Tagged: Disney

Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United Slideshow Unveiled

Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United Slideshow Unveiled

In anticipation of the December 3rd release of Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United on Blu-ray Combo Pack,  Disney has released a slide show of images to tease the titanic team-up.

In Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, Iron Man and Hulk team up to save the Earth from its greatest threat yet! Featuring the voices of Adrian Pasdar (Heroes, Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man) as Iron Man and Fred Tatasciore (Marvel’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man) as Hulk.

Synopsis: In this action-packed teamup, the Invincible Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk come together to save the Earth from its greatest threat yet. When two HYDRA scientists try to supercharge a Stark Arc Reactor with Hulk’s Gamma Energy, they unleash a being of pure electricity called the Zzzax, and he’s hungry for destruction. Together, Iron Man and Hulk are the only force that stands in the way of the Zzzax’s planetary blackout. But first the superhero duo will have to get through snarling Wendigos, deadly robots and the scaly powerhouse, Abomination. Can two of Marvel’s mightiest heroes find a way to work together without smashing each other before time runs out?

First Look at Live-Action Maleficent

Malfcnt_Teaser1-Sht_v2_LgDisney has released the teaser poster and trailer for next year’s revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty’s opponent, Maleficent. While many have been focused on Angelina Jolie’s appearance as the fairy tale villain, other scholars have decided the focus on the witch actually works against the source material. You watch, read, and decide.

Genre:                          Action-Adventure
Rating:                          TBD
U.S. Release date:        May 30, 2014
Running time:

Cast:                            Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Director:                       Robert Stromberg
Producer:                      Joe Roth
Executive Producers:    Angelina Jolie, Don Hahn, Matt Smith, Palak Patel, Sarah Bradshaw
Screenplay by:              Linda Woolverton

From Disney comes Maleficent—the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal—an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom—and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

Maleficent, the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, reveals the events that hardened Maleficent’s heart and drove her to curse the baby, Aurora.

OFFICIAL BOILERPLATE:

From Disney comes Maleficent—the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal—an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom—and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville.

Maleficent  is produced by Joe Roth and directed by Robert Stromberg, with Angelina Jolie, Don Hahn, Matt Smith, Palak Patel and Sarah Bradshaw serving as executive producers. Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay. Maleficent opens in theaters on May 30, 2014.

Wednesday Window-Closing Wrap Up: November 13, 2013

Wolverine is the best Disney Princess #16, by Strampunk

Closing windows on my computer so you can open them up on yours. Here we go:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

“The Middleman” Exclusive Interview with Javier Grillo-Marxauch

In case you weren’t already aware, The Middleman campaign on Indiegogo has just a few days left before concluding. It has proven to be a great success already, but there is still time for fans of both the TV show and the comic to get in on the action.

The Middleman‘s creator, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions about the crowd-funding campaign and the incredible world he hopes to bring back to life with your support.

ComicMix: To begin with, how would you describe The Middleman comic and the TV show to someone who has never seen or read it before?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach: It’s basically Gilmore Girls meets Men in Black… uh, ok, that may not be the best explanation… it’s the story of Wendy Watson, a young art school graduate with few prospects who – after an encounter with a giant monster at one of her temp jobs, is recruited by The Middleman: lone operative of an organization so secret that even he does not know who they are. Joined as a team, The Middleman and Wendy fight all threats extra-, infra-, and juxta-terrestrial, dispatching monsters, aliens, robots and mad scientists while always living up to the Middleman motto “fighting evil so you don’t have to.”

CM: What inspired you to create The Middleman in the first place and what were the influences behind it?
JGM: At the time I wrote the original script – in 1998 – there were a lot of “monster of the week shows” on the air – like Buffy, The X-Files, Angel, Charmed, what have you – and I felt that the genre as a whole lacked a certain “genre awareness” – every one of these shows featured people fighting aliens and monsters and so on, in a hermetic universe in which there seemed to be no popular culture and all these mythologies needed to be explained fresh.  I thought – “if a geek lived in these universes, no one would have to explain zombies to her!”  Also, I wanted to bring a little optimism to the genre – a lot of these shows dealt with the idea that I call “the tragedy of heroism” the notion that being a hero will mess up your life (just ask Peter Parker) – I wanted a lighter, more affirming take on the genre.

CM: When you decided to resurrect The Middleman, why did you choose the crowd-funding route over more conventional methods? How has the crowd-funding experience been for you and the project?
JGM: Because we have an established property with a small, but devoted fan following, crowd funding has been a glove-like fit and an extraordinary experience.  I think crowd funding is a great way for someone like me, who has a property for which there is demand, but maybe not enough demand to catch the attention of the major studios. Through crowd funding we have about a thousand pre orders for our new book – to a company like Disney, which owns the media rights to The Middleman, that’s not a large enough amount to move the needle – to us it’s more than enough to make a great product that truly does honor to the characters and to republish our old adventures in an exciting way.  Our fans have really stepped up to make this new book, and the webstore reprinting all the legacy material, and the cast reunion/live reading possible – so in addition to everything else, the experience has been enormously validating.

CM: Your crowd-funding project has been tremendously successful. Since the campaign has already surpassed its goal, what stretch rewards can contributors look forward to at this point? If your current top stretch goal ($85,000) is surpassed, do you have plans for another one?
JGM: Well, we have five days to go as I write this, so I am not placing bets on getting to our second stretch goal – but it all boils down to this, if we go past the 85,000 we will put any additional money into maybe doing a new book in color, or additional middlebooks down the line… it is all about keeping the Middleman alive.

CM: If you could tell one story in The Middleman setting that hasn’t been told yet, what would it be?
JGM: The great thing about The Middleman is that we have established that there have been Middlemen all through history – thanks to the crowdfund, we  are going to reprint a one-shot called “Legends of the Middleman” which we originally put out in ’06, and tells the stories of barbarian Middleman, Victorian Middleman (in which he face “The League of Professional Jealousy” when Phileas Phogg, Van Helsing and Tesla team up to stop him from solving all their cases) and World War II Middleman… in the TV show we did a story about a cryogenically frozen Middleman from the 60’s (played fabulously by Kevin Sorbo!)… but if i had my pick of any setting… I would do a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation Middleman story in which he teams up with the Thunderbirds!

Our thanks to Javier Grillo-Marxuach for taking the time to speak to us. Be sure to check out the crowd-funding campaign over on Indiegogo while there’s still time. I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m very excited for The Middleman‘s return.

DISCLAIMER: The Middleman crowdfunding project is being curated by ComicMix for Indiegogo. ComicMix is a partner with Indiegogo.

Netflix Commissions 4 Marvel Series Leading to The Defenders

David Slade Exits Fox’s DaredevilMarvel’s cinematic Avengers will be joined on the smaller screen by The Defenders, the culmination of four series just commissioned by Netflix. Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist were announced this by Variety morning as each receiving thirteen episode commitments. The linking device is that all four series will be set in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, which, in the comics, has been Daredevil’s base of operations dating back to the 1970s.

