Donatello and Michelangelo were right on brand as reporters stepped into their animated world for a unique virtual reality interview about Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, premiering September 17.

The encounter at San Diego Comic Con turned members of the media into cartoon character avatars and dropped them into the immersive setting for a discussion with Donnie and Mikey. Meanwhile, voice actors Josh Brener and Brandon Mychal Smith sat in a separate room nearby, watching the intereview unfold on screen and responding to questions in real time.

The activation was spearheaded by Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Lab—a research facility exploring the use of interactive technologies to define new ways to connect with digital audiences—which is led by senior vice president Chris Young.

“This was a unique opportunity for the lab to really flex its muscles,” Young said.

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Using real-time puppeteers to control the turtle’s virtual movements, along with live compositing and a green screen, the experience provided a glimpse into the kind of innovative communication Nickelodeon is developing.

The activation serves not only as an extension of the upcoming show, but also makes the new technology more accessible by demonstrating it through a popular brand such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, said Young. In short, because the characters and so well known and loved, it allows the network to take more creative risks.

“I have the ability the take these experiential ideas,” said Young, “and attach it to really great IP.”

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