‘Game Shakers’: A New Show About Girl Game Developers

game-shakers
Image credit: Nick.com

This Saturday, the first episode of Game Shakers premieres on Nickelodeon. The show features two 12-year-old-girls who start their own gaming company, beginning with an app called Sky Whale. To add to the fun, Nickelodeon plans to release all of the games seen on the show. Sky Whale (iOS and Android) was released last Thursday, and I’ve been playing it ever since.

Really, how can you resist the lure of a flying narwhal in red high heels and a snorkel eating donuts and achieving things like “Double Money Monkey Toilet” and “Double Sushi Pig Nose?”

When you hit a cheeseburger in the game, it announces, “Welcome to Good Burger!” That’s because Game Shakers stars Kel Mitchell, of the “Good Burger” sketch in the series All That, which became its own movie in 1997.

The two-episode premiere will include other familiar guest stars, including Victorious’ Matt Bennett and Yvette Nicole Brown (Robbie Shapiro and Helen Dubois).

If the show turns out to be half as fun as the game, I won’t mind a bit when my kids won’t stop watching it.

Game Shakers premieres on Saturday, September 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon. Meanwhile, check out the trailer:

Korra: Why You and Your Kids Should Be Watching

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Image By Nickelodeon

There are many reasons to enjoy The Legend of Korra. It’s full of action: stunning martial arts, elemental power fights, speeding car chases, airship rides, and flying bison. There’s comedy in every episode: Bolin’s silly and frightening romance with Eska, one-liner brilliance from Varrick, and various cute animal antics. There’s romance too. The plot keeps moving and moving. The characters grow and change. And the world itself is artistically creative and engaging.

But there are other, very important reasons to watch The Legend of Korra, and I will give you a brief description of some characters to prove the first one:

1. A trainee who will never let a friend down, but is quick to fight and lacks patience.
2. A ruler who keeps order with cruelty, and steals from the people.
3. A stylish and good-looking engineer who likes fast cars and planes.
4. A thoughtful child who struggles with Dad to take on responsibility.
5. A captain of the police force who doesn’t crack a smile, but is clever and self-sacrificing.

These characters may not be anything you haven’t seen in a show, but in this case they are all female and in the same show- sometimes even the same episode! Gasp!

Like its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the female population is represented in an equal and diverse way—the way it should be in every story. I wrote a post awhile back called “Great Heroines for Boys“: “Why should you encourage your son to read books with heroines? That’s easy. You want your son to grow up knowing that a strong female for a friend, wife, or boss is normal and good.”

Korra is the lead character in the show, but she is far from the only interesting girl and woman to watch. When first watching, you may think it is female heavy in its speaking and side characters, but don’t be fooled! We have been trained to see mostly males on screen, even though our real world is half and half. When seeing something in entertainment that is closer to reality, it seems odd. That’s a good reason to watch Korra with your kids. Make seeing women and girls as part of the “normal” storytelling world. Regardless if they are good, bad, speaking, or in the background—just make us be there!

Are there awesome boys and men? Absolutely! The cast is full of great male heroes, villains, and some that play both sides too.

Besides being diverse with gender roles, I have never seen a show that has strong characters of so many different ages—this is truly a family show where everyone can see themselves in a cool role. There are children to kick ass, teens that kick ass, mid-lifers that kick-ass, and a couple of grannies that made me laugh. When Lin Beifong had a big scene at the end of Season One, I found my new hero—and she was an older woman with gray hair. In season three we meet her sister (with curly gray hair!).

Working through relationships is a huge part of the plot lines between siblings, friends, children and parents, and romantic interests; even the spiritual essence of GOOD and EVIL had a relationship to balance out. One of the overall plot arcs is a romance with Mako, the angsty, fire bending teen boy. Within the first two seasons (or books), Mako alternately is dating the main character Korra, and/or Asami. They all make mistakes, and by the third season Mako isn’t dating anyone. Asami and Korra become friends, and it’s an important relationship for both of them. And although it’s awkward with Mako for awhile, eventually the need to work together overshadows everything else, and he is able to be friends with his exes. Rarely do series show the normal ups and downs of dating, such as how time is needed to heal, and how to handle it all in a mature way.

I recommend The Legend of Korra because it proves that bringing quality and equality to cartoons only adds to the fun and entertainment. We need more shows like this!

Meeting My Childhood Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Right to left) Barry Gordon, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
(Right to left) Barry Gordon, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Meeting the original cast of the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles during Nickelodeon Resort’s “TMNT Retro Weekend” was more fun than I could have imagined. It brought back so many old memories and at the same time, I was creating new ones.

I had the opportunity to tell the cast my own TMNT story: how when things get rough with my anxiety, as an adult, I turn to the Turtles to take my mind off of it. I guess you could say that the Turtles give me an escape from anxiety and depression.

As a child, I looked up to the Turtles and pretended they were my brothers, always there to protect me. When things got rough, I would go to my room and escape into that world where they were there to comfort me and take my mind off of whatever was bothering me.

Many of us have similar stories about our favorite fictional characters, who can be so key in helping us deal with so many aspects of growing up. I never expected to have a chance to tell them in person how much they’ve helped me. A press junket for the Nickelodeon Resort afforded me the opportunity, but it also created anxiety: how do you meet those who helped your childhood self so much without going too fangirl? And there was the added question of whether my still-present anxiety would overwhelm me, even on this happy occassion.

The day of meeting the cast started calmly. After a fun-filled breakfast down in Bikini Bottom with SpongeBob and friends, we headed into Studio Nick for a special TMNT meet and greet.

But when the time came to actually walk into the meet-and-greet area, my heart started racing. Soon, my family and I were face-to-face with none other than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and April. Happily, they were a pretty lively bunch and struck a ninja pose with us for a picture and all went well.

These weren’t the only Turtles I met. On stage was the original voice cast of the ’80s cartoon series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And this is where my anxiety kicked into high gear. I couldn’t help it. I literally jumped up and down when it was my turn to say “hi” and get my picture taken.

However, they were the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. My heart almost jumped out of my chest when Rob Paulsen recognized my name and said we were friends on Twitter. Before my time was up, I had a moment to tell them the origin of my nickname, Dakster. It’s a mix between my initials (D.A.K.) and Baxter Stockman, an evil scientist from the TMNT universe.

Booyakasha! TMNT!! \ Image:  Dakster Sullivan
Booyakasha! TMNT!! Image: Dakster Sullivan.

After my geekgasm, my husband and I walked out of the room so I could catch my breath. Even as I’m writing this, I can remember the anxiety I felt being up on the stage with the cast. It was a powerful experience meeting the guys who played characters that were such an important part of my childhood. I only wish everyone could meet their own childhood heroes.

Once everyone had their pictures taken, the floor was open for a Q&A with the cast.

The original cast was as much fun to listen to as their cartoon counterparts. One thing I was surprised to hear was how they didn’t expect TMNT to take off as much as it did.

Barry Gordon (voice of Donatello) remembered his reaction when his agent called about the audition:

“Is that all you have to do with your day is call me and make jokes? So, he said no, really it’s TMNT and I said okay. I went down there thinking that this is the most insane audition I’ve been on. I read a few pages of it and loved it. Just loved it. It was just funny from the very beginning.”

You could say I was jumping with excitement to meet the voice cast of TMNT. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
You could say I was fangirling with excitement to meet the voice cast of TMNT. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Rob Paulsen (Raphael) reflected on what Barry said:

“Townsend (voice of Michelangelo) and I were actually working on an animated version of Fraggle Rock on NBC. [cheers from the audience] Thank you. Where the heck were you when it was being cast? [laughter] And I’m not a big comic book fan, but I was familiar with the comic book a little bit and one thing led to another and like Barry said, we audition for stuff all the time. It’s crazy how you audition for something and if you’re lucky, you get to make a living, but something this iconic to the extent that you get to come back 25 years and get to meet all of you guys, it’s an amazing experience.”

Townsend Coleman continued on that thought:

“Like Rob said, we were working on Fraggle Rock for NBC and the voice director came into the session and pulls a script out of his briefcase and says, ‘You guys are not going to believe what I’ll be directing and casting next,’ and he pulls out a comic book of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and shows us. I remember us looking at it going ‘What?? Good luck with that one,’ and he brought us in to audition and we all read for all the parts. Who knows how we ended up with our parts. They knew that Rob was going to be Raphael and Barry was going to be Donatello, but they didn’t know if Cam was going to Michelangelo or Leonardo and same for me until we got into that first session.”

When Cam Clarke had his chance to speak, he was nothing like his cartoon counterpart, with jokes left and right:

“I will tell you that when the show started, these wacky coconuts got all the funny lines and as the leader, I was the straight man of the group and was like ‘I can say something funny,’ and they said no, you say, ‘We’ve got to think of something fast.’ “

TMNT Awesome! Me and my Turtles \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
TMNT awesome! Me and my Turtles. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

After a brief break, a select few in the audience were allowed to break into a one-on-one meeting with the cast and ask them any questions we had. I was able to have a brief meeting with them on stage to get a poster autographed and show them the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual Guide (Insight Editions). I couldn’t believe how excited they were to look over the book and when I showed them a cast photo of them 25 years ago, they went nuts.

Being on stage with them for those few minutes really kicked my anxiety in and it showed. While Barry and Townsend were signing my poster, Townsend noticed my hands shaking and I told him about my anxiety. He took my hands and told me everything was okay in a very comforting way. I can’t tell you how much that helped me at that moment. It’s wonderful when role models live up to the job.

After everyone signed my poster and looked over the book, I told them my personal TMNT story and they seemed touched. They gave me comforting hugs all around. As I’m writing this, I realize how ironic it is that 25 years later, they comforted me again, but this time in person when I was on the border of having a panic attack.

