Cowabunga: An Interview with Barry Gordon

Donatello, the genius of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, has a surprisingly calm personality behind the purple mask. In the 1987 animated series, he’s the brains behind their revolutionary gadgets, from the Turtle Van to the portable portal. The man behind the voice, Barry Gordon, is just as fascinating.

Gordon began performing at age three, and recorded his first single, “Nuttin’ for Christmas”,at age six. At Wizard World Chicago this past summer, he said that his craziest fan encounter was when someone came up to his table with an ad for that record.

“They had an ad from 1955 with a picture on it that I had not seen in probably 60 years,” he said.

He was cast on a multitude of shows during his childhood and well into his adulthood before making the move into voice acting. His time on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lasted for nearly a decade, and has remained at the top of his list of favorite projects. The comradery and friendships created during the show was something he was never quite able to duplicate.

However, Gordon was the last of his castmates to join the comic convention circuit. He remembers getting a phone call out of the blue and the first time they all met up at a convention in Calgary. Other than getting together for dinner once, they original four Turtles hadn’t seen each other in about 30 years. This year alone, they’ve been to six different conventions.

“It really has revived our friendship,” Gordon said. “Now we’re like brothers.”

Going to these conventions also gives Gordon the opportunity to geek out. He’s a major fan of sci-fi and fantasy, and got the ultimate opportunity at Wizard World Chicago to see stars from shows like Heroes and Supernatural as well as legends like Ken Page and Henry Winkler.

“When there’s people here from my favorite shows it’s really cool, so I can understand if it affects me it really affects others,” he said. “I’m starting to understand why people come and what they do.”

Since retiring from acting, Gordon has been a professor at his alma mater, California State University Los Angeles. He teaches film acting in their MFA program, and said the ability to teach and give back to a new generation is what he’s most proud of.

Donatello has meant a lot to many generations, and the man behind that voice - and the men behind the voices of Raphael, Michaelangelo and Leonardo - have been able to bring those childhood dreams to life, one convention at a time.