Lucas Aoki and Mike “Truth” Johnston are uniquely talented Austin artists, but don’t take our word for it.
Instead, hop on the MoPac expressway and drive south. As you cruise by the Alamo Drafthouse location just off Slaughter Lane, you may notice their special new addition: a ground-to-roof mural featuring Austin’s skyline and none other than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The mural was completed just ahead of Alamo’s Sunday morning screening of Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot. The event, sponsored by Paramount Pictures, featured an all-you-can-eat, Turtles-themed pizza menu, costume contest and even a martial arts demonstration from a local dojo. Johnston also took it upon himself to teach some of the younger Turtles fans how to better their art.
“[Painting the mural] took us about six days, and half the time was spent painting the background because it’s so big,” Johnston told Austin.com. “When we finally got a lift it made our lives a lot easier and we were able to fill in the details and things that are up high.”
Johnston and Aoki were both recruited by Alamo Drafthouse Chief Creative Officer Mike Sherrill, who saw Johnston’s other street art around Austin (some of which is Turtles-related) and reached out. Once Sherrill connected with the studio to fund the project, things started happening. “He had the vision,” Johnston said, “and now it’s reality.”
See for yourself:
Paramount also had Johnston design a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” poster, which is pretty sweet.
It helps that the new Turtles movie is actually a lot of fun too. Many jaded nerds were outraged a few months back when rumors spread that the Turtles might not be mutants after all, but the film takes care to not deviate far from the formula that made the characters work in the first place. The movie also features something Turtles fans have longed to see since the early 90’s: A very Yoda-like Splinter whipping out his kung-fu skills on the evil martial arts master Shredder. And it is glorious.
Johnston told Alamo’s Sunday crowd that the mural could likely withstand up to seven years of weather damage, but Johnston was not sure if it will stay up that long. “There’s been talk of future murals here,” he said with a smile.
Asked their thoughts on Austin, Aoki said he loves the city because it doesn’t really feel like a city. “It’s still a lot like a town, in a way,” he said. “There’s a lot of unique things here, from restaurants to underground art shows to, well, anything you can think of. I like that a lot.”
For Johnston, Austin’s appeal lies in “food, parks and the fact that art is encouraged and welcomed.” But it’s that last part he’s most keen on. “There’s art everywhere here,” Johnston mused. “I love that.”
Watch Alamo’s short film on the Ninja Turtles mural:
Photos: Stephen C. Webster.