After we took a couple more pictures, it was time to say goodbye. As cool as it was to meet them, I felt like I was saying goodbye to my childhood friends. I know it’s not goodbye forever though, because all I have to do is turn on the TV and I’ll see them again. And looking back, our meeting will be yet another happy moment that helps me with the anxiety.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History

From left to right: Barry Goldman, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan, Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulson \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
From left to right: Barry Goldman, Cam Clarke, Dakster Sullivan (holding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History), Townsend Coleman, and Rob Paulsen. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

The Chinese calendar might declare 2014 to be the year of the horse, but for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans, it’s the year of the Turtle! I can’t believe that my favorite Turtles are turning 30 years old this year. I was born in 1985, so I have 29 years of happy memories with the Turtles and now I have all those memories in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago (published by Insight Editions).

My mother remembers getting me and my brothers tickets to TMNT Live in Concert (I was too scared of Shredder to go, so I regretfully sat this one out) and taking us to see all three movies in theaters. I traded a toy with a another child in kindergarten for my first Raphael action figure.

My copy of the book arrived just a few days before a press event at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort for TMNT weekend. What was so cool about it was that the original 80’s cast of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was scheduled to be in attendance, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to sign my book. To make it even cooler, the book has a picture of the entire cast back when the series first started!

I wish I could convey how excited Rob Paulsen (voice of Raphael), Barry Gordon (voice of Donatello), Cam Clarke (voice of Leonardo), and Townsend Coleman (voice of Michelangelo) were when they saw the book. The really cool thing was that they had never seen the picture I showed them as a cast. They didn’t even know how the author was able to get it. Each of them took a few minutes to flip through the book and ask me questions on where I got it and pointed out things they recognized. Before I left, I managed to get a picture of them with the book on the page of them as a cast 25 years earlier (see top image).

Andrew Farago is the author of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History and I couldn’t be happier with the job he did in putting all the things I love about the Turtles’ history in one book for me to pass on to my son. Fargo was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding how he put the book together, the length of time a volume like this takes, and the challenges of putting this title together.

Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.
Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

GeekMom: Where did you get the reference pictures that were included in the book, specifically the one of the original voice cast on page 70? (Rob Paulsen and the rest of the gang would love a copy!)

Andrew Farago: I tracked down the artwork in the book over a long period of corresponding with fans, collectors, artists, writers, actors, and just about everyone associated with TMNT. I’ll have to check with my editor to figure out where we got the photo of the voice cast—we narrowed down the book’s contents from literally thousands of pictures over the years.

GM: How long did it take to put the book together?

AF: I started researching back in spring 2012, after editor Chris Prince wrote to me and asked, “Would you be interested in writing a book about the Ninja Turtles?” I jumped at the chance, and started reading through all of my old comic books and pulling all of my TMNT action figures out of my basement. From there, it was almost two years of tracking down comic books, watching cartoons and movies, emailing, calling, and visiting artists, collectors, sculptors, puppeteers, actors, licensing people, toymakers, animators, producers, rappers, fans, collectors, and everyone I could find who’d worked on TMNT over the years.

Until you write a book like this, you don’t appreciate how much work goes into finding all of the artwork, writing every single caption, and all of the extra work on top of the basic manuscript. Chris Prince of Insight Editions is one of the book’s unsung heroes, as he kept tabs on all of this while I was researching and writing.

GM: What was your favorite part of the process?

AF: Although I’ve been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan for nearly 30 years, I’ve been a fan of The Muppets my entire life. Getting the opportunity to interview Brian Henson for this book was such an amazing experience. The family name is synonymous with puppeteering, and I’ll always remember that phone call.

GM: What was the most challenging thing about the research and writing about the Turtles?

AF: The scope of the project was so much bigger than anything I’d tackled before. My previous big project, The Looney Tunes Treasury, focused on classic cartoons spanning about a 10-year period, and that meant many long hours in front of the TV watching cartoons and taking notes (sounds like a really rough job, doesn’t it?). But almost all of the research came from watching those cartoons and reading a small stack of reference books about the Warner Bros. Studios and the people who worked there.

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the story starts with co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, but it quickly branches out into the expansion of their studio to keep up with the demand of producing their comic book on a regular basis. Then, you branch out to their first meeting with Mark Freedman, who licensed the characters and set up deals with Playmates Toys and the Murakami-Wolf-Swenson animation studio. And then, I was talking to the people at those companies, and the animators, and the voice actors, and the studios who made the live-action movies—and then I spent months tracking down Vanilla Ice’s agent, and then…

I conducted interviews with almost 100 people, often over the course of several weeks’ worth of email exchanges, or calling people and talking to them on the phone for anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, which meant that I’d have to spend another several hours transcribing calls. If I’d had another two years to work on the book, I’m still not sure I’d have found every possible interview subject and every piece of artwork and every photograph…but I’m really pleased with the book that we produced.

Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.
Reprinted from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago, published by Insight Editions. © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

Between my Turtle shell backpack and my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History in hand, I was one popular fan at the Nickelodeon TMNT Weekend. My fellow fans of the Turtles were excited to flip through its pages as we waited for our time to meet the cast. A couple of the people I met shared their memories of our heroes-in-a-half-shell and the various times they’ve had the opportunity to work on something TMNT-related or meet someone involved with the Turtles. It was an awesome experience talking with these individuals that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, if I didn’t have this book to start the conversation.

If you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan or know someone who is, make sure you pick up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History! It’s filled with more COWABUNGA awesomeness than should be allowed in any one book.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History retails for $30.99 and is available at your local book store and on Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

TMNT Weekends at Nickelodeon Suites Resort

Booyakasha! TMNT at Nickelodeon Suites Resort \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Booyakasha! TMNT at Nickelodeon Suites Resort \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

I’ve stayed at some pretty nice hotels, including several Disney resorts, and I have to say, given the choice of a Disney hotel in the same price range or the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, I would choose Nickelodeon hands down. This summer, the Nickelodeon Suites has something that no other resort has…Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming to the Nickelodeon Suites Resort with themed rooms, special appearances by the turtles in a half-shells, a new pool-side-show where the Turtles battle the Foot Clan to save April O’Neil, and a new pizza dinner show.

What makes the Nickelodeon Suites Resort special is that a majority of the rooms are two or three bedroom suites with a small kitchen, bathroom, kids space (with either bunk beds or twin beds), a living area, and master bedroom. Each of the three spaces has their own TV and closet for storage.

TMNT Retro Weekend June 2014  (11)
The view from my 3rd floor, pool view room. Nice right? \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

When you’re not hanging out in your room, there’s a ton of other stuff to do as well, including the 4-D theater, Nick Studio (where they host Double Dare Live), slimming experiences, arcade, and mini-mall with a food court (these experiences are each paid separately). My son loves the Lagoon pool with its huge water playground and the kid spa (a not-so-hot version of the adult spa). They also have miniature golf (no charge), basketball, crafts, and quick service dining at Lagoon Pool.

When you’re done at the pool, look up the meet-and-greet times for some of your favorite Nickelodeon characters including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April O’Neil, the Foot Clan, Spongebob Squarepants and gang, Dora the Explorer, Aang from The Last Air Bender, and Blue from Blues Clues

On select days, you can check out the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pool show at the Lagoon pool and have dinner with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Antonio’s Pizza-Rama Dinner (reservations are required and the dinner is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings) or spend the evening by the pool for a TMNT movie night.

As a bonus, if you’re in the area on August 9th, 2014, the Nickelodeon Suites will be hosting an event at the Lagoon Pool to make a Guinness Record attempt for “Most People in One Location Dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”

If TMNT is not quite your thing, keep an eye on Nickelodeon Suites Resort’s website for announcements about upcoming themed weekends including a Nick Jr. weekend and Power Rangers weekend!

Disclaimer: GeekMom attended an overnight press event at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort.

TMNT 3DlightFX

TMNT 3D Light \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
TMNT 3D Light \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

I’ve had my eyes on a 3DlightFX light for a while now and when I saw they were coming out with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line, I knew the time had come to grab one for my office. What I really like about these lights is the “bursting through the wall” effect they give where ever you put them.

I was a little nervous about installing it, because I didn’t want to screw it up (no pun intended). I was relieved when I saw that not only was all the installation hardware included, but the sticker that goes on the wall has the screw placement marked, so you don’t have to do any measuring and marking on the walls.

The sticker comes folded in the box so my advice is to smooth out the sticker with a heavy book before trying to put it on the wall. If you don’t do this, the sticker won’t come off the paper backing very easily and it will mess up the effect. If you don’t have the patience for it, hand over the installation to someone who does.

Of course, before applying the sticker, I would use a stud finder to make sure that once you install the sticker, you’ll be able to drill through to the wall.

The final look of the light is worth the patience it takes to put the sticker on. I wish the light was bright enough to read from, but I’m happy with the subtle glow it gives. If you’re thinking about this for your kid’s room, it makes a perfect nightlight for over their bed.

The 3DlightFX Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lights come in all four turtles retail for $29.99 and are available at Target stores nationwide.

SpongeBob is Trying to Get Kids to Write More Letters

SpongeBob-usps
Image: Nickelodeon.

Just because he lives in a pineapple under the sea doesn’t mean that SpongeBob SquarePants wouldn’t appreciate a good postcard, letter, or greeting card like the rest of us. Unfortunately, since the dawn of email, most of us don’t get as much mail as we used to. Well, we don’t get as much of the good stuff, anyway.

