Tagged: Nickelodeon

Emily S. Whitten: TMNT Season 5 & Rise of the TMNT – There & Back Again?

The current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated TV series is now in its fifth and final season, scheduled to wrap on November 12, 2017. It makes me saaaaaad, because I love not only TMNT (original flavor to present) and this current show but every member of this series’ cast and crew that I’ve met while covering the show (and thanks to Nickelodeon for inviting me to continually cover each season of this freaking awesome TV show). The folks who make this show are amazing, and I feel privileged to have been able to follow their journey through the seasons to its end.

Despite the impending finish of the series, however, there’s a lot of awesomeness that’s been going on this season, and I expect (particularly given what Ciro Nieli said in our most recent interview, and my knowledge of his, Brandon Auman’s, and other crew members’ dedication to respecting this property and getting the stories right) that it will end as perfectly as the rest of the series has developed. As part of that, this season we’ve already gotten an extra-cool addition to the series cast, Miyamoto Usagi of Usagi Yojimbo, the anthropomorphic rabbit rōnin whom creator Stan Sakai based partially on the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

Thanks (as always) to Nickelodeon, I got to sit down to talk about this season with Executive Producer Ciro Nieli, Rob Paulsen (voice actor, Donatello), Stan Sakai (creator, Usagi Yojimbo), and Yuki Matsuzaki (voice actor, Miyamoto Usagi). We chatted about Usagi’s appearance in this TMNT series and about the end of the current show.

In particular, we discussed the history of intersections between TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo; how Usagi’s appearance came about in this series; Yuki’s casting and how he prepared for his first animation/voice acting role; Yuki’s reverence for Stan’s work and concern about getting the voice right in Stan’s eyes; Ciro’s focus on casting a Japanese actor for Usagi and general approach to casting; and everyone’s respect for this beloved intellectual property. We also talked about Ciro’s emotional preparation to move on from the series (which I could sense when I toured the Nickelodeon studio earlier this year and visited with him – his love of TMNT and being a part of it are so palpable any time you talk with him) and the determination he and everyone involved have to end the show right.

It was great to talk with everyone about this final season, and as always, I’m glad to share that chat with you here. Check out the video below for the full interview:

Despite my sadness at the End of an Era, I’m looking forward to enjoying a proper finish to the amazing execution of TMNT in the current show. And although I can’t say how any new interpretation of the show will grab me (particularly given, let’s be honest, how much I love the current era of TMNT, and how watching any new version will thus be bittersweet), it is noteworthy that Nickelodeon has announced 26 episodes of a reboot of TMNT called Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Details are scarce, although we do know that Andy Suriano (character designer for Samurai Jack) and Ant Ward (supervising producer on the current TMNT series) are producing the series; but obviously I’ll at least have to give it a chance and see how it goes.

But before then, I’ll be wrapping Season 5 of the current series with y’all and feeling the same pangs of sadness I assume are creeping up on all TMNT fans. Hang in there, fellow Turtles fans. At least we’ll always have these five seasons of awesomeness to console us.

So until this season ends, BOOYAKASHA! And also, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: Nickelodeon, Squishy Seats… and Me!

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Nickelodeon Animation Studio and their new Entertainment Lab in Burbank, CA. I chatted with Chris Young, Senior Vice President for the Entertainment Lab; Chris Savino, creator of The Loud House; and Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, creator of Shimmer and Shine. I played around in their newly developed immersive and interactive VR experience; sat in on a recording session for Shimmer and Shine; stopped in to say hi to Ciro Nieli, executive producer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and see his cool office; and viewed all kinds of creativity in progress during the studio tour.

And let me tell you: the experience was awesome.

As in, so awesome, I’m wondering how Alternate Me could get a job there. Because let’s be honest – there are office jobs that look like The Office, and then there are workplaces like Nickelodeon, which has slime stairs, a SpongeBob wall, weird egg-cup like chairs that tip you in circles until you feel like maybe you’re going to fall backwards but you don’t, full-sized versions of cartoon characters just sitting around, rotating art exhibits, squishy seats shaped like the iconic Nickelodeon Splat, outdoor creative collaboration areas, and walls and walls of stills from their shows and white boards filled with creative notes and doodles.

