(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: I Know That Voice
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime
The Pitch: You know their voices, but you not know their names, and you almost never see their faces. All your favorite cartoons, from the family-friendly Saturday morning variety to the late night adult comedy, would be nothing without the voices that bring them to life. Without a voice, cartoon characters are just moving drawings. The documentary I Know That Voice allows audiences to put a face and a name with the voices they know so well, but even more importantly, it reveals what makes the job so much more than just reading lines in a sound booth.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Animation doesn’t get nearly as much respect it deserves as a medium. There are so many animated movies released each year that deserve to be recognized along with the best live-action films, but they consistently get snubbed and only receive recognition in the specific animation category created by the various awards voting bodies in the film and television industry. But even less recognized are those voice actors who pour their heart and soul into characters, repeating countless variations on lines with the most subtle changes in order to give film and television creators exactly what they need to make a great piece of entertainment. I Know That Voice finally offers them the respect they deserve.
Easily the best part of I Know That Voice is actually seeing the voice actors perform in the recording booth, and you’ll never get over how odd it looks to see the voice of your favorite cartoon characters coming out a human who doesn’t look like they would ever sound like that (though Futurama voice star John DiMaggio, who also executive produced and narrated the movie, does look exactly like what a human with the voice of Bender would look like).
The likes of Billy West (Futurama, Doug), Tara Strong (The Powerpuff Girls), Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants), Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), E.G. Daily (Rugrats), and so many more talk extensively about the art of voice acting. These actors show how much physicality is involved in the performance, the slight adjustments that can be made to their voice to create new characters, and of course they spout off some of the trademark voices they’re responsible for creating. There are even some surprising famous faces behind the voices you are familiar with, such as Starship Troopers actor Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants.
There’s also a lot of love thrown at Mel Blanc, largely considered to be the best voice actor of all time. That’s because he’s the guy responsible for giving distinct and memorable voices to characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, Captain Caveman, Woody Woodpecker, and so many more. Nearly every actor in the industry has been influenced by Mel Blanc, and director Lawrence Shapiro makes sure to give him plenty of recognition.
Beyond that, I Know That Voice also dives into the industry itself, revealing how much more there is to voice acting than cartoon characters. There’s also voiceover for video games, commercials, and more, each medium requiring something different from these actors and their voice. The film just might serve as an enlightening education for someone considering a career in voice acting, and since animation is one of the few mediums that is currently able to keep working during the coronavirus, there’s no better time to learn.
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