DON'T PANIC: Changes to Voice Actors
- by Ninja Ross, 28 August 2013
Last week, in my review of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, I spoke briefly about the change in Sam Fisher’s voice actor. It went from a deep, growly Michael Ironside to the slightly softer, more monotone Eric Johnson. But there’s a lot more to say on the issue. Voice changing is a big thing in animation and video games and it’s something that a fanbase can get pretty darn explosive over. Like... Seriously explosive.
While voice actor changes are happening more to video games right now, change like this is universally hated by fans. Star Wars fans hated the change to Boba Fett’s voice, for example. But that’s Star Wars fans for you, am I right?
Voice actors like Grey Delisle, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong and Tom Kenny have been making characters come alive for years. David Hayter was considered THE voice for Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series. Not only that, but Hayter has embraced the role like few actors do. He loved the games, loved the job and was active at conventions. But then he was dropped because... No one really knows why. He was replaced with Kiefer Sutherland and many fans speculate that Hideo Kojima did so just because he wanted it to have more of a movie feel. Or that it could be one of Hideo’s jokes, something he is known for. But the main point is Hayter wasn’t even told in advance. He was just dropped with no explanation.
But to say the character is defined by his/her voice actor is as insulting as replacing them for actors who can do the action. A lot of work goes into these characters; writing, concept art, directing, supporting cast and so on all affect the way we view a character. Sure, a performance of a character can be iconic. Kevin Conroy as Batman is unforgettable and one of the best performances ever given in animation, as far as I’m concerned. But he’s not the only one to give a great performance.
Many people have played Batman; Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller and even Michael Ironside himself are on that list. All of whom have given standout performances and portrayed the character perfectly. And now we have Roger Craig Smith playing Batman in Arkham Origins. Conroy fans all over the world lost their minds when this was announced. “KEVIN CONROY IS THE ONLY BATMAN.” Sure, he’s the best... But he’s certainly not the only actor with the chops to help create a believable Batman. And I think this new guy sounds a heck of a lot like a young Kevin Conroy. And Troy Baker sounds a heck of a lot like a young Mark Hamill. This is a prequel; a younger cast for these two characters is kind of needed. And yes, I know; Conroy played a young Batman in Mask of the Phantasm. In 1992. Over twenty years ago. He still sounds like a Batman in his prime but I don’t know if he could pull off such a young Batman.
A new actor in familiar roles also means new takes. Not every James Bond is the same, for example. Weller brings a lot more age to the role of Batman and is better suited to playing older Batman than Kevin Conroy would be. Steve Blum does a heck of a better job than Neil Ross and his weird Australian Wolverine.
Voice actors change. It’s fine to be disappointed in a change but it’s always best to give it a chance. If anything needs to be “raged” at, it’s often the reasons given for the change. That’s when you... Voice your concerns. Get it? Voice your...? Whatever.
I know you’re probably sitting there thinking “Ross, this is a fantastic article and, of course, I want to have your babies, but I already know all this.” I hope you do know all this but I’ve seen a lot (I do mean A LOT) of insults, threats and general stupidity all over the internet any time a new voice actor is confirmed, especially for characters like Batman, Sam Fisher, Snake, Garrett and so on. Also, look at what happened when Affleck was confirmed as Batman in the upcoming Superman/Batman movie. Some people need to be reminded that change isn’t always bad.
Can you think of any voice actor changes you were happy with? Have anything that you'd like to add? Let us know.
Tagged: video games.