Well Nerd Nation, the time is finally here. I am finally getting to talk about something that I Nerd Out about more than most things these days, and you'll know when it's coming because I shout, "I KNOW THAT VOICE!" I am a voice acting fan from day 1-ish. If you have watched anything that is not live action, whether it be CGI, a game, or cartoon; I apologize cause if I hear a familiar voice and pinpoint it, I will go absolutely NerdCore on you about the artist and every big they have done. I might even delve into where and how they got their start.
So I am finally going to talk to you about some of the biggest Voice Actors in our modern Nerdiverse and even some who have been doing it as long or longer than some of us have been alive. I will also delve into some of the history of voice acting like old Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons from before I was even born. We are going to be talking about The History of Voice Acting, The Godfather of Voice Acting, The Versatility of The Voice, The Direction of the Voice, Voicing The Video Games, and finally The Celebrities of Voice Acting. So why don't we go ahead and get into the World of Voice Acting in Nerd Culture!
The History of Voice Acting
What does it mean to be a voice actor? Well, you go into a room, you are given a script, and you do the voice. I mean sure you hear the "In a world voice or watch cartoons like Pinky and The Brain or Clone Wars, but have you ever stopped to think…hmmm I wonder who is in the little room doing the voice to that character. It's also not as simple as walking into a room and doing voices and getting a bunch of money…it's acting…can you yell as that person, can you cry as that person, can you get hit in the gut as that person, can you BE that person in any scenario that you are given? However, it's a scary place to be. You could be playing Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z for 2 seasons, and then boom, they could recast the voice or the character written off and resurrected with a different voice…kinda like what happened to Vegeta after The Saiyan Saga leading into The Frieza Saga.
The tradition began with old puppet shows when those actors would establish characters by just small changes in their voices. These began during the Vaudville age after the silent pictures, but the character voices came from the insanity of Vaudville Silent actors breaking into what was called The Talkies. They thought that when silent film was over, they would have to act with these outrageous voices, and some did when the cartoons came along.
However the first cartoon was created by Max Flischer when he created Finding His Voice in 1929. This cartoon had dialogue, movement, and a soundtrack. However, by definition, the first TALKING CARTOON was Dinner Time by Paul Terry. He preceded Walt Disney by a month. However, after seeing the Jazz Singer, which was the first talking picture, and the Dinner Time Cartoon, Disney's brain started spinning. So, as we all know, Steam Boat Willy was born…even though if you wanna get technical about it, Mickey never really had a voice. The first full on speaking cartoon movie was Snow White, which Disney thought would be a flop.
Voice actors from the radio era flocked to the cartoons knowing that this was going to take off. However, most of us would say our first contact with "cartoon" voices are the ridiculous voices our parents and family would use when speaking to you as a child.
The Godfather of The Voice Actors
When looking back at people you would consider the Godfather of The Voice Actors, you only have to search one name, and that is Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc's voice birthed Daffy Duck, Dino the dinosaur, Bugs Bunny, Barney Rubble, Cosmo Jetson, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, and so many more to count. Seriously, you should look this guy up.
I mean if you go back and watch the old cartoon Wabbit Season, Duck Season; there is an entire scene where Bugs dresses as Daffy to get Elmer Fudd to choose to who to hunt. That was literally Mel Blanc in all characters in many situations. First, he is Elemer Fudd, Bugs, and Daffy all in the same scene. Mel being Bugs, Mel being Elmer, and Mel being Daffy. However, at one moment, it becomes Mel Blanc being Bugs doing a Daffy impression, Daffy doing a Bugs impression, and Elmer Fudd. That's talent.
The Versatility of the Voice
In voice acting, you would be surprise how one person could play a hero, a villain, a girl, a nerd, a donkey, or a different race. That is what makes a voice actor so cool and what makes the world of voice acting so amazing is that someone like me, a 5'9 230 pound curly haired guy would never bee seen in real film as Batman or Wolverine or as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, but as a voice actor, I could play all three of them.
The other amazing thing about the versatility of a voice actor comes in small changes or nuances. For instance, there is a popular modern voice actor called Dee Bradley Baker, who voices all the clones in The Clone Wars series. He, one person, does every voice, yet they all have something different when you hear them. One may be light hearted and a rookie, one may be seasoned and gruff, one may sound older, one may have a swagger. One man does every voice and gives something personal to each one, and I think that is amazing. Take the time to go back and watch some episodes where clones are talking to each other, especially with their helmets off; go back and listen to the little differences in his voice.
