Updated: Nicolas Cage Channels Mel Blanc in ‘G-Force’?

07.22.2009

You’d think that headline’s just an attention-grabbing teaser to get you to read this.

Well… it is, but it’s also not far from what Nicolas Cage is claiming in a video interview with CBS 11 in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX on providing the voice of the mole “Speckles” in Disney’s live-action/CGI feature film G-Force:

“I played a mole in this movie,” says Cage. “And I didn’t want to play the guinea pigs because they’re the heroes, and they have to look…and talk a certain way. But if you play a mole, all bets are off and you can go any direction you want. And that’s the direction I wanted to go in…[does Speckle’s voice] this strange voice.”

Cage adds, “I have an interest in Mel Blanc, who I grew up with, who did all the voices of the Looney Tunes characters.* One man — Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam — and that’s pretty incredible. So I thought, ‘Is there a way I can maybe…channel that.'” [* See my note at the close of this article for a correction on Cage’s statement.]

At the close of the video, the interviewer says they will talk Thursday, July 23rd, with Tracy Morgan, voice of Blaster.

Update: 7.24.2009 — Cage tells CNN, “Mel Blanc is a hero because of what he could do with his voice for all the Looney Tunes, the Warner Brothers cartoons, to be the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig. To me, he’s a great actor. I mean, one of the great character actors, and I knew that if I was gonna be in this movie, I’d want to do something like that and transform my voice.”

Cage also told Business 24/7 that Mel Blanc is one of his “favorite actors…because he created so many different characters.”

In CNN’s interview, Cage describes Speckles as “an outsider…an iconoclast — he doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t get into the fray with the ‘G-Force,’ the other guinea pigs. But his IQ is off the charts, and he’s a technological wizard.” And he adds that he is “comfortable” playing a mole:

“I’m comfortable with the mole, yeah. I mean, yeah, he’s different, he’s got issues, you know? I don’t want a perfect character, I want a character who has, as strange as it sounds, some humanity, some flaws, some needs. But to be fair, I’m not in a lot of this movie. This is Darwin’s movie, um Sam Rockwell and Penelope Cruz’s movie — they’re the stars. I’m only in it at the beginning and the end.”

Cage also tells CNN that he enjoys animated movies and “loves anime” and cites Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle as favorites.

He expands on this in the interview with Business 24/7 when he refers to G-Force as a “beautiful” film:

I’m very excited about the future of animation. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for hand-drawn animation in the grand Disney tradition – those movies in the ’30s, like Pinocchio, are drop-dead gorgeous. But I realize this is a new age and a new era of animation with computer graphics.

I think G-Force has a wonderful look to it. I think Finding Nemo is as gorgeous as Pinocchio, in its own way. And the 3D aspect is great. I always want to feel like I’m near the cutting edge. That to me is exciting, and I haven’t had a chance to make a 3D movie yet, so when I heard about this, I was thrilled.

Cage adds that he likes movies that combine live-action and animation:

I have always enjoyed that mix. I enjoyed this 1960’s movie called The Incredible Mister Limpet, where Don Knotts falls into the ocean and becomes an animated fish. It was different for the time. There was that great mix again with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a great genre, and I’d like to see more of it. The interaction between the live-action and the animation in this film is one of its most fun elements.

Cage further explains his performance as Speckles to MTV (link includes video interview):

“I wasn’t going to play a guinea pig,” Cage told MTV. “That wasn’t going to happen.”

Bruckheimer said he could play whichever creature most appealed to him. Cage, who was feeling the strain of the intense “Treasure” shoot, asked if could use a humorous, high-pitched voice he often employed to relieve tension — a voice he was actually trying out on the “Treasure” set.

“The voice was what I call my frustrated, stressed voice,” Cage explained. “This is a voice that I sometimes resort to if I’m feeling just that. And it’s an octave or two higher than my normal voice — this way I don’t resort to profanity or yelling. And I start talking in that voice, I just immediately start laughing because it’s so stupid and so ridiculous that I can’t help but not take anything too seriously.”

