Rob Paulsen talks about voicing Donatello in Nick’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot

Rob Paulsen is a well known voice actor. If you don’t know his face, then you definitely known his voice. He is the man behind Yakko on “Animaniacs”, as well as Pinky (which he won an Emmy for) and hundreds of others as well. He is also the voice of Raphael in the original 1987 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series. This year Rob is stepping in the role of a Turtles again in Nick’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot but this time voicing Donatello. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about the new show and how it was returning to the series.

Mike Gencarelli: After playing Raphael in the original 1987 series, how was it switching characters to Donatello in the 2012 reboot?
Rob Paulsen: As you can imagine, it has been an incredible thrill to get another bite of this “Turtle” apple. None of us at the beginning, now 25 years ago – a quarter century, nobody knew that this was going to be ending up being such an iconic show. It is crazy. The biggest difference is that I am involved for the launch of a new show that is already a worldwide international icon. Everybody, everywhere virtually knows about Ninja Turtles. It is an amazing experience to start a show with all that already in place, so to speak. In terms of my participation, I voiced an iconic character 25 years ago and now I am taking over another iconic character. Barry Gordon will always be the original Donatello. There is no downside man, it is all up! It has been such a huge thrill! People also really seem to be really getting behind this new show.

MG: How did it actually come about you playing Donatello this time around? Was it your choice?
RP: No, the only choice I had in the matter was whether or not I wanted to audition. Of course, I am not going to say no. When the folks at Nick invited me to audition, they asked me to specifically read for Donatello. I remember telling my agent “Do they know who I am?”. It was not out of arrogance but, as you know, there have been several adaptations of “Turtles” that had nothing to do with the original cast. I wanted to make sure that they knew I have been down this “Turtle” path before. They knew my work that I had done with Nickelodeon like, “The Fairly Odd Parents”, “Back at the Barnyard”, “Cat Scratch”, “Jimmy Neutron” and “Danny Phantom”. So the folks at Nick were aware of the fact that I did a lot of work with them. They said “We know exactly who Rob is and we are a fan of his work here, as well as “Animaniacs”, “Pinky and the Brain”, “The Tick”, “The Mask” and of course the original “Turtles”. But we think that Rob and his sensibilities would be interesting for ‘our’ vision of Donatello”. So here we are many years later and we get to talk about this great series again.

MG: Can you reflect on the fan’s responses to this new series?
RP: To the credit of Nickelodeon, I owe them a lot. I have been working with them for over 10 years. Just my work at Nickelodeon alone is what some actors would be lucky enough to call a career. I am incredible grateful to them. The fact that they included me on this show is great but even better is that they are playing up the fact that I was involved with the original. I think it is very interesting Mike, there are a lot of people that really dig the connection. I think it was a sort of happy accident. I don’t think I was hired on purpose as a nostalgic connection to the original show but it has become a cool thing for the show. The other actors even get a kick out of it since they are younger and used to watch the show growing up, especially (Greg) Cipes. I think the fans are also really digging it, especially the inter-species romance between Donatello and April. The secret is that (Executive Producer) Ciro (Nieli) and his team simply get it. They are fans of the franchise and it is very rare to have a fan of a show who is also making a show for the fans.

MG: After voicing like a million characters, you ever find it hard to come up with new voices?
RP: Hard is a relative term. What is hard? Hard is pulling hot tar on the freeway in August. That is hard. My job is pure joy. The most difficult part of my job is getting more work. In terms of coming up with new characters, I think it is a little bit tricky since I have been to that well so many times. But that is my job. My job is to take things I have done and tweak them. If you listen to Mel Blanc talk about his characters years ago, he said that he would take Daffy, add an affectation to it and soon he would have a new character. That is my challenge. I don’t want to stop working until they put me in the ground. I just love coming up with new characters.

MG: So you mentioned at NYCC 2012 that Pinky is your favorite character, how can you possible choose just one?
RP: That is exactly right Mike, it is impossible to choose. I think I prefaced it with the fact that when I get asked my favorite character, I say “The next one”. That means I am working and that is the main thing when you are an actor. It is virtually impossible to choose but I suppose if I would have to I would have to say Pinky only because 20 years later, people still love “Pinky and The Brain” and “Animaniacs”. Of course, I also won an Emmy for Pinky. I suppose if I had to make a choice, it would be him. But let me tell you Donatello is quickly becoming a favorite. After only a few weeks on the air people all over the world are freaking out in a very positive way about the Turtles. I read a lot of reviews and honestly about 85% has been really positive. You have to ask me again in another two years because Donatello might be the answer then.

Check a voice clip of Rob plugging MediaMikes.com (in several different character voices):

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