Dee Bradley Baker Interviewed

02.09.2010

BurbankLeader.com has a photo and interview with Dee Bradley Baker discussing his role as the grouchy screwdriver “Turner” on Playhouse Disney’s Handy Manny.

Baker says he has been performing since he was 9. “The school I was going to was producing the musical ‘Oliver.’ I auditioned, I’d never done a play before, and they gave me the role of Oliver.”

Baker says he’s “done a show almost every year since, if not on a stage, then in a theme park or other venues”: “I have always performed because I liked doing it so much.”

Baker adds that he enjoys being a voice actor as opposed to on-camera because he likes the anonymity and it gives him an opportunity to play a variety of characters.

“If you get on [an on-camera] show that’s a big hit, that might be the last show you ever do, or at least the only show you’ll do while it’s up and running. Off camera as a voice actor, I can do something for Disney or monsters for a game for teenagers. It offers great flexibility. Anonymity is a valuable asset of the career; you can go buy a rutabaga and not be mobbed at the grocery store.”

And as a bonus, here’s an interview with Baker on StarWars.com from Nov. 9th discussing his roles as the clone troopers and Queen Karina on Cartoon Network’s The Clone Wars.

Baker recently appeared in a supporting role on Nick’s Big Time Rush (previously reported here).

And so you don’t have to look them up on YouTube, here’s a few fairly recent video interviews:

– “Game On Grapevine” on Clone Wars, Daffy Duck and Monster SFX:

– MaximoTV on ‘Handy Manny’:

– BigShinyRobot.com at Comic-Con:

You can keep up with Baker’s current and upcoming projects via Twitter (@deebradleybaker) and his official site DeeBaker.com.


Featured Voices: Charlie Williams

01.16.2010

Charlie Williams: The Noise Guy (Image courtesy NoiseGuy.com)

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle has an interview with Charlie Williams, aka “The Noise Guy” (or “Onomatopoet”), who has an incredible gift for vocal sound effects.

Williams is also an author, DJ, cartoonist, educator, kids comedian and performer, and has released 8 recordings showcasing his vocal SFX and stories for children. And he performs a routine he calls “Star Wars in three minutes.”

His most recent recording, “Sugar Frosted Noisy Tales,” features “naturally sweetened kids stories” and is described as being full of “crazy kid comedy, parody, imagination [and] silliness.”

Williams’ site — noiseguy.com — is a Flash-animated cartoony playground featuring his repertoire as a “vocal sound impressionist.”

He also has a YouTube Channel with video of his performances and TV interviews such as this one:



Update: 1.18.2010
YumaSun.com has a recent interview with Charlie as well, which I found through Charlie’s Noise Guy/Sound Safari fan page on Facebook.

On a related note, I’ve been developing a feature article on vocal sound effects, featuring some of the top vocal noisemakers in the industry: Fred Newman, Frank Welker, Dee Bradley Baker, Michael Winslow, Marsha Crenshaw, beatbox (aka “vocal percussion”) master Rahzel and the late-great Victor Borge. (Charlie Williams will, of course, be included, and I hope to have interviews with a few of these individuals as well to accompany the article.)

But I’ve hit a snag in the article. There’s one performer that stands out in my memory whom I believe was one of the original “pioneers” of vocal SFX. But for the life of me, I can’t remember his name.*

[* Now identified as Wes Harrison. See 1.17.2010 update below.]

When I was a kid (back in the late 70s), my grandparents had in their vinyl record collection a recording (possibly from the 50s or 60s) which featured live and studio-recorded performances by a Grand Master of vocal sound effects. The live portions resembled a sort of stand-up comedy performance, and he performed using a bullhorn (which I recall he said he kept in his car to pull pranks on other drivers and pedestrians).

He also performed live the most complex vocal sound effect I’ve ever heard: a train going from start to stop, and even moving between cars in the middle.

It was simply one of the most astounding things I’ve ever heard and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to replicate the performance.

If anyone could help me track down this performer’s name, I would be incredibly grateful. And once I find out the guy’s name, I can try tracking down a copy of the LP which I’ve been wanting to own…well, for nearly my entire life.

Also, if you notice any names I didn’t mention in my list above that you feel should be included in my article, please post them via the comment box below.

Update: 1.17.2010 — A very special thanks to voice talent Lee Gordon (LeeGordonProductions.com) for helping to I.D. the voice of Wes Harrison (via the VO-BB.com message board).

