Podcasts Vox Talk #106 – Voice of Charlie Brown, Transformers on Calm, Google Assistant
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#106 – Voice of Charlie Brown, Transformers on Calm, Google Assistant

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Stephanie Ciccarelli
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Today we’re discussing the passing of Charlie Brown voice actor Peter Robbins, the Calm app now features Peter Cullen narrating a Transformers sleep story, the real voice behind Google Assistant, and YouTube might add a Voiceover feature to Shorts.

Charlie Brown voice actor Peter Robbins dies at 65

Keep Calm and Transform! Sleep Story App Narrated by Peter Cullen Announced

This is the real voice behind Google Assistant

YouTube Shorts Could Be Getting a Voiceover Feature, APK Teardown Suggests

Continue the conversation on the Voices Community Forum

Hear a sample of Peter Cullen reading the Transformers Sleep Story!


Remember to come back next week! Subscribe to Vox Talk now to ensure you hear every episode. 


Hi there and welcome to Vox Talk, your weekly review from the world of voice over. I’m your host, Stephanie Ciccarelli from Voices. In today’s show, we’ll be discussing the life and career of Peter Robbins, the voice of Charlie Brown, Transformers’ Peter Cullen and his new gig narrating for the Calm app, Google Assistant’s backstory (you’ll want to hear this!) and how it’s speculated that YouTube may add a voiceover feature to Shorts.

News 1: Charlie Brown voice actor, Peter Robbins, Gone at 65

You may have heard this new story on many news outlets. This story comes from The Week.

Peter Robbins, the actor known for voicing Charlie Brown in the 1960s, has died. He was 65.

Robbins' work as Charlie Brown began in 1963, when he voiced the character in A Boy Named Charlie Brown, a Peanuts documentary. He then voiced Charlie Brown in the classic 1965 holiday special A Charlie Brown Christmas and reprised the role in subsequent specials, including Charlie Brown's All Stars!; It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; You're in Love, Charlie Brown; and He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown.

In addition to voice acting, Robbins also appeared on screen shows, performing his final role in 1972 before leaving Hollywood and retiring from acting.

News 2: Peter Cullen Narrating Transformers Sleep Story on Calm App

Are you a fan of Transformers?

According to TFormers.com, TRANSFORMERS has launched into a new medium, inviting kids and adults to experience an original Sleep Story with Calm, one of the world’s leading apps for sleep, meditation and relaxation. Available now, Peter Cullen returns to voice OPTIMUS PRIME in a relaxing Sleep Story, “History of the Transformers.”

This never-before-heard TRANSFORMERS story tells the history of the Autobots and Decepticons, taking listeners deeper into the MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE themes of the iconic franchise, exploring bravery, leadership, friendship and STEM.

Peter Cullen says, "I am pleased to be bringing TRANSFORMERS to Calm Kids through an imaginative and adventurous bedtime story. I hope through this story that families and kids can get the sleep they need to conquer their days."

With sleep loss and sleep disorders more prevalent than ever, Calm helps listeners in over 190 countries manage stress, sleep better and live a happier, healthier life. In 2021, the app launched Calm Kids, a vertical of mental wellness content for kids and families. The TRANSFORMERS Calm Sleep Story will be available exclusively on Calm in the "Sleep" and "Kids" sections of the app.

Look out for an upcoming TRANSFORMERS themed Calm Meditation, narrated by Peter Cullen, launching on the app later this year. Read more by following the links in our show notes to calm.com

News 3: Who’s the ‘Voice’ of Google Assistant?

Have you ever wondered who the voice of your virtual assistant is?

With most virtual assistants appearing to simply be a combination of code and intricate algorithms, you’ll be interested to hear that Google Assistant has quite an elaborate backstory.

