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I Know That Voice

I Know That Voice

What She said:

She

Every so often, The He and I like to indulge in a documentary film.  I'll go on record and say that I'm a fan of documentaries in general—even just the ones you can catch on TV.  It's kind of a weekly ritual of mine to watch Nature and Nova.  I like to learn about people, animals, and the world around us, and so I'm glad that there's a genre of film that focuses on this.

I Know That Voice is a documentary full length film that lets the viewer get to know the movers and shakers of the world of animated voice acting.  For those of you who don't watch or follow animated film and TV, it's a pretty huge genre.  There are, of course, your standard big production movies, but I Know That Voice doesn't spend too much time on that.  Instead, the movie looks at those voice actors who make a living working on smaller scale, animated TV productions that often have a cult following.

I Know That Voice

True, you may not recognize many of these people's faces, but you'll know their voices.  Many of the actors and actresses featured in this movie gained recognition for just one or two fairly well known characters, but they have lent their voices to countless shows.  What's most impressive is how these people are able to change their voices so readily for each character they play.  They truly are chameleons, and the actors with the greatest versatility are also the ones that are most successful. 

An interesting and valid point made in this movie is that these actors and actresses do NOT have it easier because they can hind behind animation.  They are extremely talented and further challenged because they have to express themselves so much through the intonation of their voices.  They are true professionals who are deeply devoted to their craft.

I Know That Voice

This film is broken up into sections that attempt to fully acquaint the viewer with animated voice acting, how it works, and how individuals find success in the field.  As a whole, the movie operates pretty smoothly and is interesting.  However, if I have one complaint, it is that the film seemed just a little too long.  I felt that there were some redundancies and some sections that could have been trimmed down.  It is all of 95 minutes long, and I think that at least 20 minutes could have come off that runtime without hurting the value of the work.  The problem here was that the film was produced my John DiMaggio, a voice actor from the show Futurama who is pretty well known in voice acting circles.  I think his ego got in the way of the film a little bit, and that caused it to become excessive.

I like that I Know That Voice also looked at video game voice acting.  I think we often overlook that industry, and it's actually quite important.  There are people out there who make a living by lending their voices to video games.  And, of course, there are plenty of well-known and established screen actors who also get involved with video games as well. 

I found this film relatively interesting and informative.  It was fun to hear from so many actors and actresses involved with voice acting, and there are literally dozens featured in this film.  Aside from its extended length and tendency to get a little full of itself, I thought this movie was pretty good.

Thumbs mostly up.

What He said:

He
I Know That Voice

The timing for this one was perfect for me. I had just recently watched Transformers: The Movie (review here) and what better way to follow up one of the better animated features of the 80s than with a documentary about voice actors? I had never heard of this movie and did not seek it out, but when I saw it on Amazon I thought it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor.

You might have noticed in the She’s review that she mentions this movie follows voice actors that work primarily in television, as well as a few video games. That’s interesting for a few reasons.

For the most part, these actors do not get major motion picture deals. For whatever reason, studios seem to go out and get traditional actors for animated movies rather than somebody who has worked in the business for years. These people have been doing voice work for years, but studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, and Disney prefer bigger names for their movies. Look at the cast of Toy Story, The Lego Movie, Up, or any one of the more popular animated movies in recent years. You’ll recognize most of the names involved in those movies(amongst the main cast of characters at least). But I can bet many of you don’t know who John DiMaggio, Corey Burton, Kevin Conroy, Nika Futterman, Tara Strong, Phil LaMarr, or Cree Summer are or what parts they’ve played. I guess they feel as if a bigger name will draw more than a more seasoned voice actor.

The other thing I find interesting about this world these people are involved in is that to most people, they have no idea who these folks are, but amongst fans, they have a fairly large following. I know because I am a fan of more than a few of the shows or video games these people are involved in. I already knew who several of them are (even the casting directors). As we were watching this movie, I kept pointing out to the She, “That’s so and so!” I recognized several names and faces of people involved with projects that I’m a fan of or were an important part of my TV-watching and video game-playing past.
Arguably the two biggest faces, as far as on-screen talent goes, involved in this movie are Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.
If you were a kid – or even a young teen – during the early 90s, you are probably well aware of Batman: The Animated Series. It is one of the grittier, darker, and simply better cartoons ever made. It captures the Batman world perfectly. The sights, sounds, and animation style work wonderfully for the world of Batman and all the colorful character that world is home to. The opening credits alone are pretty awesome. It’s very grand and theatrical, especially for a cartoon. It was the perfect blend of an old gangster flicks combined with a comic book world. It was complicated, but still simple at the same time. It wasn’t over-the-top or too flashy at all. You can check out a few more samples here and here.