And in the midst of all that is the Entertainment Lab, a new unit that will spearhead long-range research and development efforts around new technologies for Nick and its audience. There, I met with Chris Young, who invited me in to the immersive multiplayer virtual reality game they’re developing right now, the VR Slime Zone. Since it’s VR, the game requires a headset through which you view and hear the action. It also uses left and right handheld joysticks that you can walk around with. Once in the game, you can pick a Nickelodeon character to be, and then there are several activities to try.

When I played, first I got used to moving – both walking around on a real-world area of carpet to walk in the game, and teleporting my character to different spots using the controls. Then we were shown the slime gun, which can be used to – you guessed it – slime other players for points! Super-fun! In addition to that, you could use the slime gun to play a shooting gallery game. And if you wanted some variety, there was also a basketball court where you could shoot hoops (I was decent with the gun but throwing the weightless basketballs took some getting used to – I never did make a basket!); and for the more creative types, tubes of different-colored paints you could pick up and use to paint in the air.

What’s really cool about this game-in-progress – beyond the endless varieties of interactive activities the lab could potentially design for it – is that it’s a real-time VR interaction with other players. Some of the Nickelodeon folks hopped into the game with me to show me its features and interact; and Chris envisions that friends could play with each other in this space from their individual homes, in a more immersive experience than you can get from, say, playing a regular video game together.

After the demo, I sat down with Chris and he shared with me more of his thoughts about the new Lab and his goals for it:

“As Senior VP for the Entertainment Lab, my focus has been looking at new technology and how we can use it to create new forms of content or the tools that we use to create that content. One thing I do is look at using game engine technologies to create a real-time universe that uses virtual reality and mixed reality. …In the last half-year, we’ve been looking at the Lab with a more entertainment focus; to look at new ways of connecting some of this technology to live-action or to games and our recreation and consumer products business. There’s a cool opportunity right now around location-based technology – out-of-home experiences that might work in a retail or recreation-type setting.”

Chris also talked about the more future-focused aspect that exists for this Lab:

“The Lab really looks two to three years out, identifying new technology and cool ways we might use it to entertain our audience. It’s hard to predict what the future of entertainment is going to look like. The real opportunity right now is to experiment around with different ideas. For instance, the Slime Zone VR is a suggestion for what a Nick metaverse might be in the future, where you could connect with your friends and your family, and have these shared experiences around Nick IP. In the VR, you can interact, you can make art, you can watch cartoons, and you can run around with a slime blaster and slime each other…”

But Chris noted that the Lab is not just about bringing this interactive entertainment to the masses:

“A big focus of what we are trying to do here as well is to give these tools to the artists who work at Nickelodeon and help them see the potential for different ways for seeing things, or maybe unlock an idea.”

I bet a lot of cool ideas will come out of the Lab! You can listen to my whole interview with Chris Young here.

And speaking of cool ideas, I then sat down with Chris Savino and we talked about his show, The Loud House. The Loud House follows 11-year-old Lincoln Loud as he gives an inside look at what it takes to survive in the bedlam of a big family, especially as the only boy with 10 sisters. The show came about as after it was pitched as a two-minute short during Nickelodeon’s annual Animated Shorts Program. It was really great hearing Chris’s insights into working in animation for the last twenty-six years and on his show, which happily, I can share here!

We first discussed how things have changed with the internet, and how new talents can be discovered via that sharing.

“I am impressed with how much bravery kids have in putting their work out there and showing it, regardless of all the competition. But as much as things change they stay the same. I think it all boils down to talent – if you’re on the artist side, you kind of have to have it. And there has to be an awareness when you’re looking at other people’s work regarding whether they have a talent. Talent aside, there’s a need for understanding what the job entails; and the bigger picture of what your part of the job is giving to the whole. Sometimes it’s hard to get a perspective on that. But circling back around, the things that stay the same are that it’s all about storytelling and character – that is key. It’s also about using your role to make the story better than it was before you got it.”

