Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blast from the Past #612: April 23, 2003: Hey Stan and Stan Sakai, and April 30, 2003: Re: Checkin' in...

Subj: Hey Stan!
Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 12:22:17 AM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Stan Sakai


I hope this is still your email address -- you sent it to me March 5, 2002.

If you do get this message, I hope it finds you and your family healthy and happy. Thanks for continuing to send the USAGI comics -- I enjoy reading them.

I'm not sure if you've had the opportunity (or the inclination!) to see our new TMNT show on Fox (Saturday mornings at 10:30, I think). I'm really happy with it -- it is so much more like the show I hoped for way back when. I worked really closely with 4Kids on the storylines, many of which have come right from our original comics, which is quite satisfying.

Anyway, on to the specific reason for this email... this past month I have been working with Lloyd Goldfine (head writer at 4Kids) on the second season of the show, and we both agreed that, if possible, we would love to include Usagi in one or more episodes. In REALLY rough form, the idea that I proposed to Lloyd (which would allow us to have the Turtles encounter Usagi without having him come to the present time in NYC) is that Splinter and one or more of the Turtles (maybe all of them) travel through some "mystic ninja portal" to a place outside of time and space, where dimensions collide... and martial artists from all over come together for a series of competitions. So Usagi, from his reality of anthropomorphic animals in feudal Japan, can meet the Turtles, from their human-dominated reality of NYC in the year 2003.

I'm sure there are any number of other ways to get Usagi and the Turtles together, but that's the one idea we've talked about so far.

If you're interested in pursuing this, please let me know, and we can get the ball rolling on both the legal (contracts) and creative (you, me and Lloyd) sides. I think it would be a heck of a lot of fun!

Take care!

-- Peter Laird


Subj: Stan Sakai
Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 10:54:22 PM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine


Today I emailed Stan Sakai and asked him if he'd be interested in our including Usagi Yojimbo in one or more episodes of the second season, and he responded positively. Cool! So, while our legal beagles work out a good deal with Stan, I think we should start bending our brains to figure out a way to get the TMNT and Usagi together. I'm sure Stan will have some good ideas of his own.

-- Pete


Subj: Re: Checkin' in...
Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 12:52:44 AM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Lloyd Goldfine

In a message dated 4/28/03 8:40:15 PM, Lloyd writes:

<< Please take the time to look over the additional story arc stuff I sent you earlier today and get me your comments asap (greatly appreciated, as
always!). >>


notes re: second season 

     Episode 35/"Reflections": I think I've already said that I don't like "clip" shows (who does?), but if we must, we must. I would like to try to make it into something cool, if possible, something that would stand out from a typical "clip" show. Not sure what that would be, exactly. One idea: Make the framing sequences April writing in a new journal, telling her story of the incredible new life she has  had since meeting the Turtles. She could be doing it on a bus, or out in the park, or in a coffee shop, or maybe in a number of locations. The end of the show could be a funny bit where she packs up her stuff to go home, but unseen by her, her new journal slips out of her purse/bag and is subsequently picked up by someone who reads it and says (gag coming!) "This would make a great comic book!" I wonder if that gag would work if we had the two cops who are drawn as caricatures of me and Kevin be the ones who find the journal... we could show them in that same coffee shop, eating donuts or something. The younger cop could be the one who is enthusing, and we could reprise a gag from the first episode of the first season when the older cop pauses for a moment, then says "Rookie...!", then takes the journal and tosses it into the coffee shop's "lost and found" box as the two cops leave the shop.

     Episode 36/"The Ultimate Ninja": This isn't a bad idea, but needs some honing. A basic problem I have with this kind of story is that if this Ultimate Ninja (is that name taken already?) is so good he can easily defeat Casey, Raph, Mike and Don, why does he have any trouble with Leo? Are we saying that Leo is better than Casey, Mike, Raph and Don together? Doesn't seem right.

     I think it would be cool if we could tie this story in to the "The Big Brawl" cross-dimensional martial arts tournament. Perhaps this Ultimate Ninja is a recruiter sent out by the organizers of the tournament to evaluate possible contenders... or maybe he is truly evil, and he's going around trying to eliminate possible contenders. If done right, this could not only be a standalone story but serve as a nifty foreshadowing of "The Big Brawl".
     Some detail comments:

          -- I like the watching of the western movie thing, but Mike doing a "John Wayne" thing to Splinter and referring to him as "l'il missy" and "ma'am" seems a bit weird. I'd suggest changing those to "pardner" and "muchacho" or "hombre" or some such.