When asked by Business 24/7 what was important for him to bring to the voice and performance of Speckles, Cage says, “I had to create a new voice that was unrecognizable from my own vocal patterns. It was also important for me to go into an area that has a kind of zany intensity to it. To me, that’s what would make Speckles fun to play.”

G-Force opens in theaters Friday, July 24th, and features the voices of Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Penelope Cruz (Juarez), Tracy Morgan (Blaster), Steve Buscemi (Bucky), John Favreau (Hurley), Dee Bradley Baker (Mooch), and director Hoyt Yeatman and Max Favreau (kin to John?) as the voices of the mice. Also, Will Arnett (voices in Sit Down, Shut Up, Monsters vs Aliens, Horton Hears a Who!, Ratatouille, Ice Age: The Meltdown) has a live-action role in the movie as FBI agent Kip Killian.

Elsewhere on the web:

MonstersandCritics.com has photos from the Hollywood premiere.
Movieweb.com has video interviews with Nic Cage and Tracy Morgan.
Movieweb has an interview with Sam Rockwell.
USA Today has a video interview with Tracy Morgan.
MovieJungle.com has video interviews with Will Arnett, Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, Nic Cage, and John Favreau.
Trailer Addict has an interview with Sam Rockwell.
NewsBlaze.com has an interview with Tracy Morgan.
Access Hollywood has a video interview with Nic Cage discussing his “voice for Speckles and how he looked to …Mel Blanc for inspiration.”
MTV has a video interview with Tracy Morgan.

Previous report: 4.03.2009 — Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up

* Correction on Nicolas Cage’s statment:

Of course I hold nothing against Nic Cage, because I welcome anyone who’s a fan of Mel Blanc, but it’s a common misnomer that Mel did “all” the Looney Tunes characters’ voices.

Many other great talents provided voices for Warner Bros’ classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, most notably: Arthur Q. Bryan (original voice of Elmer Fudd), June Foray (Granny, Witch Hazel), Stan Freberg (Pete Puma), Kent Rogers (original voice of Beaky Buzzard and Junyer Bear), Billy Bletcher (Papa Bear), Joe Dougherty (original voice of Porky Pig), and several others who provided incidental and supporting character voices. (Wikipedia has a more complete listing, thanks to the animation fans who have contributed there.)

Of all the actors who recorded voices for Warner Bros. cartoons over the course of four decades, it was only Mel who received screen credit for “Voice Characterizations,” which Mel finally achieved in 1944 when studio head Leon Schlesinger rejected Mel’s request for a pay raise, so Mel settled for screen credit instead.

And FYI, here’s another bit of Mel Blanc trivia: Contrary to popular myth, Mel Blanc was not allergic to carrots. Here’s an excerpt from Mel’s 1988 autobiography, That’s Not All, Folks!:

I don’t especially like carrots, at least not raw. And second, I found it impossible to chew, swallow, and be ready to say my next line. We tried substituting other vegetables, including apples and celery, but with unsatisfactory results. The solution was to stop recording so that I could spit out the carrot into a wastebasket and then proceed with the script. In the course of a recording session I usually went through enough carrots to fill several. Bugs Bunny did for carrots what Popeye the Sailor did for Spinach. How many lip-locked, head-swelling children were coerced into eating their carrots by mothers cooing, “…but Bugs Bunny eats HIS carrots.” If only they had known.


