On Being a Voice Chaser

I’m pretty sure I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s become more relevant recently. I’ll blame that on the company I’ve decided to keep these days.

Like many kids, I loved watching cartoons when I was little. I thought they were so cool. But then I started noticing that Dottie Dog and Rainbow Brite sounded a lot alike. I don’t why, but I started actually watching cartoon credits not long after that, and kept seeing a lot of the same names in various parts of the list. When I was eight, I was formally lost to the voice chasing game forever when I suddenly became aware that one of the lists in the credits was actors, and one of them was named Frank Welker.

In no time flat, I was having fun trying to find Mr. Welker in other cartoons. It usually wasn’t too hard; I just had to look for the animal that talked a bit too much. It was a big game to me. Eventually, I started hunting down other actors. In fact, at some point, I actually wrote down the cast lists on every single Darkwing Duck episode and built my own cast list, simply because I knew I was recognizing voices that I couldn’t identify, and it was driving me up the wall. (Although Darkwing Duck came out when I was sixteen, I think I was kind enough to not get that neurotic about it until I was twenty-one.) What was really fun was watching cartoons that took me away from a voice actor, only to come back years later and go, “Oh my god, I think that’s (insert character here).” And I was almost always right.

Voice chasing became a hobby, one I still practice today.

It’s a lot of fun, because voice actors (the very nice group of people who lend their voices to animated characters) are such a talented bunch. They pop up everywhere. Sometimes, it’s just really funny to listen to someone play a character, and then listen to another of their characters say something that could easily fit the other character. (My favorite example of this to date is Dan Green, whose character in Descendants of Darkness claims to just be lucky at cards. Mr. Green was the gentleman behind Yugi Moto and the Pharaoh in Yu-Gi-Oh.) They might play characters who are light years apart. (My favorite example of this one involves my favorite actor John deLancie, who played Dr. Quest on the Jonny Quest remake they did about ten years ago. My mother, a longtime Jonny Quest fan, nearly cried when I pointed out that Q was Dr. Quest. She feared Dr. Quest was about to turn evil since all of Mr. de Lancie’s roles up to that point had been bad guys.) Some of them are so talented that they almost never repeat a voice, which makes them a real challenge to find (like 4Kids actor Marc Thompson). Some of them never really shift to different voices, so finding them is a comforting thing (like 4Kids actor Wayne Grayson).

Really, for me, voice chasing is like a big audio puzzle, and I just try to make the pieces fit together. That said, I’ve got an identification project from a friend on my lap right now that might just take all twenty-plus years of my voice chasing experience to unravel. At least it provides a nice break from working on my novel, even as it turns my dear cartoons into work.

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