NICKELODEON SPONGEBOB MAILPANTS
Image: Susanna Martin/Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon and the United States Postal Service are teaming up to make the act of letter writing kind of “square”—and that’s a very good thing. The two just launched “SpongeBob MailPants,” a campaign that will use SpongeBob SquarePants to help get kids excited about writing letters to friends and family.

From now through January 4, 2014, kids can get postage-paid, customized SpongeBob postcards at more than 25,000 Post Office locations nationwide. There’s also a special Nick.com website with printable SpongeBob stationery and video tutorials to guide kids through the process of writing a letter.

If you have anyone at home into SpongeBob, now would be the perfect time to encourage them to drop a line to grandma, an old friend, or a fellow SpongeBob fan.

Kids that live in (or near) major metropolitan cities should also keep an eye out for one of the 30 SpongeBob-themed mailboxes currently waiting for letters across the country. Those boxes will be located in Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Hollywood, FL; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; St. Louis, MO; and Washington, D.C.

Are you ready, kids? The postcards, stationary, and other campaign materials are available to all right now. For a listing of mailbox locations, look for your closest city in the chart below.

SpongeBob-locations

 

The Legend of Korra: Season Two Binge!

Image By Nickelodeon
Image: Nickelodeon

If you haven’t watched Season Two of Legend of Korra, do it! This is one of the few times I’ve ever wished for a big screen computer to get the full epic-ness of the last few episodes. My two teens and I laughed, teared up, and were truly stunned by the storytelling of this series. Each episode is only a half hour and there aren’t too many, so you can binge away. Tip: Be sure to click on “Full Episodes” in the videos section.

The overall plot starts out with political unrest within the northern and southern water tribes. This is tough for Korra because it involves her family. Plus, multiple issues and plot lines within the circle of characters Korra has around her from the first season. A few episodes in, we take a step back in time to meet the first Avatar. This two-parter was visually beautiful, and set up the larger conflict to confront everyone in the series: a complete transfer of power from light to dark that will last for the next 10,000 years. Unless Korra and her friends can save the day…

Until Season Three begins, we can check out all the cool fan art.

The Legend of Korra: Republic City Hustle

By Nickelodeon

Korra fans rejoice! We have content! Here is a three-part series that shows the early life of Mako and Bolin surviving on the streets. The flat, old-school animation style is cute. Check out the clip!

The Man Behind Shredder: An Interview With Kevin Michael Richardson

TMNT Season One \ Image courtesy of Nickelodeon©2012 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved
TMNT Season One \ Image courtesy of Nickelodeon © 2012 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved

In honor of this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles season one finale, I was given the geektastic opportunity to interview the voice of Shredder himself, Daytime Emmy Award Winner Kevin Michael Richardson.

Richardson is known for many characters, including some of my favorites like the Joker in The Batman (2004 series), Bulkhead in Transformers Prime, Kilowog on Green Lantern, Maurice in Penguins of Madagascar, and Cleveland Jr. on The Cleveland Show. We talked about everything from the Turtles to The Batman to his three-part guest spot as the mentally challenged patient, Patrick, on ER back in 1994.

Kevin gave me some insight into what it’s like recording with such a great group and it’s hard to imagine the Shredder and the Turtles hanging out in a green room goofing off in between recordings. As a hardcore Batman fan, I also loved hearing how he was initially disappointed about replacing Mark Hamill as the Joker and how he used that frustration to come up with the Joker’s unique voice.

GeekMom [Dakster]: How did you come up with the voice for Shredder?
Kevin Michael Richardson: Once they said Shredder, I automatically had an idea of what they really wanted for this guy. I just went in there and figured they wanted a powerful voice and I realized he’s more of a no-nonsense character.

He has an edgy, and a serious edge and a vendetta, especially for Splinter. I kept that seething energy throughout his dialogue, because he doesn’t really yell too much, unless he really wants his point across. So, he’s a character that maintains power and power in his mind without really yelling. I felt that this guy was just a no-nonsense, straightforward, powerful, “he will slice you and dice you,” kind of character—if you cross him at all.

It came forth in the dialogue and Sara Newman, the rep at the time, helped direct me into that direction too as we were recording, so that’s how it worked out.

TMNT - Shredder \ Image courtesy of Nickelodeon

GM: Cool. Well, what do you think Shredder’s biggest downfall was this season?
KMR:
Well, anytime the Turtles get away was big, or anytime he gets jacked by the Turtles or sideswiped or something, the only downfall is that and maybe…maybe his soft-spot for his daughter Karai.

GM: Do you think Shredder actually cares for his daughter or is she just another one of his thugs that he’s trained?
KMR:
Both actually. Shredder would probably want more of a son than a daughter, but he realizes this kid is his offspring, and this kid has to learn to be kind of a bad-ass like him.

GM: What’s been the most challenging thing about playing Shredder?
KMR:
Well, personally, I’m not like that. I’m not like Shredder, so getting into that dark place whenever we record and basically just getting focused and staying there, because the cast members are just great and we have so much fun between records. When we’re on break we’re always goofing off and playing around. Between Rob Paulson (Donatello), Clancy Brown (Dogpound), it’s really like a laugh off, so it’s kind of hard for me to get focused and serious and like “Look! It’s time for me to cut you!” [laughs]

You know, it’s definitely a challenge when we record, which is fun.

GM: Since you’ve had the opportunity to play the hero (Transformers, Bulkhead) and the bad guy, which do you prefer? Is there something about one that you like more than the other?
KMR:
It’s fun to play both. It keeps you on your toes really. I’ve found that there are fans out there that like bad guys and that’s cool. Personally, I love playing the heroes, but I’m not going to lie to you, there’s also fun in playing the bad guys too, because I don’t look at them as bad guys.  I look at them as misunderstood people if you will.

GM: I read somewhere that the Joker is one of your favorite voice acting roles. Is that true?
KMR:
Yes, he is one of my favorite characters to play along with Cleveland Jr. and Shredder is up there now too. The Joker is probably one of my favorite characters to play, because I really liked playing him, actually, I loved playing him.

At first I must say it was difficult, because Mark Hamill had played the character for a while before and Mark is just fantastic. I was rather of upset when they came to me and said they were going in a new direction, with completely different producers, a different version of the Batman, different version of the Joker. I was like, “Well, why? Why would you want me? Why not have Mark do it?” And they said, “No. This is how it’s going down. They want to go a different direction.”

So, I was rather upset actually, because myself being a die-hard fan of the previous one (Batman: The Animated Series) that I told other people I was so upset that when I recorded the audition, I put all my anger and frustration into the voice and literally a day or two later, I got the call that I was playing the Joker and I was like, “Oh boy.”

The reason I loved playing him was, because there was such freedom. There was very little direction from voice casting director Andrea Romano. I was allowed this complete freedom to deliver my lines the way I felt the character would fit and that freedom, when you get to play any role, and have the producers and directors like it, is very rewarding.

[Joker] was all over the place, talking manic, bipolar, just craziness. He was like a crazy sick sandwich. He had his highs and lows and the laugh, I almost passed out every time doing that laugh, but I would love to do it again. I really loved playing that character.

GM: What do you think the Joker would say about the Shredder?
KMR:
What the Joker would say about the Shredder? [laughs] He would probably say something like:

[switching to Joker voice] “Oh please, the Shredder could lick my green underwear.” [/Joker]

I have no idea. He would give him a run for his money, I know that.

GM: Yeah, I thought it would be interesting in a fight to see a crossover between the two and see who would win, the crazy or the skill.
KMR: Oh yea, it would be an epic battle. They’re both clever, but the Joker’s tricky. I think it could be a really good fight.

GM: Do you have a favorite line from the Joker or another character you’ve done in the past?
KMR:
One of my favorite lines would be by Cleveland Jr. of The Cleveland Show. Basically he would say something like, “Daddy would you wipe me?” or something similar, because a fourteen year old boy asking his dad to wipe him, and it’s something kind of strange that’s stuck with me. All of my characters have something though that has stuck with me.

GM: Do you feel like any of the characters you’ve ever done got too much hype or not enough hype when it came to their popularity?
KMR:
That’s interesting. There are a couple characters out there. One of them I liked playing and I felt bad for him was Maurice in Madagascar; he’s the lemur who’s the assistant to King Julian. This poor guy, he was basically a gopher really and I don’t think he got any credit. I liked playing him and it makes me a little sad that nobody really cares, but they knew who he was and they laughed even though Julian basically treated him like animal fodder, so I guess that’s cool.

GM: Have you ever auditioned for a role on a project, but then were handed a different role on the same project?
KMR:
Oh, that’s interesting. Originally for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I auditioned for Baxter Stockman, now played by Phil LaMarr, a very talented actor. So of course I found out about that and I was like, “Oh. Okay.” It was about a month or two later I was approached for Shredder, so that was a wild surprise and I was very happy with that decision.

GM: A couple of the shows you were on such as Thundercats (Panthro) and Young Justice (Martian Manhunter) are no longer with us. How many other projects do you have going on? Is there one coming up that you’re looking forward to?
KMR:
Well, I will be doing another TV show that’s coming out, I can’t say the name, but I’m really excited about. I’m also going to be doing a new show for Disney Junior called 7D, which is a new version of the Seven Dwarfs and I’ll be playing the character of Happy, and that’s a lot of fun. I’m also going to be appearing on Black Dynamite as Don Cornelius from Soul Train. I’ll be doing a few other characters, and honestly my plate is really full, so they are definitely keeping me busy. Things are good.

GM: Do you feel you ever get typecast because of your voice?
KMR:
Sometimes, from what I’ve done, people want similar sounds relative to those characters. What I admire are people who cast me for range. Knowing that I can do highs and lows and stuff like that, like when I was Cleveland Jr. and Barney Rubble, that’s pretty cool. To not be set in one specific area is nice. It’s nice to know that people are aware of what I can do.