Bloggers Complain Video Game Voice Acting Sucks

04.15.2009

This topic is apparently a serious enough complaint with gamers that it’s created something of a blogbath this week on the subject…and these are just a handful of articles that came up in a recent Google search:

The Brainy Gamer: Voicing Concern — definite recommended read on this one as it includes an interview with an unnamed actor who offers insight from his 10 years of experience working as a video game voice actor.
The Brainy Gamer: Voice for Change – also a recommended read as it offers an overview of a panel presentation from the recent Game Developers Conference by a company that specializes in video game voice recording.
The Escapist: Why Voice Acting Sucks In Video Games
Kotaku: How Dumbed Down Acting is Creating Dumbed Down Games
1Up.com: Voice Actors Discuss Challenges in Game Industry
Voice Overture: The State of Voice Acting In Video Games
CandaceHolly.com: Bad Acting, Bad Games – perspective from a video game voice actor.
GoNintendo.com: Quality voice acting is hard to come by

As both a gamer and a voice actor, I’m in generally in agreement with most of the points these bloggers address. However, I wish they weren’t overall so neglectful in mentioning more games that do feature great character voice acting. I’ve even played some games that were formulaic, mediocre, crappy, or frustrating for various reasons (Ex: RLH: Run Like Hell, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for the PC, and the Transformers: Armada game for the PS2), but became tolerable and entertaining (for me, at least) on account of the quality voice acting.

How about the upcoming Ghostbusters game, which has the celebrity voice cast heavily involved in the project? Or Vin Diesel‘s extensive involvement in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena? And what about Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard featuring the voice talents of Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris? While the reviews for the game weren’t all positive, those I read all made favorable comments about the voice acting.

And of all these articles, very few offer any counter-perspective by mentioning recent titles with solid voice acting, such as MadWorld which received fair praise from critics and gamers for the improv-style performances by John Di Maggio, Greg Proops, and Steve Blum.

But I’ll grant that far too many video games unfortunately do have poor voice acting, and for the very reasons cited by Brainy Gamer blogger Michael Abbott. He makes some very valid points and offers some great suggestions for improving the quality of video game voice acting, so here’s hoping game developers/producers take note and perhaps it will motivate them to make the effort to produce better quality voice performances in the future.

And I’d be remiss myself if I concluded this article without mentioning AudioAtrocities.com — an entire website devoted to “the study and enjoyment of truly terrible voice acting in video games.”


Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up 2

04.03.2009

Because my previous report on celebrity voice acting turned out to be so popular on this blog, I may just have to do this on a regular basis.

Here’s another summary of “celebrity” voice acting news:

Victoria Beckham, aka “Posh Spice,” will guest star as a princess in an upcoming episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. Mirror.co.uk reports:

Posh, 34, recorded the voice-over late last year in LA. She was persuaded to take the part by youngest son Cruz, four – who is a huge fan of Spongebob.

And her performance impressed Nickelodeon bosses so much, the former Spice Girl is being lined up for more voice-over work.

A source said: “Victoria was a complete pro and finished all her takes in a day.

“She isn’t interested in becoming an actress, but voice-over work is something that appealed. She joked that she could simply rock up to the studios in a trackie and no make-up and no one would ever know.

“Scriptwriters created the role of a posh British princess especially for her and were blown away by what a natural she was. Victoria enjoyed every minute and is keen to do more. Network bosses have been in touch since, offering more work – she really does have her pick of projects.”

Variety reports that Tobin Bell will likely reprise his role as the voice of Jigsaw for an upcoming video game from Konami based on the Saw film franchise.

Just Jared reports: “Beyoncé will make her voiceover debut in Nickelodeon’s Wow, Wow, Wubbzy, providing the voice for Shine, lead singer of a girl group.

– Just in case you missed the most recent trailer for Pixar/Disney’s Up (opening in theaters May 29th, 2009) you can view it on the official site. The voice cast includes Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai, Christopher Plummer, Paul Eiding, and John Ratzenberger.

– 20th Century Fox’s Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is releasing July 4th 2009. Most of the main cast members from the previous films are reprising their roles: Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, and Chris Wedge. Joining the cast is Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Run Fatboy Run) and child actors Joey King and Atticus Shaffer.

– Disney’s live-action/talking animal family feature G-Force (definitely NOT to be confused with the classic anime series of the same name) opens July 24th, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage (Speckles the mole), Penelope Cruz (Juarez the guinea pig), Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Tracy Morgan (Blaster the guinea pig), and Steve Buscemi (Bucky the hamster). Will Arnett, who does quite a bit of voice acting work, has a supporting live-action role in the film.