Regarding how Chris came up with The Loud House, he shared:

“I’m a guy who admittedly has very few ideas; and when I have an idea that I like, it is with me for a long time. It could be years before I even show anybody anything about an idea… Over the years I have pitched a number of shows, but with this particular show, I was guaranteed a short after pitching three ideas to Nickelodeon’s Animated Shorts Program. The Loud House was originally a pitch about a boy rabbit with twenty-five sisters. I think Nickelodeon gravitated toward that pitch because it was about a big family, and they were looking for a big family. And the notion of me being from a big family – five boys and five girls – intrigued them. I think they thought it could bring authenticity to the project.

When it was suggested that the characters become human, I did start connecting the dots and pulling from my life. As they became human characters I started to connect with them more, and I realized that was what the show needed to get the audience to connect.”

Chris and I also talked in great detail about the development and growth of the show:

“For the first thirteen half-hours, I wanted to try to stay in the house as much as possible, because it was created like a microcosm of the world around them. That hallway was designed to feel like a street that they all lived on, but then you could go into their different domains and experience whatever their character is experiencing. But we knew eventually we needed to venture out. So we slowly expanded outwards from there.

While keeping Lincoln in the forefront, we were able to tell stories where even when he was the main character, the character who had the emotional arc was one of the sisters. And of course they had friends, and we started to show them more. Another thing that changed was showing the parents’ faces, which we didn’t show in the beginning. If the parents’ faces were shown, the idea was they’d have more of a role in the episode, and the kids could run to them and say, ‘I’m telling,’ and the episode would be over. I wanted to make sure that the kids, in all of their wisdom, were forced to solve their problems on their own. That was a rule up front.

One thing that happened that we didn’t expect is that we hired two super-talented voice actors for the parents, Brian Stepanek and Jill Talley, and the writers would come to the recordings and say ‘I want to write more for these people.’ So they started writing more dialogue, and the parents gained a bigger role, and it became something where we had to show their faces.”

We also chatted about what to expect from the next season, and branching out into other families:

“In the show, we ended up developing that Ronnie Anne, who likes Lincoln at school, turns out to be Bobby’s little sister, and he is dating Lincoln’s sister Lori. And then we kind of didn’t know what else we wanted to do with those characters, and I had this crazy idea to have them move away into the city with their grandparents, aunt, and uncle, and their kids, so it’s a multigenerational family. I think doing things like that also gives us new perspectives that we can look at, with generations, and culture, and heritage.”

Chris shared a lot of other fun tidbits, and you can listen to all of them here.

What was really fun about the studio visit was getting to talk to several show-runners in one day and hear their unique experiences. I next sat down with Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz to talk about her show, Shimmer and Shine. Farnaz shared that she started working at Nickelodeon fifteen years ago as an intern and came back after finishing her degree to work on a multitude of shows. During that, she started pitching to Nick Jr., and after multiple pitches and tries, she landed Shimmer and Shine in 2013. Speaking of the show and her inspirations, she said:

“My little girl and boy inspire me in so many ways every single day. For example, Shimmer’s catch phrase is ‘My favorite color is glitter.’ That is something my little girl said when she was about three – she’s turning six now. Ever since they were little I started watching, ‘What makes them laugh?’ ‘Why are they laughing?’ ‘What is it about their favorite cartoon that they like?’ And then I try to apply that so that the show appeals to both boys and girls. A fun fact is that 60% of our audience is actually boys. I often have parents come up to me like, “My little boy watches Shimmer and Shine…!” and they’re so confused by it! But it’s all about fun characters, and action adventure, and magic – so why not!

I developed the show out of things that I like. Everybody always asks me, ‘are you Shimmer or Shine?’ And I say, ‘Well, I look like a Shimmer and act like a Shine.’ I’m the girl who likes to get dressed up but also climb the mountain before she comes in to work. So it’s a balance, which is what’s in the show too.”

