Feldman's rendition of the character after the 1990 movie debuted. And when it came to 2007's TMNT, which returned the quartet to the big screen, director Kevin Munroe made sure that voice actor Mitchell Whitfield sounded exactly like The Lost Boys star. The question becomes, why didn't they just go to the man himself?
Corey Feldman has expressed interest in returning to the job. He has a lot of enthusiasm for the character of Donatello, and he's been clean, living an almost straight edge life, for more than twenty years. So what's the hold up? Why wasn't he brought back for TMNT when they clearly wanted his voice (was a sound-alike simply cheaper?) There are a lot of older folks, those who grew up with the franchise, who feel that getting Corey to reprise Donatello for this upcoming reboot is akin to having Peter Cullen reprise his voice as Optimus Prime in all three big screen Transformers movies. Making the move to cast Corey Feldman shows fans that the producers actually DO care about the franchise they are about to exploit for more money.
The connection here is, Michael Bay, director of Transformers, is producing the truncated Ninja Turtles reboot. Back in 2007 (same year as TMNT), he listened to the older fan base when it came to bringing Peter Cullen back. A lot of you younger fans didn't even know who the guy was, but you have to admit, Optimus Prime just isn't Optimus Prime without that voice. And the same goes for Donatello.
In discussing Ninja Turtles, Michael Bay made the following statement.
"They (the producers, writers, and director) care VERY MUCH about making this film for the fans. Everyone on this team cares about the fans. Just give them a chance. Jonathan Liebesman the director, is a major fan of the whole franchise. HE'S NOT GOING TO LET YOU DOWN."
That means, if enough fans make it known that they want Corey Feldman back as Donatello, it's likely he will come back. Because Michael Bay has proven himself as someone who listens to those kinds of requests. Any regular reader of this site knows we are huge fans of the Felddog. But honestly, we weren't even thinking about the actor coming back to reprise Donatello. Who voices the Turtles? Who cares? Well, one person certainly does as they've created a Petition to have the man return, and it struck us...Yeah, we want to see that too!
To "Like" the petition:
Right now, there are only 2 "likes" (one of which is from our managing editor). We thought we'd help get the word out. Because we also like the second idea presented by this petition. Having the Workaholics cast provide the voices for the other three turtles sounds like perfect casting to us. This is an ingenious idea, and its what drew our attention to the petition in the first place. If you need to ask yourself why Anders Holm as Leonardo, Adam DeVine as "Rude" Raphael, and Blake Anderson as Michelangelo is a great idea, all you need to do is watch the following clip, and then find the rest of this episode: Teenage Mutant Ninja Roommates and watch it. They even acknowledge that there is no replacing Corey Feldman as Donatello (sort of).
So, what are your thoughts? Do you care who voices the Ninja Turtles? Do you want Corey Feldman to return? Are you a fan of Workaholics? If not these guys, then who do you envision as Leo, Ralph, Mike, and Don in this new reboot? It will likely be Motion Capture. Do they need to know ninjutsu? Should Andy Serkis be involved? Is that the only man who can play Splinter? Let us know your thoughts, because we think this is fun! (Please, don't take it too seriously. Its mutated amphibians that know karate, not religion...To most of us anyway!)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes to theaters June 6th, 2014 and stars Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner. The film is directed by Jonathan Liebesman.