At this year’s Sydney ComicCon (September 12-14), we were lucky to attend an animation panel featuring some of the industry’s beloved voice-actors: Rodger Bumpass (aka Squidward) from Spongebob Squarepants; Jim Cummings (aka Disney’s Winnie the Pooh); Paul Eiding (aka Grandpa Max) from Ben 10, Bill Farmer (aka Disney’s Goofy); and Monica Rial (aka Bulma) from Dragon Ball Z.
From left to right: Jim Cummings, Bill Farmer, Paul Eiding, Rodger Bumpass and Monica Rial at Sydney ComicCon 2014.
The moment the five voice-actors walked onto the stage — we knew it was going to be an awesome hour. In fact, they began goofing around and talking in gibberish animated voices before they even sat down! They were uniquely comedic in their own ways, and it was fantastic hearing them talk about their craft and passion for voice-acting. Since we love sharing animation goodness with fellow fans, check out random extracts from the panel below. ENJOY!
Q: We all know that you’ve done a lot of work such as Razoul from Aladdin, Ray from Princess and Frog, and legacy characters such as Winnie the Pooh – If a voice-actor somehow isn’t able to do their role, do you tell Disney, “Hey, I can actually do this voice…!”?
Jim Cummings: I never imagined in a million years that I would be Winnie the Pooh or Ray from Princess and the Frog. I have always wanted to be a voice-actor when I was a kid. When I was a kid, there were already three original Disney characters: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet. And then they were gone for about 25 years, and then ABC and Disney (despite being separate entities) decided to bring back Pooh and Tigger, and everyone seemed to like that. We still had to go through the standard auditions — E.G Marshall, Burgess Meredith and myself were the top choices for Winnie the Pooh. Isn’t that weird? (laughs)
[in Winnie the Pooh’s voice] But I’m glad it was me~
Q: Will the characters of Frozen appear in Kingdom Hearts 3?
Bill Farmer: I’m not sure. When we record Kingdom Hearts, we don’t do things in a linear fashion. We get pages from 18 to 23, page 187 etc, so we kinda skip around everywhere and not getting a sense of what’s happening with the story. It’s interesting because I get to hear the Japanese version first. Hearing Japanese Goofy in my headphones, it’s a lot like [insert high-pitched Goofy gibberish] “Whoaa Come on Sora, let’s go ohooo!” It is very odd to hear your character or voice in another language – but yes, it is most likely that the characters from Frozen will appear in Kingdom Hearts 3.
Q: For a voice-actor, what process do you take to go from the character you see on the drawing board to the character you see in motion, and to how they’re actually feeling? In other words, how do you put a voice to the character?
Bill Farmer: With a legacy character, you’re simply cloning the original voices of what he had in mind for the character. Personalities are already set. One of my recent projects on Disney X.D, The 7D, is a new take on the Seven Dwarves. I get to voice Doc (also known as the leader of the Dwarves). I saw a pic of Doc, and from there, I had to decide on how I should voice him. He has glasses and he’s the leader of the pack so he must be wise and intelligent so I ultimately decided to put on a bit of high-pitched voice to make it sound like Doc.
Q: How does it feel to be Squidward?
Rodger Bumpass: It is the role of my lifetime. We created this character from scratch, and we experimented for awhile by putting a lot of sarcasm into his character. We finally achieved the right voice after two hours, and from there, it has been absolutely wonderful to be part of it all. It is true when they say “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”
[in Squidward’s voice] Working in the food service sector. That’s what he does everyday. Unappreciated. Underpaid. Underwater. I live next two idiots. He might be idiot-squared but he is my alter ego who is becoming less alter ego every time.
Q: You’ve worked on so many anime dubs — What is like to work behind the scenes, especially with different anime studios?