Farnaz also talked about balancing message and entertainment in a show for young kids:

“If I wouldn’t let my kids watch it…I do try to keep it where the morals and the messages are always good, the girls are always supportive of each other, they never put each other down, and they always work together as a team to accomplish what’s going on. That’s always in the back of our heads. And one thing we keep an eye on is Zeta, our bad guy, to make sure she’s not too bad because we don’t want her to just be mean. We’re very conscious of those things as we’re writing and developing.”

We also discussed resilience, which is a theme of the show:

“It’s a huge quality that I have; I just didn’t realize that I had it! If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be here. Because development is not easy. I always say, ‘You’d better be prepared to get knocked down, punched while you’re down, and then get up and say, ‘Absolutely, what’s next?” Because it’s never easy. Getting to this place was a lot of work, and it was very difficult, but I’m grateful for every minute of it. It made me stronger and it made me wiser, and it made me tougher. That’s just who I am.”

Regarding advice for those wanting to get into the business, Farnaz advised:

“Be humble. Be eager. Soak up as much as you can. There are things to learn all around you every day. You just have to be open to it. Never stop growing. I always hope to not be the smartest person in the room. I want to be surrounded by people who know more than me, because that’s exciting!

It really comes down to you. You’re going to hear no more often than yes. You need to be able to not take it personally. I think that’s a big thing for a lot of artists. You put so much of yourself into everything that you do, so it’s hard not to take it personally. But you have to be able to disconnect yourself from what you submit, take a step back, and try to understand, ‘Okay, they don’t like this. Why don’t they like it? What is it about it that needs to adjust? What are they reacting to?’ And to be able to look at it as an outsider, not as yourself looking at your work in a precious manner.”

Finally, Farnaz shared that the show has been picked up for a fourth season, during which they plan to explore some new locations within the Shimmer and Shine world. We had a great chat, and you can listen to the whole discussion here https://soundcloud.com/emilyesse/2017-nickelodeon-studio-tour-farnaz-esnaashari-charmatz-interview.

While I was in Shimmer-and-Shine-land, I also got to actually sit in on part of a recording session. It was so neat to see some behind-the-scenes action as one of its lead voice actresses recorded different inflections for script lines and the folks in the recording booth selected which versions to use. And although I’ve always known that being a voice actor must be a lot of fun, this gave me a first-hand look at the patience that is also required as the actor goes through lines several times, and the way that she has to be continually “on,” performing in the booth for long stretches. And, of course, it gave me a first-hand look at how amazing the voice actors and directors are – because all of the readings were good in their various ways, and yet once the director had chosen a reading I could see why that variation was the one chosen. It was clear just from the short time I was sitting there how uniquely talented these folks who create the Nickelodeon shows we love really are.

But much as I loved watching the live recording, we had to move on eventually, because what would a visit to Nickelodeon be without stopping in to see one of my favorite executive producers, Ciro Nieli of TMNT? Since TMNT is in its last season (noooooo!!), Ciro may soon be moving on to other projects (which are currently unknown, but I’m sure whatever he does next will be excellent), but his office was still packed with Turtles merch (including a manhole-cover pillow I coveted), horror movie posters, and an actual spinner-rack of comics (I wonder if anyone would mind if I planted one of those in my office…). The halls around were plastered with Turtles posters, concept sketches, and other cool art (including little Mousers someone had drawn on the white boards). And down the hall was a full-sized version of the actual in-show arcade game that the Turtles have in their lair. How freaking cool is that??

Visiting the studio was such a blast. It was a real experience to pull back the curtain a bit on how great cartoon shows and interactive experiences are developed; and as always, a pleasure to speak with some of the talented creative minds behind it all. Thanks, Nickelodeon, for giving me a little peek into your world (and check out my full set of photos here!

