What is the process for casting films based on an animated series when members of the original or current cast (for which a show, movie or otherwise gained its following) are still alive and well?
This question is a timely one and a topic that should be of great interest to the voice over community.
Join in this discussion now and learn more about what goes on behind the scenes.
A couple of days ago, I wrote in article in support of June Foray to raise awareness regarding how she was not approached to participate in any way in the new Smurf film. This article is a follow up to a comment received that questioned why the voice over community was up in arms over this.
I answered the comment and was inspired to learn more about this subject so I called up my friend Marc Graue who works with voice over professionals and celebrities doing voice over on a daily basis at his facility Marc Graue Voice Over Recording Studios in Burbank.
Shouldn’t Talent Trump Celebrity? Apparently Not
My theory as I shared it with Marc Graue (and now with you fine folks!) is that if a film is to be produced and based upon an animated series, for instance Transformers, the original cast, if they be living and able to do their voices just as before, should be in the very least extended an invitation to audition.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Marc confirmed that if the voice talent still has what it takes to do their role, for example in the case of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime in Transformers, they may be considered and even booked should their voice and delivery be what the director has in mind.
While this is true in a variety of cases, Marc added that more often than not it is celebrity that trumps talent which is why we are seeing so many people cast in roles that don’t quite match up with our expectations, especially if there was an animated series with beloved voices that first breathed life into the character roles up for casting.
Another factor that may come into play is that if a television series is older, let’s say from the 80s like The A-Team, producers making an updated version may want to make it grittier than its previous existence to please theatergoers at the box office.
Community VS Hollywood Casting
For any of you familiar with communities, the Transformers, Star Wars and Star Trek communities being of particular note, you know that they are almost zealous about the plot lines, characters and participate with unrestrained gusto via forums, conventions and podcasts.
These are the same people that the franchise derives much of its ongoing support, merchandising sales and following. A community built around a franchise is important (and of immediate benefit), but when it comes to casting, their influence is nowhere near as prominent as one might think.
What surprised me most is just how little the community surrounding the franchise factors into the decisions made by those involved with the film in pre-production meetings.
Pre-Production Meetings and Preliminary Casting
During these meetings, casting ideas are explored and comparisons made between who may be a better artistic fit than a better box office fit.
Here’s an example:
The new Yogi Bear movie due out December 2010 has been cast as follows:
Dan Aykroyd as Yogi Bear
Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo Bear
I’ve never heard Dan Aykroyd as Yogi before so perhaps we are in for a treat. Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo has certainly made me curious.
If one were to cast based upon being able to deliver Yogi’s lines in the voice and style of how Daws Butler did it, there are literally hundreds of voice over pros across the country who could do it at varying levels of proximity to Daws’ original interpretation… but is that what the producers want and will a relatively “unknown” but extremely gifted voice talent have what it takes to land the top spot on their opening weekend at the box office?
Nowadays, it’s sound bites that sell seats in theaters, not talent.
This is a regular occurrence in feature film but not so much in television. Always look for that silver lining!
One exception of note to the celebrity vs talent in a feature film is Ellen DeGeneres and her role as Dory in Finding Nemo. While known as a celebrity, her celebrity status may not have been the primary reason why she got the gig… if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that Ellen is talented!
Regardless of how unfortunate this is or how upsetting it may be to fans or performers whose hearts are connected to the pursuit of excellence, this is how it is. A cultural shift has taken place where talent is no longer the most important contributing factor that ensures box office success with the general public.
Do you have anything you would like to add?