GM: Have you ever done a voice that caused you discomfort? For instance, you mentioned that the Joker laugh wears you out.
KMR:
At the moment I can’t think of one. The Joker, I would be so into it and I would laugh so hard that I nearly fell off the stool recording. I almost passed out because nobody said “cut the laugh” or “stop the laugh” and they wanted me to keep laughing and I realized I needed to stop because I’d start blacking out. I’m telling you that was fun to actually do and then I realized I had to stop from laughing too hard.

GM: Have you ever lost a role to a named actor? I know in Flashpoint, in which you play President Barack Obama, they have some screen actors coming in to do the Flash as well as other characters.
KMR:
Well, you know, let me see. Sometimes producers don’t go straight for the name first. I don’t want to name names, but I’ve be fortunate enough to be in a position to replace named actors, like well-known actors. It’s kind of a reverse for me. I’m sure that in other cases, a lot of other cases that they wanted to go to a named actor first before they would choose me.

God rest his soul, Michael Clark Duncan, a good friend, who was a great guy, every time we would run into each other and talk whether it was on a job or between auditions, he would always yell out, “That’s the one who’s taking my jobs. That’s the one who’s taking my jobs.” And I’d be like, “I’m sorry, man.” He was a really great guy and I’m sad that he’s gone. That’s what he would say and we would joke with each other.

GM: Now that Transformers Prime is wrapping up, which makes me really sad, would you like to continue to voice the Transformers?  Is that something you are open to?
KMR:
Oh, no. I would love to play Bulkhead again. A special character like that, he’s never really done. I run into fans who would ask me to “do that voice” and or “do this guy” do that character. They [characters] kind of stick with you wherever you go. I hear some kind of rumors about the future, so who knows, I wouldn’t give up hope yet. Absolutely, I would love to play again if things change.

Oh, I forgot to mention I’m going to play Mr. Gus on Uncle Grandpa on Cartoon Network, so that will be coming out. He’s a dinosaur that wears a t-shirt and nothing else.

GM: Just a t-shirt. No pants?

KMR: [Laughs] No pants. If you could use that visual, there you go.

GM: Do you have a dream role that you would love to be asked to do one day?
KMR:
Believe it or not, I run into Seth Green every once and a while and I keep telling him I would love to do a Robot Chicken. I’ve always wanted to do Robot Chicken, but as far as other dream roles, I feel honored to have played characters on The Simpsons, which is something I never ever thought I would do. I can talk about living the American Dream, because I’m very happy in that regard.

GM: I read that you portrayed someone on ER once, I believe the character’s name was Patrick, but I could never find anywhere. What was it about this role that meant so much to you?
KMR:
Oh my gosh. Well, that character meant a lot to me, because I had a friend at a very young age, around ten years old, who was mentally challenged. I remembered him when I played that role and I tried to incorporate what he would be like at that age when I was playing the role, which would have been in his twenties. It was touching and very emotional for me because I could see the struggles that someone like him went through socially and it was very hard and very sad. I took it on emotionally, physically and it was actually like it became a part of me.

I was also very emotionally attached to that character because when I was younger, certain teachers thought I was autistic. It brought back a lot of memories for me as a child and playing that character just meant a lot. To see the families and fans of the show that approached me afterwards that just said, “Thank you so much,” because it meant a lot to them and their children who were mentally challenged or had some disability, to watch the show and to see a character played like that and it wasn’t made fun of. The character wasn’t made to be a fool. I played it with complete heart as much as I possibly could.

To see how it’s reached out to so many has meant a lot to me. It was a personal journey to me at the time that I can’t really find the words. It was something I just really enjoyed playing.

GM: Thank you for answering that. It sounds like it brought up some memories for you.
KMR:
 Yea. It was interesting too, because on break when I would sit there between shots, the stage manager would come back to me and say, “Okay….we…break…for…lunch…at…2….” and I would look at them and they’d realize, “Oh my gosh! I’m sorry!” I guess a lot of the people on set thought I was really mentally challenged. It was good to know I was doing my job. I remember driving around in Hollywood at the time and people would look at me and say, “Oh my gosh, he’s driving,” so it was kind of fun.

 

I wish you all could have heard the interview, because Kevin Michael Richardson kept cracking me up going from his normal speaking voice to various characters he’s done. I especially enjoyed when he spoke as The Joker and Shredder. The range of the characters he can do is really impressive and I look forward to hearing where his voice will pop up next.

To see Shredder take action in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season One finale, tune into Nickelodeon this Thursday night at 8pm ET.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles season one finale airs this Friday on Nickelodeon. Check your local listings for showtime and availability.

Booyakasha! New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Toys

FishFace hanging out at the TMNT Lair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
FishFace hanging out on my son’s TMNT Lair \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

On my birthday, I was greeted to an unexpected box full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. It was a nice surprise to wake up from a nap and have a box of goodies to open. In the box were several of the latest action figures, a T-Phone, some ooze, a Lego Set, helicopter, and a really cool piggy bank.

TMNT Ooze is watery squishy fun. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
TMNT Ooze is watery squishy fun. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

The ooze was one of my favorites in the box, because of the watery feel it has. It didn’t appear to leave a stain when I laid it on my bed sheets, but I wouldn’t advise putting it on clothing for long periods of time. The ooze felt like it would slip right between my fingers, but it’s a little to thick for that.

Hidden within the ooze is one of four baby turtles, each with their weapon of choice (I received Raphael in my ooze).

This little piggy is mine!! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
This little piggy is all mine!! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

My son’s reaction was pretty much the same as mine. Continue reading Booyakasha! New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Toys

Nickelodeon Debuts New Animated Series, Sanjay and Craig, Featuring a Boy and His (Talking) Snake

Sanjay and Craig swing onto Nickelodeon Saturday morning.
Sanjay and Craig swing onto Nickelodeon Saturday morning. (Photo: Nickelodeon)

This Saturday, May 25, at 10:30 (9:30 Central), Nickelodeon unveils a new cartoon series filled with the daily challenges and explorations of Sanjay and Craig, a boy and his pet snake. It also harkens to Nickelodeon’s wacky heritage, featuring a talking snake, Craig, and his twelve year-old boy, Sanjay. Together they evade life’s mundanities by creating fun and chaos while exercising their curiosity. Craig the snake knows how cool he is, while Sanjay is blind to considerations of cool factor or impossibilities.

The show’s creators/co-executive producers are Jim Dirschberger, Jay Howell, and Andreas Trolf, who cite Nickelodeon’s influence on their own youths as a gratifying factor in bringing their creations to Nick viewers now. Naming their favorite Nick shows from their childhoods, they mentioned the Double Dare game show, which inspired an homage in a Sanjay and Craig episode, and Ren & Stimpy and its patented close-ups of grossnesses. The art style is somewhat nonanatomical and exaggerated, reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, with bright colors.  Continue reading Nickelodeon Debuts New Animated Series, Sanjay and Craig, Featuring a Boy and His (Talking) Snake

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures Shine

Raphael. Image: Nickelodeon

I was slightly too old to be the proper demographic for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television show back in the late 1980s. It came out when I was fourteen. So I missed it the first time around. Others were more fortunate, though, and I’m learning more about the Turtles as time goes on.

Several months ago, Nickelodeon started a new TMNT series, and has put out a series of toys and action figures to go with it. Since I’m dating someone younger than I am who was fortunate enough to get into the original series when it originally aired, I got a little (read: a lot of) help from him reviewing the toys. Thanks, Rory!

In short, the action figures are very well done, are of high quality, and are worth your money. But here’s a much more thorough look.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line based on the new Nickelodeon show are all extremely well articulated. Each one is well equipped with many accessories. Even the tiny accessories are detailed and the figures can get a decent grip on them. There is very little wasted plastic. There are definitely more accessories than necessary, but that just adds to the versitility of play. The vast majority of the figures (with one exception) stand independently very well. And the toys are very archtypical, fitting into the theme or mood of that character.

Everything is packaged in ways that make sense, with stretchy plastic ties holding the pieces in place, instead of the infernal zip tie types. The toys are made by Playmates toys, and are for kids ages four and up.

Though there are a few other toys in the line, these are the ones I was sent for review.

The Turtles

Michelangelo: He has a matte finish with a good paint job. The plastic is flexible, and the figure has good storage for the interesting weapons that come along with it. The weapons come in the car model plastic mold type thing, where you have to twist the pieces off. The weapons didn’t come off too easily, so parental involvement here is a good idea. The very small throwing stars have a specific hole for the figure to grip them in his fingers, the chain scythe can be gripped with both hands at the same time, and he has a back belt that is flexible and holds the nunchucks securely.

Leonardo: He comes with detailed swords that were well packaged to protect the tips, and are very flexible. He has a back belt that holds a shoulder strap that holds his swords, which snap in place. The coloration on his hand and foot wraps is different from the others; detail is obviously paid to each individual Turtle’s coloring. He has a third, extra sword in case one of the others gets lost. He has two more blades that are alternate sizes, one larger and one smaller than the usual swords. This is before the Kris’, of which he has three, along with two additional throwing stars.

Raphael: This Turtle is easily the most detailed character. He has a distinct expression on his face, though all have an angry look. He even has the crack in his shell that’s his signature thing. Raphael has fewer weapons than the others, but they are decidedly detailed. You should probably cut out the weapons, though, or else they’ll fatigue and discolor.