I Know That Voice

A big reason for the show’s success was the voice acting. It was top-notch and Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were right at the top of that list. Both men have gone on to define each character (Conroy as Batman and Hamill and The Joker) and the animated world for years since this show. They have each done countless shows, animated movies, and video games as these characters. They are who you think of when you think of these characters in the animated world. You are talking about voices that define people’s childhood (or very nerdy adults who never grew up). Conroy still does Batman to this day.
They are each also involved in one of my favorite cartoons ever – The Justice League. If you are a fan of animated TV shows, I recommend it (I just had to throw that out there). That show was a continuation of both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Each character popped up in the other’s show, but almost a decade after both, they finally teamed up permanently. That’s how popular these characters were at the time and Conroy and Hamill are a big reason for that.

Speaking of The Justice League, I got to see a face to go with a name I saw at the end of every episode. I’m a big fan of the show and I always noticed the name Andrea Romano. She’s the casting director for The Justice League and being that I always thought the voice work on that show as great, I wondered about the person who hired them all. She obviously has an eye for talent.

The movie is produced and narrated by voice actor John DiMaggio. DiMaggio is a veteran of the animated world. He’s been doing cartoons and video games, along with a few small roles in animated features, for years.

Most people likely know him as Bender from Futurama. I do as well, but his the work of his that has had the biggest impact on my is the video game Final Fantasy X. If you don’t know anything about that series, I’ll just tell you that they are very storyline driven. They are like interactive movies. That’s one of the trademarks of the series. So when voice acting was introduced to the series – and that was in Final Fantasy X by the way – it was a big deal. It was important that the voice acting was up to par if this new chapter was going to succeed. That game was huge to me when I was in my early twenties and a big reason for that was the power and emotion behind the performances put on by the actors.

You can tell that this is a real passion project for him. He’s passionate when talking about his work, his colleagues, and that they feel not everyone can do what they do. That last one stood out to me for a few reasons. First of all, I do agree with them. Not everyone can successfully create the emotion and colorful characters that they do. You can’t just put anyone in front of a mic and expect them to create such vivid characters; and the fact that many of these people create so many different characters is a testament to their skill.

I Know That Voice

Also, I mentioned earlier that most major animation studios tend to go after big name actors, rather than hire professional voice actors for the big roles. I think there is a little resentment from these people and I can’t say that I blame them. Most of them have a ton of TV and video game credits, but major roles in movies are lacking. They’re experts in many ways, but not necessarily treated from it. The She had mentioned that DiMaggio’s ego shows through a little bit. I do see what she’s saying – he’s a bit of a ham – but I also think he just wants to give credit to his colleagues. They all love what they do. It also seems to be a very close knit community. These guys and gals won’t hesitate to recommend someone else for a job if they think they can do it better. You have to respect that. So yeah, I do think DiMaggio puts himself at the center of attention more than necessary, and that can be seen as tacky being that he’s a producer, but I think he did it out of an admiration for the craft that the people who can do it.

I would also like to quickly point out the recognition the documentary gave to video games. Video games have changed many times over the years. They’re not all masterpieces. Far from it, actually. But when you get your hands on a really good one, it’s like watching movie that lets you take part in it. It’s a truly interactive experience and the voice talent in some of these games is phenomenal. If you don’t feel the same, I suggest you take a peek at my review of The Last of Us.

If I am mentioned a bunch of projects that are completely unfamiliar to you, have no fear. This documentary has nods to some of the all-time greats. The Simpsons is featured fairly prominently. Not classic enough for you? How about shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle or characters like Bugs and Daffy? This movie definitely doesn’t fail to acknowledge the people who paved the way in classic cartoons such as those.

If nothing else, it’s an interesting look into a world most of are aware of, but likely only have a peripheral view.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on July 12, 2014.

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