Another Voice Actor I am impressed with is James Arnold Taylor, who voices Obi Wan Kenobi. Look him up. The one thing I do want to mention about him is his Obi Wan is one we have all loved during The Clone Wars run, but the fun fact is all he did was combined the voice and tones of McGreggor and Guiness. That's all he did, but it has created an Obi Wan for us to love, and he has become an Obi Wan for a generation. The impressive thing about him, is he is also Fred Flinstone in the modern era of cartoons since the early 2000's as well as The Jack Sparrow in Kingdom Hearts. THAT is Versatility!
The Direcion of the Voice
As an actor on screen or the stage may be the focus, a director is needed. There are many directors of voice acting from Seth Green, Kris Zimmerman, and Andrea Romano. However, if you ask any of those directors or other actors the true legend in voice direction is Gordon Hunt who was the voice director of Hannah Barbara for a very long time. Andrea Romano says "He id 'an actors director,' and because of the nature we make cartoons, which is we record the voices first and then animate to that, YOU affect the entire process if you don't get a good performance for the actors.
Gordon was from the theatre world originally so he would envision the characters as he might cast them in a play, rather than just look down at the page and hear the voices coming in. He was the first to be very adamant on the fact that these are actors not puppets.
Andrea Romano, who focuses on the act of being genuine with each thing she directs. She bounces around a lot from Batman to Spongebob to Avatar, but she always focuses on the fact that each performance has to be genuine and not just a guy saying lines on a page in a funny voice.
The tough part about being a voice director is when you are also a voice actor in your project at the same time like Seth Green in Robot Chicken or Dan Povenmire, who directs Phineas and Ferb while voicing Doofenshmurtz at the same time. This happens a lot. A huge percentage of voice directors are aiding their voice to projects at the same time and most likely are major characters as well.
However, what voice directors will agree on is you cannot "puppet master" the whole aspect. Gordon Hunt says that he saw so much in the theatre the aspect of a director taking the organic freedom away and there was so much "ok you walk in and you cross and you pick up the drink and you say…. And as a stage performer myself I have worked for directors like that and it truly can take creativity away from you as a performer. I couldn't imagine what it would be like as a voice actor being boxed in literally and creatively.
Voicing The Video Games
A lot of voice actors including Tara Strong and John Dimaggio have said this was the next evolution of voice acting. Whether it be World of Warcraft, Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, what have you; the actors play a very crucial role in the world of video games. Most would even say that the process of making a full video game these days are as big as movies. The voice actor in a video game has been called The Magic Equation to finish the process.
One voice everyone knows is the extra voices in war games that say things like "frag out" or "get down" and that is one man named Nolan North. If you watch Young Justice, he is the voice of Superman and Superboy, and if you wonder what he looks like, he is Spencer's dad in Pretty Little Liars.
A lot of voice actors would say video games are a bit harder because most dialogue in video games require a lot screaming and loud soundbites that can cause voice injury and even bleeding vocal chords just to give moments like Marcus constantly shouting in Gears of War or Nolan North shouting in Call of Duty or Fred Tatasciore as Hulk in Avengers cartoons. So video gamin can be very hard on a voice actor. Many like John Dimaggio have to go from gaming into playing Bender in Futurama in the same week. This is the tough part of Voice Acting that you don't hear about as much, but a lot of them have little things that help like singing to and from work to train your chords, creating a fake yell like on stage, or different herbs in their hot teas.
The Celebrities of Voice Acting
Even though most voice acting celebrities would say they love it because it still gives them some anonymity so they can go to the store or to a theme park without being bombarded for autographs and pictures, there are celebrities in this world of entertainment and I want to talk about some of my favorites from the Voice Acting world. These are in no particular order, but I am going to name a few things about them in hopes to entice you to look them up yourself as well as watch the documentary I Know That Voice.
Jim Cummings: Jim is my all time favorite voice actor because he has done it all. He is the voice of Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck, Pete, Ray from Princes and the Frog, and literally hundreds of others dating back to before I was born in '89. He is mainly my favorite because of Darkwing Duck. I loved it as a kid, and I have been introducing my nephew to it, and he's hooked. Watching Jim do Darth Vader as Winnie The Pooh is pretty phenomenal too. You should go check it out on the Twisted Toons Youtube Page.