Donatello: He has the most detailed weapons. He has a three part nunchuck, a pair of throwing stars that are more detailed than any other weapon, his traditional staff, and then a staff sword. Has a more mild expression than the others, and is the only one not showing teeth. His staff weapon is extremely durable. He’s better packaged then any of the other Turtles, and none of them are packed poorly.

All of the Turtles have flexible belts, but I don’t think they are meant to be removed. They might break or stretch out.

Dogpound. Image: Nickelodeon

The Villains

Dogpound: This figure is well thought out and packed extremely well. Because he’s such a large figure, he was packed in pieces to be able to be in the same sized package as the other figures. He also has an awesome paint job.

Metalhead: The paint on this figure is a little off, and it doesn’t quite line up right on the pieces. There is a separate laser piece which is easy to lose and doesn’t stay in his hand very well. Also, the laser doesn’t launch. He is fairly articulated but less so than the other toys. But over all, despite all this, he’s pretty genius.

Fishface: He has a ridiculously awesome weapon, along with a very tiny weapon. He is the least articulate of all the characters, and is fairly unimpressive, but as Rory says, “C’mon, it’s Fishface.”

Shredder: This figure “includes battle armor” but the battle armor is not detachable. He has a puny, less awesome version of Leonardo’s sword, but also has substantial ninja stars. His paint job is very well done. There is especially a lot of detail in the armor. He’s a good stand-alone toy with the same articulation as the Turtles. He even stands better than some of the Turtles do, even though he has smaller feet.

Foot Soldier. Image: Nickelodeon

Foot Soldier: He has two swords, each with its own sheath. The sheaths are connected to each other and can then plug into the back of the foot soldier, if desired. He’s easily the best of the bad guys, and probably worth investing in more than one. He has the same level of articulation as the Turtles, but doesn’t stand as well as the other toys. “The foot soldier is an awesome villain toy,” says Rory. “Kudos to Playmates for the design of the Foot Soldier weapon carrying setup.”

The Kraang: This figure has hardly any articulation and can only stand in one way. Has the most substantial and sturdy weapons of any character, though, and are also very detailed and the best weapons of the bad guys. Not on the same level of the Turtles, but decent. Still, overall the toy is disappointing. It is unbalanced with weapons in hand, to the point where it can’t stand up. Also, the brain portion of Kraang is so rubbery that it might not wear as well as the rest of the toy.

Being the expert, I’m deferring to Rory on the overall review. The Foot Soldier is his favorite out of all of the figures, including the Turtles. It has great attention to detail, including a perfectly painted headband. It compensates for the fact that the other villains are frail and not versatile, and have worse weapons than the Turtles in general.

Michelangelo Ninja Combat Gear. Image: Nickelodeon

Additional Toys in the Line

“Oh yeah, dude.” – Rory, when opening the Michelangelo Ninja Combat Gear.

We were also able to review the Michelangelo Ninja Combat Gear. The advertised sound effects in the nunchucks means a twisting ratcheting sound. This means that there isn’t a meaningful sound, but it also means no batteries and no annoying electronic sound. The gear also includes Frisbee-like throwing stars and an orange mask that fits kids best but can go on an adult if needed. Overall, this toy is slightly underwhelming after the other toys, but allows kids to get in on the action, playing their favorite Turtle. They offer toy sets for each of the Turtles, in addition to other toys in the line.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures and other toys vary in price, and are a great gift for your favorite Turtles fan, or for yourself. I highly recommend them due to their quality and attention to detail. Who is your favorite Turtle?

Note: I received TMNT toys for the purposes of this review.

Booyakasha! The Winners of the Autograph DVD Giveaway Are…

Rob Paulsen as Donatello (purple mask), Sean Astin as Raphael (red mask), Greg Cipes as Michelangelo (orange mask) and Jason Biggs as Leonardo (blue mask), in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES on Nickelodeon. Photo: Frank Micelota/Nickelodeon. ©2012 Viacom, International, Inc.
Rob Paulsen as Donatello (purple mask), Sean Astin as Raphael (red mask), Greg Cipes as Michelangelo (orange mask), and Jason Biggs as Leonardo (blue mask), in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES on Nickelodeon. Photo: Frank Micelota/Nickelodeon. ©2012 Viacom, International, Inc.

Lin M, Kylee C, and Jordan C! Congratulations! You have each won an autographed copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Rise of the Turtles!

Thank you to everyone who submitted. It was obvious after the first few days that Donatello was the most popular turtle with our readers. It’s a dead give-away in my opinion because this is GeekMom and Donatello is the head geek of the group. I guess if this was PartyMom or LeadershipMom, we might have seen a different outcome on the favorite.

To show you how everyone ranked, check out this handy little chart I made:

I have to say, after talking with Gregory Cipes, I was really rooting for Mikey to beat out at least Raphael. I was very surprised by the lack of love for Leonardo though. I guess being the leader isn’t always the most likable position. Some of the other character favorites were Splinter, April, Shadow Jones, Shredder, and Casey Jones.

Looking for more Turtles fun? Check out my interview with Hoon Lee (Master Splinter), Kelly Hu (Karai), and Gregory Cipes (Michelangelo).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs Friday nights on Nickelodeon.

Michelangelo Knows Best — An Interview with Greg Cipes

Greg Cipes and Mikey!  Image: Nickelodeon
Greg Cipes and Michelangelo! Image: Nickelodeon

Just as the song goes, “Michelangelo, he’s one of a kind and you know just where to find him when it’s party time.” Michelangelo is the fun one of the Turtles team. The youngest of the group, Mikey has a tendency to be looked at as the kid of the team. Don’t underestimate his skills, though, because under that cool and relaxed attitude is a fun-loving and exciting guy that you don’t want to mess with.

I recently had the chance to talk with the man behind the voice of Michelangelo, Gregory Cipes (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Teen Titans) and I was happy to hear that he is a happy mix of Iron Fist and Michelangelo.

GeekMom: Thanks for talking with me today!

Gregory Cipes: It’s my pleasure. Let’s have some fun.

GM: My family’s a fan of the Ultimate Spider-Man as well and I was wondering how would you compare Iron Fist to Michelangelo?

GC: Wow. That’s a great question. I would say that Michelangelo is the younger teen version of myself. Iron Fist is kind of what I’m becoming in real life now. Michelangelo brings out a lot of the innocence in me from my childhood and just wants to be able to celebrate life. The smallest things are a big deal to Mikey.

With Iron Fist it’s a more of an experienced perspective and a lot of wisdom.

GM: I know Mikey is the youngest of the Turtles, so I can see how he can be the more fun-loving, younger guy.

GC: Yeah, you know, the youths are not as programmed or conditioned as most people think. It’s easier for a kid to have fun and have an imagination. Mikey definitely has that and that’s why it’s so much fun to play him. At the same time, Iron Fist is a meditator and they are both similar in that perspective. They both kick butt in a big way. Ninjas.

And the colors are similar, huh? Me and Green go together. [laugh]

GM: I’ve talked to a couple of your fellow cast members (Hoon Lee and Kelly Hu) and they both said you are hilarious at the recording booth. Have you ever done it on purpose just to screw with them while recording?

GC: The freedom they allow me to have to explore and try whatever I want is like no other show that I’ve ever been a part of. So, I guess I do crazy and wild things and I make decisions that are from a different place, a new perspective.

Mikey has the perspective of a very innocent powerful character. He just lives in the now, so that might be weird to people. And it’s funny to people too, because I say weird things and I feel weird things, like I’m always experiencing everything for the first time. It’s almost like watching a dog play fight with a cat. Like that’s one of the most enjoyable thing to watch.

Michelangelo  Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon
Michelangelo Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon

GM: They told me you’re very physical in the booth and you’re really funny like that. I’d love to watch you work.

GC: Yeah, you know, I feel it all. I feel it through my face and my lips and my eyes and my legs and in my heart and it comes out in my voice.

Sometimes there are places you don’t want to go to. The Turtles is a very happy, positive, fun-loving show but it also has these deep, dark rooted things that we experience. There is the dark evil and there is an opposition to the positive or the light side. That’s where we have someone like Splinter who walks us through our path and he’s like, “Look guys, Shredder is over here and the robots are here and all of this is going on but you have to stay positive and love and be loved.”

Love is just the key to everything. That’s kind of the goal of every episode, at least from my perspective.

GM: You sound like a very relaxed and easy-going guy. Do you have a routine to get in to Mikey or are you a “Let’s do this!” kind of guy?

GC: I park two blocks away from Nickelodeon studios and I hop on my skateboard and I skateboard the rest of the way to the studio. So, that gets me into Mikey realm, because Mikey loves skateboarding so much. I know from my personal experience how fun skateboarding. That’s kind of the only thing.

I also always make sure that I play and take chances and laugh and not take things too seriously. Sometimes I have to be serious, but I’m like, “Well, you know, I don’t know if Mikey would take that seriously.” Really, the voice director, Andrea Romano, is such a master and such a pro that she always pushes me to the next level and guides me. It’s really awesome.

We have the dream team crew. Brandon Auman, the new head writer. Ciro Nieli the creator of the new look and style of our show. Ciro is the main reason this show is a hit. He is (executive producer) a master animator and dear friend of mine. Peter Hastings (executive producer) is a great musician and all round talented creative dude. The whole Nickelodeon team knows what they are doing.

I’m also excited to see what’s going to happen with the movie.

GM: Yeah, I saw they cast Megan Fox as April O’Neil and that was the worst day I’ve had in a long time.

GC: Oh no, honey. [laugh]

GM: At least I had a really bad day that day so I just blamed it on that news.