Thanks to Lee, I was thrilled to discover that Wes Harrison is not only still alive (and still performing at the age of 84), but he also has an official website: MrSoundEffects.com.

And here’s a video of Harrison performing live the famous steam train bit (which I described earlier):

Also thanks to voice talent Liz de Nesnera (hireliz.com) for the suggestion to include Victor Borge.


VAs on TV Alert: Big Time Rush

01.15.2010

The following article was originally published on January 15th and has since been updated as new show guests have been announced. Please scroll down for the most recent updates.

I’ll confess that sometimes I will neglect conveniently forget to post certain news items here.

That would explain what happened when a press release came across the wire with the following headline:

New Show with Cute Guys to Premiere on Nickelodeon!

Let’s face it. I’m almost 40 years old, don’t care for boy bands, and you won’t ever hear me use the words “cute” and “boy” in the same sentence unless I’m giving a compliment to a parent whose baby/toddler is actually a cute kid.

Tara Strong as Miss Collins on the set of 'Big Time Rush'

So, yeah…I kinda didn’t post that here when I first got the news mid-October 2009, even though my friend and fellow voice actor fan Doreen (VA webmistress extraordinaire and Voice Actors in the News staff contributor) gave a heads-up that the prolific (and ever-lovely) animation voice actor TaraStrong.com had been cast in a supporting role on “Big Time Rush” as Miss Collins (teacher of the “Palm Woods” school on the show).

Tara Strong as Miss Collins

So, anyway, Big Time Rush is a new Nickelodeon series about four teenage boys who are cast in a boy band, then move to L.A. and have various sitcomish adventures in Hollywood that will mostly involve flirting with other teenage girls (and being flirted with) while they try to make it as a “serious” performing group.

Oh, and of course there will be music-videoish segments rife with choreography and lip-syncing topop music.

After all, Big Time Rush is Nick’s obvious attempt to revive the “boy band” and thus sell lots and lots of CDs and song/album downloads to their tweenish female viewers.

In other words, it’s like Hanna Montana…but with boys.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little harsh. After all, I’ve no doubts the show is entertaining to its intended audience. And with it being a bankable, marketable formula it’s already a hit — the TV movie/pilot (promoted as a “special preview”) introducing the series premiered November 28th, 2009 and pulled in an audience of nearly 3.5 million, so I’ll probably take some flak for my sarcasm by publishing it here.

But I also will watch this show — like it or not — and not for the “cute boys,” but because Tara is in it.

And if you require further motivation to watch the show (besides the “cute boys”), voice actor James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Johnny Test, Drawn Together) announced 1.14.2010 via Twitter:

I’ve got a “On-Camera” job tomorrow. Meaning I won’t be doing voice, I’ll be playing a part, “Live” my face and my voice. It’s for my good friend Scott Fellows (The creator of Johnny Test) new show called, Big Time Rush. I will have just a couple lines in the middle of the show but should be great fun to do it. And when it’s on I will let you all know.

Update 5.01.2010 — Taylor guest stars as “Regional Manager Taylor” in episode 8 “Big Time Demos” [<– click to watch online] which also features an appearance by VA Daran Norris (The Fairly Odd Parents) as groundskeeper/maintenance guy “Buddah Bob.”

Big Time Rush airs Fridays on Nick at 8:30 PM (EST) with repeats throughout the weekend. Visit Zap2it.com for air dates of other upcoming episodes. The show and “band” also have official pages on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube which you can find linked through their official site: BigTimeRushTV.com.

Update: 1.20.2010, 9:40 AM — I’ve gotten confirmation (thanks to Doreen and Paul’s comments below) that Tara Strong appears as Miss Collins in episode #2 “Big Time School of Rocque” [<– click to view online] which also includes yet another guest-star voice actor Dee Bradley Baker (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Phineas & Ferb) as teacher Mr. Smitty.

And you can also watch/download this episode on iTunes.

Tara first appears around the 2:28 mark and Dee at 3:25, and they appear other times throughout the episode as well.

And here’s a clip featuring just Baker’s first appearance:

http://au.video.yahoo.com/watch/6782614/17628464

I’ve discovered a few other animation/voice actor-related connections with this series.

James Arnold Taylor’s comment above mentions Scott Fellows (creator of CN’s Johnny Test), who is credited as the series’ creator and also serves as executive producer and writer. (Fellows has also written/produced episodes for The Fairly Odd Parents.)