This rumored set of series was revealed without naming producers, writers, showrunners or casting but would be expected to debut some time in 2014. The announcement did not acknowledge if this quartet of series will be set in the same reality as the film series. If so, it would also connect these shows to ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Netflix has received great attention thanks to their original series, a move now being imitated this month by Amazon Prime and soon by Hulu and YouTube. Their House of Cards was the first internet series to receive an Emmy nomination and will be back for a second season in the winter. The pay channel’s Orange is the New Black is their most watched original series and will also be back for a second season, as will their Hemlock Grove.

Since Jeph Loeb was added as a VP for filmed material, Marvel has filled in a vital gap with live-action television, something they seemed unable to crack. Beyond these four, and the subsequent Defenders teamup project, Marvel has been said to be eyeing a Peggy Carter spinoff based on the short film with Haylee Atwell that was attached to the home video release of Iron Man 3. Other series apparetly also ebing pitched to other networks.

Disney’s Marvel movies will move from Starz to Netflix after the current dea for the studio’s output expires in 2015, just in time for The Avengers 2.

DC Entertainment aso has numerous television series in development, mostly at their co-owned CW network with the Flash expected for the 2014-15 season. Fox is also developing a Gotham City series featuring young James Gordon, long before Bruce Wayne first dons the cape and cowl.

Man of Steel Infographic Traces Route from Krypton to Earth

MOS_LAK_4in1_ALL_PREIn advance of next week’s release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel on Blu-ray and DVD, Warner Home Video has released this infographic. This tells you al you need to know about Krypton, or at least the world as depicted in this past summer’s reimagining of the Action Ace. The film has grossed over $662 million worldwide, which, given its production budget of $225 million, means it is on the cusp of profitability. Ancillary sales, including the domestic home video release, should push it into the black before the year is out. Box Office Mojo notes that it may not have soared to the heights anticipated by Warner Bros and its DC Entertainment subsidiary. In dollars, it ranks tenth as a comic book adaptation, although it is the top grossing Superman film dating all the way back to Superman and the Mole Men.

Rotten Tomatoes says the film was perceived as only 56% fresh, dubbed by major media critics as too somber. Richard Roeper, for example, noted, “There’s very little humor or joy in this Superman story.” Fans were divided over this sterile and somber version of the archetypal superhero, sharply criticism the filmmakers and DC for letting Superman commit murder. In comparison, this weekend’s Thor: The Dark World is already trending at a strong 75% fresh.

DC Entertainment has bet a lot on this interpretation, letting it be known that this should be considered the first installment in a unified DC Cinemaverse. Already shooting for a summer 2015 release is a sequel which will include a Caped Crusader owing much to Frank Miller’s groundbreaking The Dark Knight Returns. Fans already have their knives sharpened for flaying Ben Affleck’s performance as the Darknight Detective without seeing a single frame of film, a habit that can be traced back to the first announcement of Michael Keaton donning the cape and cowl. The sequel is also rumored to be introducing Diana, the Princess of Themyscira with current theory being that Jamie Alexander, Lady Sif in the Thor series, is in talks with the studio.

What is expected to follow would be a Justice League movie while DC and Warner have been coy about whether or not the television reality seen in Arrow and its intended Flash spinoff would also be set in the same reality. Given the success of Disney, Marvel and ABC has had with integrating Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the feature films, one would think they would follow suit.

Look for our Man of Steel review next week.

Emily S. Whitten’s Interview with Maurice LaMarche

Whitten Art 131029In my apparent continuing quest to interview all the great voice actors living today (because they are the most fun, okay?), I now bring you my interview with the talented and Emmy-winning Maurice LaMarche, a.k.a. The Brain, Squit, Kif Kroker, Morbo, Lrrr, several Futurama robots, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dizzy Devil, Yosemite Sam, Mr. Freeze, Victor von Doom, General Var Suthra, Mortimer Mouse, Chief Quimby, and more.

It was a real pleasure to speak with Maurice, who I’ve been listening to in various guises since I was a wee thing (I was a big Inspector Gadget fan as a child; and then with Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Futurama being amongst my other favorite shows through the years, I guess I’ve pretty much been listening to Maurice all my life!). It was also great to see him do many of his excellent voices and impressions both during the interview, and at “An Evening with Pinky and the Brain,” which I attended at the Plaza Theatre while in Atlanta for Dragon Con. That event featured Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche together, and was just a total joy to experience. It also resulted in some fantastic video clips like this reading of Who’s on First by Pinky and the Brain, a couple more of which I’ve linked below.

So without further ado, I bring you my interview with Maurice! Read on for the transcript, and click here for the video, which is really worth watching for all the fun voices.

•     •     •     •     •

Let’s start with Futurama, and Kif, who you voice on the show. That voice seems more delicate than some of the voices you’re known for; how did you come up with that one?

We were recording episode three or four, and Matt was very hands-on as we built the show. He knew exactly what he wanted in terms of who the character was; but he wasn’t sure about a sound. His tagline for Kif was, “He’s Mister Spock, if Mister Spock had to deal with William Shatner.”

So we tried a few things. I tried going (as Nimoy) “Sir, it seems the rest of the crew doesn’t share your passion for velour,” very deep and in the Nimoy range, and it sounded too much like The Brain; and we realized that he sounded tired; you know, we had the sighs. So I thought… I played a character in a very short-lived show called The Adventures of Hyperman, where the chief of that was very much, “Truman Capote. He’s Truman Capote.” So I thought that (as Capote) “the whole voice quality of Truman Capote had a sort of sighing sound to it, and so I decided that he would sound like Truman Capote,” and Matt said, “Well, too effeminate. I also want him to have some of the sarcasm and pissiness of Jon Lovitz.” So it went from this (demonstrating Capote) to this (demonstrating Lovitz) and became this (in Kif’s voice) “Sir, the rest of the crew doesn’t share your passion for velour, ugh.” So that’s where Kif came from. We kind of threw Jon Lovitz and Truman Capote in a blender, and out came Kif.

Now that Futurama is… doing whatever it’s doing [coming back again, I hope!], what are you working on right now?

My self-esteem. No, currently, I’m working on a project for Disney called The 7D, which are the seven dwarves about twenty years before they met Snow White. So they all have all their hair, and their hair is its original colors; nobody’s grey. And of course, needing to fixate on a beautiful female figure, they live to serve Queen Delightful, who is the queen of the kingdom.

And they’ve done a very different take with them. We’ve gone away from the Snow White movie, and it looks almost like a 1960s Jay Ward cartoon, kind of Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle. Very simple drawings. And each one’s voice is very distinct. Kevin Michael Richardson is Happy, and he just plays it so happy; and when Kevin is full of joy, the room bursts with it. And Bill Farmer is Doc. Billy West is Bashful, and Billy uses his upper, upper, upper range, and he’s like, so adorable that even though he’s a 62-year-old man, you just want to pinch his cheeks.