411 Mania has an op-ed on celebrity involvement in video games. Nothing new, but it’s interesting to see a gamer’s POV on the subject. (Just be advised that the article linked contains adult language.)

– Another op-ed piece on celebrity voice acting: When an Oscar talks, it sounds like these actors [TampaBay.com]

– The September 18th release of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs features the voices of SNL alums Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, and Tracy Morgan, as well as Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Scary Movie series), James Caan (The Godfather, Las Vegas), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead series), and Mr. T (The A-Team). [While I may not always support celebrity voice casting, having Bruce Campbell and Mr. T voicing characters in the same movie is just so unbelievably full of win.]

– The February release of THQ’s Deadly Creatures for the Nintendo Wii features the voices of Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton.

– Yahoo Movies has a new trailer for the computer-animated feature film Astro Boy, due in theaters October 23, 2009. It features the voice talents of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage [sensing a trend here? -Ed.], Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas, Eugene Levy, Donald Sutherland, and Bill Nighy.

– From a Nickelodeon press release for Glenn Martin, DDS, this summer’s first Nick-at-Nite animated series for adults:

A star-studded voice-over cast featuring Kevin Nealon (Weeds, Anger Management), Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration, Chicken Little) and Judy Greer (27 Dresses, Arrested Development) has been tapped for Nick at Nite’s upcoming stop-motion animated comedy, Glenn Martin, DDS set to premiere this Summer. The first television production to come from Michael Eisner’s Tornante Animation, Glenn Martin, DDS follows a beleaguered dentist and his family trading in the suburbs for life on the road. Crisscrossing the country, the Martins are beset by an array of colorful locals and crazy situations in locations ranging from Las Vegas to Amish Country. Many of the characters they encounter are voiced by enough instantly recognizable guest stars to fill a parking lot of RVs, including: Chrissie Hynde, Betty White, Gene Simmons, Wendie Malick and more.

Each of season one’s 20 episodes follows the life of Glenn Martin (Kevin Nealon), who yearns for a change of scenery and a deeper connection with his family. Determined to bring the family closer together, Glenn takes the Martins on a road trip to protest the destruction of a beloved childhood park. As things unravel right from the get-go, the family is forced to make the dental-mobile – replete with a giant decorative toothbrush on the roof – their new home. Glenn, Jackie and Courtney (Jackie Clarke) – an 11-year-old future corporate maven who brings along her personal assistant, Wendy (Judy Greer), a 14-year-old North Korean exile – and son, Conor (Peter Oldring), the 13-year-old hormone-addled tween who’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed–quickly learn when hitting the road that the road can sometimes hit back in unexpected ways. The Martins are accompanied on their journey by the family dog, Canine, who’s pronounced buttocks only add to the hilarity.

– The release date for Disney’s traditional, 2D animated musical, The Princess and the Frog, has been bumped up to December 11th, 2009. It includes the voice talents talents of Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), Broadway singer Jennifer Cody, Keith David (Gargoyles), Jenifer Lewis (The PJs), John Goodman (The Emperor’s New Groove), Bruno Campos (Nip/Tuck), Oprah Winfrey, and VA fan favorite Jim Cummings.

– While watching VH1’s “Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80’s” this past week, I was very surprised to hear that musician Billy Vera (whose heart-wrenching ballad “At This Moment” was a #1 radio hit in 1986) has also had a successful career as a voice-over artist. A quick Google search later, and I recognized him as the image voice for a recent Burger King ad campaign via his demos on SBVTalentAgency.com.

– Although it’s not due in theaters until 2011, there’s already been a lot of buzz about the computer-animated action-adventure, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, which is being planned as a trilogy. Steven Spielberg is directing and John Williams is scoring the film. The cast appears to be made up entirely of Britains: Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Daniel Craig (007: Quantum of Solace), Tony Curran (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean), and several others.

