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Voice Actors Speak Out

Celebrity Interview by Evan Kayne (From GayCalgary® Magazine, June 2012, page 16)
Voice Actors Speak Out
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Voice Actors Speak Out
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Voice Actors Speak Out
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
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John DiMaggio and Billy West may not be household names but you might recognize them if you heard them speak.

Both are voice actors from the animated series Futurama – John is the voice of Bender the robot among others, while Billy voices  Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan. As well, Billy has done voices for several of the Looney Tunes characters, voiced both characters in The Ren & Stimpy Show and had experience doing multiple voices when he was on the Howard Stern Show. They were both in town as part of the Calgary Comic and Entertainment expo this past April.

Followers of voice actors in my opinion get a little more "nerd credit" than fans of other genres because they recognize the craftsmanship that a lot of voice talent display in their work. In contrast, big Hollywood films will often hire the "celebrity" name over the voice artist with years of experience. As Billy put it, "...a lot of movies demand Ben Affleck as a voice."

A celebrity may be a good actor on film but his voice alone usually provides a flat reading when compared to professional voice actors. Yet producers don’t care as it’s a big name that draws people in to see their film. John agreed, adding "...it’s frustrating. But you know, looking at it from a producer’s standpoint, I’m sure they have their reasoning. They want to make money and they want to have a name attached to it but, it’s frustrating."

Billy, however, doesn’t see evidence that a movie makes more or less money with a celebrity than if they had used artisans. "The whole celebrity thing...I could go on for a million years with this, but they say What are you so worried about? You’re doing everything! I’m not complaining for myself I’m complaining about the 18-year old/19-year old girl firebrand who’s in Holy Oaks Massachusetts that can blow the doors off people and never get a shot at anything. And my heroes when I was growing up they weren’t frickin’ celebrities; my heroes were artists."

As voice artists, if you’re any good with multiple voices, it usually prevents you from getting categorized into one type of character much like some actors attached to popular shows have experienced (e.g. Adam West, William Shatner). That’s not to say that you can’t still be typecast. At one point in his career, Billy was pigeon-holed for characters he had been asked to read for because of Ren & Stimpy. "Every incidental character...they’d say and he’d start screaming at everybody because of Ren and Stimpy. They’d say that’s (your) thing. And I’d go No, it was busting my onions to do that!...I used to lose my voice."

Furthermore, if there is any doubt in the versatility a voice actor has over most celebrities, Billy told us he would often voice several Futurama characters back-to-back in the same recording session because it would take too long doing each voice as a separate track. "It’s all real time. We all jump characters. We’ve all got utility characters that show up and sometimes they’re back to back and we just do it in real time."

During the interview, these two actors demonstrated the vocal skills they possess. Unfortunately, it translates poorly to print, but for those who did get a chance to speak with with John and Billy, and watch the animation panel at the expo, realize how good these people are at their craft. It’s just a pity Hollywood sometimes doesn’t recognize it as much as they should. With newer tools and distribution networks being created thanks to the internet and the use of portable recording tools, this may change in the future; but until then, the next time you watch Futurama or an animated show where there are distinctive voices, try closing your eyes and just listen. You’ll probably find it pretty entertaining, even without the visuals.

 (GC)

Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Image by: Futurama TM and (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.


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