rob paulsen


New episodes of RISE OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES air Saturdays at 9:30am on Nickelodeon. Be sure to tune in to experience everything Rob Paulsen discusses and more!

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ComicsVerse: All right we’re here at the Nick booth, ComicsVerse NYCC 2018 with the legendary Rob Paulsen. He is a voice actor who has done just about everything. But we’re going to talk about TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES today. This is another new season of the turtles. A little bit of a different art style.

What is making this series kind of different in, we’ll say, the canon of the NINJA TURTLES series?

Rob Paulsen: Firstly thanks for having me. That’s a great question. The thing that I think makes this a little different from what you’ve seen recently, firstly, as you said, the art style. I just got done doing five years as Donatello on the last iteration which was a CGI version. This is back to a 2D style. It pops. As a person who’s an older person, they’ve been around a long time and grew up with regular cartoons, what is really cool to see now is the way technology has enhanced the viewing experience for just traditional cartoons. Man, when you watch the new cartoons on an HD television, the kids, your age and younger, you probably don’t remember what it was like to watch stuff on just a traditional little broadcast television.

I’m telling you this show just pops right off the screen. That is the first thing that any fan would notice, is just the way the colors and the style of animation that Andy Suriano and Ant Ward have brought to this franchise. It’s a joy to watch visually. Even, dare I say it, with the sound turned down. It’s really cool to look at. The actors who now we have doing the four turtles and April O’Neil are bringing their own spin to it.

We have the first ever African-Americans in the cast which was not a particular choice. It was: these are the actors who qualify best and let’s make it work. And they did, and what is so wonderful is that to the extent that that matters to people, it will matter to the right people. Because you’re talking about a franchise that is so powerful, if I were a young person of color, and I saw that “oh my goodness, Rafael and Michelangelo are actors who are bringing the voices to life, and they look like me,” I would find that really inspiring. It just happened to work out that way, which is the best part of it. It was not like, we’re gonna try to cast it that way. So, it really ticks a lot of new boxes.

ComicsVerse: So, you’ve done the turtles for a while, you’re part of the franchise. Is there anything different you’re doing, as far as, maybe your approach, or maybe input?

Is anything different, or is it kind of, you come in, you’re used to the characters, you’re used to the story, at least the style of character?

Rob Paulsen: Well I’m the voice director now. You’re talking to a guy who is 50% the Ninja Turtles. I was Rafael when you were a kid and Donatello the last five or six years. And now, these folks have been kind enough to hand over the voice directing reigns to me. So, it’s a new experience for me, but I’m arguably one of the more experienced actors in Hollywood.

ComicsVerse: Qualified?

Rob Paulsen: Yeah, qualified. Thank you. And so, I’m learning a lot too. I think what I’m able to bring to the party is, obviously the sensibilities with respect to TURTLES, and the mythology. But the actors are all like your age, they’re younger people. And, when they found out who I was, they immediately had this sense of “Oh well, I totally get, I’ll listen to what he says.”

And my job is not to tell them how to do it. My job is to get the performances out of them that make sense to Ant and Andy, the producers. And also walk that line, to trust these actors with these instincts. Because remember, they all know TURTLES. When we first started out, nobody knew what TURTLES was about except Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. So, now we have hundreds of millions of people who have grown up with TURTLES, and my job is to get the best performance from the actors, allowing them to use their instincts, and making sure the producers are happy with what they got, and then spring it on the public. So, it’s a learning experience for me too, and it’s really a blast.

ComicsVerse: Do you like being in that more leadership, I don’t want to say managerial, but kind of that leadership role and does it kind of take away maybe from your creative outlet? Or, are you still able to get those creative juices flowing for yourself, even though you’re leading, and kind of guiding the other actors as well?

Rob Paulsen: Great questions. Thank you for that.

ComicsVerse: You’re welcome.

Rob Paulsen: And, I’m now asked those questions, not nearly enough. Because your questions are really thoughtful.

