Monday, June 16, 2008

Donatello stunt costume

The animatronic Turtle suits created by Jim Henson's crew for the first TMNT movie were, quite simply, wonderful. I remember being blown away by how beautiful they were and how much the performers and puppeteers were able to get out of these clever and carefully-crafted agglomerations of latex, paint, leather and various fabrics.

There were a number of suits made for each Turtle, and they were separated into the "hero" or "acting" suits, which were worn by the principal performers and used in all of the scenes in which a Turtle had to act, and the "stunt" suits. The hero suits had the complex and very expensive and delicate animatronic mechanisms which allowed the puppeteers to give the Turtles a wide variety of expressions.

The stunt suits, on the other hand, did not have these mechanisms and were thus much lighter and allowed the very talented martial artists who wore them to do all kinds of very cool and exciting moves.

After the first movie was finished and released, the Henson folks generously gave Kevin and me each one of the stunt suits. I believe Kevin got Raphael, and I got Donatello. My Donatello suit was, I'm pretty sure, worn by Ernie Reyes Jr., who did most of Donatello's stunts in the first movie (and later appeared without a Turtle costume as "Keno" in the second movie).

When I got my suit, I put together a jointed wooden "skeleton" to insert into the suit and allow me to pose it in various positions for display.

Well... that was the plan, anyway. It never really worked that well -- the suit is actually pretty heavy, and the joints I made couldn't hold it up. So the suit ended up kind of sprawled in a chair in my studio. And that's where it has sat, more or less, for the last fifteen years or so.

A few years ago, when we were working on the preproduction of the new "TMNT" movie, Kevin Munroe (director) and Galen Walker (producer) made one of their several visits out to Northampton. After one of our meetings, I invited them both to my house and showed them around my studio. They got a kick out of seeing the old suit and agreed to pose with it for my camera. That's Kevin on the left and Galen on the right. -- PL

20 comments:

  1. Great pic!

    You should seriously hire these people to take care of that suit for you. It'd be a shame for it to keep falling apart!

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  2. -->> DAMIT, ROSE .. THAT's AN EXCELLENT IDEA !!

    NO WAY THIS SHOULD GO ROTTING AWAY !!

    Donatello looks deflated !! :(

    **

    To Munroe and Co.s Cred.. i appreciate the fact that the detail to the masking of the skin on the 3-d Turtles did emulate a bit the texture of the Henson creations.

    >v<

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  3. Ack.. Poor Don, he looks deflated!

    STill, fantastic picture! I loved that I got to meet BOTH of those guys (one at Comic-Con before the movie as well as at the premiere) and the other at the following Comic-Con (and he had SOO built up our hopes for the sequel... sigh).


    Simply wow!


    (Cynthia)

    P.S. I think Munroe did a great job on the movie.

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  4. I have always wanted a movie suit since I was a little kid :) so cool!

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  5. Rose that is a great idea indeed, Pete you should seriously look into that.

    I love reading about Jim's work on the first movie because besides Kevin and Yourself he's my number 1 idol.
    I want to achieve the something at least half as great as he did in my own life time.

    Did you get to meet Jim Henson at all Peter?
    I really love reading peoples stories of him, thanks for anything you can share.
    I know he was reluctant at first to work on TMNT but Brian his son talked him into it.

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  6. Awesome suit! I remember seeing a Donatello suit in one of those hollywood chain restaurants. I took a picture but I'm not sure what happened with it.

    Just this morning I came up with something I wanted to ask you but didn't want to impose in a comments section where it didn't belong. But this relates perfectly!

    Is there any chance we can get a special edition dvd of the original movie with all the deleted scenes and extra footage, behind the scenes, commentary from you and the folks who worked on the movie, etc... for the 25th anniversary? I'll pay anything for it!

    If that's not feasible, I remember in a blast from the past post you did a few years ago you said you had deleted scenes and an alternate ending to the movie on vhs tape. Is there any way you an encode it and post it a video link on this blog? Maybe someone at Mirage can help you if you don't know how to encode it.

    Thanks!

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  7. " Ectopaul said...
    Is there any chance we can get a special edition dvd of the original movie with all the deleted scenes and extra footage, behind the scenes, commentary from you and the folks who worked on the movie, etc... for the 25th anniversary? I'll pay anything for it!

    If that's not feasible, I remember in a blast from the past post you did a few years ago you said you had deleted scenes and an alternate ending to the movie on vhs tape. Is there any way you an encode it and post it a video link on this blog? Maybe someone at Mirage can help you if you don't know how to encode it."

    Unless Golden Harvest and/or New Line is working on such a thing and not telling us, it's pretty unlikely that a special edition DVD such as you describe will be happening for the 25th anninversary. Someday, I would love to see something like that, though.

    As for posting the stuff you mention -- can't do it. I don't have the rights to it. Sorry! -- PL

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  8. "Vaughn Michael said...
    Did you get to meet Jim Henson at all Peter?
    I really love reading peoples stories of him, thanks for anything you can share.
    I know he was reluctant at first to work on TMNT but Brian his son talked him into it."

    I missed meeting Jim Henson by one day. I had gone to the movie set in North Carolina with a bunch of people, including Kevin and most of the Mirage dudes, and the day after I headed back to Massachusetts (driving), Jim Henson came to the set and Kevin got to meet him. Timing is everything. -- PL

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  9. to this day i'm still impressed with the work of jim henson's company. it's a shame so many modern movie creatures are done with CGI instead of animatronics.
    also i really enjoy the idea that you have that donatello hanging around your studio.
    what a great memento.

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  10. Yeah I'd have it restored and pro mounted.

    Wonder what Kev did with the Raph one.

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  11. wow,

    i'd hire someone to just 'stand' in it all day...

    well worth it.

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  12. Blogger Buslady of SoCal said...

    Yeah I'd have it restored and pro mounted.

    Wonder what Kev did with the Raph one.


    I can just imagine what Eric would say if you managed to get hold of that. :))

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  13. Eric would really think I've lost my mind. Like I'd care, I wouldn't mind a restored professionally assembled Raph complete with coat, hat, everything...



    I can dream.

    BL.

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  14. *squeals happily at picture* Too Awesome! Dont you sometimes get a little creeped out thinking Deflato-Don is watching you?

    ~Marne "Mica" Gustaf (signing my real name since you asked... although because of anime club, more people call me Mica than call me Marne)

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  15. Oh, wow!!! This is a such an awesome piece of TMNT memorabilia, and well worth keeping preserved! And it's Don, eeek! I want one, too! Or, heck, I could just place my costume pieces to a mannequin and then I've got my own figure!

    It's a major bummer you missed meeting Jim Henson. I thought you did when I read you visited the movie set. Sorry about that. :(

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  16. Man, that is too awesome! It must be funny having an inamimate Donatello suit lying around. Sorry to hear your wooden skeleton idea didn't work out, though. That would've been cool!

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  17. Im a collector of ninja turle items, and if would be a dream come true if you would looking to sale that beautiful costume. Let me know asap if you are. I can be contacted at dbatteas@iusb.edu. My students would love to see donny

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  18. tomspinadesigns has a restored movie Leo right on their front page!

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  19. My Donatello suit was, I'm pretty sure, worn by Ernie Reyes Jr., who did ... tmntcostume.blogspot.com

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  20. The animatronic Turtle suits created by Jim Henson's crew for the first TMNT movie were, quite simply, wonderful. I remember being blown ... turtlescostume.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete