Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Voice Actors are Important!

I happened to be meandering around the internet and found the site to an interesting indie film named Gamers. If you'll take a look at their site, you'll soon notice they've cast a slew of iconic, though unexpected actors. (Reminds me of Comic Book: The Movie in that way). If you were a kid in the 70's-80's like I was, you recall fondly Kelly LeBrock (Lady in Red, Weird Science), Beverly D'Angelo (National Lampoon's European Vacation), and William Katt (Greatest American Hero) as well as John Heard who's just great. One name you may not recognize in the credits is actor-turned-voice actor Michael Bell. He did voices in Superfriends, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Smurfs and a whole lot more and narrates Gamers. He's really the reason why I'm writing this see, I have a huge respect for voice actors since I grew up on radio stories (on cassette, that is) and cartoons and thoroughly enjoyed the truly talented VOICE actors. The amazing depth and life they gave the character had a huge impact on me. Over the last 10 or more years though, voice actors have been widely traded for celebrities and cheap labor. In a little interview snippet on the Gamers site, Mr. Bell had this interview question to answer...

GAMERS: Your industry credentials are extensive, to say the least. What would you say are some of the biggest changes in film and audio recording since you started your acting career?

MICHAEL BELL: Stars, friends of the producers, real gangsters and sock puppets are being cast in jobs I used to do... although I still do a mean sock puppet.

Here here! Now, Mr. Bell is certainly not hurting for work, but I've watched more and more animated features turn to celebrity instead of quality and more TV shows go from quality to people off the street (I suppose). The voice is something that used to be very important in animation and live action alike. And I don't understand why the art of speaking-- enunciation, projection, tone, emotion-- has become so unimportant to so many content producers. Although Comic Book: The Movie had its slow parts, I loved the inclusion of so many voice actors. Mark Hamill, the star and director of the film, has become an amazing voice actor. (Side Note: Mr. Hamill was a stage actor before he was in film and watching some DVD extras of the animated series Justice League, the cast talked about how stage actors seem to make the leap to voice acting a little more gracefully since when on stage, their voice has to reach the furthest ear and be understood). I think when there is so much care put into the writing a piece for stage, video game, TV or film, the creators owe it to the writer and the audience to make those words sound as beautiful as they're written. There is such a beauty to the spoken word. Check out an old radio drama, cartoon, TV show or movie and you'll see what an amazing effect well delivered lines can have. It may not always be "realistic," but it's always entertaining.

To all the aspiring and professional entertainment creators out there, please take note of the enriching qualities of casting a great voice. And don't be afraid to cast a great actor who fits your role even if he or she isn't a big name. Maybe with your help they'll get to be one, you as well. And for anyone making the next great cartoon or video game, make your producer or backers spend the extra money on great voices. They're often the funniest and easiest people to work with and they may even help increase sales. And no matter what, when you look back at what you've created, you'll always feel rewarded because you cast the right people for the parts. Kudos to the creators of Gamers.

This entry originally appeared in my Myspace blog.