I-Know-That-VoiceI don’t know about you, but cartoons and animation have been a part of my life since before I can remember. When I was younger, I watched Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera, along with many of the classic cartoons of the 80s and 90s. I grew up during the Disney Renaissance of animated features while experiencing the psychological damage of the Don Bluth produced films at the same time, and my sense of humor evolved along with the Golden Age of The Simpsons. In my adult years, my love of animation remains in tact not just because the medium has gotten that much better (it has), but because I recognize and appreciate the work involved by voice actors to bring the characters I love to life on television, the big screen, or in video games. The legacy of voice acting is as old as animation, but it’s only been within the last few years that the actors themselves have started to get their long overdue accolades for the work they do. With the stage finally set for voice actors to have their moment in the spotlight, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) along with Director and Co-Producer Lawrence Shapiro and producer Tommy Reid bring us I Know That Voice – a documentary celebrating the talented men and women in the world of voice acting.

As a documentary, I Know That Voice has a very clear cut idea of what it wants to accomplish. You won’t find a sidestory about someone trying to make it in the industry, the camera following a few people as they audition ending with one or two getting a small part or a major role in an animated movie or television show. There’s no need to pad the story because DiMaggio, Reid, and Shapiro let the established veterans of the industry tell you themselves. This is a straight forward look at the people who, on a daily basis, will voice a multitude of characters, each of them different in their own way, in order to entertain audiences. And entertainment is the key here because what is stressed throughout the entire documentary isn’t the idea of never being recognized, or the need for fame and fortune, it’s about the passion these men and women have for their work. They’re the, until now, mostly unseen people who do far more than just make funny voices for money. They’re actors creating characters and without them we wouldn’t have the connections we hold dear to Bugs Bunny, Rocket J. Squirrel, Batman, Bubbles, Azula, Elmira, and even The Joker.

Voice ActorsThe amount of talent assembled is astounding. Close your eyes for a few minutes and you’ll hear characters from cartoons past and present. To give you a sample, I Know That Voice features June Foray, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer, Tara Strong, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson, Steve Blum, Kath Soucie, Nancy Cartwright, Phil LaMarr, Tom Kenny, Jess Harnell, Nolan North, Hank Azaria, Lauren Tom, and Jennifer Hale. If you don’t know any of these people, look them up, along with the rest of the actors featured, on IMDB and be prepared to gawk at the laundry list of characters they’re responsible for voicing. Rightly so, the movie has a fitting tribute to the patriarch of voice over actors, Mel Blanc, the “Man of a Thousand Voices” and inspiration of many of the interviewees. It’s from Mel’s ability to create most of the Looney Tunes characters we know and love that the documentary dives into the actual work involved in the creation of animated characters.

For many, it starts with a drawing of the character because how the character looks based on gender, age, and any facial features can shape the voice. There’s also the repertoire of voices collected from people encountered in daily life or another actor with an interesting cadence that can fill in the holes and enrich the sound of a new character. The best examples featured are Billy West’s breakdown and buildup of Dr. Zoidberg’s unmistakable voice and Kath Soucie adjusting her voice based on the age and gender of the character. Even more impressive is watching Dee Bradley Baker alter his animal noises by changing how the air travels through his nose and throat. The techniques employed by each actor are amazing and watching them take us through the process of character creation essentially shows the audience the level of work involved in operating within the industry as a voice artist. For celebrities who get to dabble in animated features where they’re paid to sound like themselves, of course it’s a cakewalk, but DiMaggio, Reid, and Shapiro make sure to hammer it home that voice actors live and work by their ability to create new voices over and over again. Their paycheck comes from disappearing into a role.More Voice Actors

Interestingly enough, the film shows the rise in voice actor recognition with the prevalence of social media and conventions. Voice actors, now more than ever, have benefited from social media and interacting with the fans who are more aware of the people behind the voices. It’s a mutually beneficial interaction as fans get to meet and talk to the people responsible for their favorite characters while the actors get to see the size and scope of their fanbase. Conventions bring even more fan interaction with fandoms displayed for all to see as they reach across generations, many of them brought together by a voice they heard and never forgot. I can attest to that sentiment wholeheartedly.

Overall, I Know That Voice is a movie you want to see if you’re any kind of fan of animation or have the desire to go into voice acting. It’s informative, entertaining, and wonderfully nostalgic. Currently, you can buy or rent the film on iTunes and various media platforms. There are plans to eventually release it on DVD, but a date has yet to be announced.

If you’re also interested in listening to pretty much everyone interviewed in the documentary go into greater detail about their time in the industry, I’d recommend Rob Paulsen’s podcast Talkin’ Toons. And just for good measure, here’s the 2012 lineup of voice actors from Emerald City Comicon performing Star Wars using some of their well known characters to fill in the roles.

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Comments
  1. […] or showing solidarity, I know the actors will appreciate it. And if you have the time, go check out I Know That Voice, or listen to me interview some voice actors on That Girl with the Curls […]

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