Published on August 9th, 2014 | by Joseph Saulnier0
Turtle Power: A Conversation with the Man Behind the Documentary
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Randall Lobb, a high school teacher from Ontario, Canada who was able to do something most people my age only dream about. He made a documentary about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A documentary with a bold claim right in its title: “Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Whilst on the phone, waiting to get my turn with the man, I did learn a few interesting tidbits about Mr. Lobb and his experience with the movie. Prior to beginning work on this documentary, Randall was not a fan of the Turtles. That’s not to say he disliked them, it just wasn’t really at the top of his list of IPs. The DP on the film, Isaac Elliott-Fisher, however was. And Randall saw an opportunity to get in on a niche documentary with subject matter that was, and still is, very popular subject matter. Hoping that he would learn more of the culture, and that it could lead to more opportunities in the future, he delved right in.
Randall began working on the documentary in late November, early December of 2008. He continued work the film until he literally turned in the last piece in early August 2014. Most people can’t imagine working a single project for this long, but Randall said that it remained interesting from start to finish, and beyond. He mentioned that he has several companies interested in the project, including a few emails from the big guys at Paramount. He loved every aspect of it and covered most everything in the Turtles universe. Though he wished he could have, there just wasn’t enough time to include more about the new Nickelodeon series, 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.
Randall revealed to me that his biggest challenge during the whole project was other people. He went on to elaborate that many people tried to make the film about what they want, instead of what he wanted. After all, he is the drive behind the film getting made, shouldn’t he be able to have his way. This was difficult though. As I mentioned earlier, he is a high school teacher from Canada. Could you imagine trying to set up interviews, and even pitch the idea to paramount, with this background? It was trying to say the least, but he always stayed true to getting his vision down and out in the world.
And, despite other people being his biggest challenge, he cited them as his biggest surprise as well. Everyone he spoke to regarding the Turtles was extremely nice and just willing to share the stories that they remembered from working on the previous films, comics and cartoons. There were no rude people he contacted, even if they didn’t want to talk about it or be on film, they denied his request with politeness and grace. He was genuinely surprised by the hospitality of everyone he met who was involved with the Turtles.
Randall cited his biggest success as the conversation he was having with me, and other members of the media, about the film. The fact that he was sitting there that day, talking with people about a project that he poured much of his heart and soul into is the biggest success he could ask for. It also goes back to a primal point in all this: he had something to say that people wanted to hear.
When asked about why he feels there is such a resurgence of the Turtles recently, he made a very good point. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is so shockingly original. When other comics and IPs from the past are reemerging, why not bring with it one of the most original, and beloved of all. Somehow, people took this oddly weird idea of not only talking, upright turtles and accepted, they also accepted their whole world: from the fact that they know ninjitsu to some of the outrageous nemeses that they have encountered (my favorite has always been Baxter Stockman for some reason). These Turtles not only entertain, but many people connect with them on an emotional level. And why not, when there is a personality in this world for everyone to connect to. They struck a chord and became relatable because of the anthropomorphic use of the creatures who created a safe place for feelings and other psychological aspects.
What does the future hold for Turtles? Lobb seems to think that everyone wants to be one. I can’t argue. Jumping across roof tops, wielding one of their extremely recognizable signature weapons and bandana. But how is this possible? A little thing called the Oculus Rift. Lobb asked us to imagine what this would be like, and to know that someday it will possibly be a reality.
Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be available at retailers on August 12, 2014. It is a must have for any TMNT fan. To whet your appetite a little, here is the trailer. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did.