Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Superhero Voices in My Head

As you can see on my Twitter feed, I felt the need to correct what is, to me, a large error on the behalf of G4's Reviews on the Run.  I'm currently watching one of the show's annual 'Rockets & Rayguns' episodes which are their 'Best of The Year' series.  Currently, I'm watching an episode dedicated to blu-ray releases and among the nominees in, I believe, a voice-actor section, they listed Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman in Batman: Under The Red Hood.  Again, as you can see on the Twitter thing to the right, this information is incorrect as Kevin Conroy was not involved in Under the Red Hood, Batman being portrayed by Bruce Greenwood.  But nerdy nitpicks aside, this incident reminded me of a few things worth talking about, i.e. voice actors of considerable merit.

As though it's any secret by this point, I love cartoons.  I love all the things that goes into making a great cartoon, and among those is voice acting.  I have tons of respect for select voice actors for their abilities and I'll often come across stories that increase my respect for them.  I've also been able to pick out certain actors but occasionally I'll be wrong and incredibly surprised by it.

On to the substance:

Tidbit 1:  The aforementioned Bruce Greenwood has reprised his role as Batman for the new Young Justice series.  As far as I know, only the premier of the series has been shown so far, with the series planned to take off early in 2011, much like Transformers Prime starting off with a 5-part mini-series.  Anyway, Bruce Greenwood did a fantastic job in Under the Red Hood and in the Young Justice premier so I honestly would have no problem with him taking over the role permanently.

Speaking of Transformers...

Tidbit 2:  Frank Welker and Peter Cullen have reprised their classic roles of the original Megatron and Optimus Prime (respectively), playing the same names in the new Transformers Prime series.  Frank Welker is quite possibly the best voice actor on the planet, with an IMDb page that lists seemingly thousands of roles, known for doing just about every animal sound heard in any western production and being technically the 'biggest box office star in Hollywood' due to being in so many movies, just for voicework.
So of course Welker's role extend far beyond the evil transforming handgun.  The original voice of Freddy from Scooby-Doo, Nibbler from Futurama, Wheelie from Transformers, and many many others.
I do want to make special mention of a story that was told on a special feature included with the boxset of the original Transformers series.  Frank Welker was recording a scene that involved only characters that he voiced and thus was the only person in the recording booth.  A rule of voice acting is to avoid overlap; when one actor starts speaking too soon and their line overlaps another's.  During the session, the director wasn't paying attention to the booth and only looking at his notes.  At one point, he asked to stop because there was an overlap.  This is obviously impossible since Welker was the only person recording at the time but, evidently, he was able to switch voices fast enough to make the director think it had happened.

Tidbit 3:  The aquatic sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea had his voice given to him by another fantastic voice actor:  Tom Kenny.  In addition to Spongebob Squarepents, Kenny has played roles such as Yancy Fry Jr. as well as Philip Fry Jr. (Yancy's son) on one occasion on Futurama, Starscream on Transformers Animated, Penguin on The Batman, Plastic Man on Batman The Brave and the Bold, and, of course, many more.  I have to bring this man up because he's relevant to one of the times I've been incredibly surprised at being wrong when trying to recognize a voice.  Recently, while watching Phineas and Ferb, a show I don't watch regularly but had heard good things about, I would have sworn on my life that Phineas was played by Tom Kenny.  Sounding so much like Spongebob, it seemed to be a no-brainer, but alas I was mistaken.  Tom Kenny does however have some credit to the show, but only additional voices.
That of course leaves the question:  Who does play Phineas?

Tidbit 4:  Vincent Martella was the, boy behind the oddly-drawn boy.  Once again, I discovered a person of interesting voices, expanding to roles such as the young Jason Todd who appeared during flashbacks in Under the Red Hood, as well as Spider-Man in the yet to begin Ultimate Spider-Man series.

Tidbit 5:  Of course I need to put some special focus on my favourite show and that will lead me to talk about Billy West.  Not only does the man play Philip J. Fry, the lead character of Futurama, but he also plays Doctor John A. Zoidberg, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Captain Zapp Brannigan, among others.  So, like Frank Welker, just within one show Billy West has often found himself conversing with himself time and time again.  He's also become the modern voice for Elmer Fudd and played Skeets on Batman The Brave and the Bold.

Speaking of Futurama...

Tidbit 6:  You can't really talk about Futurama without talking about Bender.  Yet again, the man behind the character, John DiMaggio, is a well-established voice actor spanning many roles I'm familiar with.  In addition to being a large part of my favourite show of all time, he's also a large part of my favourite superhero cartoon; The Spectacular Spider-Man; playing Hammerhead and Sandman.  He's one of the announcers in MadWorld, Marcus Fenix in the Gears of War series, Joker in Batman Under the Red Hood, a handful of others on Futurama (such as Flexo, Sal, Url and Randy), Aquaman and Gorilla Grodd in Batman The Brave and The Bold and (wait for it....) many others.  DiMaggio has a very distinct sound to his voice, almost static-like, and I never have trouble picking him out.  Yet even with that tell-tale sound, he still creates voices for characters that set them apart from the others he plays.

Tidbit 7:  Josh Keaton is a man who plays roles across many of my favourite things, from Disney movies, to superhero shows, to a character in the new Transformers show, to video games.  He was the younger Hercules that appears in the earlier part of Disney's Hercules, he's the voice of Spider-Man in The Spectacular Spider-Man, he's Jack Darby in Transformers Prime, he plays Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, and he plays Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden (or rather, the post-NES Ninja Gaiden games that actually contain voice acting).  His performance as The Spectacular Spider-Man is among the best I've ever heard.

I think I will leave it at that.  There's certainly more names I could mention, Maurice LaMarche sticking out particularly far in my mind, but this is already long-winded enough.

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