And I do Grumpy; and, again, I do a lot of my voices by throwing two things into the hopper and coming up with a unique voice. There’s a little George Costanza in him, and there’s a little bit of one of my best friends, Kenny Lombino, who’s a Brooklyn by way of New Jersey guy, and he’s an investment guy, but (as Kenny Lombino) “he came up through the streets. So Kenny is very much like this guy,” and then (as George Costanza) George Costanza’s like this: “I don’t know, Jerry! People think I’m smart, but I’m not smart!” (In Grumpy’s voice) So then Grumpy is kinda this guy right here: “Alright. Okay, Fine. I’m Grumpy, and I accept it, but I gotta help Queen Delightful anyway!” So he does a lot of, like, “Oh, this guy again.” He gets all the sarcastic lines.

It’s a thrill to be in a show where I am actually getting the good lines. Because I’m usually the setup guy. Even in Pinky and the Brain, Rob Paulsen got all the great lines, while I gave him the, (as The Brain) “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” And then he got to say the funny thing. So The Brain’s humor had to come from being put-upon, and having to deal with this knucklehead named Pinky – who may have been the genius; and The Brain may have been the one who was insane.

But Brain did get his funny lines in there…

He did. He had great lines like (as The Brain): “If I could reach you, I would hurt you.” Or, “Yes, that is a pain that is going to linger.” Or, “It must be inordinately taxing to be such a boob, Pinky.” Little sarcastic things like that. I love playing the sarcastic note. Because I’m really actually very kind in real life.

Do you have a favorite episode from Pinky and the Brain?

It’s kind of a tie. “Bubba Bo Bob Brain” was the one where I think we found the stride with the characters. We’d done two or three episodes before, but we recorded “Bubba Bo Bob” and two things happened there: the voices changed. Rob got out of the buck-toothed thing that he was doing the first few episodes, and really found that almost lady-like voice that he did; and Brain stopped being a straight Orson Welles impression, and there are little Vincent Price-ish kind of highs in there. And their relationship became…the annoyance became stronger, and I realized “that’s the note I have to play with Pinky. And yet I still have to have affection for Pinky.” So “Bubba Bo Bob;” and the Primetime Emmy-winning Christmas Special. Which was a big folderol, because that special was the first time that a daytime cartoon had come into primetime and beaten The Simpsons. So those are my two favs. I’ve never been able to quite choose between them.

So what about “You Said A Mouseful”?

That was interesting. Rob and I are doing “An Evening with Pinky and the Brain” at the Plaza Theatre; and for our finale we are actually going to do a staged reading of “You Said a Mouseful,” with a cast from the audience. [Note: I got part of it on video! Watch it here!] “You Said a Mouseful” was a fun, and funny, and challenging episode to do; it was the only episode where I ever left the booth, walked into the control room, and slugged the writer in the arm – in the way you’d hit your little brother, a Lucy/Linus kind of slug. I just punched him in the arm for writing something so difficult. Then I went back, sat down, and went, “I feel better now. Rubber baby buggy bumpers, rubber baby buggy bumpers…”

You’re originally from Toronto; how do you find the South?

I have a GPS! …Well, I’ve only been here a day; I got here late last night; and Pinky and the Brain went out for dinner, to Morton’s. There was definitely a flavor of Southern hospitality; but then again, if you’re Captain Kirk and you’re beamed into any Morton’s on Earth, you don’t know what city you’re in because every Morton’s looks the same. (as William Shatner) “I don’t understand where they get all this wood paneling from!” And the steaks were all delicious and fantastic.

But people have been very nice here. This is my first Dragon Con, and my first time in Atlanta. And I’m not even going to complain about the humidity because Toronto, being on Lake Ontario, is just as humid as this in August; so I’m fully used to it. Haven’t lived in it in thirty-three years; but I’m loving Atlanta. I’m having a great time. People are so nice. And the Dragon Con people – I have to say, there’s a real difference between the Comic Con vibe and the Dragon Con vibe. Comic Con is Comic Cannes film festival, it’s there to sell projects – and this is all about fan love. This is completely fan-driven. Comic Con is very studio-driven and publisher-driven. But this is just the fans expressing themselves and truly paying tribute to the genres, and it’s wonderful to see. So, I’m really enjoying my time here.

Have you worked on games?

I’ve only been on a handful of games. Games beat up my throat; and unlike a lot of voice actors who seem to be invulnerable, I seem to get a lot of cases of laryngitis, etcetera by having to do repeated lines over and over again. So I really limit myself, and am very blessed and fortunate that I can afford to. I can turn down a lot of the work because I’ve gotten to be on shows like Futurama or be the voice of Lexus. So I’m very selective. I do things that I think my son will think are cool; like Mr. Freeze in Arkham City.

Or General Var Suthra in the [Star Wars:] Old Republic game, which had literally a phone book of script for every character. It was unbelievable. But I think it’s the world’s largest online game right now. You can join up. So I play this Mon Calamari general named Var Suthra, and the whole thing takes place 3,000 years before the continuity of Star Wars. So I wasn’t locked into (in character), “It’s a trap!” So I decided he sounded (as Gene Hackman) “more like Gene Hackman. Greatest criminal mind of our time.” But that was a lot of days of work on that. Although they break it up. I’ve never done a war game where I have to do a lot of dying, falling, being blown up, being shot, that sort of thing. I guess they don’t think of me for those things, but just as well, because my throat gets beat up very easily. (In a delicate voice) It’s a very sensitive instrument.

I know you probably get asked this a lot, but what really pulled you into voice acting? And what was your first job as a voice actor?

It was a weird sort of gravity that pulled me in, and it really was a pull. I never thought of myself primarily as a voice actor; I was going for the big stand-up comedy enchilada. I started in 1977 at a club called Yuk Yuks in Toronto, which also birthed Howie Mandel, Jim Carrey, and Norm MacDonald. I was chasing after that. I’d done a couple of voiceovers up in Toronto for a company called Nelvana Films. They were annual specials. One was Easter Fever, with Garrett Morris from Saturday Night Live, who’s now on 2 Broke Girls; and I played Steve Martin and Don Rickles as animals. So it was Steed Martin and Don Rattles, and it was a roast of the Easter Bunny. That was the very first time I heard my voice come out of a cartoon character. I was nineteen; and it was magic, to hear that, and to see that, and go, “Wow, that’s me.” It was like, “I’m Fred Flintstone now.” It was astounding. I remember seeing Alan Reed on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies when I was a kid and going, “He sounds like somebody. Who does he sound like?” And I realized halfway through the episode, that’s the man who plays Fred Flintstone. That’s when I first realized it was a human being behind those moving drawings. So that was my first job.

Then I came down here for stand-up comedy, and a voiceover agent from the William Morris Agency, who I was with for my personal appearance stuff, was in the audience, and it was Nina Nisenholtz, and she said, “With all of these impressions you do, you’d be a natural for voiceovers.” And I said, “Well I was always told that was a closed shop,” and my friend was Frank Welker, and he told me he was going to try to get me started – and Frank really did talk me up around town for about a year before I got my first job; but Nina also started sending me out right about that time.