And fortunately, for anyone who is going to San Diego Comic Con this week, you can get a little bit of this experience too. Nickelodeon’s nostalgia-themed San Diego booth and panels were a favorite part of my SDCC experience last year, and I’ve been wondering what we’ll see from them this year. It turns out this year’s experience will focus on Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Every day of the convention, Nickelodeon’s booth (#4113) will feature a 23-foot-tall pineapple, housing an interactive gaming experience which will allow fans to step inside the world of SpongeBob SquarePants, TMNT, or The Loud House (after my recent VR experience, I definitely want to try this!); a life-size replica of Helga’s shrine from Hey Arnold!; a retail area featuring a custom t-shirt station and one-of-a-kind, exclusive collectibles (I need the sepia-toned Avatar Aang statue!); costumed-character appearances; and autograph signings with the voice casts and creators from Rocko’s Modern Life, Hey Arnold!, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nick animation creators Butch Hartman (The Fairly OddParents), Chris Savino (The Loud House) and Billy Lopez (Welcome to the Wayne), and more.

Nickelodeon will also present four panels during the convention: Rocko’s Modern Life: Return to Earth!, a reunion with the original voice actors and sneak peek at the upcoming TV special (Thursday); Hey Arnold!: From Hillwood to the Jungle!, celebrating the return of the beloved characters in the upcoming TV movie with past and present casts and a live musical performance (Friday); Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a dive into the thrilling story arcs in season five (Friday); and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom, a behind-the-scenes look at the new stop-motion Halloween special, along with a live table read of a classic episode picked by fans via social media (Saturday). The panels will feature the likes of Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler, Ciro Nieli, Stan Sakai, Sean Astin, Rob Paulsen, Greg Cipes, Eric Bauza, Carolyn Lawrence, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, and many more.

Whew! So much excitement had, and so much more coming up. I can’t wait to get into some more Nickelodeon fun at the San Diego Comic-Con. If you’re going, check it out, and maybe I’ll see you there! Be sure to say hi!

And until next time, Servo Lectio

Emily S. Whitten: Bunsen is a Beast!

Butch Hartman has a long and storied history of creating great cartoon shows. Not only is he responsible for The Fairly OddParents, the second longest-running Nicktoon on Nickelodeon, but he’s also created several other popular shows including Danny Phantom and T.U.F.F. Puppy. And now here he is once again with a unique new Nickelodeon show, Bunsen is a Beast.

Bunsen is a Beast is a cartoon about Bunsen (voiced by Jeremy Rowley), the first beast to be integrated into the Muckledunk Middle School, and his new human friend Mikey Munroe (Ben Giroux). It also features self-appointed school safety monitor and beast-hater Amanda Killman (Kari Wahlgren) and a collection of other oddball characters such as Ms. Flap (Cheri Oteri) and Darcy, who circle the main pair during their adventures.

But what is a Beast, per se? Well, in Hartman’s creation, even within the Beast world there appears to be great variety, as from the glimpse I got of Bunsen’s mother and other family members during the first episode I watched, the eponymously-named “Bunsen is a Beast,” they appear to have greatly differing features and colors.

Bunsen himself is a square but oddly cute (thanks in part to the voice acting of Rowley) blue and white fur creature, with a tail, numerous limbs that appear as needed, perky puppy-dog ears, and, my favorite, a blowhole on top of his head that explodes in confetti when he’s excited. He’s obviously vastly different from Mikey and the other humans at Muckledunk, but on his first day at school, that doesn’t seem to phase Mikey, who, as the school’s “welcoming committee,” is responsible for showing Bunsen around. Mikey embraces that role, and all adventures, with enthusiasm and little fear or self-consciousness (except around his middle school crush).

In the first episode, Mikey and Bunsen immediately end up neck-deep in adventure, thanks in part to Amanda, a fellow student who thinks beasts are dangerous and is constantly scheming to get rid of Bunsen. In “Bunsen is a Beast,” after Amanda discovers that beets have an unusual effect on beasts and secretly doses Bunsen with beet juice, much excitement ensues due to his reaction to the juice.

