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Les Numériques | Ninja Turtles: Teenage Years

Meeting // Les Numériques visited the French studio Mikros Animation, working on the new movie Ninja Turtles: Teenage Years, in theaters on August 9th. By Thibaud Gomès-Léal – Published on 08/08/23

22 August 2023
TMNT mutant Mayhem Mikros crew

A new production from Nickelodeon Movies studio (SpongeBob: The Movie, Sherlock Gnomes), crafted in collaboration with the French team at Mikros Animation (Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion).
Les Numériques had the opportunity to visit their Parisian studio and converse with the team behind Ninja Turtles: Teenage Years.

How did the collaboration with the American team at Nickelodeon unfold? Did you have creative freedom?
Julien Meesters: The interaction we had with the studio and the directors – who are from the same generation as us and are fans of the Ninja Turtles – was very positive, and there was a genuine desire to collaborate. They told us, “This is your film too!” We all started creating in the same direction, with the same enthusiasm. It was even a playful competition between us and the United States, to see who could push the graphic style further. The film indeed has a distinct visual style and a unique energy.

What were your visual references?
Julien Meesters: Usually, we are given references and guidelines, and we have to adhere to those. On this project, the references were scribbled, they were unconventional shapes… And we were specifically instructed to avoid all digital effects: perfect blurs, loss of focus… In short, it was anything but traditional 3D animation.
Arnaud Philippe-Giraux: Director Jeff Rowe provided us with a lot of references: we were asked to be explosive in the painting and graphic style, to bring elements of naivety like little sunbeams, or the idea of not finishing the windows of a building, as if out of adolescent nonchalance… He also mentioned more mature references like Spike Jonze, Spike Lee, and the film Birdman in terms of color grading. We were able to create with a lot of energy, but with our adult eyes.

There’s a clear aesthetic connection to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, released in 2018. Was that an intentional reference?
Julien Meesters: I think everyone will see the connection, but it’s not as obvious as it might seem. In Ninja Turtles, the style is completely dictated by the story: we are in this world of teenagers, who listen to music, search for their style, scribble on tables… We didn’t say, “Let’s create a 2D image because it’s cool.” It’s a graphic style that deeply originates from the universe of the film, and that’s evident through all its elements, be it visual language, animation, writing, or music.

How does this film differ from the previous adventures of the Turtles?
Arnaud Philippe-Giraux: In the realm of the Ninja Turtles, the adolescent aspect of the characters had not yet been explored. Up until now, we always encountered muscular, adult, heroic Turtles. In this film, we delve into anti-heroes, adolescence; the Turtles are searching, questioning who they are and where they’re headed. We’re also in an openly portrayed New York, gritty, dark, extremely urban and modern. With all of this, the graphic style becomes almost innate.

How long did the production of Ninja Turtles: Teenage Years take? How many people worked on the film?
Vincent Leroy: Between the initial assets and the final shot, 550 people worked on the film, across two countries, over two years. Actually, a little less, as we worked on it from September 2021 to June 2023. In total, there are around 1400 shots in the film, for as many versions… Add a billion liters of coffee to that, and you’re good.

Lastly, which scene in the film are you particularly proud of?
Nathalie Masseret: One of the scenes I really like is a flashback where we see the baby turtles, they’re so cute. It’s a musical scene, the sound is great, and we have a 1970s Master Splinter who is quite funny. I really enjoy it.
Arnaud Philippe-Giraux: For me, it’s the last shot I worked on. It’s in the post-credits scene… and I won’t say more. I’ll let the audience discover it in theaters.

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