CBM: Each Turtle has their own accessories to differentiate themselves. Could you walk us through that design process?
Kelton Cram: Jonathan Liebesman had a lot of the ideas in his head about the different personalities of each Turtle, and how that would determine the size, costume, and accessories. It was all based on the original TMNT, but with a more cinematic approach. Donnie, the brain with the gadgets, Mikey the surfer, Leo the traditional one, and of course Raph the rebel.
The process was very thought out and took about 6 months. I was fortunate enough to work with Liebesman very early on and help design the Turtles in 2D. once the basic silouettes and ideas were approved, we quickly moved into 3D, where we sculpted and resculpted the different Turtles multiple times. Liebesman loved being able to go into Zbrush with the artists and push and pull the anatomy. Ultimately he was able to achieve exactly what he wanted through this process.
CBM: Was the size of the Turtles something that was decided early?
Kelton Cram: They wanted all the Turtles to be unique in shape and size. Tall and skinny to short and stalky to even more brutish.
CBM: How did you approach Shredder?
Kelton Cram: Shredder had a lot of changes throughout the process. The script would have big rewrites, and we completely revisited Shredders look and function. I got to spend a lot of time making numerous versions for Shredder.
CBM: When you were asked to design the Turtles did they already have a certain look in mind?
Kelton Cram: I think the director had a vision that we were able to achieve over a 6 month period. They definitely wanted it to feel gritty and real world.
CBM: Did you look at any of the previous source material for inspiration?
Kelton Cram: Oh yes, tons. Probably every TMNT image on the net was at some point viewed, or mentioned hehe. Originally we worked with concept designer Jerad Marantz. His work was very inspiring and helped influence the overall feel of the characters.
CBM: What was the biggest challenge you faced on this project?
Kelton Cram: Because everything was tackled very early on in 3D, there was a lot of work for each change being made that would have to effect all the models and illustrations. Also,: the attachment of the shell, and trying to keep the turtles looking strong but able to move and fight at the same time was a bit tricky
CBM: Knowing that the Turtles would be motion-capture instead of a man-in-a-suit, must’ve given you more freedom, right?
Kelton Cram: Yes. I think it gives you a break at times knowing the animators and VFX artists would have to resolve things that were out of our control.
CBM: How difficult is it to balance the cartoon-look of the Turtles with some of their realistic elements?
Kelton Cram: It was also a bit of a challenge. as you know die-hard fans don’t like it when you re-design their childhood heroes. so we did try to stick to the spirit of the cartoons as much as possible.
CBM: Any final thoughts?
Kelton Cram: Myself and a crew of two other artists, Jerad Kerchevsky and Cameron Ward, were lucky enough to get to tackle the four Turtles and most the side characters. It was a dream job to say the least. Mostly because we all grew up in the 80’s, and knew the TMNT franchise to the last detail. Which was very helpful to the director.
The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.