The theme of Bunsen’s unusual physiognomy continues in the second episode I watched, “Body and the Beast,” in which Bunsen literally loses his head as he prepares for his first school picture. Along with the general hullabaloo of Mikey trying to help him get it back, this episode included some great humorous character development for the evil Amanda, who is very determined to look her fancy best for picture day, and for new character Darcy, who is both the oddest and most endearing kid on the show so far.

Other upcoming episodes appear to continue the theme of adventures arising due to Bunsen’s general weirdness – and I confess I really want to see the one where Bunsen and Mikey have to save Amanda from “sneeze beasts” that come from Bunsen’s nose; and the one where Bunsen turns into a bee for the spelling bee.

After watching the first two episodes, I had the pleasure of talking with Butch Hartman about how he created the show and what it’s all about. Among other things, he shared that Bunsen is a Beast is “a show about fitting in, and accepting people that are different than you. I don’t really want to pound kids over the head with a big message, but the message is in there. And it’s primarily a comedy show. I really want them just to laugh; that’s what it’s for.”

We had a great and in-depth conversation about his inspiration, how the show was made, and what we can expect to see in upcoming episodes, and you can give the full interview a listen here.

And after that, check out Bunsen is a Beast! The show consists of two episodes per half-hour, premieres at 5:30 p.m. on February 21 on Nickelodeon, and will air at that time through February 23, before moving to its regular time slot of Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Two episodes of the show are available for preview in advance of the premiere at nick.com, so you can go ahead and give those a watch now!

Enjoy! And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: Nickelodeon and Nostalgia @ SDCC 2016


As you undoubtedly know, San Diego’s Comic-Con International happened this past weekend, and I was fortunate to be amongst the tens of thousands of attendees. There was, as always, a mega-ton to see and do, and it was hard to keep the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from getting completely out of control over the 4.5 days of the con. To stay sane, though, at some point you just have to accept that you’re going to miss a bunch, and focus on what you do have the opportunity to see.

This year, one of my main interests was what Nickelodeon was showcasing. Of course, Nickelodeon is always on my radar, and particularly the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, which I adore. But even beyond the coolness that is the TMNT, this year, Nickelodeon was focusing on its past – in the best way possible. Through its late-night programming block of “The Splat,”  which has been airing from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Teen Nick since it took over for “The ‘90s are All That” late night programming in October of 2015, Nickelodeon has been tapping into the deep, deeeeeeeep nostalgia that a lot of us have for shows like Clarissa Explains It All, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Double Dare, All That, Doug, Hey Arnold!, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, You Can’t Do That on Television, and more. And given that all of those shows were amongst my favorites growing up, I just love that, and was looking forward to experiencing some nostalgia up close and in person.

Of course, for SDCC people are always going to want to see what’s new. But since this is the 25th Anniversary of Nickelodeon Animation; Nickelodeon’s upcoming movie lineup includes updates and sequels from popular ‘90s properties – including Hey Arnold! and Legends of the Hidden Temple; and “The Splat” has proven to be a hit, it made sense that to celebrate that. Therefore, Nickelodeon’s Comic-Con 2016 celebrated the ‘90s with “an immersive retro experience” at its booth, panels, and party.

The booth was a well-set-up and eye-catching blast from the past. It featured a virtual reality experience and King Olmec head from Legends of the Hidden Temple (on which the King was voiced by the ever-talented Dee Bradley Baker), and the King’s head was festooned with 3-D characters from classic shows like Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, CatDog, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. There was also a backdrop area where you could get photos with characters from shows like The Fairly Oddparents. The signing area and schedule included everyone from the TMNT to the cast of All That to legendary creators of the animation world. To purchase merchandise, you went up to windows set in the lenses of the purple glasses that bespectacled a giant Chuckie head from Rugrats (the only thing that would have made it better would have been if you could actually go inside Chuckie’s head. Next year’s virtual reality experience, Nickelodeon?). And, to top it off, the setup featured photo ops with the Hey Arnold! stoop and the original giant nose and red glasses from Double Dare. The merchandise on offer was also cool – including The Nick Box (similar in idea to LootCrate and other monthly “mystery boxes” of merchandise), which featured items from classic Nicktoons for its first release.

