Superhero Shorts: Casey Jones the Movie
Welcome back my friends to another edition of Superhero Shorts, where I feature a superhero themed short film and ask a few questions to the creator. This time around I’m talking with Polaris Banks, who spent a few years creating a fan film centered around Casey Jones from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, only not quite the version from the children’s cartoons, but the version more true to the original comic books. As usual, you can watch the movie below, or you can visit the official website.
Watching this for the first time was actually a nice surprise. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect based on the title of the movie, I assumed it was basically just a Casey Jones origin story, but I didn’t know if any of the Turtles would show up, as it was a fan film, or exactly how Casey Jones would act. It starts off pretty dark and stays that way through the course of the 30ish minute short, the acting was actually quite good and the designs on Jones’s mask and Mikey when he does show up are pretty good, though obviously still not feature film quality. The fight scenes were well choreographed, and all in all it was a very entertaining short. But enough from me, let’s hear what the writer/director/producer/etc. Polaris Banks has to say.
Bubbawheat: Casey Jones in your short is much more violent than any of the PG versions from the cartoons, in a couple cases he quite possibly killed some of the gang members. I’m unfortunately not very familiar with the comic, was this inspired from the comic book, or was it more to separate your version of Casey Jones from the cartoon and live action movie versions?
Polaris Banks: Casey is definitely more violent in the original Mirage comics, but our movie took it even further. In his first appearance, it’s assumed that Casey would have killed the criminals if Raphael hadn’t intervened. From then on in the series, Casey struggles to control his violent nature. So my movie explores what happened before the Turtles ended Casey’s rampage. Would he have killed if there was no one there to stop him?
BW: It was a bit of a surprise to see Robbie Rist in the credits, how did you come to work with him?
PB: The actor who voiced Leonardo for me suggested I contact Rist about reprising Mikey. I paid him as well as I could, and he was happy to do it. Robbie Rist is and will forever be the quintessential Michelangelo. I’m still thrilled every time his part in Casey Jones comes on. I completely forget I made the movie and turn back into a five year old Turtles fan.
BW: It is absolutely an iconic voice and he really brought his old energy to the part. When your short film started clocking in over 30 minutes, did you ever have the ambition to just keep going to a full length movie?
PB: The length was dictated by the budget. I would have loved to make a Casey Jones feature, but I could barely afford to finish the half hour. The movie took three years to finish because I kept having to take breaks to save up more money.
BW: When first watching this knowing nothing but the title, I was pleasantly surprised when Michaelangelo showed up in a pretty impressive suit. Was it your idea, or your effects makeup guy who wanted to include Krang as well?
PB: One of the main reasons I wanted to make the movie was the creature suit. Without Mikey the movie wouldn’t have been challenging enough to interest me. Having a special effects expert on hand, Oliver Luke, did help inspire the overall idea though. Krang wasn’t actually constructed for the film. Oliver made the animatronic for class while attending the Savini Special Make-Up Effects Program. It was just sitting there in his apartment. So I couldn’t resist working it in.
BW: I also have to ask about the Michaelangelo’s bandanna, because when I watched it, it looked more red than orange to me.
PB: I’ve heard a few people comment that the bandanna looked red, but most seem to recognize that it’s orange. I did use a burnt orange fabric, but I think it depends on what device you watch the movie on. Every TV and computer screen has a unique calibration. It would give me serious nerd points if I did intentionally make Michelangelo’s bandanna red though. In the original comics, all four Turtles had red bandannas.
BW: Was there anyone else you would have liked to include from the comics that you weren’t able to?
PB: The scene in the Turtle’s Lair was intended to picture all four Turtles, not just their voices. I was going to use the same creature suit over and over and composite the performances together Multiplicity style, but the suit was too expensive to repair and painful for the actors. So I cut the appearance. I think the voice over ended up working better though. I also wanted the Shredder to have a cameo next to Krang, but the costume would have been way too much effort for a single shot. Splinter has always been my favorite TMNT character. If I ever made a sequel to Casey Jones, Splinter would have to play a major role.
BW: I remember being a fan of the frogs from the cartoon, and of course, Casey Jones. And finally, what’s your favorite superhero movie?
PB: Batman the Animated Series is my all time favorite adaption of a comic book character. So Mask of the Phantasm is the best superhero feature in my book. If you’re going live action though, my favorite is Blade. I’ve never read a Blade comic. I don’t even like the character particularly, but that movie nailed it. It’s realistic and stylish, dark and fun, great action and great performances. It had the advantage of coming out in a time when outlandish movies were allowed to be adult. Today Blade would be generic and PG-13. I’m glad it slipped past the suits. Did it break box office records? No, but Blade paved the way for movies like the Matrix.
Blade did well enough to earn two sequels. I’m also a huge fan of the animated series, and while I’ve seen all the DC direct-to-video animations, I haven’t gone back and watched all the ones spun-off of the TV series including Mask of the Phantasm. Both very nice choices. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.