Co-producer for Big Time Rush is Jed Springarn who has also produced and/or written episodes of Back at the Barnyand (for which he also was voice director), Jimmy Neutron, Johnny Bravo, Histeria!, Pinky and The Brain, Duckman, Freakazoid! and The Tick.

The director of the “School of Rocque” episode is Savage Steve Holland, who was the co-creator/producer/writer of Eek! The Cat (with Bill Kopp) in which he also voiced Elmo the Elk, Doc Tari in The Terrible Thunderlizards segments, and various incidental characters. Holland was also producer/writer/voice director for Sabrina: The Animated Series.

Update… actually, several updates between May and August, 2010 — The VA cameos on this show just keep on coming:

Phil LaMarr (Futurama, Justice League, Samurai Jack) guest stars as Hawk along with American Idol winner Jordan Sparks in episode 14 “Big Time Sparks” and again in the one-hour season 1 finale “Big Time Concert” which premieres Friday, August 20th at 8 PM (EST).

Daran Norris (The Fairly Odd Parents, The Replacements, The Spectacular Spider-Man) has an amusing recurring role as groundskeper/maintenance guy “Buddah Bob” in episodes #3 “Big Time Bad Boy” [<– click to view online], #7 “Big Time Break” [not available online] (which also includes Sealab 2021‘s Erik Estrada as Officer Garcia), #8 “Big Time Demos” [<– click to view online], #15 “Big Time Fever,” and #16 “Big Time Video.”

Note: “Big Time Bad Boy” also contains what I believe is a direct reference to EEK! The Cat’s catchphrase “Kum bah ya!” as said by a music label executive after getting kicked in the groin.

Carlos Alazraqui (Jimmy Neutron, Camp Lazlo, The Fairly Odd Parents) guest stars as “Photographer Marcos” in episodes #6 “Big Time Photo Shoot” [<– click to view online] and #16 “Big Time Video.”

Ahmed Best (voice of Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars movie prequels and Clone Wars series) guests as “Marketer” in the pilot episode “Big Time Audition” [full episode not available online, although he appears briefly in this music video] and again in episode 11 “Big Time Blogger” [<– click here to view online].

– Wikipedia.com credits Rob Paulsen (Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain) as “C.A.L.” for episode 10, “Big Time Jobs,” but I have not yet seen this episode to confirm if he actually appears or just provided a voice for the character.

And Tara Strong reprised her role as Miss Collins in episode #13 “Big Time Dance” and will guest star a third time in season 2 (for which production started in July 2010). We are also pleased to offer an exclusive photo gallery of Tara’s pictures from the set of Big Time Rush from episode #13 and an upcoming episode for season 2:

Tara Strong and Stephen Kramer Glickman

Fabio and Tara Strong

Tara Strong and Logan Henderson

Tara Strong, Stephen Kramer Glickman, and Kendall Schmidt

Jessica Sacks-Davimos, Stephen Kramer Glickman, and Tara Strong

Carlos Pena Jr and Tara Strong

Tara Strong and Stephen Kramer Glickman

Tara Strong as Miss Collins

Tara Strong as Miss Collins

~ Craig “Voiceroy” Crumpton
Publisher: Voice Actors in the News

A very special thanks to Tara Strong for contributing all the set photos, and to Phil LaMarr for his episode info.

Additional Sources: Wikipedia.org, IMDb.com

Retraction — 5.04: I originally posted that Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead) and Amy Poehler had supporting roles BTR (playing a married couple appropriately named “Mike Judge, Sr” and “Nicole Judge”), which I got from a press release. I’m going to assume that this just didn’t work out as either has yet to appear on the series. And the press release is no longer available online.

Related post: 7.14.2009 — Tara Strong on Batman, Chowder, Drawn Together Movie


SMACKDOWN: Union Voice Actors VS Video Game Companies

12.11.2009

A Dec. 7th article from The LA Times from Dec. 7th discusses the contract dispute between The Screen Actors Guild and video game companies, with interview quotes from voice actors Dave Whittenberg and Dee Bradley Baker (the article also includes a photo and audio clip of Baker performing).

The article reveals some interesting facts which are related to some of this blog’s top searches, such as “what do voice actors earn” which Whittenberg states as “roughly $30,000 a year from his video game work and, like most of his peers, supplements that income by doing voice work for animated TV shows.”

And even in a sluggish US economy, the Times article states that the “U.S. video game industry revenue has more than doubled since 2005 to $21 billion in 2008 — about twice the amount of movie ticket sales in Canada and the U.S.”

