After weathering an initial storm of fan outrage, “Teen Titans Go!” has pulled off its risky reboot from darkness to self-parody, broadening its reach and getting even wackier in its third season on Cartoon Network.
If anything, the change in tone and character design (more Flash-based) have magnified their iconic traits: Robin (Scott Menville) has become even more neurotic in his inability to control the Titans; Raven (Tara Strong), the half-demon, demonstrates her conflicted Goth nature; Starfire (Hynden Walch), the warrior princess, remains unshakably optimistic when everything seems out of control; Cyborg (Khary Payton) has grown more soulful; and the green, shape-shifting Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) has increased his musical arsenal as the prankster.
And embracing their sillier sides has suited the voice cast, which has remained intact since the original “Teen Titans” series (2003-2007) and grown closer during Friday’s recording sessions.
“At first, I was nervous that the fans wouldn’t like it because the first series was so great and dark…and it ended on a pivotal story arc,” said Strong. “And I think the fans were anticipating to find out what happened. And then it didn’t happen and that was really more the outrage.”
Among Strong’s highlights is playing Raven’s alter-ego Lady Legasus in “Arms Race with Legs,” in which she gets to shed her dark side. “The writers are getting bolder with how silly to get,” she added.
As for Robin, the comedy lies in his lacking superpowers and relying on discipline and training. “Nobody listens to him and it drives him nuts,” Menville said. “It’s fun delivering a monologue in pig Latin. How am I ever going to do that on anything else? It’s just license to go in and be as zany as possible.”
There’s certainly a difference in the flirty relationship between Starfire and Robin. Here, she loves him more like a brother. “The writers moved into high satire this season,” said Walch. She singled out “40%, 40%, 20%,” as one of her highlights, in which they all sing Cyborg’s favorite song, “The Night Begins to Shine,” by B.E.R. “Occasionally, if we’re a little spacey or tired in the booth, one of us will start to play it on our phone to cheer us up.”
Cyborg’s Payton, meanwhile, promised more of “The Night Begins to Shine” next season, noting that everything is a spoof of the original series. “I think of ‘Teen Titans Go!’ as a version where the Teen Titans of the old show went to bed and had 11-minute dreams,” said Payton. “Which is funny because we based a [first season] episode [‘Dreams’] on having different weird dreams. In some ways it’s actually darker than the old show. I’ve died four or five times on this show and I don’t remember dying on the old show.”
Cipes said Beast Boy was always the comic relief so it was the easiest transition for him. “And that’s me because I live a very lighthearted, carefree life,” he added. “And from the very beginning they’ve integrated parts of me into the character like being Vegan and writing songs for the show because I’m a singer/musician.
“They’ve given me a lot of freedom to express my emotions and to be as reactive as I want,” added Cipes, who last year sang the upcoming ballad about Raven, “BBRae,” at San Diego Comic-Con, which will formally appear next season.