Troy Troodon

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By now you should probably now that I am a fan of voice actors; such talent as Frank Welker, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeill, Tara Strong and the like. People like them have influenced a generation of people as part of their childhood, and even inspired them to pursue a career in voice acting themselves. But this does raise a rather interesting question.

But if such performers are so regarded, then why aren’t they considered to be celebrities? After all the definition of “Celebrity” is to be famous, so by that definition anyone can be a celebrity; authors are considered to be celebrities, heck there are chiefs who are considered to be celebrities, so why not voice over talent? Well the answer is simple…

Nobody cares about voice actors...

Well okay, that statement may be a bit hyperbolic, (Though only so much so) a more accurate answer should be that the mainstream pop cultural and entertainment media doesn’t really care about voice actors.


Bare in mind compared to widely known on-camera actors and musicians, voice actors don't hold as much iconography or press in the entertainment industry, which is why not many people seem to recognize them; not that nobody does recognize them but the numbers of people who do acknowledge certain voice over talent in animation and gaming are miniscule compared to the majority of people who are more familiar with big budget actors and singers who we usually associate as celebrities. In order for a regular voice actor for an animated TV series or a video game to hold any sort of status in the eyes of public media they must obtain a fan following of about a half million or a full million people, compare and contrast to a famous movie or tv actor like Chris Pine for example, who has a fan following in the millions, and I mean tens of millions.


Billy Dee-Williams, Zoë Kravitz, Conan O’Brien, Channing Tantum and several other big named entities were casted for the Lego Batman movie with very little screen time and still earned thousands of dollars from their work on that project when they could’ve just as well got regular voice actors. Even disregarding that, when you look at the yearly wages at most a voice actor based in Pre-Lay Los Angeles projects would earn about $20,000 - $160,000 a year, while on screen film and tv actors earn hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars yearly, even more so than even the most popular voice actors like Rob Paulsen or Tara Strong.


This is practically what I mean when I say that nobody cares about voice acting!


And for the record I’m not trying to make it sound like it’s a bad thing for people to like big named actors and singers more than regular voice over talent, or like wise that I’m encouraging that they are more superior, I’m just addressing this as a fact of numbers and general consciousness, more people care about one talent more than another, that’s part of why the movie industry is so big in general; and the truth is here in America, voice acting is a niche performing art and the mainstream voice over industry has pretty much failed in trying to make it anything more than that.


Now once upon a time that wasn’t always the case; only until the 90s voice acting in American animated films were treated the same way as most American TV animation and video games today, as well as japanese anime, with usual roster comprised of professional hands on voice over artists or lesser known movie, tv, and theater actors. Of course there were also celebrities who did voice over back there and then, but it wasn’t the rule back then, it was basically treated as a special guest star appearance on a Saturday Night Live sketch or an episode of a show you’d expect to find on TV Land or Nick at Nite, more often than not the usual go to actors for animation were voice actors. But all of that was about to change.

Enter Disney’s Aladdin, released in 1992; By now we already know the story of how Disney, or rather then executive Jeffery Katzenberg screwed over Robin Williams, breaking a promise to not overly advertise and market his name as the titular Genie in that movie, but what most people don’t talk about is how that marketing and star power affected how Hollywood would cast further animated films from then on; instilling a stigma that star power would be the new go to casting for animated hollywood filmmaking; and while Shrek wasn’t the first pop-cultural film to push the trend of celebrity voice casting it did heavily reinforce it, and from then one as more celebrities got cast for roles in big budget animated films, fewer and fewer professional voice actors got any notable roles in any recent films, if lucky they’d be credited as additional voices, but even recent big budget productions just cast the usual adr loop performers to record ambient vocals in the background.


So as we see in recent years, voice actors no longer have as much of a prevalence in animated films as they used to. Which is unfortunate since I myself am a voice acting enthusiast and I’d love for professional voice over talent to gain just as much praise and recognition in the filmmaking industry.