But video game developers are largely hiring non-union voice talents which make up 80% of the work available, leaving a significantly smaller percentage to union talents.

“The concern going forward is that as these games become larger and larger and generate more income, we as actors won’t see any more money when we walk out the door,” said Wittenberg.

In response, The Times interviews Attorney Scott Witlin, “who represented video game publishers in the recent labor negotiations, disputes the notion that actors are being shortchanged”:

If you look at the total contribution either in terms of hours that go into the creation of a game or the earnings of the people who make the games, voice talent represents a minute percentage.

Casey Hudson, director for Electronic Arts’ Mass Effect 2 says:

It used to be that there wasn’t very much data available for voice acting, and what we had tended to be cartoonish.

Later, with the advent of higher-capacity compact discs, characters started to speak a few dozen or hundred lines in games. But voices were still often performed by amateur actors or even the game developers themselves, because many companies didn’t think spoken dialogue was important enough to merit spending money on professionals.

In the last decade, however, as the video game industry has transitioned to DVDs and the storytelling ambitions of many game developers have blossomed, hiring experienced actors has become routine.

Hudson adds that Mass Effect 2 has a massive cast, with “90 actors playing 546 characters who speak about 31,000 lines of dialogue.”

The greatest issue that SAG is addressing in this contract dispute is the pay scale for actors performing “atmospheric voices — words and sounds for the incidental characters — bartenders, soldiers, elves, random monsters — in war and fantasy games that involve large crowds.”

What SAG is proposing is that “actors would receive a fee of about $800 for performing up to 20 atmospheric voices (up to 300 words per voice) in a four-hour session. Actors who perform ‘principal characters’ — defined as those that drive the story — would fetch the same fee for doing up to three character voices, and more than double the amount if they do six to 10 voices during a six-hour session.”

The video game companies countered by offering only a 2.5% wage increase. And according to the LA Times, the voice actors don’t seem to be pleased with either option, stating that “an influential group of Hollywood voice actors has strongly opposed the contract”:

They contend that the provision would require them to do substantially more work for roughly the same pay and put undue stress on their vocal cords, notwithstanding a provision in the agreement to protect actors against “vocal stress.”

“Before, you were doing three characters dying a horrible death. Now you’re doing 20 characters dying a horrible death,” said Dee Baker, a veteran voice actor who has worked on such games as Halo 2 and Spore, in which he voiced entire races of evolving alien creatures. “Not only will this mean less money for more experiences, it’s also going to be a lot more vocally difficult.”

But SAG’s primary goal in the negotiations is “to give the companies more incentive to hire union talent”:

“One of the things we’d like to do is improve the union’s footprint in this area of production,” said Mathis Dunn Jr., an assistant national executive director of AFTRA. “A lot of employers are not signatories to our contract, and part of the reason is that we can’t accommodate their budget. . . . This will keep us in the game.”

If you’re waiting for the inevitable editorial commentary, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I must bow out of the discussion on this one, since I’m a non-union talent living in a right-to-work state who unfortunately cannot find enough union work available in the state to merit joining the union. But I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on the developments with this story.

And if you’d like more informed and insightful opinions on the subject, here are some I dug up for your perusal:

– From animation/comics writer and voice director Mark Evanier:

Actors who do voices for video games are concerned about the pay scales for what they do…and rightly so. Some of those jobs involve doing literally thousands of lines of dialogue and/or screaming for hours on end. I have one friend who spent two days recording a game…for not-wonderful money. And at the end of the second day, his throat was so raw that he couldn’t talk (i.e., work) for almost a week.

– Comment thread from Kotaku.com.au: Paid Less to Die More: The Actors’ Union’s Beef with Video Games.

– Discussion on Voice-Overs.com with posts by veteran video game VO pros J.S. Gilbert and Bob Bergen.

– A Joystiq.com news post on the LA Times article ignites a rather heated comment thread between gamers, industry professionals, and aspiring voice actors.

– Video game writer Jeff Spock guest blogs on Gamasutra.com with his thoughts on the LA Times article.


NY Daily News Interviews ‘Clone Wars’ Cast

10.09.2009

The New York Daily News has an interview (and photos) with the cast of Cartoon Network’s hit series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, including James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Tom Kane (Yoda, Narrator), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka) and Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Troopers).

