Monday, May 22, 2006

Voicing a concern

(Warning: This post is probably 10 years late but I decided to post it anyways)

I like animation. As a kid, it was simply because that's what we're expected to watch and it was fun. As an adult, I enjoy the story-telling possibilities of animation. Animation lets the storyteller convey ideas without the constraints of silly things like budgets and physics and provides a cognitive lubricant for the suspension of disbelief. Something has been bugging me lately though:

Can you name the person who voiced Snow White? How about Fievel from American Tail? Don't worry, me neither. No offence to those voices, but it really didn't matter back then. Those were classics and the characters did not stand on the shoulders of the voice actor.

This is not the case now. Since Toy Story, with its all-star cast led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, the voice of the animated character is gaining in importance. Look at the credits of the animated movies coming out this summer: Over the Hedge, Cars, AntBully, Barnyard, Open Season. I won't list all the familiar names but almost all the main characters in these movies have familiar actors (actresses too, I'm lazy, sue me).

The advertising for these movies tout these actors in the same breath as the movie's plot. Does this really help make these movies more marketable? If anything, it only helps getting parents into the theaters, the young kids have no idea the value that Paul Newman can bring to the voice of a car.... do they? Probably not.

To me, taking away the anonymity of character voices takes away part of the magic of animation. We have so little magic left in this world, can we keep this?

Abrupt transition into relevance for this blog...

Games have used Hollywood actors for years as well. Some examples:

The Bond games use the actual actors to voice the game characters (this makes sense, they're shooting for "reality"). In Oblivion, the emperor is voiced by Patrick Stewart (they don't market the game with this and I love PS but it's shocking the first time you hear him). Ving Rhames has been in 3 games (seems to be harmless). For the younger crowd, Rachel Leigh Cook and Mena Suvari are in Kingdom Hearts II (Nothing to say but wanted to continue the trend of parenthetical statements).

At this time, games are not where animated movies are at in terms of name-dropping. However, it's probably not far over the horizon. I already know I'm not going to like it. Like animated movies, part of the magic of games is the immersion into the story. A familiar voice can pull me out of a game (original story, not movie license like Bond). It may not ruin the experience but more often than not, it doesn't enhance it.

I think I have a valid point so why is this happening? Am I missing something? Am I just an old fogie?

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