Thank you, Peter Laird

I believe I’ve mentioned before how Peter Laird has taken to including some of his correspondence with Lloyd Goldfine regarding individual episodes of TMNT to his blog.  Well, a good amount of them have been added since I last checked, and they’ve allowed me to draw some conclusions. Namely, that it’s hard to understate how important Laird was to the creative process of the show’s initial incarnation.

While Laird’s position within the show’s creative staff was that of “Creative Director”, the title doesn’t quite encompass the extent of his contributions.  He helped work on character designs.  He oversaw scripts.  He made suggestions on the show’s overall direction.  And the show was unquestionably better for it.  While it’s impossible to say for sure, the e-mails strongly suggest that a TMNT 2k3 without Peter Laird would have been a lot more like Fred Wolf’s cartoon–or Fast Forward. There’s a lot of silliness and sloppiness in those original drafts, and Laird helped curb most of it.

Another interesting thing to note is that, while  the tone suggests that Goldfine and 4Kids had the authority to ignore Laird’s suggestions if they wished, most of them eventually made it in some form into the final product*.  A good thing, too: while the finished product is clearly Goldfine and the writers’, a look at the e-mails suggests, somewhat surprisingly, that a good amount  of  details– from key details such as Bishop’s story, Karai’s season 4 character arc,  and the reveal that the Underground City was an Y’lyntean colony, to second-long details such as specific camera angles were initially suggested by Laird. It suggests that Laird and Goldfine shared the very best sort of creative rapport: the type where each improves the other.

So what happened?  Clearly, by the time Fast Forward came along, a lot of that silliness and sloppiness began making its way into the final product, not all of it a result of a rushed production schedule (see: Back to the Sewer).  Some of it is, of course, intentional–the show was undeniably meant to focus more on the comedy–but the execution would seem to suggest that by the time season six came around, Laird was no longer as involved as he once was–if he was overseeing and commenting on individual scripts, there’s no evidence of it.  Which is sad, really.  Fast Forward, I still feel, had a lot of interesting ideas marred by sloppy execution, and I feel it could have been a great season if there had been someone there to make sure it got that extra level of polish.  While 4Kids could still crank out great episodes–“Timing is Everything”, “Invasion of the Body Jacker”, and of course, Turtles Forever–something that made the initial seasons what they were had been lost.

So thank you, Peter Laird, for your contribution to what would become my favorite cartoon.  Thank you Lloyd Goldfine, for doing your best to obtain Laird’s imput and to incorporate it into the cartoon.  It paid off.

—-

* A trend I noticed was that the suggestions 4Kids would most often discard were ideas for things Laird found appropriately silly or funny–for example, a suggestion that Stockman’s holographic face (from seasons 3-5) be given cartoonish, anime-ish expressions when appropriate.  It feels right, and once again shows how both Laird and 4Kids improved on the others’ work.

 

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