Interview with Randall Lobb of Turtle Power

Next week an exciting documentary called Turtle Power will be released. The documentary follows the rise and continued popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and takes a close look at the die hard fans and creators behind this pop culture phenomenon. This week I had the honor of interviewing Randall Lobb founder of the production company FauxPop who are behind the film.

Turtle Power will be available on Digital and DVD release August 12th.

For more info check out their website at TurtleDoc.TV

And follow Randall Lobb on twitter @thelabcoatguy

Be sure to come back later this week to read our review!


Can you describe the long process it’s been trying to get “Turtle Power” to release?

We started thinking it would be a doc exclusively for hardcore fans.

One of the three partners in the doc (Isaac Elliott-Fisher) is himself a longtime TMNT fan, and Mark Hussey, my direct business partner in FauxPop Media, and I were looking to do something that has “niche appeal”. This seemed like a good project for that.
The idea was originally that we would look at fans, fan collections, some historical material, the impact of the franchise on fans, and widen out as and if we could.
Of course, we had no idea how wide the project was going to get.
We ended up having an excellent relationship with Gary Richardson at Mirage, then with Peter Laird, then with Kevin Eastman, all of whom shared their stories, their time and in some cases, their own collections with us.
At the same time (Winter of 2009), we reached out to The Henson Company and after some friendly discussion, we found that they were happy to welcome us in for an interview with Brian Henson, who worked on the 1990 Turtle movie, AND we hosted a reunion of the voice cast of the Fred Wolf produced animated series.
After that, it was obvious that we were doing something MUCH larger than we’d originally assumed, and this was exciting.
It was also difficult, stressful, challenging, awesome and, at times, tricky.
The process of shooting and editing the doc was sporadic over those five years, but the process of trying to negotiate, arrange and set up our shoots was ongoing, and trying to sell the what we expected to produce at the end was a huge, complex process of stops and starts, hopes, then dashed hopes, and then finally, the deal with Paramount, which then created a whole new scope of intensity and activity of its own.
It has been an unbelievable and complex process that has been rewarding, taxing and filled with uncertainty and we’ve loved every minute of it. (pretty much)
What has it been like trying to get the doc off the ground much of it on your own dime?

That is a stressful proposition.

You try to be very careful about your spending and you hope to shoot only what you need, but of course, you end up shooting much more than you need and some shooting days that you remember as being very costly wind up on the cutting floor, of course.
You need to keep focused on your day job and make that as important as the documentary, make sure your wife and kids are all happy and fed and THEN pull money out of your monthly expenses and, in a sense, gamble with it.
However, we had faith that we were doing a great job, we worked our asses off and we stayed as friendly and positive as we could in every way, and when you do that, you feel like you’re building something of value more than just gambling. And it was a calculation in which we also knew that Paramount would be releasing a big TMNT movie down the road, and we had hopes that there would be some synergies around that.
On the website in the short bio you joke about the fact that you weren’t totally on board with the idea of the documentary. What were some of the challenges you saw facing you and what ultimately lead to you taking on the project?

I was worried about rights in general, about front costs and travel and expensing that out of our day jobs, about dealing with separated rights all over the place across many companies and forms of media, about getting in over our heads on a project that had some many ties to big corporations, and I KNOW that corporations, but their definition, focus on the bottom line above all, and so the work that we would be doing would be a distraction and an abstraction from that focus. In general, I am a person who tries to strategize in everything that I do, and when I’m plotting out all the moves in the game, I have to find all the ways we can fail first. And there were plenty of those.

What has been your favorite part of making “Turtle Power”?

The process of traveling and working and meeting new people and making these connections has been amazing. We’ve become friends with people through this project, we’ve done things we used to dream about as kids and we’ve eaten enough Mexican food to incapacitate a lesser group of filmmakers.

For me, it’s been about the experience, about consciously choosing to think about how much fun it has been AS we do it.
What’s one unique fact you didn’t know about the turtles going into the project? 

The bus kicking turtles story was pretty revelatory (you’ll have to watch the doc to learn what that means), but for me, as a comedy nerd, it was learning that Michael Ian Black and Robert Ben Garant (two founding members of the The State) got their start in the business in Turtle suits. I just couldn’t believe it. And then we got to interview them, which was fantastic.

What do you think has made the turtles stay relevant over 30 years and why fans continue to relate to them?

There are a number of reasons, but I like to point at the archetypal aspects of stories and characters that work across cultures, across eras and across generations. There are so many attachments for people in the TMNT stories – anthropomorphic animals, ninja coolness, martial arts in general, sibling rivalry, the plight of the outsider, the rebel, the wisecracking heroes, the wise master, etc, etc. And then it’s usually funny and wacky and there are a lot of visually interesting and arresting characters and designs… I could go on. In fact, I could make a shoe documentary about it…

Which turtle do you most relate to?

People tell me Raphael because they sometimes think I’m aggressive, WHICH I AM NOT! But I probably associate more with Splinter. I am a teacher (my 25 year day job), I try to maintain balance in all things, I don’t get emotional, I have long been fascinated with Japanese culture, I’m old, but I’m still a bad ass… From a character perspective, I am definitely a Michelangelo.

What are some fond memories you have of TMNT?

So many! The first comic, making our documentary and then the fun of promoting it afterwards. Seeing our documentary complete, watching it on the Paramount lot in a small screening room, hearing that people are enjoying it and responding to the ideas we had over these five years – I have so many fond memories.

But here are two that stand out:
The weekend that we spent during Kevin and Peter’s reunion back in New England was pretty great, and seeing them back together, having Peter ask us if we would mind staying on an extra day and shooting them together at the site of their creation of the turtles, well, that was amazing. We saw two friends reminiscing about something they did 30 years before, something that changed so many lives, including ours!
And the second is from March of 2009, when we were camping out in a house Kevin had up for sale in the Hollywood Hills. Looking out over the valley at night, we realized that we would never be in such a place, in such a house, in such a situation again, and it was sad and awesome and strange all at the same time.
Did you own any Turtle merchandise over the last 30 years?

I do indeed. I have several signed pieces of art from Kevin and Peter