The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

A few angry words on the lack of love for voice acting

with 13 comments


Today I got an e-mail from the number one movie theatre chain in Sweden, where I have a gold level loyalty card. They offered me the chance to “lend” my voice to one of the characters in Disney’s upcoming adventure comedy Big Hero 6.

According to the letter it wouldn’t be necessary to go through a painful, time consuming audition. All you had to do to participate in the casting was to record yourself with your cell phone, saying the line: “Hello, do you hear me? Do you know your name?” and then post it on Instagram. The winner would do the voice recording in Stockholm at a certain point. No economic compensation whatsoever would be paid, not even to cover travel costs.

The winner would get tickets to the premier of the movie. Yay.

I think this speaks volumes about how much certain elements of the film business care about the products they sell. As long as the sales volumes of popcorn don’t drop, they’re happy. Reading as reading. Any schmuck who can read the ingredient list from a package of cornflakes can read a few lines in an animated movie, according to their beliefs.

And it makes me so mad. It’s disrespectful towards train actors who do this for real, who put their heart into every role they make, no matter how small because they’re professionals. And it’s disrespectful towards the audience. When we watch a Disney movie, rightly or wrongly, we expect it to keep a certain level. That includes the dubbed voices we get in the Swedish release.

Motion caption actors
Motion caption actors have received a lot of love over the last few years. Every time a new part of the Hobbit or the Planet of the Apes franchises come out, someone will start talking about Andy Serkis and how much he deserves an Academy award for his brilliant body acting.

Don’t get me wrong. The computer generated creatures in movies become much more alive and believable thanks to the cooperation between the actors and the animators. I appreciate that. What I don’t get though is that voice actors aren’t given the same kind of attention and respect. One good voice actor can turn a movie into something completely different than what it else would have been. I don’t have to remind you about what Robin Williams was to Aladdin.

As a fellow film fan I can see why someone would enter the casting competition of Big Hero 6. Who wouldn’t like to be a part of a film recording? Even if I had to do it for free and even pay for my own train ticket to the studio, it would feel as if it was worth it.

However, as fun as it may be for the individual, it’s wrong to everyone else.

I don’t want to see another voice acting casting like this, ever.

photo credit: nofrills via photopin cc

Written by Jessica

September 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

13 Responses

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  1. I know that foreign dubs often aren’t given very much respect compared to the already limited respect that the original voice actors get but this is pretty ridiculous unless it’s for a very minor character that only has a couple lines (quite possibly just those two lines in the e-mail). I recently rented the Danish superhero movie Antboy and it not only didn’t include the original Danish language audio as an option, but it also did not credit the voice actors who provided the English dialogue which I believe is still quite common outside of anime. The closest thing to getting any respect for the voice actors is what I’ve heard about Scarlett Johannson’s performance in Her, though the other part of that equation is how easily and often the actress that came before her was replaced and forgotten about. And that’s something that happens quite often as well, including some of those motion capture, or even non-motion capture performances like David Hyde Pierce doing Abe Sapien’s voice in Hellboy while Doug Jones was the one actually in the suit doing the body language. And while he did do the voice in the sequel, he was once again replaced when he did the mo-cap and voice for the Silver Surfer in the 2007 Fantastic Four movie, and that one was a bit more of a let down as many people said that Jones’s vocal performance was fantastic. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I know there’s a documentary out there called “I Know That Voice”, I don’t know if it’s making festival rounds or is on VOD, but I’ve heard good things about it and might be something that you would enjoy.


    September 5, 2014 at 2:21 am

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You’re really one who notices and cares about voice actors!

      I’m sure that in this case it’s just some minor part, but I still think the attitude is annoying. It signals that “this is something that anybody could do”.I recognize the name of that documentary now that you mention it. I should look it up.


      September 5, 2014 at 7:32 am

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more, Jessica. And it’s typical that the company doing the pennypinching is not some little indy working-out-of-a-garage studio but Disney, who’ve got more money to throw around than than the GDP of all but the largest countries.


    September 5, 2014 at 4:57 am

    • Disney or the movie theatre chaine or the distributor in Sweden. Tbh I don’t know who is behind and who decided the conditions. Regardless who it is they should afford to give more than a pair of tickets.


      September 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

  3. You go, girl. Absolutely correct. Robin Williams as Genie is a great example. As well as Eddie Murphy in Mulan, Sarah Silverman in Wreck-It Ralph, George Sanders in The Jungle Book and on and on.

    Steve Kimes

    September 5, 2014 at 6:57 am

    • Thanks! Yes, there are so many examples. Of course not every voice actor leaves that kind of impact and there are many utterly small parts, just as there are in ordinary acting. But if you’re a good filmmaker you pay attention to details like this as well. One bad detail can have a huge impact on the overall impression of a movie.


      September 5, 2014 at 7:38 am

  4. Have you seen the documentary about voice acting? If I remember correctly it’s called I Know That Voice and there are tons of interviews with a lot of famous voice actors. You should try to check it out. Agree that it is disrespectful of simply asking people without training to do a voice. Maybe it is only a couple of throwaway lines.


    September 6, 2014 at 8:03 am

    • I haven’t but someone else just suggested it in a comment. I really should try to check it out.
      I’m positive it’s just a couple of throwaway lines, but even so I still think the attitude is annoying.


      September 6, 2014 at 9:17 pm

  5. Made me think of Eddy Murphy and Mike Myers voices in Shrek, and yeah, Aladdin is also a great example.

    In other news, I can recommend “In a World…”, it’s a movie about a voice actress. And it’s acted, directed and written by a woman, Lake Bell.


    September 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    • I’ve had it recommended to me a lot after writing this post. I will definitely try to find it. I love that kind of behind-the-scenes documentaries.


      September 9, 2014 at 7:36 am

      • I think you’re talking about a different movie. In a world is not a documentary (ah, I hate to put movies in boxes), rather a drama/comedy/romantic movie.


        September 10, 2014 at 11:47 pm

        • Oh, sorry, I’m mixing it all up. I know what movie you’re talking about and I’ve wanted to see it for ages! It never turned up in Sweden. I hope it reaches Netflix one day or something.


          September 11, 2014 at 7:36 am

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