Nickelodeon’s panels this year included “Happy Happy! Joy Joy!: 25 Years of Nickelodeon Original Animation,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Return to New York,” “She Made That?: Nickelodeon hosts Women in Animation,” “ and “Back to the ‘90s: Nickelodeon’s All That Reunion and Legends of the Hidden Temple!” They all sounded amazing, but even my FOMO couldn’t bend time and space so that I could experience them all. However, I did get to attend the first two panels, and had the privilege of sitting down with the panelists for interviews.

“Happy Happy! Joy Joy!” featured Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!), Jhonen Vasquez (Invader Zim), Butch Hartman (The Fairly OddParents, Danny Phantom) and Arlene Klasky, who along with Gabor Csupo and Paul Germain, created Rugrats. It was great to hear these innovative and clever creators talk about bringing new ideas to fruition and developing their shows over the years, as well as looking forward to future projects (such as Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie, which Craig Bartlett discussed, and for which we saw some cool production art. We also learned that the movie will finally answer the question of where Arnold’s parents are). Butch Hartman showed animation from his latest show, Bunsen is a Beast! And we got to see a TMNT short, Don vs. Raph by Jhonen Vasquez, that was awesome in its absurdity.

I was fortunate to sit down with Craig Bartlett, Butch Hartman, and Arlene Klasky before the panel as well, for a great chat about their careers and work. You can watch the interview here!

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Return to New York” was, as always with the TMNT panels, a total joy. I love this show and everyone involved with it; and this year, we got to meet a new guest, Gwendoline Yeo, who voices new character Shinigami in the upcoming season (airing Sunday, August 14, at 11 a.m.). I also was glad to hear from Mae Whitman, who has been voicing April O’Neil since the get-go, but whom I’d not gotten to see on a panel before (every time she’s been on one I’ve missed it somehow) and from TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman (likewise). And what TMNT panel would be complete without executive producer Ciro Nieli, and more amazing voice talent like Rob Paulsen (Donatello), Sean Astin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), and Eric Bauza (Tiger Claw). We missed executive producer and head writer Brandon Auman, but apparently he was hanging out at the Sistine Chapel, so I guess that’s an okay reason to miss a Turtles panel. Maybe.

At the panel they showed the entire first episode of Season 4, which introduces Shinigami and features some really cool development of April’s story, as well. I hate to use a cliché and say that Episode 1 was all about girl power, but: well, it was, and that was fun! I like how far April has come in the show; and I’m very curious to see more of Shinigami’s backstory with Karai, who we also caught up with. We also got to see a couple of fun TMNT shorts, which you can watch too! The first was Pizza Friday by Kevin Eastman and Paul Jenkins, and the second was Turtles Take Time (and Space) by Brandon Auman. I loved them. Booyakabunga!

I was happy to be able to sit down for interviews with the Turtles folks before their panel as well. You can check out my interview with Greg Cipes, Rob Paulsen, and Eric Bauza here; and my interview with Gwendoline Yeo, Sean Astin, Kevin Eastman, and Ciro Nieli here.


And as cool as everything I’ve just talked about was, there was one more totally rad thing I experienced with Nickelodeon this year; and that was the Nickelodeon Double Dare Party with Marc Summers! It took place at Fluxx Nightclub, and was just So. Much. Fun. For one thing, they literally hosted a mini Double Dare show right on the dance floor – where the obstacle course from the show and physical challenges were set up. To make it even better, the Red Team and Blue Team were composed of great players like Nickelodeon staff, and voice actor Greg Cipes (Michelangelo on TMNT) who had been on the show as a kid. And of course, to make things really authentic, the show was hosted by Marc Summers, who didn’t miss a beat as he ran the teams through their paces (watch it here!). It was super-cool to be “on set” for the show and watch the Blue Team win it all live.