It took me a year to get my first job, and my first job was Inspector Gadget. I did one episode of The Littles, and one episode of something called Wolf Rock TV, just as a guest star thing to test me and see how I was, and then they ended up putting me on Inspector Gadget, where I was The Chief, and Henchman No. 2, and then right after that, Real Ghostbusters. So that was my entrée into cartoons. And it just kept coming. Voice acting is as close to a meritocracy in show business as you can get; if you’re good, the work will keep coming. Because they love to work with people who can do the skill of coming up with multiple characters – in animation, at least, so they don’t have to hire five actors. They can hire you and have you play five parts in the episode. So if you can deliver those goods, the work comes. So it was a steady thing; and I got sort of pulled into it, rather than taking a bunch of voiceover workshops. I’ve got a lot of friends who did study. Nancy Cartwright studied with Daws Butler – you know, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. I just never took a lesson. I don’t know why, I just seem to have a knack for doing this.

I know that you based The Brain in part on Orson Welles; and I’ve heard that you used to recite the “Frozen Peas” outtake as a warm-up exercise. Where did that come from?

We were on the job from hell. We were dubbing a French puppet show – lifesized puppets, people inside costumes – into English, and it was the longest day. It started at nine and ended at nine on New Year’s Eve. I was supposed to do the job for two hours and then make a 1:00 flight that would get me to New York. Howie Mandel was hosting an MTV party and I was supposed to go party with the MTVers, back when that was brand new. And the thing just took for-bloody-ever, and I missed the party. And I was so depressed at the end of the night, that Phil Proctor, from the Firesign Theater, who was making college students laugh when I was still in junior high school, said, “Here, this’ll cheer you up.” And he gave me a cassette with Orson Welles doing this frozen peas commercial.

So my consolation prize was, I didn’t get to party with Sting and Howie Mandel; but I did get to have a career. Because this tape that he gave me had this gold on it. Orson Welles being himself. Being a curmudgeon; and yet the more you listen to it, the more you go, “He’s right! These guys don’t know what they’re talking about.” So I listened to it backwards and forwards, and couldn’t get enough of it. And eventually I began to ape it, because that’s what I do, and it made its way into my bag of tricks. And whenever there was down time, if they were listening to the playbacks, I’d just sit there and try it out on mic, because I’d wear headphones, and (as Orson Welles) “Get me a jury and show me how you can say in July, and I’ll…go down on ya.” It was hysterical. So it amused me to do it and I wanted to see how close to the timing I could do it; because when you get somebody being themselves, that’s the best was to grab them as an impression; and get all facets of them from there on up. So that’s how that happened. [To see Maurice do the Frozen Peas impression live, click here.]

Going back to Futurama; you do many voices. Which ones did you start out with, and which were added later, and…how many do you do? Do you know?

I don’t know. A couple of years ago when we were making the direct-to-DVD movies, there was a website that somebody came out with, where they had actually listed and counted all of our characters. I think I was at seventy-two characters, counting everything – all one-offs, all recurring, all regulars. But Tress MacNeille had me beat; she had seventy-five.

What about Billy?

Billy was in the fifties; but he does the heavy lifting on the show, because he’s Fry, he’s Zoidberg, and the Professor, so he’s three people in the break room at Planet Express; and then you throw in Zapp, who’s in every fifth episode or so; and Smitty… he’s got so many characters. He topped out with fifty-something.

So your characters – you’ve got Kif, and Morbo, and Calculon, and the Mafia robots…

(In the characters) “I got the Donbot. I got Clamps! I have the country Hyper-Chicken lawyer, and oh, Hedonismbot. And Lrrr.

Which one do you enjoy the most? Do you identify with any of them?

Oh, I identify with most of them. Because any actor is only giving you parts of himself. There’s a great line in a movie called My Favorite Year, that my friend Dennis Palumbo wrote. At the end of the film, Peter O’Toole, who plays this Errol Flynn character, tells Benjy Stone, his handler from the King Kaiser Show, which is really the Sid Caesar Show, that he can’t go on. He chickens out. He’s hiding, and he’s drinking, and he goes, “I’m scared, Stone.” And Stone says, “You don’t get to be scared. You are that damn hero; and you couldn’t play that hero if you didn’t have him somewhere inside of you.” And O’Toole goes on to save the day, in the film.

But every actor gives you what’s inside of him. So every character I play is a piece of me. So even though they may draw Lrrr, the Lrrr I voice and the Lrrr I play is my own angst about being in a midlife crisis. Kif is my own shyness and my own sense that (as Kif) “maybe I’ll never quite rise to Zapp Brannigan’s rank, but certainly I hope that I may one day save Amy with a buggalo,” you know, or something like that. Morbo is…very different from Lrrr. Completely different.

Do you really want to eat kittens?

(As Morbo) “They give me gas!” You know; there are foods that give me gas. So I relate to that. Everybody’s a little piece of me. (As Clamps) “I won’t tell you where Clamps comes from!” It’s my parenting skills.

Let’s go back to Animaniacs. You did other characters on there as well, didn’t you?

I was the Ray Liotta-based Squit, in the Goodfeathers. (As Squit) “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Goodfeather. If you were a Goodfeather, you had it all.” Martin Scorsese apparently loved the Goodfeathers. He and Spielberg were friends, and when that was on, Spielberg would just send him tapes of the Goodfeathers episodes as they came out. He dug that we were paying tribute to him.

And you did that West Side Pigeons episode…

I had a lot of singing in that. But they really worked with me; I’m not a natural singer. So Steve and Julie Bernstein and Rich Stone, God rest his soul, really walked me through it, and we rehearsed for a couple of days, and worked with the tapes. The way I practice singing, you’ve got to give me something that has only melody on it. If you give me anything with harmony, I’m lost. Because I start singing up in the harmony, and then back down to the melody; I’m not a natural musician, like my son. So I did that.

One of my favorites was playing Michelangelo in “Hooked on a Ceiling.” It was a nice little twist. It was Michelangelo, but we didn’t go Charlton Heston; we went Kirk Douglas. So it was like, (as Kirk Douglas) “What have you done to my ceiling? My beautiful ceiling!” Or Miles Standish as Richard Burton, (as Richard Burton) “Ohh, my Petey Pajamas, I loved him so.” So all the people that the Warners annoy, I got to play.

Now that Animaniacs is back on TV, do you see a resurgence in interest? The younger generation finding the show?

The Hub has just started running the original Animaniacs again, and they’ve got a big viewership. I’ve got another show on The Hub called Transformers: Rescue Bots, where I play the patriarch of a family of first responders, and the Transformers that come pick our vehicles; so there’s a police car character, and a fire truck character, a tractor character, because one of the sons is a civil engineer, and a helicopter. So The Hub putting these on is giving it a resurgence; but it’s yet to see quite the impact – I’m not quite sure where it is yet.