          -- The idea that the Ultimate NInja would attack them at an ice cream shop seems kind of strange. Why there?  How does he know the Turtles are even there, if they never come out of the BattleShell? And why does he take April prisoner (shades of the old series!)? Also, I thought Splinter has stayed behind in the lair, but he shows up in the battleshell to talk about the gunfighter in the movie, but then is seen no more in that scene.
     Episode 37/"Modern Love: The Return of Nano": 

          -- I think there is an opportunity for some humor if Mike gives Don some crap about needing scuba gear ("Man, you're a TURTLE!"), followed by Don telling Mikey that the water passage from the lair could be miles long ("How long can YOU hold your breath, Mikey? Remember, turtles don't have GILLS!").

          -- I don't object to the return of Nano per se, but I really don't want to see him becoming a recurring character or becoming too important to the Turtles, i.e. making a whole lot of Don's inventions for him. I also think we're missing a really interesting opportunity here by not playing with the interaction between Harry and Dr. Richards (did she have a first name? I can't remember), and also between those two and Nano. It's cool how Nano has brought together his "mother" and his "father" to try to have a family, and I think we can do more with this to make this a really strong emotional episode. If it works out, it might even make a neat two-parter.

     One thing that struck me as I was reading your plot idea is that both Harry and Dr. Richards are both "damaged" people who have made some bad choices in their lives and have come to the conclusion that they'll just have to live with them. They've both abandoned any hopes or dreams of having families -- Harry because he's a two-bit hustler living out of a suitcase, and Dr. Richards because she's so career-obsessed and driven. I think it would possibly be a cool thing to have Nano's misconceived idea (bringing these two people together to be his "family") actually, in the end, work... some spark or connection happens between Harry and Dr. Richards, something that makes them realize how much they have given up, and that this might be the opportunity for both of them to have a fresh start. 

     In fact... if we could have these two opposites come together in a "love connection", it might afford us a fun opportunity to have a little moment where our regular cast is observing this, and one of them comments on the fact that these two are such opposites and yet they have bonded... and there could be a look, a glance between Casey and April... something brief, and they hastily look away, but that glance spoke volumes. (It also connects to another point I was going to make -- I would really like to see the Casey/April relationship move forward this second season. Specifically, I think it would be cool/fun to do a "First Date" episode which would be a "comedy of errors" type thing wherein Casey and April attempt to go on a first date, but all kinds of things and misunderstandings get in the way, finally culminating in their first kiss. As well as this, we should attempt to fit in -- wherever possible and as long as it makes sense -- little Casey/April bits in the other episodes which show them slowly growing closer (much to their mutual amazement).
          -- "Back at the secret lab, Harry, Nano, and Dr. Richards are hiding out." Is this HER secret lab? I was under the impression that this was some large company she worked for, with other staff and such. If so, it might be kind of hard for all of them to hide out there.

          -- I don't have a problem with April wanting to reopen her father's antique shop, but calling it "The 3rd Time Around" doesn't sit right with me, for some reason.

          -- I'm REALLY not sure I want Nano coming to stay with the Turtles.

     Episode 38/"Return to the Underground":

          -- I'm REALLY not sure I want Nano coming to stay with the Turtles.

          -- The Tunneler is a cool idea, but I don't really like the way it's used. The idea that our heroes are going to get into what is essentially a rocket and fire themselves at breakneck speed down some kind of dodgy pre-drilled tunnel just seems weird and needlessly dangerous to me. Why do they need to go so fast?

     I think a different kind of Tunneler mechanism would be better. Here's a thought -- what if Don had somehow scavenged (or adapted from some technology in the Utrom hoverskiff) a kind of short-range transmat gizmo which he mounts on the front of the Tunneler, and what it does is transport a big clump of stuff from in front of the Tunneler, creating a void into which the Tunneler advances, then it beams that clump into the space the Tunneler just vacated. No muss, no fuss! No messy tunnels leading every which way! This method might also lead to a cool moment of jeopardy when the drive fails momentarily -- and our heroes are trapped in a pocket within the rock, with no entrance... and no exit!

          -- As I've said, I'm not crazy about the idea of Nano being used so much. I really feel like we should wrap up his story in the "Modern Love" episode. That being said, I could see Don having a sample of Nano (a non-sentient sample) which he could use to help out the Underground dwellers.

