Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem Comic-Con Breakdown and Review



  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is an animated reboot that embraces the teenage aspect of the characters, and makes some radical changes to the origin story. SDCC previewed 20 minutes.
  • Nickelodeon and Paramount have secured the rights to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series next year, and they will begin airing on Nickelodeon.
  • The main threat in the film comes from Superfly, a mysterious villain who, along with other mutants, was created by Baxter Stockman through the use of the ooze, tying in the mutant aspect of the Turtles’ origins.

This article contains minor spoilers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing and the first major panel in the legendary Hall H was Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The Turtles seem like the perfect project to kick off Comic-Con. The characters originated from the underground independent comic book scene that birthed Comic-Con. The franchise has been around for almost five decades, meaning it has generations of fans, all with their own entry point for the franchises.

The newest film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, is an animated entry and looks to reboot the series in a fresh bold way. The film’s marketing has pushed the creative involvement of producer, writer, and star Seth Rogen. Yet Rogen was not present at the convention due to the ongoing Screen Actors and Writers Guild Strike. The work of this film and many others would not be possible without those striking and hopefully the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers will come to their senses and pay people a living wage.

With so many major franchises like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and others dropping out of SDCC, that meant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem became one of the biggest names at the convention. It seems fitting; since the release of the first trailer, the movie has quickly become one of the year’s most anticipated movies and could be a real surprise hit of the summer movie season that has been billed with box office disappointments. We were present in Hall H during the panel, and have this breakdown of some of the most exciting news from the convention.

The Mutant Mayhem Panel

The panel was moderated by Charles Hood and Drew Taylor, the co-host of the popular Mission: Impossible podcast, Light the Fuse. Taylor is a reporter for The Wrap and has written for The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and MovieWeb’s sister company, Collider. Charles Hood is a filmmaker who directed and co-wrote the film Night Owls. While they might be known for talking about one Paramount Pictures franchise, they both love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and were happy to sit down with the director.

Director Jeff Rowe’s previous work includes the hit show Gravity Falls and co-directing the Academy Award-nominated animated film The Mitchells and the Machines. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is Rowe’s first solo project, but he jumped at the chance to direct Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He said he was a fan for as long as he could remember.

Two major sources of inspiration for Rowe on the film were embracing the teenage aspect of the characters, something he said writer and producer Seth Rogen always felt was the most under-utilized element of their name. Embracing the teenage aspect not only meant hiring teenagers to voice the Turtles and allowing them a fair amount of time to improv, but also in the art design. The film’s animation style is inspired by drawings the filmmakers made when they were teenagers, full of passion and detail, back when they were filled with inspiration but had no formal training to hold them back. This is prevalent in many of the designs, where faces are slightly off, not fully symmetrical, and with some amateurish features. These are normally seen as mistakes, but here help bring the film back to the underground comics roots of the franchise.

Still from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem-1
Paramount Pictures

Another big source of inspiration was the original toys. Rowe said he loved the original 1990 film and the animated series, but his passion for the Ninja Turtles came from the original Playmates Toys, which, as he described it, often looked a little ugly, which made them cool. The film brings in many of the characters from the toy line, including Leatherhead (Rose Byrne) and Mondo Gecko (Paul Rudd).

Rowe was then joined on stage by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman. Eastman revealed how proud he was of the film, which Jeff Rowe said was a huge honor as a major Ninja Turtles fan, and it was obvious to anyone in the room that he sincerely meant it. It was the creator of something he loved saying how much he loved it, which is a major honor for any fan. Eastman also said as soon as he watched the film, he asked when the sequel was coming out and Rowe laughed before moving on.

Eastman then gave a special Hall H announcement: Nickelodeon and Paramount had secured the rights to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series next year, and they would begin airing on Nickelodeon.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem
Paramount Pictures

Due to the ongoing Writer’s Guild and Screen Actor’s Guild strikes, none of the stars of the movie could attend to promote it. A special piece of footage was shown to the crowd that was filmed a month prior, where Seth Rogen and Ice Cube presented 20 minutes of footage from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. While we were not allowed to record the footage, we are allowed to break it down.

The footage basically is composed of four major scenes. The first is the characters’ origin. The scene begins with Leonardo very seriously instructing his brothers — Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo — about their very important mission: getting groceries. The scene begins as and is even partially stylized like the original ’80s underground Mirage comics, but as soon as the punchline is revealed, the Turtles break from the serious and start teasing each other, effectively symboling the shift between the original versions of the characters to the wackier versions that were popularized in the 1980s.