Slashgear reports that in an interview with The Atlantic, James Giangola, the lead conversation and persona designer at Google, spoke about the Assistant at great length. When the team set out to create its AI-based assistant, they knew that the line between a cool, futuristic feature and a mildly creepy if uncanny voice bot is very, very thin. Google Assistant was never meant to seem human — that would just be disturbing — but she was meant to be just human enough to make us feel comfortable. To achieve that elusive feeling of somewhat reserved comfort, Giangola and his team went to great lengths to perfect the Assistant.

You’d think that just hiring a skilled voice actor would be enough, but there was much more to consider than just finding a pleasant voice. James Giangola set out on a quest to make the Google Assistant sound normal and to hide that alien feeling of speaking to a robot. In order to do this, he made up a lengthy backstory for the Assistant.

When searching for the right voice actress and then training her later on, The Atlantic notes that James Giangola came up with a very specific backstory for the AI. He did so because he wanted Google Assistant to appear real, and in order to give it a distinct personality, he gave the voice actress a lengthy background on the Assistant. First and foremost, the Assistant comes from Colorado, which gives her a neutral accent.

She comes from a well-read family and is the youngest daughter of a physics professor (who has a B.A. in art history from Northwestern University, no less) and a research librarian. She once worked for “a very popular late-night-TV satirical pundit” as a personal assistant. She was always a smart kid, she won $100,000 on the Kids Edition of “Jeopardy.” Oh, and she also likes kayaking. Let’s not forget: She’s not real.

The need to create such a specific backstory may seem questionable, and it actually was questioned by James Giangola’s colleagues. However, Giangola was able to prove his point during the audition process. When a colleague asked him how does anyone even sound like they’re into kayaking, Giangola fired back: “The candidate who just gave an audition — do you think she sounded energetic, like she’s up for kayaking?” And she didn’t, which to Giangola meant that she wasn’t the right voice.

What’s the most elaborate backstory you’ve been given by a client, or have created yourself to bring a character to life?

Let me know using the hashtag, #voxtalk

News 4: YouTube Shorts to Add Voiceover Feature

Is there more voiceover to come for YouTube? Gadgets 360 serves as the source for this story.

As you may know, YouTube Shorts, the Google-owned video platform's TikTok rival, was launched in September 2020 and is now available in over 100 countries. YouTube Shorts enables creators to make video clips up to 60 seconds long and share on the platform. At launch, it offered basic features such as adding texts to specific parts of the clip, automatic captions, filters, and colour correction. The company is now reportedly developing a dedicated voiceover feature for Shorts. As of now, the YouTube app on Android lets creators add audio from YouTube's library to Shorts.

The leak on Shorts voiceover feature comes from XDA Developers, who reportedly spotted new strings of code during the teardown of the Android version of YouTube. The alleged code was found in the 17.04.32_beta version. These strings of code reportedly suggest that the YouTube app will get a dedicated button for the voiceover feature. As mentioned earlier, YouTube creators can only use the audio from YouTube's library while making Shorts. Currently, they have to use third-party video editors to add custom audio clips to their Shorts. The voiceover feature is not yet live on the latest beta version of the YouTube app for Android. Furthermore, YouTube is yet to share any official information regarding the rollout of the voiceover feature. So, the reported details should be considered with a pinch of salt.

Will YouTube come out with a voiceover feature for Shorts? Keep watching the space and let us know what you think on social media!

Wrap Up

And that’s the way we saw the world through the lens of voice-over this week. Thank you for listening and for staying subscribed. If you have any news to share that you think would make a great story for Vox Talk, be sure to send it to [email protected] or tweet to Voices on social media to let us know! I’m your host, Stephanie Ciccarelli from Voices. Thank you again for being here and for being part of our community. We’ll see you next week.

Stephanie Ciccarelli
Stephanie Ciccarelli is a Co-Founder of Voices. Classically trained in voice as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. For over 25 years, Stephanie has used her voice to communicate what is most important to her through the spoken and written word. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, Stephanie has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Backstage magazine, Stage 32 and the Voices.com blog. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.
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