          -- I'm also not crazy about the underground genetics lab becoming the Shredder's new hideout. It brings him uncomfortably close to the Turtles' lair, and also I feel like we should try to add some new locations in this second season so we don't seem to be rehashing stuff. 

     Episode 39/"City at War" part 1: I like the fact that you want to adapt the "City at War" stories from the comics, but I think some basic things need to be readjusted.

          -- We originally broke up the Foot into the following factions, all of which were at odds with the others:

               -- Shredder's Elite Guard -- the smallest group, fanatically devoted to the Shredder, consummate martial artists

               -- Foot Soldiers -- the basic "grunts" of the Foot Clan, numerous, skilled, not very good planners

               -- Foot Scientists -- the tech division of the Foot, somewhat skilled in martial arts, but mostly talented in creating/developing high-tech weapons (they created the robots in the comic version of "City at War")... less numerous than Foot Soldiers, somewhat better at planning. For the TV show, the enhanced Foot Tech Ninja could be part of this crew.

               -- Foot Accountants -- don't laugh! These guys ran the daily financial operations of the Foot Clan in NYC, and are skilled at manipulating same and also any kind of organizational paperwork stuff. (They shut off the power to the Foot Scientists' lab facilities in the comics by manipulating billing records at the electric company!) They number about as many as the Foot Scientists, and are about as skilled in martial arts.

               -- Foot Mystics -- we actually didn't have these guys in the comics (though they WILL be showing up in some of the new Mirage TMNT comics; Steve Murphy has a cool story for the new Tales of the TMNT comic featuring a battle between Splinter and a Foot Mystic), but as they are a part of the show it would be cool to include them. They are perhaps less numerous than the Shredder Elite, but very skilled in the dark arts.

     The reason I have gone through all this is that I think it's important for the "City at War" storyline to keep one of the major threads, which is the idea that the Foot, now being leaderless, has fractured into these squabbling factions, and really needs a strong leader (in this case Karai) to come in and bring them all back together again. The Shredder Elite would never work with the basic Foot Soldiers in an alliance against the other Foot factions -- they are too fanatical.

     Also, while it's kind of a neat twist to make Karai a pawn of the Utrom known as the Shredder, I thinks it's also a mistake. I think Karai should be much like she is in the comics, a powerful character who brings unity (and the potential for conflict with the Turtles down the road) to the Foot. This is key because that also means that she can/should come into conflict later on with the Shredder, if we bring him back as I suspect we might. I think she could become a strong adversary for the Turtles in her own right.

     We need to be very careful to not forget another key ingredient of the "City at War" saga -- and that was how it pointed out quite clearly (and I remember we very deliberately did this) that as strong and powerful and capable as the Turtles are, they are completely out of their depth when they get involved in this huge war among the Foot factions. I feel there is a but too much "superhero-ing" in these "City at War" episodes, with the Turtles jumping in and fighting with the different groups in this conflict for no reason (apparently) other than to have fights. (For example, there's a scene where Leo has followed some Foot Soldiers to the "rundown place" where they are squatting in "filth and squalor", and for no reason that I can see he's about to "leap down and engage them" when he is held back by the other Turtles.) I really want to keep this to a minimum, and have them only get involved when they have to.

     It also affords us the opportunity to show some conflict AMONG the Turtles, to show that they don't all always think with a "group mind". Raphael -- and Mike, who has shown himself to have a desire to "do good" -- might feel more inclined to jump in and mix it up with the battling factions, and Leo could find himself leaning in that direction (i.e. not wanting to be passive) but also realizing that as leader that would be a bad decision. Don  might take a more passive attitude ("Not our problem!") and argue that not only are they "the Turtles) not capable of battling all these factions, but maybe they'd all be better off if these factions essentially killed each other off.

     Episode 40/"City at War" part 2: 

          -- While the exchange between Mikey and April about him leading the Foot back to her new shop is a funny bit of business, it also makes Mikey look like a complete insensitive jerk due to the way it's handled, i.e. he KNOWS that he has put her in danger... but does it anyway. If, on the other hand, we could play it as if he didn't even THINK of that possibility, and when April angrily points it out to him he's really freaked out, that might work.

          -- Going along with my earlier comments about the structure of the conflict among the Foot factions, I think a key thing to make this story work is to get across the idea that when Karai arrives from Japan, she is able to take control of the basic Foot Soldiers, as she represents an authority that they understand and respect, and she is then able to use them in her efforts to bring the Foot factions back together under her control.

     I mention this in part because of some questions raised in my mind when I read the water tower scene where Karai and her two aides somehow conceal themselves in the water tower while the Turtles are there sitting around talking, with no idea that anyone else is in there with them. This seems somewhat silly. I'd like to bring this more in line with the way it was in the comics, if possible. And we have another situation here where a character is introduced (Karai) who is apparently better and more skilled than all of the Turtles combined.

     Episode 41/"City at War" part 3:

          -- My two major problems with this episode are (a) the continued (over)use of the underground Foot Genetics lab, and (b) making Karai the Shredder's secret accomplice.

     Episode 42/"What a Croc!":

          -- I like the use of Leatherhead in this episode, and I think the way you have brought Baxter Stockman into it is cool, though I think we have to be a little careful that he doesn't turn up EVERYWHERE.
          -- I don't see why the Turtles' switching weapons would confuse the TurtleBot -- wasn't it just able to counter those same weapons? I think we need a more clever solution to this problem -- maybe Leo tells them all to "fight badly", i.e. alter their usual precision of attacks and counterattacks to mess with the robot's programming. This could be foreshadowed by a "Splinter lesson" where he teaches them (or tries to) about the value of flexibility in battle, of changing your attack to adapt to your foe's unique qualities.

     Episode 43/"The Garbageman Returns": I think this one needs to be thought out a lot more... if we bring back a character like Garbageman, who -- let's face it -- was not our most cool or interesting character, we should have a very good reason. I need to hear more about what you have in mind here -- the image of the junk car slowly making its way across the seabed is an intriguing visual, but right now makes not a whole lot of sense.

     Episode 44/"April's Artifact": Of course I love the idea of mixing in dinosaurs and time travel! It would also be cool to introduce Renet from the TMNT comics, and, in fact, we have in the works right now a "reimagining" of TMNT Vol.1 #8 which is going to tell the story of how the Turtles first met Renet and the sorcerer Savanti Romero, but in a different way (and without Cerebus). It might actually be a story which could be adapted to an episode without much trouble.

     Episode 45/"Monster Mash": A good monster story is always fun, and it might be cool to get a little spooky. And if we can work some Lovecraftian stuff in there -- all the better!

     Episode 46 and 47/"Rogue Triceraton": Cool.

     Episode 48/"Northampton Retired Superheroes": Cool.

     Episode 49-51/"The Big Brawl": This could be great fun and help to expand the Turtle universe (something I think we really need to do in this and following seasons), and especially would be great if we can work Usagi Yojimbo into it. There could be tons of cool kick butt ninja action. As mentioned earlier, it might be neat if we could connect the "Ultimate Ninja" episode with these.

     Episode 52/"Big Season-Ender Cliffhanger": I'm not sure if by "exposed to the media once and for all" and "return of the Utroms" you meant that you are considering working in the continuity from Vol. 4 (the current TMNT comics series), where the alien Utroms have arrived on Earth in full view and the world is changed completely. It would be a bold step, and might work well for a number of different reasons. I'm not so sanguine about the "one Turtle seemingly killed" thing, though I will keep an open mind.


     I think we really need to put our thinking caps on and try to think up some new villains, heroes, and situations to get the Turtles into for this and future seasons. I'm not averse to bringing back characters from past episodes, but I'm only really interested in doing that when we can tell some new and compelling stories. What about friends and family of Casey and April? What about a Splinter solo story? What about an adventure in a "microworld" (the old "universe in a grain of sand" idea)? 

     Look forward to working on any and/or all of these with you, Lloyd!

     -- Pete


  1. Reading that opening e-mail, I'm glad Stan Sakai allowed the use of Usagi in the show. Was he quite pleased with the results?

    Makes me wish the people at Nick can somehow work out a deal with him so Usagi could appear in the new cartoon too.

    1. I'm pretty sure Stan liked it -- at the very least, it was a better portrayal of Usagi than in the original TMNT TV show. -- PL

  2. I would have loved the Solo Splinter story.

    But in this series, Karai was a frustrating Character, never really making up her mind "Kill or help the turtles?" She kept on goin back and forth, and never really made up her mind for long. Hell, after the Demon Shredder arc and destroying their layer, she somehow got invited to April and Casey's wedding later ;o)..never understood that invite, heh.

    one missed opportunity in fast forward was to do a story about future foot, considering it looked like Her and Chaplin where going to lead it at the end of the Demon Shredder arc...

    While I do like the new Turtles Show, I thought there was at least another 3 years of stories for the 4kids version :).