One would not have thought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was such a controversy-generating machine. They’re heroes. They’re in a half-shell. Just not that complicated.
Until word got out that the 2014 versions of these intrepid Renaissance artists who also beat people up with kung-fu would be outer space aliens instead of mutants, causing a fan outcry so fierce and furious that producer Michael Bay had to author a post on the Official Michael Bay Forums, urging everyone to “take a breath, and chill,” and that the supposed changes were not as huge as our turtle-centric news media made them sound. Problem solved.
At least until the trailer came out and people got their first look at the films heroes. The phrase “Jose Canseco in reptilian form” was thrown around. As was “babies with penis heads.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the new TMNT actually look like babies with penis heads, and also to decide what babies with penis heads would actually look like. You may also choose to abstain from this line of thought altogether.
Even here though, is a silver lining- some brave fan with an innate knowledge of Photoshop and an afternoon with nothing going on decided to re-nose-ify the Michelangelo and Leonardo we saw in that first trailer. Their scientifically accurate monster snouts were wiped away and replaced with the vaguely nose-like mounds that the modern TMNT traditionally sport. Problem sort of solved.
But going more than a week without some iffy Turtles news is apparently too much to ask, because as of today Paramount has just cast its Leonardo and Master Splinter. Even if it already did just that, having plopped Pete Ploszek into the role of the Ninja Turtle Leader a year ago, and their wise ratman sensei a month later. It turns out these castings were written in alongside some serious fine print: according to Deadline, “those actors were only guaranteed to physically perform the roles in costume.”
The fine print speaks the (tiny and easy to miss) truth – Ploszek is out for voicing Leonardo, and Johnny Knoxville is in. Ditto on Master Splinter, as Danny Woodburn’s motion-capture performance will remain, but his voice will be snipped and dubbed over with Tony Shalhoub’s.
The original casting decisions always seemed a little iffy. Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s production company, best known for remakes of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is not the kind of company to take chances on four unknowns and Kramer’s friend from a few episodes of Seinfeld in its big-budget turtle movie. Now, at least, we know the truth.
Logic dicates that the three remaining turtles – Alan Ritchson as Raphael, Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, and Jeremy Howard as Donatello – are probably out of a job too. Sorry, guys. Although I’m guessing they all read their contracts before signing onto Teenage Mutant Ninja Penis Head Babies, so the recasts are a surprise only to us in the general public.
Hopefully, new Turtle voices won’t cause the same kind of outcry that new Turtle faces and new Turtle origins first did with the public. But if they do – and if you’re one of those painting a protest sign and joining a picket – this problem, like all other TMNT problems, as a “solved” at the end. Somewhere, there’s a person willing to perform a full turtle nose-lift. And somewhere else, there’s probably another, willing to perform a full turtle re-dub of all the voice parts that were originally recorded with the first set of voice actors. So if that “it’s just a mask” joke somehow becomes even more unnerving when Michelangelo is voiced by (and I’m spitballing here) Ashton Kutcher, rest assured. Some fan edit will undoubtedly put it back to its original, and still extremely unnerving state.