Monday, March 17, 2008

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles V.1 #1 'Special Deluxe Edition' //Comic portion 23.. // A message for Saki ..: "THE SHREDER" (( 1984 / 1992 ))




Raphael poses dramatically on the ledge of a terraced skyscraper. All his senses are acute, attuned.

Ah, the night air... I love it! I despise the dank, dark underground. My brothers don’t seem to mind it...

FAVOR as he scans around, sniffs the air, looks up the sky.

...but this is where I belong. Such a feeling of freedom, so much room to move about!

TIGHT on his face.

I am Raphael, ninja turtle... and master Splinter chose me for this task...

WIDER as he prepares to leap.

RAPHAEL (CONT’D) deliver a message of challenge...

WIDER as he leaps off the building ledge into the night air.

RAPHAEL (CONT’D) the Shredder.

FOLLOW as he acrobatically, gracefully, twists and turns through the air before silently landing on another rooftop.

Splinter told me to infiltrate the Shredder’s headquarters...
He leaps to the ground, an alley near the city’s docks.

...and deliver a calling card.

WIDE as he silently leaps up and over a high, barbwire-topped fence.

My pleasure!

PULL AWAY to show him land silently on his feet, some twenty yards behind two FOOT NINJA GUARDS.

Two guards on the right...

REVERSE to over-the-shoulder shot past Raphael to an expansive view of the grounds of the Foot Headquarters. The two guards are to our right, on one side of a low building, a third stands to its left side. Each guard has a sheathed katana blade strapped to his back.

RAPHAEL (CONT’D) on the left.

REVERSE to tight on Raph’s face as an intense, grimly mischievous grin spreads across his features.

They’ve all got to go.

Recognize the above? It’s a passage from a screenplay adaptation of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 that I was hired to write back in September.

The idea was to release a direct-to-DVD CGI film version of the comic in May 2009 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the TMNT. The DVD would act both as an anchor for other licensees to sell and market their product around, as well as to provide a “bridge event” leading to the second theatrical CGI film slated for March 2010.

Imagi Animation, producers of the recent TMNT film, agreed to come on board. Peter Laird (and/or Mirage Licensing – I suppose the two are interchangeable when it comes to money) would finance the film almost solely out of his/its own pocket, with the hope of recouping the investment back from direct sales, the sale of broadcast rights, and potential cross-sell partner promotions (say, from heavy hitters like Ubisoft).

Mirage hired me to write a screenplay adaptation of the first issue – nothing fancy, no new frills, no additional scenes or dialog – straight. I did. It met with approval. The execs from Imagi flew in from Hong Kong to discuss both the creative and business ends, and it was decided that since the first issue (and resultant faithful screenplay) had certain idiosyncrasies that might be problematic for a film – a preponderance of voice-over; an extended flashback sequence that takes up nearly half the running time; a story that only spotlights two of the four turtles, practically ignoring the other two – I was asked to do a major rewrite, one that would strip away all the voice-over of the primary story (revenge upon the Shredder) and minimize as much as possible the voice-over of the flashback sequence, while also creating additional dialog for all four turtles that at the very least would give us intimations of their personalities (as those personalities had developed later over the course of the comics, etc.).

I did. The new draft was well received. Pete then decided that the DVD would run both versions of the story. The “A” or lead story would be the latter one, while the “B” original straight adaptation would be included as a DVD extra. Cool idea. To minimize production costs, A would utilize as much of the B footage as possible (I would then re-write A with this in mind; which I did). To further minimize costs, the soundtrack would utilize the originally commissioned Marco Beltrami score that was written for TMNT but that was later discarded in favor of Klaus Badelt’s less (shall we say) dark and moody score that accompanied the film. And of course both A and B versions would use as many “assets” from the TMNT film as possible (existing sets, backgrounds, etc.).

But when Imagi finally crunched the numbers and worked the DVD film’s completion time into their studio’s production schedule, things began to look a little dicey. For one, the budget for an all-CGI film would be between $5-7 million, even given the aforementioned “short cuts.” Everyone then agreed that the logical spot to make cost cuts would be to the flashback sequences set in Japan, and we all began to look at more traditional (non-CGI) ways to animate those sequences – everything from the type of animation used in Kill Bill, to a barely animated woodblock style similar to what is found in some traditional Japanese art, to “stage play” live action sets like those used in the “book excerpt” portions of the Paul Schrader film Mishima.

Yet even with this reduction (in whatever form it might take) in the CGI running time, the budget didn’t drop that substantially. And once it was determined that Imagi “quite possibly but not definitely” would deliver the completed film in September 2009 (they would shoot for that date, but there are almost always potential production problems to every film that could extend completion time), things began to look even more dicey. After all, the actual anniversary is in May, not September, and while that difference in a few months may not seem like that big of a deal, the prospect of the film coming due even a bit later in the year, beyond September, did not bode well for the ancillary licensing program that would circle the DVD’s release, all of which has to be choreographed as tightly as possible so as not to create a situation where licensees lose money should they release their product earlier than the film’s on-shelf sale date.

Given all this, Mirage CEO Gary R made the recommendation to not go forward, and thus Peter Laird made the subsequent decision to pull the plug on the project.

The major event anchor to the May 2009 anniversary was thus, uh, sunk. However, another, less potentially exciting (but nonetheless interesting and fun) idea has been developed, one that involves neither Imagi nor myself, one with hurdles of its own to overcome, and which, of course, I am not yet allowed to discuss in a public forum. Time will tell….

Personal epilogue: I did, at least, get paid. The rights to both screenplay versions belong to Mirage (it was, after all, a work-for-hire deal). Oh, and the working title of both screenplays was a nod to one of the favorite Bruce Lee films of my youth: Enter the TMNT.

-- Steve Murphy

--Danny B. at the offical TMNT HQ ..::

- **TMNT Volume 4 #15-21 are now available for legal download for US citizens at! ** ( CLICK )

-- **Posted the extended synopsis for Episode #143, "Zixxth Sense". (( ..and that's all she wrote for Fast Forward !! The adventure continues this fall !! ~t ))

- "Due to a clerical error on Diamond Comic Distributor's part, Tales of the TMNT #47 will not be listed in the April issue of Preivews. Both issue #47 and #48 will be listed in the May Previews. We'll stagger their release so #47 will come out in early July and #48 will arrive in shops in late July.."


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