I think the cartoons are timeless. We did a lot of timely references, and there are maybe a few too many Clinton jokes in there; but with Clinton being back in the news – Obama keeps pulling him back into the spotlight – he’s hip again. Other than that, I think the show has legs. If a 1990s generation loved it, why wouldn’t a twenty-teens generation love it? Especially since the Pinky and the Brain piece of it is so relationship-based; it’s not based on timely humor. It’s based on the dynamic between these two characters, and that plays no matter what – an odd couple that really do love each other even if they are annoyed with each other, That was always the fun.

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened between takes; because I’ve heard that that’s when the most fun happens.

We-ell, it’s got a dirty word in it.

Okay, shoot!

It’s a moment that came from Tress MacNeille. At one particular time we were all on a show where the executive producer had become extremely religious, almost overnight; so there was to be no sexual innuendo, and certainly no swearing. So the executive producer was there, we did the table read, we read through, and then he said, “Alright, I guess you guys have got it. I’m going to go back to the studio.” And we all watched as he left, and then we were quiet as the door closed behind him; and then Tress breaks the silence with: “Now we can say fuck!” in that old lady voice that she’s got; that smoker’s voice? And I must have laughed for five minutes.

Just the way she hit the word now. It’s like, the door closed, and then: “Now we can say fuck!” That might be my favorite studio story. Tress MacNeille is unbelievable. I think – and I’ve worked with so many greats, and everybody’s really at the top of their profession – but to me, Tress is the pinnacle. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter, she’s the pinnacle of what a voice actor is. She’s the best. I say to myself, “I gotta get as good as Tress.” That’s the way I feel.

I haven’t ever seen her at a con…

We finally got her out to Comic Con this past year, because Matt Groening asked her especially, because we had the full cast of Futurama, and we showed the first third of the last episode, then we table-read the second act with the full cast – Dave Herman, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, myself, Tress, and Billy, John, and Katie. The first time we’d all been assembled at Comic Con. It was pretty legendary. Tress went specially for Matt; and it was also our goodbye, too.

But you know what; at the end, they gave us a standing ovation. And when 5,000 people get on their feet because you’ve done a good job since 1999, it’s kind of touching, and moving. I think for Tress, it showed her that people really do care about the work, because she kind of keeps to herself, and I think she’s understanding that people do care; people do love the show and our work. And that’s great.

Well I certainly do love your work! And thank you so much for your time!

I hope everyone enjoyed this interview with the amazing Maurice LaMarche; and until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Emily S. Whitten: Zachary Levi– Thor 2, First Date & Nerd Machine

Whitten Art 131025I’ve always been a fan of musicals and have seen a fair few on Broadway – from the musical that was an actual yearly field trip for eight graders in my New Jersey school, Cats, to that great production of Les Miserables with the rotating stage. I’ve also been a fan of the TV show Chuck from its debut all the way through the final season. So when Zachary Levi mentioned during the Nerd HQ panel I attended at SDCC that he was going to be starring in a musical on Broadway, First Date, I knew I had to see it.

Fortunately, the New York Comic Con was already on my calendar, so before the con I went to see First Date – and boy, am I glad I did! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard throughout a live show in… well, maybe ever. And yet there was also substance and seriousness to the plot and characterization that balanced out the humor, a perfect blend of entertainment and wry and wise observations about life, human nature, and the modern dating world.

The premise of the show is pretty simple – it’s about a blind first date, and all of the things that might go wrong or right in that situation. But it’s not just about the couple on the blind date, Aaron and Casey. As the website says, during the date “Casey and Aaron’s inner critics take on a life of their own when other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents, who sing and dance them through ice-breakers, appetizers and potential conversational land mines.” Is that as awesome and hilarious as it sounds? Yes, yes it is; and the cast portraying those characters, from Zac Levi and Krysta Rodriguez as the main couple, to the other five actors who are often playing more than one character, is stellar, and gave an energetic and engaging performance.

The main couple are a hoot to watch, being quirky and many-faceted all on their own; but the supporting cast is what really allows this musical to explore so many perspectives. From the “perfect” older sister who has the married life that Casey says she wants, to Aaron’s manipulative ex, to Casey’s flamboyant best friend who is also her designated “bail out call” person for if the date isn’t going well. The other characters in the main couple’s life do a great job embodying the pressures and influences people can experience while they’re out dating and trying to find “The One.” And while the premise is simple, the territory explored by the plot is broad, and ranges over everything from potential religious differences to how our online footprint might affect us in real life.

Broad as it may be, though, the plot flows easily and the production is well-designed and choreographed. Overall, the musical is clever, witty, and frequently hilarious. It’s insightful and endearing; if you’ve ever been a single person trying to do the dating thing, it’s also very easy to identify with… and maybe even learn from. The only other thing I can say about it is: Go see it! You won’t regret it.

You also won’t regret reading on, because after seeing First Date, I was fortunate to also be able to talk to Zac Levi about it and the rest of his career at The Nerd Machine booth at NYCC. Here’s the interview!

•     •     •     •     •

Let’s first talk about the Broadway musical you’re currently starring in, First Date, because I just saw it, and I loved it – especially the song about the ex; you knocked that out of the park.
Thank you! Yeah, that’s a fun song.

So how did you get involved in that production, and can you talk about your previous stage experience?

Well, I grew up doing a lot of theater when I was a kid. The last show I did was about twelve years ago; and I always dreamt about doing Broadway one day. Fortunately, I’ve been really blessed, and I’ve been able to do film and television for the last dozen years; but I was just kind of waiting for the right opportunity, and then this show came along and I just felt like, “you know, this could be really fun.” It’s an hour and a half, no intermission, it’s a comedy, there are only seven people in the cast – it’s lean and mean and I thought “I think people might really enjoy this.” And people have, and so it’s been great.

Great; and I know it’s running now. For people who want to see it, how long will it run?

Well, the idea is for the show to run indefinitely. My contract for the show is up the first week of January. There’s a possibility that I could extend, but I don’t know that for sure – it just depends on what work looks like at that time. So I would say that if you really want to see me in the show, you should come before the beginning of January. But I would tell anybody – you never know with Broadway stuff, the show could close so fast. So if you want to come see the show, come see the show now!

Yes! It looked like you were having a lot of fun in the show, and I know you’ve done TV, movies, voice acting and stage. Do you have any thoughts about those different experiences?

They’re all very different. I don’t know that I like any one more than the others. They all have their unique set of challenges and fun that can be had.

Did you come to the stage first?

Yes; I mean, as a kid, that’s what you do. There are not a lot of kids doing, like, community voiceover work. You have community theater and school theater. So stage was definitely where I started.

What was your first ever role?

Of an actual production? I think it was Sonny, one of the T-Birds in Grease. I think I was about eleven.

That’s pretty cool! So I have to ask, with First Date – do you identify with the musical at all? Because I was watching it and thinking, “I’ve so been there.” Or, “My friend has been there.”

Sure, yeah. I think that’s part of the reason why I wanted to do it, and why I think a lot of people enjoy it, is because it’s very relatable. So definitely I do. In fact, in some ways I almost didn’t do the show, because I felt like the character was so similar to Chuck, and I was like, “I’ve already played that character” but then I thought, “Well, yeah, but it’s just a fun way to do it – on stage, with some music.”