Troy Baker: Troy is the only man to play both Joker and Batman. His Joker is the closes you'll get to Mark Hamill without being Mark Hamill. He also even played Arkham Knight A.K.A. Jason Todd in the Arkham Knight video game. However, most of you all would know his voice from being Booker in Bioshock Infinite and Joel in The Last of Us. Troy has a fun show with Nolan North called Retro Replay on YouTube that you should definitely check out.
Marice Lamarche: Maurice is a man of many voices like the rest, but his impersonations are remarkable. He does voice The Brain from Pinky and The Brain as well as Inspector Gadget and hundreds of others, but his Columbo and Will Shatner impressions are phenomenal.
Kevin Conroy: He is vengeance, he is the knight, he is BATMAN. If you are even half of a Batman fan you know this voice. He may have a few credits under his belt here and there that aren't the caped crusader like fun fact he did a voice in Max Payne 2; but this man is BATMAN. Look up his IMDB, and no one has the Batman credentials that Conroy has.
Mark Hamill: You can't talk Conroy or Batman for that matter without talking Mark Hamill. Sorry Star Wars Nerds, I aint talkin about Luke Skywalker, I am talking about the greatest comic book villain in, if not the biggest pop culture villain in history, The Joker. Hamill has perhaps surpassed his fame as Luke with his voice of The Clown Prince of Crime, and rightfully so. One of the coolest moments he has had is in a recent animated series about DC Heroes and Villains where he voiced Joker, Trickster, Swamp Thing, and even himself in the same scene. His voice resume far outshines his live action resume.
Jess Harnell: Jess''s biggest claim to fame is lending the voice to Wakko Warner in The Animaniacs, but he has also had some really big moments in animation such as Wreck It Ralph, Kingdom Hearts, and hundreds of other cartoons. One of his mainstage titles he has lent his voice to is The Transformers live action movies as Ironhide. He has voiced Ironhide in the live action movies, but is Barricade in some of the Transformers cartoons. He even has his own metal band he tours with called Rock Sugar.
Phil Lamar: If you don't know him by name, he gained a lot of popularity on the SNL knock off Mad TV as a cast member, but I have known him for years as Jon Stewart's Green Lantern, Samurai Jack, Hermes in Futurama, and of course everyone's favorite weatherman Ollie Williams from Family Guy. Phil is probably a huge reason behind Jon being my favorite Green Lantern.
Nolan North: As mentioned earlier Nolan has brought his voice to many big moments in gaming, but when I hear him talk, I see Superboy from Young Justice when I close my eyes. I actually am a pretty big Pretty Little Liars fan too admittedly, and he's just as good an on screen actor as he is with his voice. Most gamers would know his voice from being Nathan Drake for all these years.
Rob Paulsen: NARF! One dumb word that made Pinky one of the most quotable cartoon characters as a kid for me. All this from the voice of Rob Paulsen. Now don’t get me wrong, Rob also voiced Yakko Warner in Animaniacs and many other popular characters like Donatello in TMNT and Carl in Jimmy Neutron, but Pinky may be the most iconic voice of Rob's for me.
Kevin Michael Richardson: If you listened to the Joker episode way back, you heard me say I hated Kevin's version of The Joker in that newer The Batman cartoon series, but I do not hold that against him. He is still one of my favorite voice actors today with credits like Gorro's voice in the first Mortal Kombat movie, to Martian Manhunter in Young Justice, Groot in Marvel's animated stuff, and of course Cleveland Jr in Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. This man has also done some pretty big things in live action as well. For instance, he is in one of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother.
Tara Strong: Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner, Batgirl, Mary Jane Watson, and even Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls. What do they all have in common? One amazing woman. Tara Strong. Tara's list of credits and voice talents outweighs many of the men in the business, and rightfully so. She has played good, bad, girl, boy, machine, little ponies. She's done it all and is still going strong. This is probably one of my biggest nerd crushes going today.
Well Nerds and Nerdettes that is it on this episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed talking about this with you and taking you through one of my biggest passions in life. I am a NERD about this stuff, and I hope I have at least peaked some interest in you as well about this amazing art. Give it a look see. Search some of these names. Search some of your favorite cartoons and anime to see who the voice casts are and how diverse their resumes are. Also, I highly recommend the documentary I Know That Voice. It’s a cool doc and opens your eyes to the world of Voice Actors. Now before we head out, let's see what the deal is with Advertising Expressions.