Related: Every Major Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie, Ranked

The four brothers decided on their way home to stop and watch a movie playing in the park, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While the four brothers watch from afar, they begin to long for a life they will never know. They want to be part of the human world, go to school, and have romances like any teenager would. As they return home, they are confronted by their father, Splinter (Jackie Chan), and Leonardo being the obedient son, spills the beans where they were. Splinter reminds them of why they fear humans.

Splinter tells the origin of the Turtles as a lesson/story, which is an effective way to retell the tale but put a new spin on it. In this version, Splinter was just a common street rat who found the baby turtles in the ooze in the sewer. Whereas everything else in the world (other rats, dogs, and humans) wanted to kill him, the baby turtles were the first creatures to show him love. He decided to take care of him and got some ooze on himself, and they all transformed.

Splinter raises the boys and when they are young, he brings them to the surface because of how fascinated they are with the human world. Yet when people try to kill them, he quickly retreats into the sewers and vows to always protect his boys. Now he teaches them martial arts as a form of self-defense, so they can never be taken or hurt by the humans. This is an interesting change to the Turtles lore and will certainly make for some surprising consequences when they come face to face with Shredder and the Foot Clan in subsequent films, as now they have no direct ties to him.

New poster for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem
Paramount Pictures

This shift in their origin also pivots into another scene shown at the Con. The four brothers are goofing off on the roof after having been ungrounded by Splinter, and one of Raph’s throwing stars accidentally hits the bike helmet of April O’Neil. Leonardo sees her and quickly becomes enamored with her. As April yells at them from the street corner, someone steals her bike. Despite the other brothers not wanting to get involved, Leonardo quickly rushes into action.

The four brothers track down the criminal and find a large gang. Donatello notably points out they have never been in a fight, but Raphael is quick to fight, something he dreams about every night. Yet he quickly slips, and his Sai falls into Donatello’s leg. The four brothers fumble very badly at first but quickly regroup and take down the criminals by working together as a team. The action scene is top-notch, and it also highlights one of the major changes this entry will have from the rest of the franchise.

Every other version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has introduced them as vigilantes already working in the shadows fighting to save humans, yet here their training in ninjutsu was not for that, but instead, it was as a form of self-defense. This is an origin story for the Turtles in the truest sense of the word, as the film looks to see how they become heroes and the first steps on this journey.

Related: The Best Villains from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Franchise, Ranked

After defeating the bad guys, April arrives. Yet despite them trying to hide, she can see them in the shadows, and thanks them for saving her bike. When they first emerge from the shadows, she first assumes they are wearing costumes, but when she touches the skin, she quickly realizes they are actually turtles. Despite being initially weirded out, when they offer to explain to her their origin over some pizza, instead of running away in fear, she surprises them by asking if they like pepperoni which shocks all of them.

Truly Mutant Mayhem

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem
Paramount Pictures

The other two clips highlight the main threat of the film. While most versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tend to put the spotlight on the Shredder and the Foot Clan for the origin movie, this film has instead decided to embrace the mutant aspect and is tying it directly into the character’s origins. Everyone knows the four baby turtles and a rat were transformed by the ooze, and now we find out that they weren’t the only animals.

The first clip showcases a TCRI truck being hijacked by the mysterious villain Superfly. TCRI headquarters notes the kidnapped truck, and a scientist looks at a board with a torn-up picture of a housefly and scientist Baxter Stockman and tells them to put trackers on all the trucks. They seem to have a place to catch Superfly. The scientist sounded like she was voiced by Maya Rudolph, which would make her the previously announced character Cynthia Utrom. The last name “Utrom” is a big signal to hardcore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans that TCRI and the ooze that created the various mutants has connections to aliens and the villain Krang.

The following clip takes place sometime later, where the Turtles and April have set a meet-up with Superfly to try and capture him. Yet the Turtles are soon quickly taken aback by how his entire team is made up of mutants. This includes not only Superfly (Ice Cube) and fan-favorites Beboop (Seth Rogen) and Rocksteady (John Cena), along with the previously mentioned Leatherhead and Mondo Gecko, but also Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress), Wingut (Natasia Demetriou) and Ray Fillet (Post Malone). Superfly reveals to the Turtles that he was created by Baxter Stockman by dumping ooze on him and the various other mutants. He seems to embrace the Turtles as fellow mutants and now will pose an interesting dynamic for the heroes as they will be forced to defend the humans that hate and fear them against their fellow mutants.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem arrives in theaters on August 2, 2023.

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