I was actually thinking that – it’s a little bit like Chuck, but I think you brought enough to the character that they had written that it wasn’t Chuck – it was Aaron.

Right, it’s not – it was similar, but they’re not the same.

Well I really enjoyed it! Now, I know that you are in Thor: The Dark World, which is coming out really soon, and I’m super excited. Every time I see the trailer on TV I clap. So tell us about being Fandral the Dashing.

Well, Fandral is this Errol Flynn-Lothario type who’s a ladies man, but also arguably the best swordsman in Asgard – or the Nine Realms, I think he would argue. And I mean, the movie is really still Thor and Jane; it’s their movie.

How much do we get of you and the other Warriors Three and Sif?

I really don’t know, because you never know how much of what you shot ends up in it; but I hope there are at least a few cool moments where people go, “Yeah! That kicked ass!” That’s all I’m hoping.

You were originally cast in that and then you were replaced by Josh Dallas due to your schedule; and now you’ve replaced him due to his schedule.

Yeah, it was very, very strange how that all worked. We’ve definitely joked about it – I’ve met Josh before, and he’s just a sweetheart of a guy and super talented, and it was very funny how all of that ended up panning out. But I was grateful that ultimately – after having completely let go of the job, because I thought “this is never happening” – then it came back around. That was kind of like, “Wow, this is very strange.”

Totally. Now I know you’re a comics fan; are you a fan of Thor comics? Had you read about your character before the movie role?

I was definitely familiar with Fandral to an extent, but I really got to know him actually when the first movie came around and I was getting cast; and then a little bit more for this one. But honestly, there’s not that much to find in the comics. The Warriors Three are definitely within Thor mythology, but there’s not that much.

Yes – they help with things but aren’t really the focus.

Yes; but in some ways that’s kind of fun, because it allows you to put your own mark on something, where fanboys and fangirls aren’t like, “Waitaminute! That’s not Fandral!”

Definitely! Do you think it’s still true to the character that you’ve seen in the comics?

I think so. It’s funny, Thor was never really my steez, necessarily. Like, I had Thor comics, and particularly with the Avengers.

I have to admit, I’m the same way. I love the movie, but Thor was always the guy I was sort of reading about on the side, because he was on the periphery of a story or part of a team.

Yeah, and I don’t know, for me – because everybody’s got their flavor of what entices them the most in the comic world –I really liked the mutant world probably the most.

Yeah! The X-Men and all that.

And X-Factor, and X-Force.

And actually, on that note, my favorite character is Deadpool; and I heard you mention that he’s your favorite character.

He’s my favorite villain, yeah.

Well he’s not always a villain! He did save the world…

Well – when I grew up reading him, in the beginning, he was a villain, through and through.

Yeah, in the beginning he was. So do you have a favorite writer or storyline or anything?

Oh, gosh! I don’t know that I could speak to that. I’m mostly nerdy about video games and technology…

What are you playing right now, video game-wise?

I’m actually not really playing anything right now. I left my Xbox back in L.A., because I really wanted to focus on doing the play, and I knew that the new Xbox was coming out in November, so I was like, “I’m just going to wait for that.” And then I’ll probably get lost in Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’ll be lost in that for months and months and months and months.

I bet. So we talked a bit about your voiceover work. You were one of the leads in Tangled. What was your experience like, doing that? Was that your first real big voiceover work?

Oh, yeah! Pretty much my first and only voiceover work. It was amazing. Ever since I was a little kid, I was a giant Disney fan, so to be able to get to do a Disney animated musical – what I’d dreamt about doing my whole life – was like, “Wow, this is really happening.” And singing Alan Menken’s music and everything.

Do you want to do more voiceover?

Oh, totally; I’d love to.

And some of the voice acting greats were in Tangled – like Frank Welker… did you get to work directly with Frank, or John DiMaggio, or some of the other career voice actors?

No; in fact, I didn’t get to work with any of them! I didn’t even get to work with Mandy (Moore). The only time Mandy and I ever worked together is when we recorded the song. But all of the dialogue is all recorded totally separately.

Let’s talk about The Nerd Machine, now, because we’re standing here in your awesome place with phone chargers and photo ops and everything–

In mah booth!

Yeah! Now when did you start The Nerd Machine?

The Nerd Machine started… I think maybe it was 2011. We started the company about a year before we had the first actual Nerd HQ. We launched with just one t-shirt. With just the classic “NERD.” And the idea was just, “I wanted to make a Nike for nerds.” Because there are so many different nerd-doms, right? And if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you can get a Doctor Who shirt. And if you’re a Star Wars fan, you can get a Star Wars shirt; and that’s great. But I really wanted to have one brand that unified all of them, so no matter what you’re nerdy about, you can just represent it very simply, very clearly: “I’m a nerd; that’s what I’m about.” So that’s what we’ve built on through the years, and our branding is simple, and it’s straight. It’s like “We’re a brand for you.”

Yes – so I have to ask, why “nerd” and not “geek”?

A couple of reasons. One, phonetically I like how nerd sounds more than I like geek. Geek is a little too hard consonant. And there was just a lot of wordplay that I was thinking about, like “Nerd is the word” and all that kind of stuff. But honestly, one of the biggest was, the first shirt that I had ever thought of was the original NERD shirt; and the reason why it works so well is because it’s the Nintendo sort of font… so it’s funny, the reason why you end up deciding what something is going to ultimately be. And the other reason, too, was that I felt like “geek” was being used a lot online with Geekology and Geek Chic, and all that, and I wanted to get away from that and do my own thing. By the way – I was totally unaware of Nerdist at the time! I knew Chris (Hardwick), but I wasn’t even thinking about it.

Well, and his brand has gotten exponentially bigger since then.

Oh, yeah. He’s a friggin’ empire!

Yeah. Now, The Nerd Machine benefits Operation Smile, which I think is great. What drew you to that particular charity?

I really think God kind of spoke to me. I was trying to find a charity that I could be an ambassador for. You know, as a celebrity, you do a lot of non-profit stuff, and you’re always asked, “What’s your charity of choice?” and I never really had one. So I was about to do another singing engagement/charity benefit thing, and I was like, “What could be a cool charity to benefit?” and I was praying about it, and thinking about it, and then in one week I saw about five commercials and five billboards. And I was like, “Oh – I believe this is what I’m supposed to cling to.”

That’s great. So tell me, what is the future of The Nerd Machine? I know that it’s gotten a little bigger since 2011, and I like the fact that it’s still being kept to a smaller scale.

Yeah, we’re always going to maintain the intimacy of our activations. The company will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to do more things, but the idea is to always keep those events as things that are special.

Are you planning to do what you did at San Diego at one of the future New York cons?

Yeah, in fact the original idea was that we were going to do a Nerd HQ out here in New York. It’s difficult. San Diego Comic Con brings every star in the world. And so it’s easy then to be like, “Hey, would you mind popping by for an hour and doing a panel?” NYCC is getting there. NYCC has a lot of talent now, and is growing more and more every year… But it doesn’t quite have the same; so in order for us to get the sponsorship money to put on our own little con like that – you really need to be able to bring the talent. So maybe in the future.