Previous reports: 3.31.2009 — Celebrity Voice Acting Round-Up (yee-hah.)
3.20.2009 — Forbes Ranks Animation’s A-List Actors


Reese Witherspoon is a Giant

03.26.2009

The Toronto Sun interviews Reese Witherspoon on her role as “Ginormica” in Dreamworks’ CGI film, Monsters vs Aliens which opens in theaters Friday, March 27th:

“It definitely is the most action-packed movie I’ve ever been in,” Witherspoon said in a Canadian exclusive telephone interview. “(Being animated) makes it a lot easier to kick butt. And the best thing is, I didn’t have to diet to fit into that cat suit.”

[The] requirements of her voicework for Monsters vs. Aliens didn’t actually require Witherspoon to knock out alien robots or lift sections of the Golden Gate Bridge, [but] she did have to sound like she was doing it — which is pulse-raising activity itself.

“We worked pretty hard on those scenes. Initially, they wanted me to do a voice like a Schwarzenegger/Stallone-type action voice. And I had no idea how to do it. It’s not like anybody ever asked me for that before. As for the action-packed stuff, they’d just play out the scene for me, and I’d have to give them grunts and groans and jumping noises.”

Continue reading: Reese’s giant step [The Toronto Sun].

In related news, MvA co-director Conrad Vernon (who also was the voice of The Gingerbread Man for Dreamwork’s Shrek trilogy) talks with Newsarama.com about working with the voice cast:

“We…found that everyone of them could ad lib like crazy,” said Vernon. “For instance, Steve Colbert would come in, read the line straight. Then he would say ‘wait a minute’ and sit there in the booth for a minute. Then he would giggle and ad lib. To top it, he would keep it on point. The whole thing where he was being carried into the helicopter shouting, ‘I’m brave! I’m a brave president!’ is a total ad lib. We are actually trying to get Dreamworks to put in all the ad libs Colbert, Rainn Wilson and Will Arnett and Seth Rogen did in their sessions for the DVD. Many of it we couldn’t use in the movie, but it was incredibly funny.

Kiefer [Sutherland] told me how he came up with the voice of General Monger. Rob and I, when we first thought the character up, thought of George C. Scott from Patton. Kiefer looked at him more like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket with Yosemite Sam.”

Continue reading: Talking w/ Monsters vs Aliens Co-Director Conrad Vernon [Newsarama]

Additional source: ToonZone.net

Previous Monsters vs. Aliens report: 3.21.2009 — Seth Rogen is a Monster.


Seth Rogen is a Monster

03.21.2009

Australia’s Herald Sun has interviewed Seth Rogen on his role as the blobish character B.O.B. in the Dreamworks Animation feature film Monsters vs Aliens. Here’s an excerpt:

[Seth Rogen is] one of the most in-demand child-friendly voice actors, with credits including Horton Hears a Who, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Kung Fu Panda to his name.

But he says he couldn’t have been happier when asked to give his voice to B.O.B. — a cheerily dopey, indestructible blob of goo in the new 3D animated Dreamworks film Monsters vs. Aliens.

“I would have been insulted if they didn’t ask,” he says.

“I thought, ‘Who else can do that?’ In fact, I pursued it.”

So it would only be an insult if they based it on his actual body shape?

“Exactly,” he says.

“Well it actually is. It was all a motion capture performance. That’s just my naked body with blue dots all over it.”

“I am amazed [they] let me do [this film]. But I actually go to see these types of movies so to me, that’s the biggest thrill I get from it.

Rogen [also] says Monsters vs. Aliens provided endless opportunities to ad lib.

“I found it to be one of the most improvisationally free things that I have done because it’s just you, there is no sense of, ‘We’d better get this down so we aren’t wasting people’s time’,” he says. “If you want to try it 100 different ways, there is time to do that.”

Monsters vs. Aliens opens in theaters March 27th, and also features the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, and Paul Rudd. Video interviews with the voice cast are available on the official website: MonstersvsAliens.com.

Continue reading: Seth Rogen: An unlikely hero [Herald Sun]