CG: I do know this, there is definitely an open ear from that side as we’ve seen that Michael Bay doesn’t want to disappoint the fans. He wants to make people happy and he wants to make kids happy. So, when the fans speak up they get what they want in a way. We’ve witnessed it already in a way. The universe takes care of the Turtles!

GM: This is how my son got introduced to the Turtles. For my seven-year old, everyday just has to be “Turtles! Turtles! Turtles! Let’s watch Turtles!” I don’t think that anything Michael Bay does is going to change that.

GC: No, and that’s how it got me. If anything, Michael Bay can bring some more people to the Turtles and that’s what we want. It’s the only cartoon that I’ve been a part of that so effectively brings a fresh new version with all the positive messages in it. It’s so much fun making it.

And you know, I’m working with people who I’ve been working with for a long time, so it’s really great to be with a family making cartoons together and creating.

GM: Have you ever received a script and after reading the dialogue went, “You want me to say what??”

GC: Yes I have, and they give me a chance to give a different take. Sometimes it’s a better way, and sometimes I just give them what they are asking for.

GM: Do you have a favorite line that you’ve said in any of the shows you’ve done voices for that just sticks out as a really cool line?

GC: [laugh] It’s quite often these days. Every script has wonderful little pieces of candy. There’s just some great writing for Mikey. Gosh, I love saying “Booyakasha!” I keep finding new ways to say it. I love saying “Booyakasha.” And they also give me the opportunity to comes up with a new catch phrase for the Turtles, but I love “Booyakasha.” It means love will prevail.

Love is the most ferocious and strongest force on the planet. Green is the heart chakra color. Are you into chakra?

GM: Actually, my parents are. My dad is into energy medicine and healing.

GC: It’s very real. Align your stuff with green. And this show is the number one show on most markets around the world, so you’ve got to figure that a lot of kids are looking at the color green. It’s very healing color therapy, just looking at the Turtles even without the volume on. It’s a very powerful experience with what is going on.

GM: My son said “Booyakasha! Do I sound like Mikey?” the other day, and my little brother walked in and he immediately went, “No, it’s ‘Cowabunga!'” and my son just kept going “Booyakasha!”
CG:
[laugh] Yeah, I mean, Cowabunga is the root of it. There never could be a Booyakasha without a Cowabunga for me. They really do mean the same thing. Cowabunga is like “Bring it on!” and Booyakasha is like “Bring it on!” It’s the same thing. So we’ll see what happens. Maybe it’s going to come out, I can’t tell you.

GM: I like them both. I think it’s adorable when he runs through the house with his hands behind his back and yelling “Booyakasha! Booyakasha!” He won’t run with his hands beside him now. He has to run with his hands behind him like the Turtles.

CG: Ahh … I’ve heard that from a lot of people. It’s ninja running.

GM: Would you like to see the show take Mikey’s personality anywhere or would you like to see him do something that he hasn’t done yet?

GC: Yeah, they are doing that now. They are pushing Mikey’s character further in new places and new directions and it’s a lot of fun. He’s growing up little by little with new experiences and wisdom. So, Mikey in his own way will become wiser. I don’t know if that’s going to mean that people are going to think he’s smarter or not a goof ball, but he is gaining wisdom. Wisdom meaning like he’s going deeper into his own world. He’s always thinking about his brothers. He wants to improve worlds and be rocking with them all the time.

GM: It thought the coolest scene was the last episode, “The Pulverizer,” when Raphael was injured and Baxter and the Purple Dragons were trying to attack him from behind. He was just kicking their butts and giving them a dirty look like. “Don’t you mess with me, my brother’s sick!” I thought that was one of the cooler scenes I’ve seen Mikey in. Now I have to ask, is April wearing a Wholester in the show?

GC: Yes she is!

GM: Okay. I saw her wearing it in the first episode and I thought it was so cool and wished they were real. Then the other day when I was on your website I realized that they are real.

CG: It’s essentially the same thing. It’s really cool. I want Mae [Whitman] to wear them. We’re going to make her a custom April holster and then maybe we can sell them everywhere. Maybe at that place that sells the all the Turtles stuff at the mall … Man, what’s it called? Umm … HotTopic! We could make it to where you can get Turtles Wholesters at HotTopic. [laugh]

GM: I’m going to have to go there and see if mine sells any Turtles stuff. The last time I was in there they had a bunch of My Little Pony stuff.
GC:
Oh, Tara Strong. She’s funny. I record Teen Titans with her every week.

GM: So how often do you do the recordings for the various shows?

CG: I record a show almost every day. Usually for cartoons, I record them in the mornings from 9 am to noon, then I have the rest of the day to do on camera. It actually gives me time to work on my own projects. I’ve created a new album that’s going to be coming out.

I have a new band, Super Space Fighters and I’m manifesting and playing and working on all the dreams I’ve had. And just know that you will get everything you’ve ever wanted. And you will get it in ways you could never have imagined and better than you could have ever imagined.

Being Mikey is just an example of that. I grew up watching Mickey Mouse and going to Disney World like 2,000 times. Mickey Mouse is like my guru. So, you kind of have to figure it that a cartoon character is my guru, so once the Turtles came on, Turtles was it for me. I sat in front of the T.V for thousands of hours and just watched Turtles and fast forward 20 years later, I’m flowering it to a new generation and it’s so much fun! [laugh] It really is.

GM: If you didn’t go into voice acting, was there something else you wanted to do? Like music or surfing?

GC: I do it all! I was third in the USA junior pro surfers. I put out an album in 2007 and it’s really good and I’m proud of it and a lot of people started spreading it. I’m a soul maker. I write songs. I’m making cartoon shows. I’m planning on putting stuff out myself on my own, on a TV station online.

I’m not limiting myself. I’m doing it all at once.

Some people ask me “how can do you do all of that at once?” Yesterday I was in Sedona, Arizona playing a gig at a Raw Spirit Festival and this week I go to New Zealand. At the same time I’m selling shows. I’m hanging out with beautiful people. Hanging out with my family at home with my dogs. It’s a very enchanted life being Mikey. I don’t take it lightly and I know it’s the greatest responsibility.

Turtles taught me how to meditate. They got me into martial arts. They helped make me who I am today.

GM: Did you get into meditating when you were a kid or as an adult doing the voices?

GC: When I was a kid! I remember being eight years old and watching the show. It was an episode about Splinter, that’s how I remember it, and in the end he kind of snaps out of a mediation and in that moment I tried it. I closed my eyes, sat in an easy pose and I tried a meditation for the first time after watching the Turtles and there’s nothing greater than meditation. The Turtles gave me that gift. It’s cool.

Now when I travel around, when I go to New Zealand next week, or Australia or any of these cons, I play music, I do panels and I sign autographs and I teach kids meditation.

GM: That’s cool. The Turtles got me into karate when I was about eight- or nine-years-old as well. My son saw the Turtles for the first time (around three- or four-years-old) and we had to restrict him from watching the show again because he started destroying his room fighting an invisible foot clan. We determined he was a little too young when we walked into his room and saw he had destroyed everything. All in the name of the Turtles.

GC: We’re making little animals that’s for sure. Little warriors.

GM: I’m a comic book reader, so I’m always asking people if they read and what they read. So, are you into comic books or reading in general?

GC: I love Kevin Eastman. Kevin Eastman has blessed this project and blessed this cartoon, period. I’ve got a really cool story about Kevin Eastman. How he came to me and how I got the role of Mikey. We just became close friends and it makes sense that a show like this brings so much love to people, has come from such a wonderful man. Kevin Eastman is like a Buddha, like the coolest thing in the world, like a rock star.

I grew up with the cartoon and not necessarily the comic books. Really anything to do with the Turtles now is cool. What about you? Do you read the comic books?

GM: I just started reading comic books last year and I started reading the Turtles about the same time. I’m slowly working my way through them. I was born in ’85, so I grew up on the animated series and the live action shows.

GC: The movies are great. Like classics. Unbelievable. And you know Vanilla Ice does the theme song. That’s what I want to do. I want to do the theme song.

GM: I’m one of the few in my circle that likes that movie and it’s because of that scene. I love when he’s singing the song and the Turtles are dancing and fighting. I thought it was really cool.

GC:It was cool, that’s for sure.

GM: Do you think the other Turtles underestimate Mikey?

GC: He’s the underdog. He’s the wild card and he’s always underestimated. He’s also the fiercest and in some ways the best fighter of the group. Raphael has the power. Leonardo has the style. Donatello has the techie and the brains. Mickey just has the ability. He’s like the ultimate ninja. He’s always the guy you want to root for, at least in my life that’s who I want to root for.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles airs tonight at 7 pm EST. Make sure you tune into Nickelodeon to watch Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael take on the Krang in their most important mission yet.

Want more TMNT action? Check out my interview with Hoon Lee and Kelly Hu. If that isn’t enough for you, check out our TMNT Autographed DVD Giveaway and enter for a chance to win one of three DVDs signed by the TMNT cast!

GeekMom Exclusive Interview — Hoon Lee, The Man Behind The Voice Of Splinter

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a Turtles fan. Now as an adult, I enjoy passing that love of everything Cowabunga on to my son (or Booyakasha as they say now). This week, I was given a chance to have an exclusive interview with Hoon Lee, the man behind the voice of Splinter on Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was the best thirty minutes of my week and we talked everything from Turtles to comic books.

GeekMom: How did you get the role of Splinter?
Hoon Lee: It was pretty straight forward auditioning process. I was contacted by my agent that Nickelodeon was re-launching the franchise and they were looking for Splinter to be a bit younger, a bit saucer and they were interested in listening to me. I jumped at the chance, because I’m a fan as well and it was kind of a dream. But it was pretty nerve wracking because you kind of want to be responsible for your memories.