Great! Well I look forward to that future, and thank you so much for your time.

Hope you all enjoyed the interview! And if you’re a New Yorker or heading to New York City sometime soon, don’t forget to get tickets to First Date. Trust me, you’ll love it.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander!

 

Take a look at “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” trailer

Captain America returns! Here’s the official first trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier — in US theaters April 4, 2014. The sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier.

Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1941, Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. The executive producers are Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Alan Fine and Stan Lee. The film releases April 4, 2014, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Emily S. Whitten: TMNT & Ciro Nieli & Greg Cipes

Whitten Art 131022As promised in my New York Comic Con round-up last week, this week I bring to you the awesome chats I had there with executive producer Ciro Nieli and Michelangelo voice actor Greg Cipes of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series on Nickelodeon (and if you missed it before, I’ve previously interviewed the spectacular Rob Paulsen, voice of Donatello). Ciro and Greg were both absolutely delightful to speak with, and shared some great insights on the show.

If you haven’t given the current TMNT a shot yet (maybe because you were loyal to the original; or you’ve never watched TMNT before; or you’re an adult so why would you be watching a kids’ show…) you are totally missing out. I’m a fan of the original series (having watched from the very first episode at the age of maybe six or seven), and until this series, haven’t really been interested in any of the ones following that, because they just didn’t grab my attention (and, honestly, the live-action versions just plain freaked me out). But when I learned that Rob Paulsen, voice of the original Raphael, was going to be voicing Donatello, I knew I had to give this show a try.

The first couple of minutes of watching were spent getting used to the unique animation style; and then the rest of the time was spent completely falling in love with the new visual style, the storyline and humor, and the new voices and quirks of the characters. The current show is full of humor, warmth, action, and adventure, and pays homage to the original animated and comic book series’ without being in the least bit stale or unoriginal. It’s also grown over the course of the first season along with the Turtles, who have begun exploring the world outside of the sewers and encountering serious problems and responsibilities. By the end of Season 1 and first episode of Season 2, the show has entered some pretty dark and serious territory; but happily, appears to be holding on to the humor and sense of fun that made the show so appealing in the first place. I can’t wait to see where they go with it from here.

So without further ado, let’s see what a couple of the folks involved had to say about that and the show in general! Read on for the interview transcripts, or head on over to YouTube and watch the video interviews there!

•     •     •     •     •

Greg Cipes (voice of Michelangelo)

(YouTube video: Click here.)

Greg, you are known as the voice of Michelangelo on the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, which is fantastic.

Yes, I am Mikey.

I know that, like me, you were a fan of the original show, because I’ve heard you talk about it on Rob’s Talkin’ Toons podcast. When you were a kid, what else did you watch?

Only the Turtles. Do you mean now, or back then?

Either one!

Really back then, it was all about the Turtles; and back then I didn’t watch too much TV other than the Turtles because I wanted to go outside and play. I wanted to go outside and skateboard like the Turtles. I wanted to go to karate class and learn martial arts like the Turtles. So it really influenced me a lot.

That’s really cool. How old were you when you first started watching it?

Eight years old.

And was Michelangelo always your favorite?

Yeah, Mikey was always my favorite. Although I probably dressed up as a Turtle for Halloween many, many times; and I’ve probably been all the Turtles.

Have you ever been Splinter?

No, not yet! This Halloween.

Yeah, maybe this Halloween! It’s coming up. So of course you’ve done a lot of voiceover; but as a huge Turtles fan, what was it like getting the role of Michelangelo?

Oh my gosh, when Ciro Nieli told me he was making the new show; I’ve worked with Ciro on Teen Titans, and his show called Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! that he created. It’s a great show. So he said, I’m doing Turtles, and I want you to be a Turtle, and I was like, “What?” It just seemed like a dream, right? I was like, “Really?” And of course I had to go through the casting process, which took like, a year. And then when I got the phone call, and the contract, the deal came through, it was really maybe one of the best days of my life.

That’s really cool. Did you call everybody you knew, like, “Guess what??”

Yeah: “I’m a Turtle!!”

And did they all say, “We knew it would happen someday?”

I guess so, yeah. It just made sense. You know, Nickelodeon hired me because they felt like I really am the real life Mikey.

It sounds like it, from your hobbies and everything. Now of course Rob Paulsen was on the original (1987) series, and is on the new one. What’s it like working with someone who was in the original franchise?

Well, it’s cool. I honestly don’t remember what any of the Turtles sound like from the original show at all; nor did I listen to them – so what I brought to Mikey was just me.

Did you do that on purpose, so you could bring your own spin?

Yeah; well I don’t watch much of anything these days, because I’m still very active. I like to be doing things rather than watching TV; unless the Turtles are on! But I didn’t do any kind of research to go back and listen to anything; I just brought myself to it, and what I felt Mikey would be; which is ultimately me; a dimension of myself.

With the new Turtles, what do you think about the direction of the show, and the look of the show, which is so different?

Oh, it’s so cool. So cool. I think it’s the hottest thing on TV right now; better than any live-action show. It’s set a new standard in the animation world, as far as TV animation goes. Every episode’s a stand-alone movie. Like, a feature film quality animated CG thing; but it’s not just CG, it’s this new mix of…Ciro’s notorious for creating new, groundbreaking styles of animation like he did with Teen Titans. It’s got the anime thing mixed with the comic book thing and the CG thing; and there’s all kinds of…

It looks a little bit like a video game sometimes.

Yes, and that too! It’s just got everything going on. It’s like candy for your eyes.

It is! I actually went into it unsure if I’d like it because I really loved the old one; but then I started watching it and I was like, “This is the best thing!” So with the storylines, do you like where that’s going? Do you know anything about what’s in store for Mikey?

I know everything that’s in store, but I can’t tell you anything! I mean, Mikey’s growing up a little bit; he’s got more experience; he’s wiser. But he really hasn’t changed – he’s still very free-spirited. He’s a “now-ist.” He’s just wild; and it’s really fun to play someone like that. He brings that out in me. But he does become more intelligent based on experience, as we all do; so he kind of maybe steps into the leader roll more.

Cool! I enjoy that it started with them not being so sure of themselves and growing. So do you have a favorite episode from the last season?

My favorite episode from Season 1? Oh my gosh, it’s so hard to go back. I really am a now-ist; I don’t think about the future, I don’t think about the past; so once I’ve experienced it, and I’ve done it, I don’t think about it again. So for me to go back is difficult. Also because we’ve done so many episodes; and I do eight other cartoons; all these different worlds mesh together.

That’s fair! I personally loved the one where he had the tPod.

The tPod, of course! It’s always so fun to play Mikey, that every episode’s really cool; very fun. And they always give me fun situations to be in.

Yes. I’ve heard that recording with everybody can be a lot of fun. Do you have any good stories about that?