But, I find that I use different creativity. I have instincts, and I will often say in a recording session, “Hey, Omar. We got that. We love it. Would you mind trying one this way?” And it will be something that I have an idea about. And sometimes we use it, sometimes we don’t. But the actors and the producers are interested in having me do that. They hired me because they like what I brought to the different characters. So, they want my input, and all it does is exercise a different creative muscle. And I really enjoy it.

I didn’t know when they hired me that Tom Kenny had been directing Spongebob for a few years. And he’s, of course, a really gifted actor and a dear friend, and so, when Nickelodeon told me that, I thought, well it makes sense. And now I’m finding that I really enjoy this, much more than I ever thought I would because I was always a hired gun. Now I’m one of the, as you say, in more of a managerial and obviously directorial circumstance, and it’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s different, and I like it.

ComicsVerse: So, in this, we’ll say “next phase” of your career, do you have any goals and aspirations that might not necessarily be tied to just voice acting, that hired gun aspect yourself?

But, since you seem to like this, is there any more on the horizon where you might take more reigns of directorial, managerial roles in the future?

Rob Paulsen: Yes. In fact, as a result of, I think just being lucky enough to have been around for a long time, and there are a number of other projects that I’m working on. Some of the shows, not only NINJA TURTLES, but ANIMANIACS, PINKY AND THE BRAIN, are both enjoying a huge renaissance. Mr. Spielberg has decided to do those again. So, my connection with a lot of really well-known properties has given me, I think, a certain amount of credibility in Hollywood so that I can get meetings with people at Hulu and Netflix, and Amazon, and Apple, and pitch ideas and projects.

So, yeah, I’m really interested in pitching my own projects and working with other producers and it is definitely opening up a whole new realm of work to me so that I can be on the creative side of things, creating shows, instead of just being hired once the show is put together.

Now, I’m hired to be an actor. Rather, now I’m hired to produce. And I really like that, I’m learning a lot. A lot. And I love it. It’s something I’d never thought I’d do before.

ComicsVerse: Now, you recently featured on a show called TOY QUEST. Would you mind telling us a little about that?

Why you were drawn to doing the show, what the show’s about, and, again, why’d you do it?

Rob Paulsen: I did it because, your and my friend, my new friend and your old friend, Miguel, and his sweet, beautiful daughter Iliana, asked me to. I think it was when I was in Philly. I think it was in Philadelphia. Probably in Philly, a couple weeks ago. I was, of course, happy to do their show which is a podcast called Toy Quest 101 I think, right?

And, as you know, Miguel is, like you, a very smart, talented guy, who’s involved in all things geek culture related. And specifically toys. But his sweet baby Iliana is autistic, and he developed this show as a way for the two of them to work together on things on which they shared a common interest. And also bring some more awareness to the autism community.

And what was so fascinating to me is that, through my last four or five years of doing conventions, I’ve learned how deeply all of this affects folks on the spectrum. I never knew that. I thought I was just an entertainer and an actor. Now, it turns out that we have people who are deeply affected in a positive way by these characters. So, when Miguel asked me to be involved, I thought “oh my God, I can’t wait!” And I think it just came out this week, so you’re gonna see a lot more rambling. Clearly, I have no trouble talking. There’s a reason I was Yakko, ’cause I can’t shut up.

So, yeah, I am very grateful to be involved to whatever extent I can be. And, man, I hope that folks on the spectrum, and their parents and their loved ones, continue to embrace what we do. Because to know that people get joy out of what we do. But also, it turns out that I and Kevin Conroy, and Tom Kenny, and Jim Cummings, those of us who have been lucky enough to do this for years, turns out we have a profound effect. All of us. I’m just an actor. But all these things, visually and in terms of the vocal aspect of it, have a really profound effect on folks in the autism community. I’m really grateful to be part of it, so thank you for giving me a chance to talk about it.

ComicsVerse: Absolutely.

So for our last question, to close out, one sentence: Why should people watch the new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES?

Rob Paulsen: Watch the new NINJA TURTLES because it will give you an opportunity to have yet another reason to wake up every day and say, “Turtle Power!” You can’t believe how good it is.

Thank you so much to Rob Paulsen for talking with us at NYCC 2018!

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