Associate Producer Bret Rowe with Megan Fox at the TMNT premiere in Westwood.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that is #1 at the box office this weekend had humble, grass roots development beginnings at Comic-Con 2008 in the hands of two comic book film fans (and first-time film producers) and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-loving producer.
Fortuitous events at San Diego’s Comic-Con 2008 introduced Turtles Executive Producer Napoleon Smith III and Santa Monica-based Producer Bret Rowe to producer Galen Walker, who sensed an opportunity to acquire feature film rights for the Turtles’ franchise after its 2007 animated feature ‘TMNT’ was released by Imagi Studios. During a three-hour creative summit, the trio set the plan to acquire Turtles’ film rights, shook hands in agreement and set their plan in motion.
“At the time, Galen, Bret and I felt that TMNT was undervalued,” says Smith. “Here we were, living in the day and age of comic book movies and Turtles had no one behind it. People thought Turtles was done, finished. We were willing to bet otherwise.”
Rowe worked financial models and sought investors. A fourth Lightboxer, Marc Pappalardo, handled corporate structure and legal. Smith and Walker would take the team’s strategy and vision to Peter Laird for his blessing.
“A tremendous opportunity to secure film rights for a global franchise was upon us and it was a ‘no-fail’ proposition,” says Rowe. “Superman, Spiderman, Batman rebrand at the box office all the time for new generations. We had to get Peter Laird to believe Turtles had the brand power to do the same perpetually but, more importantly, we had to prove to him that we had the talented people that could execute.”
According to Smith, LightBox members assumed and completed tasks without question and positive things started to happen.
“Galen brought on ‘300’ producer Scott Mednick. Our investor (fifth Lightboxer Eric Crown) approved of the deal, the franchise and its global movie and merchandise potential. Peter approved of our investor, our producing team and our strategy. We weren’t a studio but we had to provide the acumen and financial resources of a studio in order to develop the movie to Peter’s and our high standards and passion for the franchise.”
Executive Producer Napolean Smith, Will Arnett, with Producers Bret Rowe and Marc Pappalardo
A mere ‘David’ in a world of Goliath studios and comic book franchises, LightBox Productions, acquired the feature film rights for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) property in early 2009 with Laird’s blessing.
“After a year,” says Rowe, “magically, everyone agreed and our six-man LightBox team obtained the TMNT feature film rights. We then set our sights on making our Turtles movie in tandem with Peter and Mirage (Studios).”
LightBox commenced development and script work on its Turtles movie in spring/summer 2009 before Viacom’s outright purchase of the Turtles franchise from Laird’s Mirage Studios in October 2009. Paramount acquired the TMNT feature film rights from LightBox in October 2009.
The storybook Hollywood blockbuster ending for LightBox occurred when Paramount Pictures appointed Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes juggernaut with producing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles picture as a Megan Fox starring vehicle under Jonathan Liebesman direction. “The Michael Bay and Megan Fox announcements were definitely head spinning for all of us,” says Rowe.
“In the end, Peter did not care if I had ever produced a movie,” pauses Smith, “he cared that we had the same belief in the Turtles that he did. The belief that it’s high time for the Turtles to be reborn for a new generation to enjoy. You can see that belief in what we at LightBox have accomplished to get to this point and in what Paramount, Platinum Dunes, Nickelodeon and Jonathan have created with the new Turtles movie.”