GM: How did you come up with the voice for the character?
HL: That was interesting. When I first started the audition I was going for something a bit graver, older and wiser and they actually pushed me in the other direction. They said that this character is more vital and has a sharper sense of humor and once they kind of did that, it came to me quite clearly and quickly and I think it is very much on the page. So much of what we do as voice actors is led by what is on the page and the writing is very strong, so I felt that the voice kind of found itself. It’s not something I’ve ever used at any other job or anything.

GM: So, you were a fan of the Turtles before you auditioned for the role then?
HL: Yea, I grew up reading the original black and white and I remember thinking at the time that I had never seen anything like this a the time and they kicked off this wave of imitators. In many ways, I feel like they were this crystallized moment in comic book history. When they made the leap into television and film, I think that’s when people started to realize that the characters were really iconic and that they were relegated to a particular medium.

So, hearing that Nickelodeon was going to re-launch it was incredibly exciting for me and the more I heard about Ciro Nieli’s (executive producer) vision for how it should play out, it was just the perfect marriage, I thought, for bringing the contemporary and the legacy together in a compelling way.

GM: Will we get to learn more about Splinter’s life before the Turtles in season 2? Will the Turtles learn more about who he was before he became Splinter?
HL: Well, you know, I can’t actually say too much about season two. I don’t want to ruin the surprises for people. I will say that the foundation is being laid in this first season for a lot of what is going to come forth. I think that a lot of the seeds that are being planted in the upcoming episodes will grow fruit in the second season.

GM: Is there anything you like more about voice acting than stage acting and vice versa?
HL: I love voice over work. I find it to be a very specific kind of challenge to try and distill all of your meaning and all of your emotions into the voice without the aid of your face or your body or anything else. It makes things very focused in that way.

In acting, it’s a really special kind of work. I also really like how you are helping to contribute to the creation of a character that can’t really exist in real life and is a cartoon. Growing up, so many of my memories are of cartoons and comic books and these characters that lived in a very heightened world and in an imaginary place, so being able to contribute to the sound of that character is amazing to me. It’s a very different kind of work and a different kind of challenge, but one that I enjoy a lot.

GM: I heard you are a comic book addict. Do you have a favorite series or a favorite book?
HL: When I was growing up I was more into the main stream superhero thing. I was really into the X-Men, Alpha Flight and some more of the mainstream stuff. Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve started to get into comics that when I was growing up would have been considered “alternative” comics.

I’m a big fan of Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples work and Sean Murphy’s works, especially his work on the American Vampire series I think is great. Scott Snyder’s work on Batman I think is fantastic.  I’ll try anything and see what they have to offer. These days more and more I find myself gravitating towards specific artists and writers. Have you checked out Saga?

GM: No, but I’ve heard it’s amazing!
HL: That is an amazing book. I mean it’s just beautifully drawn, very original and very fresh, but that’s Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples work, two of my favorites so it’s a bit of a no brainier for me. Oh and I really love the new Hawkeye series. It’s great. It reminds me a lot about Batman year one, the drawing style, its’ got to be deliberate I imagine, but I’m so happy to see that book every month or so.

GM: Me to! I love how, so far, Hawkeye doesn’t have any cliff hangers at the end and you can pick up any issue without having to know what’s happened so far.
HL: They feel like little novellas or something and it has such a great swagger as whole. What are you reading?

The wises rat of the all, Master Splinter  Image courtesy of Nickelodeon
The wises rat of the all, Master Splinter Image courtesy of Nickelodeon

GM: I’m a newbie, so I’m reading a little bit of everything actually. I’m really enjoying the Justice League and the The All-New X-Men series and of course the Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles.
HL: That’s one thing that’s been amazing, it does make me feel old, but the old original black and white that I saw in the original printing being taken from color to digital and see how well the story holds up. To have that as a compliment or a companion piece to the TV series is a real trip. I have a young son and I’m hoping that another year from now, when he’s really watching a bit more TV and reading more that he will enjoy it as much as I do.

GM: I have a seven year old myself and we are getting into the whole thing and we just heard him say “Booyakasha” for the first time the other day and my little brother was quick to correct him and say “No! It’s Cowabunga!”
HL: Ha ha, that’s good, because sometimes I even have a hard time saying that word. The booyakasha / cowabunga debate rages on.

GM: So, I know you can’t give us any spoilers for season 2, but is there anything that you would like to see your character accomplish this season?
HL: I think the promise of Splinter, which will continue through this season of being more capable. He’s in a position that he makes different decisions than he has made before. When he decides to accompany the Turtles there’s a reason behind that. When he decides to step in and intervene, there’s a reason for that.

In one of the previous episodes (“It came from the depths”), we saw him defend the lair when an intruder shows up and to have that be part of the fabric of the show, that opens up a lot of possibilities. For me, the most interesting part of Splinter is his role as guardian and the role model for the Turtles and now April in a slightly different capacity.

For me, as an actor that is the anchor for me to keep that firmly in mind that this is the rock that those characters depend on.  When you have that kind of foundation it opens up dramatic possibilities when that foundation is jeopardized. So, I think that they really have expanded the dramatic possibilities with Splinter and his role and his relationship to the Turtles and that is exciting for me.

GM: How does the role of Splinter compare to other roles you have done? Is there anything unique about Splinter that you like verses screen acting?
HL: You know, a lot of the time, I think partially because, my appearance and the way I sound, I’m often cast in the roles of heavy. There are a lot of gangster auditions in my past. It’s nice to be able to play someone who is at his core a nurturer, but is also funny and also has kind of sharp sense of humor about him.

I love being able to play a father figure and being a father myself it hits home particularly hard these days, so it’s a nice change of pace. It’s also an indication that as I become older as an actor there are new roles that open up to me. So, being able to play a father that is also so unusual and such an interesting character is a special combination.

GM: What role does the character play between the Turtles and Shredder? He’s Shredders enemy but he’s also the Turtles guardian.
HL: The shredder being such a strong presence in the mythology show itself it’s sort of an unavoidable situation that this dark force kind of comes in and can not only create havoc in the city outside, but also a disruptive force in the family and his boys. Since he’s tied so strongly to Splinter, it makes this more than just a good verse evil kind of conflict, but also more than just a combat based fight, it’s also sort of an internal struggle within a family. How does a family deal with adversity that could cause some mortal harm and also harm to their unit?

That is a very interesting point as playing Splinter, because in many ways, Shredder represents the return of the past, the sort of struggles and conflicts that you can’t leave behind you. Whereas the Turtles represent the reality now and the future moving forward. So when Shredder comes into the situation, it’s as much about being haunted by your past as it is dealing with the issues and problems in the present. That’s always a very powerful fanatic for me in general. It’s something we can’t really get around or leave in the shadows and that’s what gives the Shredder his potency.

GM:  Is there another character in the TMNT universe you would like to see on the show or is there another character that you would like to voice on the show?
HL: I can’t really imagine myself voicing any of the other major players, because I associate those characters with the people playing them now and I would feel like a cheap imitation.

Weirdly, one of the voices I really enjoy is the Krang. I really chuckle whenever they talk and just the way they are written and the way they speak. The way they talk and the way their eyes bulge out of their heads is a combination of hysterically absurd and genuinely frightening.

As for other characters on the show, I think we are going to hit a lot of them, so I’m just going to say that I’m just as curious to see who else makes an appearance.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles return with a “Total Turtle Takeover” on Friday, January 25th at 7pm (ET/PT) and the premier of the all-new “I, Monster”. During this episode, the Turtles must face their newest enemy, the Rat King, who threatens to not only take control of the city, but Splinter as well.

You can check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as they return to their regular Saturday morning time slot on February 2nd at 11am.

TMNT Giveaway — And the Winner Is…

TMNT on Nickelodeon  Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon
TMNT on Nickelodeon Image Courtesy of Nickelodeon

Cowabunga Dudes and Dudettes! The winner of our TMNT Giveaway is

Congratulations Jason. Enjoy your prizes!

Thank you to everyone who commented. You all came up with some great ones. Here are a few of my personal favorites that you left:

“You believe this guy? Come on, Ninja kick the damn rabbit. Do something.” – Michelangelo

“The class is Pain 101. Your instructor is Casey Jones.” – Casey Jones

“Cricket?! nobody understands cricket! you gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket.” – Raphael

“Pizza Power!” – TMNT

“God, I LOVE BEING A TURTLE!” – Michelangelo

Good thing these guys aren’t lumberjacks.” – Donatello
“No joke. The only thing safe in the woods… would be the trees!” – Michelangelo

“Does the phrase, go suck a lemon, hold any meaning for you?” – Raphael

Donny: “the perimeter’s quiet.”
Leo: “yeah, a little too quiet.”
Donny: “well, that was easy.”
Leo: “yeah, a little too easy.”
Donny: “look, it’s Raph!”
Mikey: “yeah, a little too Raph.”

“Hey, Mikey, you think you can crunch a little louder? (Gestures to where his ear would be) I can still hear outta this one!” – Raphael

And last, but certainely not least…

COWABUNGA!! 

Video: Dora Kicks Butt Like An Avatar In The Legend of Dora Mash-Up

I loved watching Dora the Explorer with my kids. Okay, I loved it for maybe one half of one episode and then that perky little girl made me want to stab my eyes out with a pencil. My kids have moved on to things like The Legend of Korra and now, thanks to Cartoon Network’s MAD show, they can have the best of both worlds in this gem of a video. Dora fights the bad guys, teaches Spanish and bends water, all without breaking a sweat!