Elsewhere, The Sacramento Bee has an interview with Anthony Daniels, who continues his legacy as the voice of C3PO for the TV series. Daniels discusses his involvement with Star Wars in Concert which is currently on a nationwide U.S. tour through December 2009.

[Thanks to Kyle Hebert for the heads-up on The Clone Wars interview.]


Voice Actors Platt, Lowenthal Announce Voice-Over ‘How To’ Book

07.25.2009

Husband/wife voice actors Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

Husband/wife voice actors Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Pre-Order Your Peek Into the World of Voice-Over with New Book

VO Pros Write Comprehensive Book about How to Get into Voice-Over

LOS ANGELES, July 21, 2009 — Have you ever watched a cartoon, played a video game or heard a movie trailer and wondered just who are those folks behind the mic? Maybe you’ve wanted to get into the business and become a voice actor yourself, but wanted to know where to begin? Coming November 1st, you can get answers to those questions and more with a new book about the world of VO written by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, two working pros with a long list of credits and a stellar reputation in the biz. The book is being launched this coming weekend at the prestigious San Diego Comic Con.

With insider tips and in-depth discussion about this exciting profession, the book, Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic, is also peppered with anecdotes from stars in the field like Phil Morris (Secret Saturdays), Wil Wheaton (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and Dee Bradley Baker (Spongebob Squarepants), and with a foreword by Eisner Award winning comic book writer Paul Jenkins (Wolverine: Origin). This book is sure to open your eyes and entertain.

Yuri Lowenthal (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

Yuri Lowenthal (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

“So many people have asked us how we got into [VO] and how they can do it too,” Yuri says, “and in the book we do our best to tell them all about what we’ve done.” Tara adds, “But more than that, we let them know what they might be able to do on their own to break in.” The book includes everything from mic technique and the auditioning process to suggestions for voice exercises and tips on self-marketing.

Several VO celebs have already praised Voice-Over Voice Actor. Phil LaMarr (Futurama), no stranger to acting and voice-over, says, “People always ask me for advice on how to get started in the VO business. My advice: Get this book.” Emmy award-winning voice director Andrea Romano (Avatar: the Last Airbender) lends her endorsement by adding, “Anyone wishing to pursue a career in voice-over will be more prepared and have a better chance of success if they read & heed the wisdom contained in this book. Were I teaching a class right now, this book would be a required text.”

Tara Platt (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

Tara Platt (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

Lowenthal and Platt have a long list of voice-over credits from animation to video games, commercials, narration and more. Some of their recognizable credits include Yuri’s Superman (Legion of Superheroes), Ben (Ben 10: Alien Force), Jinno/Kuma (on the Emmy-Nominated Afro Samurai: Resurrection), and the Prince (the Prince of Persia series of video games) as well as Dell, Coca-Cola and more. Tara’s credits include Wonder Woman (DC vs. Mortal Kombat), Dream Girl (Legion of Superheroes), and Temari (Naruto) as well as commercial work for clients like Subaru, Budweiser and McDonald’s.

Voice-Over Voice Actor is published by Bug Bot Press, and 15% pre-order discounts are being offered on the Web site before the book comes off presses November 1st. For more information, visit www.BugBotPress.com to pre-order your book now.

Previous news: 6.28.2009 — Lowenthal and Platt Interviewed.


‘Clone Wars’ Ashley Eckstein Interviewed

04.15.2009

Ashley Eckstein (voice of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Jedi-in-training Ahsoka Tano) discusses with Newsarama.com’s Steve Fritz her love of baseball, details on her ‘Star Wars’ character, working with the voice cast, and what fans can look forward to in Season 2. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m working with Matt Lanter and James Arnold Taylor. You add in Corey Burton, Dee Bradley [Baker], Tom Kane and some of the others I work with, it’s like taking a master class in voiceover. I’m still striving to have a career like them. I’m very fortunate that in one of my first projects I get to work directly with so many of them. So when I’m with James, I just try to suck in as much knowledge as I can. Then I can use that knowledge to build a career like theirs.

“What you guys don’t get to see is what these guys get to do when they’re not recording. All the voices they do are unbelievable. It’s so much fun. I pinch myself when I think this is my job.”

Continue reading: Clone Wars Weekly – Ahsoka, Ashley … Ashley, Ahsoka.

Additionally, Ashley and Matt Lanter (voice of Anakin Skywalker) are interviewed in the April print edition of Star Wars Insider (issue #108). StarWars.com has a preview with the actors discussing the series.