Monday, May 3, 2010

Blast from the Past #300: More notes from the development of the 2K3 TMNT series

Here's another email, dated February 11, 2005, from back in the days when Lloyd Goldfine and I would work together on the development of the stories for the 4Kids TMNT tv show. I have to say, after re-reading this one, that maybe I could have been a little less obviously irritated, sarcastic and snappish. But sometimes, the material that some of the writers produced just struck me as egregiously careless. I think that this usually happened with writers who hadn't worked on the show before, or those who hadn't done their homework. Fortunately, it didn't happen all the time. -- PL



Here are my comments on the Ep. 110 first draft.

Before I get into specific comments, I have to reiterate that I think we are missing a wonderful opportunity with this episode to add a lot of depth to two under-rendered characters -- Hun and (especially) Garbageman -- by exploiting my suggestion that we reveal that they are brothers. Instead, we basically have a repeat of the previous two Garbageman episodes, with a few details changed, and a silly, cliched origin story for Garbageman.

1.) Re: the following:

"CLOSER ON A CONVEYOR BELT – we watch some of the recycling process. A CRANE drops a LOAD OF TRASH onto the belt. Instantly CHOPPING BLADES descend on MECHANICAL ARMS to DICE up the trash. FOLLOW THE TRASH as the conveyor belt moves the sliced trash under a HUGE COMPACTOR that comes down to MASH all the trash flat. The conveyor belt proceeds to feed the sliced up, mashed trash into a huge FLAMING INCINERATOR (NOTE: the belt runs UNDER the flames of the incinerator, carrying the trash through to be melted, not entirely burned).
Where the garbage that this city foolishly squanders is harvested – given value, given worth!
FOLLOW THE TRASH on the conveyor belt as it comes through the other side of the incinerator and we see two of the GARBAGEMAN’S WORKERS sifting through the STEAMING GARBAGE on the belt."

I am baffled -- how is this "recycling"? It seems totally ludicrous, done solely so we can have a "Tim Burton-esque" setting. I'm pretty sure that REAL recycling doesn't start with CHOPPING, MASHING, and MELTING, but instead begins with separating your raw materials into different basic groups so you can then determine what you have and what can be reused. Or maybe Garbageman's version of recycling is totally insane... which could be valid, given his character, but then that would affect the rest of the story.

2.) Re: the following:

"CLOSER ON THE TWO WORKERS: they are ghoulish, deformed, subhuman looking characters. Their skin is pressed tight against their skulls. They have large, protruding eyes (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings). Their teeth are pointy, their hair disheveled, their skin a sickly yellowish hue. "

The obvious question here is -- aside from the desire to have a "Tim Burton-esque" look -- WHY? Why do they look this way? Why are their teeth "pointy"? Garbageman later claims that the were "once human garbage", so the assumption is that they are or were human -- how did they become these "Lord of the Rings" rejects?

3.) Re: the following:

"A loud BUZZING goes off. The group stops short and looks around, alarmed – except for Don, who looks at his work area.
CLOSE ON DON – his eyes widen as he smiles.
The Shell Comm!
WIDE ON DON - running to his work area towards a new device, THE SHELL COMM. – a COMPUTER HUB with FLAT SCREEN MONITORS SUSPENDED ON METAL ARMS and lots of DIALS, BUTTONS and SPEAKERS."

This is SO dumb. Are we REALLY supposed to believe that this is the first time the Turtles have heard the "Shell Com"'s buzzer, so that they're "alarmed"? A buzzer -- yeah, that's pretty alarming. And the description of this "Shell Com" thing sounds ridiculous, considering that Don had, three seasons ago, created the Shell Cells, which were apparently a lot more sophisticated than this thing.

4.) Re: the following:

"OTS DON as he takes a SEAT at the Shell Comm’s console. A monitor before him ignites, on the screen is APRIL O’ NEIL."

"Ignites" does not mean "turns on", it means "starts burning". Or is this a new retro-tech Don has come up with -- candle-powered monitors?

5.) Re: the following:

See you at the junkyard in half hour!"

That should be "half AN hour".

6.) Re: the following:

"A COUGHING APRIL throws her arms around a COUGHING Casey.

April! I’ve cough been wantin’ to COUGH ask you somethin’

CASEY AND APRIL pass out to the floor, shrouded by black smoke."

Considering that he says this AFTER they've all started choking and passing out from the gas coming out of the submersible, this is REALLY dopey timing for this Casey line.