Actually, you know what, I do have a good story – working with Roseanne Barr. She plays Kraang Prime; and she’s awesome. She’s so funny. And she’s a friend of mine, and before she got the role, they were like, “Who’s going to play Kraang Prime?” And I was like, “It should be Roseanne.” And it was such a so-far-out-there casting choice, but Ciro was into it, and we made it happen. So it was really cool to have her on the show and work with her.

That’s really neat. So as you said, you’re working on eight other shows. Tell me a bit about what else you’re doing now.

Well, I’m on a show called Teen Titans Go!, which is a wild, crazy, funny, goofy show, that keeps getting crazier. I’m on Ultimate Spider-Man; I play Iron Fist, Danny Rand. And I can’t say much, but I’ve been hired on [The Legend of] Korra. I’m on The Middle on ABC; they keep having me back; and recently I just finished a big arc on Anger Management with Charlie Sheen – these are live-action shows. I’ve got a couple of movies coming out; and I’m also producing and directing my own TV stuff now. I have a company that I just started with Rose McGowan; a television/film production company, called RMGC Productions, and we’re creating our own original content and going around and pitching it, and making these things happen ourselves.

That’s awesome. So are you in the pitching process? Has something been picked up?

I can’t say, but we are pitching a lot of original things that we’ve created.

That’s really cool; and do you have a place where people can keep up on some of that?

Yeah, GregCipes.com.

Great. Now talking about live-action versus voice over work, what’s the difference in those experiences? Do you prefer one or the other, or have any insights for people who are aspiring to be one or the other?

Well, everyone’s always asked me, “How can you do all of it?” Because not only am I an actor – I’m a musician, I’m a director, I’m a surfer, I’m a painter; but ultimately where I make money is in the entertainment world in general, and specifically acting. And a lot of it’s from animation. But – just do what you love. I do it all. I do movies, TV shows, animation, music, all of it. Just do it. Because if you love it, that’s all that matters. So you just do it, if you love it, and you’ll get better and better at it – and then people will want to hire you.

Excellent advice. Now with music, I know you play guitar and had a CD out. Are you working on something new with that?

Yeah, I’m putting out a solo album, entitled Cipes. That’s coming out soon, and I’m going to start releasing singles, and funny, wild music videos. And I also put a music video out recently; a side project called Super Space Fighters, which is based on a comic book that I’ve created. And there’s a music video right now called “International Kid Notorious” on YouTube. But really I’m focusing on my solo career now. Oh, and I put an album out in 2007, with my band called Cipes and the People, and that was called “The Conscious Revolution.”

That’s really cool; and thank you so much for the interview, Greg.

•     •     •     •     •

Ciro Nieli (executive producer)

(YouTube video: Click here.)

I know you were a fan of TMNT as a child, as was I. Coming into this project as someone who was a fan of the franchise, what was your experience getting into the new show?

Well, the one thing about Turtles was that I worked on a lot of projects, and Turtles would always be happening, somewhere, somehow, and I would not be a part of it. And I would just watch it go by and be like, “Damn! I missed Turtles again.” And then I would be like, “Eh, whatever. I did something cool instead, and that’s not my Turtles.” So to be able to finally get to do my Turtles? I mean when I went in to pitch it, it was so exciting to be able to just go, “This is my version of it” and for them to say, “Hey, that sounds good. Let’s try it.”

And a lot of it was just love for the original series. The original comic series; that Mirage Volume One.

Right; and the original animated series was also great. I know that there are some references to the original animated series, as well as, of course, the same mythology. I loved when they had Michelangelo with the 1987 Mikey face over his own [the “tattoo of my face…on my face!” bit]. So is that something that you do, or that everyone does together, or how does that work out?

It depends. Back then, it was more me doing it, because the writers were just kind of more focused on the story. Now I have a little bit of a different relationship with my story editor; so we’ll do things now…where it used to be just the board artists were adding things like what you’re talking about, which is way more visual, now it’s a little more tied in. Like we watch the old series sometimes, and we’ll actually re-use lines and stuff like that. We find ways to slip it in that’s not even overt. It just starts to feel like the brand.

So super-fans might notice, but not everybody.

Yeah, I mean, people will call it out. They’ll be like, “Oh my God, that was like, this episode, where Mikey said this,” and you’ll be like, “Wow, that’s so weird, that you remember that.” Because we’ll watch it, and go, “Oh, let’s write that down.” And then we put it up on the wall.

That’s fantastic. Now of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was not your first project. Can you tell me a little about your background in all of this?

I started in animation years ago. When I first got to L.A., my first job was on Family Guy. I was a board artist; actually a revisionist storyboard artist. And then I did a bunch of other stuff online; and then eventually I found my way, in terms of bigger jobs, to Warner Bros. Eventually there I became a director on Teen Titans. That’s where I met Cipes for the first time. He was Beast Boy, Garfield Logan; and then after that…I moved around a lot. I went to Disney; I had my own show there, called Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! Which Cipes was in as well. He was a boy who found a giant robot that was inhabited by cyborg chimps, and he learned the power of Monkey Fu, and fought demons from hell, basically. It was awesome. We did that in Japan; that was a great period in my life.

Were you actually in Japan, doing that? How long were you there?

Yes. We did that project for about four years. And during that time I was back and forth a lot, sometimes months at a time. I learned some Japanese. After that, I bumped back around to the studios. I did some stuff for Warner Bros., some Batman stuff. I was the showrunner on Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the first season, which was great, getting to do the Marvel thing. And then I think that kind of segued right into Turtles. I didn’t really have any time off in between those gigs, so…Turtles just kept rolling. Like, that’s what you do, you work – while you’re on one project, you try and get the next one going.

Sure! So as I said, I watched the original, and I hadn’t watched any of the ones between that and this, because they just never appealed to me. But I watched this one, in part because Rob [Paulsen] is on it, and I love Rob as a voice actor; and I just love the new show. It’s fantastic. It has a lot of humor and a lot of heart. Was that part of your vision, that you wanted to bring to it?

I mean, the whole thing that we always wanted to do was to make the fighting more accurate; make the funny funny, and then actually have a strong sense of drama. I’m one of those kids – like, the first movie that kind of blew my mind was Empire Strikes Back, and the thing that you could say about Empire is that that’s the show where the heroes get their ass kicked, and lick their wounds a lot. And there’s something about that – to actually have that sense of gravity and loss and stakes means a lot. So to balance that against humor is perfect. And I work with funny guys. I think we genuinely try to be really funny, and scary, all the time.

I heard that the original 1987 cast is coming back. How is that going to work?

Well, not to blow it out of proportion – it’s just a big cameo. But it’s great. Without giving too much away – the Turtles get lost in some dimensional portals, and they kind of look into the Eighties a little bit.

That’s fantastic. I can’t wait to see it, and thank you so much!

•     •     •     •     •

Well, I hope you guys got as big a kick out of these interviews as I did! Thanks again to Ciro and Greg for their time, and the folks at Nickelodeon for setting this up, and until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold