Since1984 the story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one that is known by fans all over the world. The tale of four turtles that mutated into humanoid creatures due to being contaminated by nuclear waste; brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael live under the streets of New York City where they were raised and trained by their sensei/father Splinter, a mutant rat. Together, with the aid of reporter April O’Neil, the “heroes in a half shell” battle the evil Shredder and his legion of foot soldiers, while scarfing down pizza and making bad puns. One of the most successful comic book franchises of all times, the Ninja Turtles were a major marketing phenomena during the late eighties and into the nineties, spinning off from their cult comic book series by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, into a mega-successful cartoon series, a toy line, video games, three live action movies and a plethora of products to numerous to name. For billions of people worldwide, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or TMNT as the fans call have christened them, became an important part of childhood memories which are now being shared with a second generation of fans who share their parent’s enthusiasm for the strange amphibious heroes.
But now the Ninja Turtles have a enemy more threatening then Shredder, and more powerful then a billion foot soldiers. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now must face the mighty fist of filmmaker Michael Bay.
One of the biggest douchebags in Hollywood, Michael Bay has tainted the film industry since 1995 by creating giant blockbuster films which emphasize special effects and explosions over character, plot or coherency. Although he is critically despised by film fans and critics alike, his films still seem to attract a certain audience, which has not only made Hollywood billions, but made Michael Bay one of the most powerful and wealthiest film makers in the world. But in recent weeks Bay made a new set of enemies in the pop culture community when he announced that he not only has acquired the rights to make a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie, but that he plans to do away with the original plot and turn the Ninja Turtles into aliens.
That’s right. The Ninja Turtles are going to be aliens.
As both the hard core Ninja Turtles fans, and even a more passive group of pop culture fans, stammered together in a stunned silence at the stupidity of this development, one man has risen from the ashes and has thrown down the gauntlet as a defender for Ninja Turtle fans everywhere. That man is Robbie Rist.
That’s right. Robbie Rist. The guy who played Cousin Oliver.
Although best remembered for his role as the bespecled “harbinger of doom” on The Brady Bunch, actor/musician/music producer Robbie Rist has had a long career in Hollywood in a variety of different roles, with one of his most successful venues being a voice actor. In fact, in 1990, Robbie Rist voiced Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and continued the role through all of its sequels.
Earlier this week Robbie Rist woke up to the news about Michael Bay’s idiotic plans and wrote the following people letter to Bay on his facebook page:
“You probably don’t know me but I did some voice work on the first set of movies that you are starting to talk about sodomising, I know believing in mutated talking turtles is kinda silly to begin with but am I supposed to be led to believe there are ninjas from another planet? The rape of our childhood memories continues …”
Within hours TMZ had gotten hold of Robbie’s message and before anybody could say “Cowabunga Dude,” Robbie had put forth the first challenge in what fans are now calling “Turtlegate.” Suddenly Robbie Rist was at war with Michael Bay.
So now two legendary figures of the pop culture industry stand at opposite ends of at battlefield where one of the weirdest conflicts in pop culture will be fought. Robbie is armed with his wits, his sense of humor, his keen intelligence and a legion of devoted Turtle fans. Michael Bay is on the defensive with his money, his power, and the fact that he just doesn’t seem to give a shit. Furthermore, Robbie Rist is a friend of mine. Michael Bay is just an asshole. Is this Armageddon or is it something far, far stranger.
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
TURTLEGATE: BAY VS RIST:
A PCA COMMENTARY FEATURING ROBBIE RIST
Sam Tweelde: So let’s talk about Turtlegate.
Robbie Rist: Is that what they are calling it?
Sam: Yeah. Some sources have deemed this Turtlegate.
Robbie: Sweet! They’ve named it already! That’s great! That’s so terrific!
Sam: What was your first initial contact with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Robbie: A guy I was in a band with was a comic book guy and he said “Hey, this is kind of a funny thing I’m reading.” It was this black and white comic and I thought “This is kind of grim. [The turtles] are swearing for God’s sake.” A couple of years later I hear their doing a cartoon of it and thought “Really? That seems like really dark material for children.” Then I noticed that was kind of getting big, and then I read for the movie.
Sam: And you became the voice of Michelangelo for the three live action Ninja Turtle movies.
Robbie: Yes. It’s an interesting thing. A lot of things I’ve done have entered the cultural bloodstream. There was the Brady thing, and then this. One of the things that happens when I meet Turtle fans is that every one of them has a story about how this film fundamentally changed them somehow. Some of [the stories] are really really beautiful. Some of them are amazing.
Sam: So now you are battling it out with Michael Bay.
Robbie: Well, how this started is that I have my radio show, The Spoon, and we cover things like this all the time. We have a segment on our show called “Sodomizing a Legacy.” We’ve done Jerry Lewis, George Lucas…we’ve done so many. So, all the time we are bagging on people who bug the shit out of us. Well just that morning I’d read [about Michael Bay and the Ninja Turtles] and I just jokingly wrote the letter to Michael Bay on my facebook page. I was just joking around, but TMZ said “We just read you thing. Can we use it tomorrow.” I said “Uh…yeah. I guess. Sure.” So I woke up the next morning and suddenly I’m at war with Michael Bay. I’m like “Oh. Well, if that’s what we’re doing I’ll make it into a bit of theater…I guess.” At that point I knew that if this was going to get bigger then what it is, I have to at least be somewhat serious about what I’m saying. What I thought was of all these people that I’ve ever met that love those movies so much and have told me all those crazy stories and they don’t have a chance to be loud enough for [Michael Bay] to hear them from up the block. It’s entirely possible that by me acting like a loudmouth that maybe they get heard a little louder. Here’s the thing. Ultimately we’re talking about guys in rubber suits. That’s all we’re talking about. However, fans got [him] where [he is]. You can tweak it. By all means, be an artist. But don’t just get the property and go “Well, it’s not that anymore.” Look at it this way. Batman and Robin is a terrible Batman movie, but at least Batman and Robin are still guys that are crime fighters. They aren’t suddenly house painters from New Jersey!
Sam: Well I can tell you, personally, that I have a sort of hatred for Michael Bay as a filmmaker.
Sam: I think of Grauman’s Chinese Theater being a holy shrine. It is a religious experience for me to go there. But the fact that Michael Bay’s feet and hands are at Grauman’s is a desecration of that temple. Now honestly, on the record, what are your true feelings about Michael Bay?
Robbie: Before we get into that, at the end of the day, if I can help out the fans and the people who like Turtles, I’ve done my job. As a guy who feels like I got burned by [the remake of] Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, nobody was there for me. I want to be there for them. Just like I say in the thing I wrote on facebook, “The rape of our childhood memories continues.” I may be overstating things. Again, we are talking about guys in rubber suits beating each other up. To compare the two is totally “for shock” metaphor. But, for me, it shows flagrant disregard for anything but [Bay’s] own jollies. Why change it? Peter Laird wrote a thing over the internet saying “Let’s say the slime is from a different planet. Doesn’t that make them aliens?” They are doing a tremendous amount of back pedaling. It’s pretty interesting.
Sam: I don’t understand how Michael Bay feels that he can alienate the core audience and thinks that he can get away with it.
Robbie: But that’s my point. He did it with Transformers and he still made a billion dollars. That blows my mind. How is that possible, to take something that people really really like and make a really bad version of it. With just a little bit of talking with a fan it could have been so much better. One of the people who told me an awesome story was this woman named Michelle Ivy. She’s arguably the biggest Turtle fan on the planet. Well get her and then some guy from another Turtle camp and another guy from another Turtle camp and lock them in a room for a week and say “You get one shot at this. Just give us a story, we’ll give it to a screen writer and we’ll make it.” They’ll argue amongst themselves, but that will be beautiful because in the end they’ll make one bitchin’ movie. I can’t believe that [Michael Bay] is telling the people that put him their “Sit down. You’ll eat it anyway. You’ll eat whatever I give you.”
Sam: It’s just arrogance on the highest of levels.
Robbie: Well they don’t look at it that way. They don’t know. Maybe [Michael Bay] has never felt an attachment to something. Or if he did, maybe he just doesn’t remember. But for a long time, when I was making records and stuff I was trying to evoke what I do, what made me feel that way in the first place.
Sam: You haven’t heard from Michael Bay’s camp, have you?
Robbie: Heard what?
Robbie: Oh no. No. Are you kidding? I’m not even on the radar. They are probably saying, “Oh yeah. Which guy? Oh…him? Okay. Who cares? His career is over. It’s fine.” (Laughs) But what’s hilarious about it is that this whole kafuffle has so many elements to it. Now it’s drawn into camps and Judith Hoag is on the side of Michael Bay and so is Corey Feldman and Brian Tochi. I stand alone…with Townsend Coleman. Townsend Coleman wrote on my page “You can talk for us anytime Mikey.” Yeah. It’s hilarious.
Sam: Do you remember a few years ago, when a script for a Green Lantern film starring Jack Black got leaked, and fan response was so negative that the film was retooled? Do you think something like that could happen in this case?
Robbie: Well, I guess we would have to have the leak first off. Oh, how hilarious would that be if someone actually goes in and gets it? (Laughs) This thing is so ridiculous. I’ve been saying to people “Stay loud and stay proud.” Just keep letting them know you’re out there and say “I pay your bills.”
Sam: Since the TMZ article have you gotten much media attention?
Robbie: Yeah, some. A couple of radio stations here or there.
Sam: How about from the fans?
Robbie: Oh man. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount there. They [write things like}, “Thank you. Somebody said something. Terrific.” A lot of people have come forward. I’ve received some hilarious fan art. I’ve got some hilarious memes. This thing could totally be won by Photoshop.
Sam: You’ve been doing voice overs since you were a kid, haven’t you?
Robbie: Yeah. Well, voice overs didn’t become my thing until I was probably in my twenties. I did a little bit here and there before until I was in my twenties.
Sam: I was watching some clips of your latest show, Doc McStuffins on YouTube and I could barely recognize your voice for Stuffy the Dragon.
Sam: Yeah. It doesn’t sound like you. It’s that good.
Robbie: Well that’s terrific! Thank you. I always wonder about that because when I watch stuff where I do voices I just think it sounds like me.
Sam: How has the show been doing?
Robbie: Well I’m going to a party at the producers’ house in about an hour. She seems very optimistic and I’m already getting e-mails saying “My five year old flipped out over it.” I hope it’s a real thing that’ll go on.
Sam: It’s gotten great reviews over the internet.
Robbie: I read one article where Chris, the creator, said that she was trying to come up with something like Cheers for pre-schoolers. Somewhere where you’d go to every week and instead of going into a bar it’d be this little doctor thing. Yeah. But I am grateful and cautiously optimistic. If this works, it’s not only a really cool job but I think its being part of something more then being just a ridiculous comedy show. This show is about taking just a little bit of fear out of little kids’ lives, and that’s bitchin’.
One of the most discouraging truths about Michael Bay’s plans to turn the Ninja Turtles into aliens is the fact that no matter if the fans reject the idea; Bay has the success, the money and the power behind him to do it. The reason is because despite the fact that his movies just aren’t very good, the public goes to his films like lemmings off a cliff, creating another lackluster summer blockbuster year after year, giving him more power in the Hollywood industry. The reason that Michael Bay is where he is, is because we, the public, have put him there. Robbie Rist is just one man and one voice, and unfortunately the opinions expressed by even a thousand Ninja Turtle fans will not be enough to stop Michael Bay’s diabolical plans.
There is only one way to stop Michael Bay, and that is to hit him where it really hurts – his pocketbook. It is time for the pop culture community at large to ban together and boycott Michael Bay. Stop going to his movies. Stop buying his DVDs. Stop supporting any project remotely connected to Michael Bay. By boycotting Michael Bay perhaps we will finally send a real message that he can’t jerk around with beloved franchisees like the Ninja Turtles on a whim. Together, we can send a message to Michael Bay and the people in Hollywood who don’t care about the fans. Its time for the fans to take back the power. It is us who put individuals like Michael Bay where he is, and together we can take it away. It is time to stop being apathetic, and stop giving into mundane summer blockbusters. That is why PCA is saying Boycott Bay in 2012. Join the movement to Boycott Bay. We may not be able to save the Ninja Turtles, but perhaps we can stop Michael Bay from wrecking another beloved franchise in the future.