Some of the biggest actors working today are John DiMaggio, Dee Bradley Baker, E.G. Daily, and Billy West. Recognize those names? You should, you know exactly who they are. What about Bender, Perry the Platypus, Tommy Pickles, and Doug Funnie? I Know That Voice is a thoughtful documentary of the actors behind some of animation’s most beloved characters. Continue reading to see why voice actors are some of the hardest working people in Hollywood.
The documentary is “hosted” by John DiMaggio, the man behind Futurama’s Bender, who begins to tell us what it’s like to be a voice actor. Very quickly we discover that being a voice actor is very different from a “traditional” film actor. While work is never steady or guaranteed for actors in general, voice actors seem to have less assurance of their next job, as many appear to be series guests instead of regulars. Before I watched this film, I assumed voice actors had much more opportunity to find work than their live action counterparts, but I quickly found that this is not the case. This is strange revelation as I had always assumed there was much more work for
The narrative makes a point to recognize these artists as more than just impressionists, which is exactly what the general public needs to be informed about. These are actors playing roles just like in film, and they approach these roles in the same manner. Not too much time is spent discussing classic animation voice actors, but one particular actor that is mentioned is the legendary Mel Blanc. It’s incredible to hear how Mel Blanc was able to portray Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but also to portray Bugs impersonating Daffy, and Daffy impersonating Bugs. Think about that for a second. The skill required to pull off such an audacious performance like that is vastly impressive.
Outside of the comic-con crowd, most of the general public won’t know who these people are, or even appreciate the incredible talent they possess. The documentary serves as an appreciation for voice actors, but also as a PSA to the audience, that these actors are more than just really good impersonators. These actors have to know their character, whether they are creating a voice from scratch or they are taking over a legacy character. The job is tough, there is no doubt about that. Billy West has a great segment explaining how he began by performing impressions on the radio, and how his career grew from there. It’s almost baffling to see how these voice actors can go from speaking like a baby, to sounding exactly like Fred Flintstone.
I Know That Voice doesn’t tackle any highly controversial topics, or pose any call to action for its audience, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. Though I would have loved to see more history of animation, and the actors behind some of the more classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the film was still satisfying. Part of the fun of this film is to see the faces behind the characters that you know and love, and finding out just how immense their character library is. I just hope there will be a I Know That Voice Part 2 all about Billy West. Or maybe you can do that research on your own.
I Know That Voice (2013) Dir. Lawrence Shapiro
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