Friday, June 13, 2014

My Life Without Animation

In the voiceover world I have just done the equivalent of swearing in front of a three year-old. To actually say, out loud, that you don't watch animation is just something that is taboo. So many people make their living as characters in animated projects. I feel a conversation, one you might hear in a therapist's office, coming on.

Therapist: “Well, Jerry what traumatic event happened in your life to make you not like animation?”
Jerry:”I think it's all in my imagination.”
Therapist: “ Tell me about that, Jerry”
Jerry: “ Well, as a child when I watched animation, I didn't know who the voices were and they became the character. When I watched Popeye episodes, the persons playing the role of Popeye and Olive Oil became the characters. When I heard the voice of June Foray in Rocky and Bullwinkle, I only knew her as that character. Today, when I watch, my brain pulls up an image of June. When I listened to Bob Dryden play one of his many roles on CBS Mystery Theater on the radio in the 70s and 80s, I had not met him yet and could only imagine the character in the play.”
Therapist: “So if you know the person or have a real image you have a problem with that?”
Jerry: “I do. It's not the actual animation that I have a problem with. It's beyond that. I cannot watch Shreck because when the donkey appears on the screen, my brain pulls up an image of Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.”
Therapist: “Go on.”
Jerry: “I like to call it the 'theater in my mind.' I have listened to thousands of old radio drama broadcasts. My mind is conditioned to set the stage or scene. It creates the characters using audio cues, narrative descriptions and the sounds the characters make. When I see the character on the screen, my imagination now has a conflict, between real, imagined and what's before me on the screen.”
Therapist: ”How does that differ from Meryl Streep playing the role of say Margaret Thatcher or Miranda Priestly on the screen?“
Jerry: “I'm not sure. For some reason I know that it's Meryl Streep but my brain allows me to accept the character she is playing. However, if I heard her voice in an animation project, I would always pull up an image of Meryl Streep instead of the character being portrayed. It gets in the way.”
Therapist: “And this prevents you from watching films like Kung Fu Panda and Madigascar?”
Jerry: “Yup. Jack Black is always going to be Jack Black and Reese Witherspoon will always be Reese Witherspoon to me. Now if they had selected voices that I didn't already know visually, I think I would be fine.
Therapist: “You're a sick man Jerry Reed and need professional help beyond what I can provide. I have to say one thing. You are missing some very creative, talented people working at their craft.”
Jerry: “I know, but I think I'm beyond help at this point, a lost cause.”


  1. People named Reid are often obscure thinkers. But largely the reason why celebrities are hired is because you already know the voice. You are familiar with the personality so it's like going to see a friend play a part. The name recognition sells tickets. I don't like it overall, but that's what's happening.

  2. Is it just the more popular stars that you image? Or do you always picture Tara Strong when she voices Raven, Timmy Turner, or other characters she's done. In MY mind, I KNOW it's her voice, but I don't SEE her! I see the cartoon. I can kind of see your point if the cartoon is a very popular movie like Kung Fu Panda and Madigascar where the voice actors are big time movie stars. But when you watch Scooby Doo's - Fred you SEE Frank Walker? I don't. LOL

  3. I don't know Tara personally ("But I Know That Voice") and have never seen her in an "on screen" dramatic role, that I know of. But to answer your question, I think it has to do with seeing them in "on screen" roles that gets in the way. If the voice actor is essentially the same character in the animation as he is in the comedic or dramatic roles, as Eddie Murphy is, that's where I have a problem putting him in character. The donkey and Eddie Murphy the comedian are one-in-the-same. to me. I can not, in my mind, make the donkey be any character other than Eddie.

  4. I always had a problem with cartoons growing up. I was the eldest of 5 and I guess I thought of myself as too mature for cartoons. So the ones I liked best were ones that either had some realism or involved people in more mundane settings: Johnny Quest, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Flintstones (it was funny and like the Honeymooners), Popeye (it was historic), maybe Rocky & Bullwinkle (it was satirical and a bit subversive). I just couldn't suspend my disbelief as much with animation as with films or books.


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