The Periodic Tables of Everything but Elements

Geeks love the periodic table. They love it so much, they’ll apply it to almost anything. Go ahead—Google “periodic table of [your favorite thing]” and somebody’s probably done it. Or, you can save the effort and enjoy these that I gathered for you.

The Periodic Table of Sci-Fi Film and Television

Order a poster-sized version for $18.

 

 

The Periodic Table of Sewing

The Scientific Seamstress, a molecular biologist and sewing hobbyist blogger, created this one for needle-and-thread lovers. You can download it at 20″x30″ to print yourself.

 

The Periodic Table of Dessert

Andrew Plotkin, this table’s creator, laments, “You’ve seen those charts that say, like, ‘Periodic Table of the Vegetables’ or ‘Periodic Table of the Sausages’? They annoy me. Because they’re not periodic.” He answered with a table of dessert, which you can buy poster-sized in his CafePress store.

 

The Periodic Table of Nickelodeon

See larger over at randomoverload.

The Periodic Table of Robots

This one is geektastic, but if you go check out the original at Sankaku Complex, be warned that the site is definitely NSFW.

 

The Periodic Table of Superheroes

Leanna at Raptor Toe created this one.

 

The Periodic Table of the Internet

Finally, like a scientific love note to the reason we’re all gathered here together, the Periodic Table of the Internet by Wellington Grey, although the URLs in the image no longer work. (Do you know where WG went?)

Legoland Florida: The Young Lego Geek’s Paradise

Like Steve Jobs was to Apple fans, Legoland Florida is to all of the young Lego fanatics.  On Saturday, October 15, 2011, thousands of loyal fans from around the world converged on the grounds of the new Legoland Florida theme park for its grand opening.  Legoland Florida did not disappoint.  It was uncanny how passionate and informed the young fans were about Lego.  It was eerily similar to how adult Apple fans admired Steve Jobs and his fabulous tech gadgets. It was fun to discover all of the ways Lego fans chose to display their love for the Lego brand.

Aaron and Nine year old Max from Sanford, FL express their love of Lego.

Young Legoland fans scouting out the park map
Young Legoland Florida fans scouting out the park map. Photo by Gina Clifford
A young Lego fan expresses his passion for Lego bricks with this cool t-shirt
A young Legoland Florida visitor expresses his passion for Lego bricks with this cool t-shirt. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Star Wars fans with the very cool Lego R2-D2
Lego Star Wars fans with the very cool Lego R2-D2 at Legoland Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Shoes
Cool Lego Shoes worn by young Legoland Florida visitor. Photo by Gina Clifford

Legoland Parks are designed to appeal to kids between the ages of two and twelve, so I talked to a bunch of kids in this approximate age range (4 – 13) to learn about their favorites parts of the park. Kids enjoyed sharing their experiences in the park, so taking an informal, non-scientific poll of kids’ favorite experiences at the park was a snap.

The Dragon coaster was definitely the favorite attraction in the park in my poll. Other very popular rides for eight- and nine-year-olds were the Driving School, the Flying School, and the Technics Test Track roller coaster.

Unofficial Favorite Legoland Activity Poll
Unofficial Favorite Legoland Activity Poll

Theme parks, by their very nature, are extremely stimulating to our senses.  Legoland Florida, though, is a bit more laid-back than the usual theme park. In fact, there are many areas of the park where families can take a break.  Miniland USA is a great place to linger and take in the amazing details at your own pace.  Cypress Gardens, renewed to its original splendor, is indescribably beautiful and a perfect place to escape from the crowds for a bit.  Winding paths open into breathtaking vistas of the gardens and Lake Eloise. There are even benches along the shore of the lake under giant oak trees.

Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens fully restored to its historic splendor in a section of the new Legoland Florida Park. Photo by Gina Clifford

Several moms noted that there was no sign of over-stimulated children crying and screaming at the end of the day at Legoland Florida.  Kids that I spoke with were happy, relaxed, still smiling, and bubbling about their experience in the park– even if their parents were looking worn-out.

Nine- year-olds can be very fussy eaters. Children with food allergies can pose an even bigger challenge.  Thankfully, Legoland Florida has healthy, tasty, kid-friendly options.  Because we are a wheat and dairy-challenged family, we headed to the Market Restaurant and enjoyed Asian noodles, grilled vegetables, rotisserie chicken, and assorted grapes. Our meals were tasty; the service was fast, and the staff knowledgeable and friendly.  We sincerely appreciated that the manager helped us choose items that were dairy- and gluten-free.

Legoland Florida has a store called the Minifigure Market just for building and purchasing minifigures.  This store was so packed on opening day that there was a 30-minute wait just to get in from around 4:00 pm until closing.  Minifigures, like Lego bricks, can be customized by mixing and matching parts and accessories. Young Lego fans love them.

All Legoland Florida staff members wear nametags made from Lego bricks, and many attach Lego Minifigures to their nametags. A little-know secret I learned from the Legoland Marketing staff is that Legoland staff members wearing a minifigure will exchange minifigures with young park attendees who bring a minifigure to trade. The Legoland staff members have great stories about their trades and love to interact with fans in such a unique fashion.

Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida wearing his Minifigure
Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida wearing a Minifigure on his nametag. Photo by Gina Clifford
Young Lego fan trading Minifigs with a Legoland Florida Staff member
Young Lego fan trading Minifigures with a Legoland Florida Staff member. Photo by Gina Clifford
Lego Fan With Lego Minifigure at Legoland Florida
Lego Fan With Lego minifigure at Legoland Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford
Michael, 11, and his Mom at Legoland Florida
Eleven year old Michael from Orlando poses with his mom at Legoland Florida. Michael is a Lego minifigure fanatic and recommends reading the Minifigures Standing Small book. He would love to trade for the Samurai Fan Pick minifigure. Michael attends Milwee Middle School and is the youngest member in his First Lego Robotics League. Photo by Gina Clifford

Clutch Powers fans will surely enjoy the 4D Clutch Powers Adventure movie in Fun Town.  The story is well-written, the effects are fun, and the characters are as enjoyable as ever.  Do not forget to find Clutch Powers on a  billboard in Miniland USA’s Las Vegas.

Clutch Powers 4D
Clutch Powers 4D. Photo by Gina Clifford

My family was lucky enough to stay at the Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando.  Nickelodeon Suites is one of the Legoland Florida Bed & Brick hotels, which includes 13 different hotels in the Orlando and Winter Haven areas.  With free shuttle service to and from Legoland, families visiting Orlando attractions can easily add Legoland to their vacation schedules. The short 45-minute bus ride to the Legoland Park was a relaxing way to arrive at the park without having to worry about parking. The best part about the Nickelodeon Suites, however, is that it is a destination full of fun all by itself. It is the ultimate kid hotel and complements the Legoland experience nicely.

We really appreciated the comfort of our two-bedroom suite, complete with sink, microwave, and mini-refrigerator. The kid-centric theme got a double thumbs-up from our nine year-old, especially the very cool bunk bed, TV, Sponge Bob wall décor and colorful and convenient shelving.

Sponge Bob Themed Room at Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando, Florida
Sponge Bob mural in themed room at Nickelodeon Suites in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Gina Clifford

The beautiful pools and water parks were probably our nine-year-old’s favorite parts of the Nickelodeon Suites Resort.  Like Legoland Florida, the Nickelodeon Suites designed its grounds with kids in mind, and the water parks are no exception.  There were plenty of lifeguards attentively watching the swimmers and water slides, too.

Nickelodeon Suites Lagoon Water Park
Nickelodeon Suites Lagoon Water Park. Photo by Gina Clifford

The character breakfast was quite a hit with the youngsters. Popular Nickelodeon characters like Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer danced and posed for photos with their fans. Oh, and the food was great, too. In fact, because our server asked about food allergies, we were able to talk directly to the chef. He made us outstanding dairy-free, gluten-free pancakes.

Honestly, the character breakfast appeals mainly to the 4- to 6-year-olds.  Our nine-year-old enjoyed watching the crazy singing and dancing, but has long outgrown his love of live dancing TV characters.

There is much more to see and do at Legoland Florida and Nickelodeon Suites.  Judging by the passion and creativity I witnessed at Legoland Florida, the future Steve Jobs is probably a Lego fan and wants nothing more than to spend a day or two in paradise at Legoland Florida.

Thanks Nickelodeon Suites and Legoland Florida for the press package.

Ladder Up: Looking Back at Clarissa Explains it All

I just came across this great retrospective on one of my favorite childhood shows, Clarissa Explains It All. I was a dedicated fan of Clarissa and all her antics, and am certainly grateful for her presence during my pre-teen years. I wasn’t entirely aware of my geekiness at the time — nor did I have any idea that being a geek would come to so define me later in life — but Clarissa and I had a definite connection. Most of my friends were guys, like Sam; I favored really odd, quirky clothing (like dashikis). I had a habit of monologuing to myself, writing long diary entries in various voices and styles, and spent a great deal of my time trying to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I dreamed big.

I won’t go on a rant here about the kind of role models companies like Disney and Nickelodeon are producing these days, but I will say I’m damned glad that I had Clarissa to look up to in the 90s. She gave me the go-ahead to fly my own freak flag. And, if there was anything that defined my teen years, it was a deep desire to find myself, to set myself apart from the popular, the expected, and, in my opinion, the terribly boring. As Marah Eakin says in the article:

But all viewers—myself included—gravitated toward the show because we could find ourselves in her. And in that sense, that’s the show’s biggest success. Clarissa wasn’t a pop star, a superhero, or incredibly rich. She was an average girl living an average life, but in kind of an extraordinary way. Clarissa Explains It All left a nation of young women safe in the knowledge that things would work out just fine, as long as they stayed true to themselves—Doc Martens and all.