The voice that a company initially chooses to brand with, whether for commercial purposes or for sheer entertainment, often sticks in the minds of their audience as the best choice.
As time passes, there is the occasional recasting of the voice here and there, some of which are easier on the ears and rank higher on the believability scale than others.
Join me as we look at 5 popular examples of how a brand voice has changed and what the outcomes have been in terms of the public’s reaction in today’s VOX Daily.
A Voice Match Or A Voice Clash?
Every now and then, casting directors and producers are faced with the unique challenge of finding a suitable replacement for a franchise voice. Sometimes this happens because the original voice talent’s voice has changed dramatically (age, health), a contract is not renewed (political, disinterest) or a voice talent passes away leaving their character without a voice.
Let’s take a look at five popular examples including commercial, promo, animation, film and audiobook narration.
Tony the Tiger
As North Americans, we’ve been hearing the slogan “They’re grrrrrreat!” since 1952. Thurl Ravenscroft (1914-2005) was the voice over talent who gave voice to Tony the Tiger of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for over 45 years.
In 1998, the task of holding an casting call was necessary to identify Ravenscroft’s heir apparent. After listening to a number of auditions, Lee Marshall’s voice and interpretation stood out, resulting in his being cast as the new voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Ironically, Marshall had already taken on another role that Ravenscroft had originated, Rug Dr, from Steamin’ Mad at Dirt. Marshall is a very close voice match for Ravenscroft.
Marshall has an interesting view on his personal and professional responsibilities associated with his orange, black and white alter-ego, saying, “Thurl created and developed one of the most wonderful characters in the world. It’s an honor to follow in his footsteps. I personally promised Thurl that I would love and care for Tony with all my heart and that I would do everything I can to make him, and Tony proud.”
Dora the Explorer
Who hasn’t encountered Nickelodeon’s powerhouse franchise, Dora the Explorer? The original voice of Dora was Kathleen Herles (b. 1990). Herles auditioned the role when she was seven years old, booked it that same day and continued to voice the role of Dora until she was seventeen. In 2008, Herles wrapped up her career as Dora to attend university.
After a decade of hearing the same voice and interpretation, audiences were quick to notice a change in the character’s voice. The current voice of Dora is Caitlin Sanchez (b. 1996). Sanchez booked this role when she was twelve with her voice debuting as Dora in September 2008.
While most kids were slower to pick up on the change, parents appeared to have definite reactions to and opinions on Dora’s new voice.
The first voice of Mickey Mouse was Walt Disney (1901-1966) himself in the animated short, Steamboat Willie. While Disney was still relatively young, yet becoming busier and busier, Jimmy MacDonald (1906-1991) was tasked in 1946 with voicing Mickey Mouse and provided the voice of Mickey until 1977. Carrying the torch was Wayne Allwine (1947-2009) as the third voice of Mickey Mouse until his passing in 2009 at the age of 62. The fourth (and current) voice of Mickey Mouse is Bret Iwan (b. 1982).
Though unexpected, Iwan views his new role as a great responsibility and honor, as he plays his part in an extremely magical legacy.
Speaking of which, a common thread among all the Mickeys has been that they’ve each seen their role as caretakers of Mickey Mouse. While their voices and interpretations may be slightly different in some ways (pitch variance for instance), the signature Mickey Mouse voice style and dedication to the spirit and integrity of the character always shines through.
Here’s the Mickey Mouse voice chronology for you:
Walt Disney (1928-1947)
Jimmy MacDonald (1947-1977)
Wayne Allwine (1977-2009)
Bret Iwan (2009-present)
Congratulations to Bret Iwan. This is a role that will last you a lifetime!
Geronimo Stilton Narrator
Another example I’d like to share is the changing of the guard regarding a popular children’s book series, Geronimo Stilton. Stilton is a journalist who happens to also be a mouse. He owns and writes for the Rodent’s Gazette, the most popular newspaper in New Mouse City. When these books were first narrated, the original narrator was AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice Edward Hermann (b. 1943).
Herrmann narrated a number of Geronimo Stilton books with signature style that the Geronimo Stilton community eagerly consumed. At some point Herrmann was no longer narrating for the series and was succeeded by on-camera actor and voice talent, Bill Lobley (b. 1960).
I’ve only heard the Lobley narration and cannot compare it to the Herrmann narration. Many vocal reviews on Amazon reveal that the listeners dearly miss Herrmann’s voice and look forward to the publishing house reinstating him as narrator.
As a point of interest, actor Pietro Ubaldi provides the Italian narration for the Geronimo Stilton series abroad.
NBC Nightly News Announcer
The late great Howard Reig (1921-2008) was the announcer for NBC’s Nightly News. After being the voice of the program for literally decades, Reig retired and recordings of his voice were used for two years up until December 2007 when Hollywood actor Michael Douglas (b. 1944) was named as Reig’s successor. Reig passed away at the age of 87 on November 11, 2008. “By my tally, he has introduced nearly 7,000 ‘Nightly’ broadcasts,” Brett Holey, director of the “NBC Nightly News,” said after Reig’s last broadcast.
The public’s reaction to the casting decision was mixed.
Douglas remains the voice of the NBC Nightly News to this day.
Whether you’d like to comment on what you read or would like to add your own thoughts about a different recasting scenario, I’d love to hear from you!
Looking forward to your remarks.
Photo courtesy of Bret Iwan