This is something Billy West expressed before, regarding his own displeasure on this specific trilemma.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some celebrities who actually have proven to be pretty good voice actors since then; Ron Perlman, Alan Tudyk, Rosario Dawson, even Justin Timberlake got audiences by surprise as Bobo from the live-action Yogi Bear movie. But even they’re still known more for their on camera work and stage performances 100x more than their voice over work, let alone that of regular voice over talent.


Again difference in yearly residuals has a part in it, cause let’s face it money speaks louder than words, but it’s also got to do with the overall press and brand recognition; especially since people are more familiar with an actor’s face more than their voice, that’s why said big named actors and singers have their own magazines while voice actors like Eric Bauza for example don’t.


Sure pictures of voice actors do exist but because said voice actors work more with their voice, hence usually being hidden from behind the recording booth as opposed to acting in front of a camera their own faces unfortunately don’t receive as much recognition or a familiar brand as actors like say David Tennent for example.


So with that being said, some of you may be thinking, “Okay so let’s make it happen, give voice actors their own covers on magazines, and give them more supporting roles in animated films.” Well sorry to say but it’s not that simple, again people have to actually care about that, and when I say people I mean the vast majority of people and the entertainment media, and this is the point I’m trying to come across; most people and the general media care more about celebrities, specifically big named movie and TV actors and singers, than regular voice actors… at least on the movie and tv side of things.


There is a light at the end of the tunnel, while voice actors may not have as much previlence in big budget Hollywood productions on the silver screen or prime time tv, they do make a name for themselves in other forms of entertainment media; one specific medium is in video games.

Say what you will about how much of a fleux the video game industry is currently in, but there’s no denying that video games have helped provide voice over artists a much broader niche and brand name than in movies and television, even in the animation side of things; and you’d be surprised to know that more and more people are playing video games than watching movies or television. Granted such top tier talent in that medium like Troy Baker for example still don’t earn as much as a big named live-action actor like Chris Prat for example, both in terms of money and brand, but the video game industry does still help him stand on a pillar of his status. Another thing that potentially helps voice actors is the internet, since gaming has helped with Matthew Mercer’s own name, he set up a podcast with several other voice actors usually known for gaming in where they all play as Dungeons & Dragons characters, that of course being Critical Role, which actually helped springboard Matt’s career even more, and even got D&D to be popular again.


Then of course there’s Netflix, which for better or worse has shaped entertainment media in more ways than one; and only recently Netflix has insured that all future english dubs of Japanese anime will be unionized, ensuring improved wages and benefits for their cast; and as it stands with how creativity in Hollywood is further eroding, Netflix could very well be the next best thing, perhaps even the future of Hollywood should the main enterprise fall flat on its face, and it may well help provide more opportunities for voice actors best known for their work in animation and gaming.


While celebrity actors and singers may have all but taken over work in animation, specifically on the movie side of things, both the internet and the video game industry, are the potential future for how voice over talent. And hopefully thanks to this voice actors can be considered celebrities. But hey, who’s to say they’re not already?!
;)



So what are your thoughts on all this? Do you agree, do you disagree, or is there something I left out? Please let me know.
 

Eldorado

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May 21, 2014
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Considering how The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are cultural icons and the main voice actors aren't considered big time stars then I have to agree with you.
 

Troy Troodon

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Maybe in other countries, where the voice actors are also normal actors, it's different and less of an issue.

Japan is probably the best defender in that regard; their voice actors actually have their own pop bands and their albums are sold nationwide.
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Jan 19, 2004
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People who aren't famous tend to think fame and recognition is a good thing and desirable. Famous people, in reality, think the opposite. Voice over actors have the best of both worlds. They get to meet and geek out with famous people, without having to be hounded themselves. It's a pretty sweet gig, I doubt they would change for anything. Plus they can do their acting in a t-shirt and sweatpants if they want. How cool is that?
 

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