Monica Rial: For those who don’t know what we do with anime, we do a lot of ADR which is also known as ‘Automated Dialogue Replacement’. So what we do is listen to the dialogue in Japanese and we record things repetitively. Every studio has different methods to go about it. With Funimation and other studios use ADR, and we use something that is called the ‘beep method’, where it goes ‘beep, beep, beep’, and we would use the beeps to match up with what’s on screen.
With Sentai, we use a method called the ‘Chase method’ which really helps me as a voice-actor. We basically record dialogue over the Japanese dialogue, and it really teaches you about timing in voice-acting. So whenever someone talks Japanese to me, my first instinct is to talk over them (laughs) But otherwise, that’s the main difference between the various studios I work with.
Q: Who is your most favourite character to voice?
Monica Rial: There is a show that is coming out at the end of this year called ‘Watamote’ where I play the main character, Tomoko Kuroki. I absolutely enjoyed voicing her.
Rodger Bumpass: My answer will never change as he is my boy [in Squidward’s voice] “I love him, he loves me”.
Paul Eiding: For obvious reasons, I love Grandpa Max because he is a man I want to be. He’s smart, tough, kicks butt and loves his family.
Bill Farmer: Definitely Goofy. He’s not only one of my longest running characters, but he’s also an iconic Disney character. He was also the first character that I auditioned, so he’s definitely up there on my list. Speaking of Goofy, Goofy Movie was probably my most favourite project to work on. It was nineteen years ago – My son was five years old when it came out, and you can say that it was a great bonding experience for my son and I.
Jim Cummings: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are in their own special category. They’ve been around since forever, and it’s been an honour to voice such amazing legacy characters. Other notable characters that I’ve done — Dawking Duck is definitely up there. Ray from Princess and The Frog is also very dear to my heart. It was the first Disney film to feature a different kind of princess, and my daughter, Gracie – who was four at the time — looked exactly just like Princess Tiana, and it would’ve been a huge disappointment for her if I wasn’t involved with the project.
Q: How do you prepare your voice for a role and make it consistent over the years, even when you’re sick?
Rodger Bumpass: It’s funny because you can work with a broken leg but you can’t work with a stuffy nose. When you’re sick, you have to keep taking sinuses and take good care of your throat. It’s exceedingly crucial that you do so.
Jim Cummings: When you do work on video games, they often want that low, grounded voice. So when you’re actually sick, they’ll be like, “That sounds great, it sounds like you’re a smoker” ….”But I don’t!” (laughs) So really, sometimes it does work out.
Bill Farmer: Speaking of video games, video games could destroy your voice. They’ll be like, “Okay, it’s a death scene, so scream, yell, anything!” Once a director informed me: “Okay, now a zombie has ripped your arm out and is now beating you with it!” So naturally, it would be “ARGHHH!” Imagine doing it for two hours straight, and after awhile, you’ll start to sound like [imitates The Godfather’s voice] “I now sound like The Godfather!” (laughs)
Q: What was it like working on the US Dragon Ball Z movie, and do you know if there is any truth to the rumour that there will be a new series?
Monica Rial: I can definitely tell you that working on the DBZ movie was ~awesome. Battle of the Gods was awesome because it was simply just new material. Everyone had so much fun working on the film which made it exciting to be part of. I don’t know about a new series, but I do know that they have announced in Japan that there will be a new movie next year. We’re all stoked about it!
Q: You’ve been in the voice-acting industry for many years now — How has the industry changed?
Bill Farmer: I have been in the voice-acting industry for over 28 years now. In the early days, we were recording from physical tape. Every time we want to record over something, we would have to rewind the tape, wait for awhile and record at the right moment.They didn’t have the type of editing technology that we have today. We would have an assembly room where everyone gathers around the one microphone, and record films like a radio play. Today, we do everything solo. For instance, we do five takes for one scene, and if Take 4 is the best, then they would choose that Take and use it in the film. Vice versa with Jim’s recordings — if his Take 2 is the best, then they would use that Take and combine it with mine, and you get the best of both worlds.