7.) This whole "Trojan Horse" bit with the submersible in the junkyard strikes me as really silly and lacking in logic. How did it get there? How does it leave? It seems to me that something that weird would garner a LOT of attention coming and going. And it's a SUBMERSIBLE, right? Wouldn't it make more sense if it were found somewhere near WATER? Also, why does Garbageman bother with this "dependent on sheer chance" method of gathering his "human garbage", when in his very first appearance he had a much more efficient way of doing so (his amphibious vehicle camouflaged as a garbage truck)? I appreciate the need to somehow get the our characters into Garbageman's clutches, but this just seems really weak and contrived.

8.) Re: the following:

If this is some trick you sick freaks pulled, I’m gonna tear your heads off and use them as Xmas ornaments."

So how is Hun going to say that -- "Xmas" or "Christmas"? Can't the writer be bothered to actually write out "Christmas"?

9.) Re: the following:

"ON A GARBAGE WORKER - furiously shoveling COAL into a FURNACE with a SHOVEL. PAN LEFT past the furnace to see an ASSEMBLY LINE, where another GARBAGE WORKER greedily sifts through TRASH."

So Garbageman, with all his high tech devices, uses a COAL-burning furnace?

10.) Re: the following:

A closed system…a perfect system!"

Garbageman (or the writer) obviously doesn't know what a closed system is -- one where nothing comes in and nothing goes out. That is clearly NOT what he has set up here.

11.) Garbageman's "circus freak" origin story is about as hoary a cliche as you can get.

12.) Re: the following:

"Casey and Hun find a PIPE and a STOP SIGN respectively and smash a blade apiece, but two blades lower to take the place of the blades they smashed! They keep swinging!"

Thank goodness that the blades which would otherwise chop up stop signs and pipes are vulnerable to those same stop signs and pipes when they are swung against the blades!

13.) Re: the following:

"RAPH dodges, then SMASHES two blades with his sai, breaking both!"

Maybe these are just the "practice blades", not the real ones which are supposed to chop up the garbage. Or somebody sold Garbageman some cheap imitation counterfeit blades. Sheesh.

14.) Re: the following:

I’m gonna kick that fat psycho’s butt, right after I “recycle” you Jones!
HUN and CASEY leap for each other angrily and start fighting.
Yeah…your mother!"

This action is SO dopey... and makes both Hun and Casey seem like complete morons who can't see IMMEDIATELY that escaping their imprisonment by this whackbag Garbageman takes precedence over their feud with each other.

15.) Re: the following:

I’ve seen Garbageman tech before… Disable one, and they all go down"

Isn't THAT convenient? When did Don see this? I don't remember any incidents from Garbagman's past two appearances that would lead to this conclusion. And what does it mean, anyway? "Disable one, and they all go down" -- one WHAT?

16.) Re: the following:

" The conveyor belt drops everything into a HUGE SHREDDER.


The Shredder!"

Hah. Hah. This might ALMOST be funny if Raphael didn't repeat pretty much the same gag after the break.

17.) Re: the following:

"ON PLATFORM– Hun grabs the BO and THE TURTLES AND CASEY hoist him up. Hun is stunned, incredulous, wide-eyed, touched.

While I have no problem at all with a scene which has the Turtles and Casey saving Hun instead of doing nothing and letting him die, this one is just dumb. This is HUN, remember -- the guy who can swing lampposts like they're toothpicks. SURELY in this kind of situation, he could pull himself up!

18.) Re: the following:

"THE GROUPS POV of the platform leading to the corridor – a ways down it is GARBAGE WORKER #1 carrying a WHEEL BARREL OF TRASH."

A "wheel barrel" -- is that anything like a WHEELBARROW?

19.) Re: the following:

"ON GROUP – on Casey’s order they charge after him.
Get’ em!"

"'Em" is short for "them". If they are only chasing one person -- and assuming that person is male -- it would be "'im" (short for "him").

20.) The whole scene with the worker is, to put it mildly, wacky. First, our group charges after this poor guy -- why? Then Raph immediately wants to just beat the crap out of him -- why? Then Don stops Raph from hurting the guy, saying that they need to find out from the guy where Garbageman is (huh? why do they need to know that?) and how to get out of Recycle World... but doesn't even ASK the guy anything! (Bizarrely, Don even promises that Raph can beat the guy up later if Raph's good.) And then everybody stands around watching as Hun tortures this guy, breaking his bones, and nobody lifts a finger. And to cap off this stupidity, Don and Raph have a fun little conversation about how "good guys" can't torture people, but lucky for them "bad guys" like Hun can, all while this worker -- who has done NOTHING to any of them, and is obviously one of Garbageman's VICTIMS -- is brutalized by Hun. This is APPALLINGLY bad writing.

21.) Re: the following:

"THE TURTLES, CASEY, AND HUN look utterly horrified as they look off camera.
REVERSE – the lights reveal the GARBAGEMAN. "

Has this writer even SEEN any of the episodes of this show? Why are these characters "utterly horrified"? They have all seen things MUCH scarier than freakin' Garbageman! I could see them looking disgusted or repulsed, but "utterly horrified"? No way.