For another thing, it was fun to have some chill time with some of Nickelodeon’s great talent– including folks from the panels like Craig Bartlett, Butch Hartman, Greg Cipes, Eric Bauza, and Ciro Nieli – and to get to know more of Nick’s cool staff. And finally, after the Double Dare show ended, they cleared the dance floor for some totally ‘90s DJing, and we all had a rockin’ time dancing and being completely unembarrassed at knowing, for instance, all the words to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” (Wow, it had been so long since I’d sung that song.) My one complaint about this party is that the dancing ended too soon! And on top of all of that fun, I give high praise to the snacks at this party (especially since I’m always dying of hunger at the end of a busy day at Comic-Con) which included mini burgers, fries, shakes, and eclairs. Small but substantial food, easy to eat, and totally in theme.

All in all, Nickelodeon killed it this year at Comic-Con, and it wouldn’t have been the same without ‘em. I’m already feeling the nostalgia for Comic-Con 2016 and all the Nick fun I had there (which you can see in my photo album here). But that doesn’t mean I can’t wait to see what they do next year, too!

Stay tuned for tons more SDCC reporting from me, and until next time, Servo Lectio!


Tweeks: Invader Zim! Volume 1 Review

Back in the day….back before we were born even!…there was this much loved cartoon on Nickelodeon called Invader Zim. But check this out the powers that be at Oni Press have brought it back. And last weekend Volume 1 of the comic series was released! It was written by Jhonen Vasques & Eric Trueheart with artists Aaron Alexovich and Megan Lawton with Simon Troussellier and Rikki Simons.

Would be spoilers to say that we love it and now we not only want to watch the TV series, but we’d like new episodes as well?

The comics follow where the cartoon series left off. It’s about boy named Dib who knows that Zim is really an alien who wants to destroy the world, except no one believes him. It’s rated for teens, but we feel like these books would be loved by younger boys too. It would be loved by anyone who likes funny stories and fart jokes, actually. Watch the video and we’ll explain further.

Tweeks: Go Go Power Rangers Dino Force!

On August 29th, Saban’s Power Rangers Dino Charge returns to Nickelodeon for another season of prehistoric-era Power Rangers excitement. Basically, in Dino Charge there are these Paragon Prisms which were given to a dozen dinosaurs for safe keeping by an alien, but they were lost when asteroids hit the Earth. So, now in present day, an intergalactic bounty hunter has come to Earth to try to find them to harness the power and, of course, destroy the world. If we are unfairly profiling, let us know, but in our experience, intergalactic bounty hunters usually tend to cause more harm than good. But thankfully, a team of Power Rangers formed to find the Prisms, use their power for good, and fight threats – such as the aforementioned bounty hunter, but other badies too.

We were excited to be invited back to the Power Ranger Power Lounge at San Diego Comic Con this year, where we got to get to know the Dino Charge cast. Brennan Mejia (Tyler/Red Ranger), Yoshua Sudarso (Koda/Blue Ranger), James Davies (Chase/Black Ranger), Michael Taber (Riley/Green Ranger), Camille Hyde (Shelby/Pink Ranger), and Claire Blackwelder (Kendall Morgan) were all super nice. But even better than that we got to bond over fandoms. Yoshua Sudarso, as you will see is a totally Tweeks approved fanboy, but we were also impressed by the other Rangers pop culture enthusiasm. You’ll have to watch to see who is as excited about the Hunger Games stars as we are and who is all about Arrow & The Flash. We also find out what to expect with the new season (new rangers, new colors, new Zords).

It’s Morphin Time….Unleash the Power!


Tweeks: Power Rangers Super Megaforce For All!

Bj7sV31CAAADiOOThere’s a misconception that the Power Rangers are just for little kids or for boys (or Karen Gillan – you saw her ice bucket challenge, right?), but we think the cast of Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce offers a little something for everyone.   Don’t believe us?  Watch our interview with the Power Rangers and try not to come away charmed and ready to watch the new season Saturdays at noon on Nickelodeon.