22.) Re: the following:

"CLOSE ANGLE ON DON - the SERPENT’S JAWS are headed for his head. SUDDENLY - RAPH leaps in and STABS at the serpent’s “neck”.
The “HEAD” flies off, the arms coils loosen, Don wriggles free.
WIDER – GARBAGEMAN watches the action! The arm extends forth a new SERPENT HEAD (from the “neck hole” left by the first head) then CHOMPS DOWN AROUND RAPH’S TORSO and hoists him in the air.
ON RAPH - the SERPENT ARM sends ELECTRICTY surging through it, ZAPPING Raph, keeping him in a painful electrical stasis. "

This stuff is painfully cheesy. I like how the magical head-replacing serpent arm only remembers that it can send electricity through itself when it's holding Raph, but doesn't do it to Don. Bad, bad, bad.

23.) Re: the following:

"CASEY wails on GARBAGEMAN’S OPPOSITE SIDE with two bat-sized PIPES. "

It's "whales", not "wails".

24.) Re: the following:

You had “opinions” about my work, perhaps you be recycled first?"

Should that be "you should be"?

25.) Re: the following:

" Hun continues WAILING on the machine fiercely."

Buy this writer a dictionary! It's "whaling", not "wailing".

26.) Re: the following:

"FOLLOW CASEY as he runs to a nearby PILE OF TRASH and picks up a giant TIMBER SAW BLADE. He runs to the base of the CLAW ARM holding APRIL and SLICES the arm clean off. "

I don't get this action at all. A "timber saw blade"? You mean one of those things that is used to cut WOOD? And Casey simply picks it up and casually slices through a METAL arm?

27.) Re: the following:

"Garbageman hangs on to the damaged catwalk for dear life. It CREAKS, giving way.
THE TURTLES get as close as they can get to him on their (undamaged) catwalk. Don reaches out with his BO.
ON GARBAGEMAN – he reaches out, but at the last second, the catwalk gives, dropping him into the acid below as it falls.
DRAMATIC DOWNSHOT – of Garbageman falling into the acid. "

Let me see if I understand this. Shortly before Garbageman is dangling over the vat of acid, the Turtles are willing to push over another vat of acid, the plan being that the acid will rush towards Garbageman and his partially-disabled walker machine and (apparently) destroy both him and the machine. They clearly don't care if Garbageman gets caught in the "river" of acid that they make flow toward him. But now, for some reason, they want to SAVE him from being dissolved in acid. WTF?!

28.) Re: the following:

Hey, that oversized noggin of yours sure came in handy when you climbed on up and fried those robo blade arms.
And nice assist on the lock to Garbageman’s lair.
By the way, thanks for getting “mean and green” on Garbageman when he had me in his claw. I thought he as going to drop me in that acid for sure. You really raised some shell, Raph.
Aw…that was nothing…compared to your idea to tip over the acid. Hey…who needs Leo and Mikey…we are the Teenage Mutant Dream Team. Gimme’ some green!"

This congratulatory exchange seems completely pointless to me, reiterating as it does action we've already seen, and for no apparent reason.

-- Pete


  1. Hey,Llyod understood and so do we. I think of it as your looking out for us fans trying to give us fans the best quality and accurate portrayal as possible.

    I disagree about #17. Hun might have been weakened and it also allows to show the TMNT"s nobility. It especially would be a follow up to when Casey had the chance in an episde the previous season to off Hun.

    Thanks for giving us a script of sorts to the lost episode. It would have been great to see. Thansk again,Peter!

  2. This was awesome. Thanks so much for sharing! I think you were completely justified in your tone. I'm sure it would be hard for you to see someone writing your characters so badly. It's really cool to see how much effort you have invested into understanding your characters and how easily you can dismiss something and say, "That would never happen." I'm so glad you were a direct consultant for the 2K3 show, because judging by this script you have shared with us, the series wouldn't have been nearly as good if they had taken complete creative freedom. You probably saved us all from some pretty atrocious episodes and plotlines.

  3. I just had too say, thanks for being so vigilante on this show. It's through emails like this that we did not get characters like Howy Hardy the song writer(A woody Allen rip off), or an Easter Bunny from a dimension filled with fairy tale characters.

    The whole episode parts that you gave us read like some kind of bad fan fiction, complete with bad spelling. I'm no spelling wiz, but Final Draft has spell check...the writer was too lazy to go back and proof read. you sure he didn't write most of Fast Forward? ;o)

  4. That was beyond entertaining. With all the spelling and grammatical errors, I'll be astounded if the writer didn't get fired after turning in that script!

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