Frank Welker: Master of Many Voices
(continued from page 6)

Booming Times
During the thirty years he's been involved in the industry, Welker notes a tremendous increase in actors doing voices for animation.

"When I first got in, it was just a handful. I wasn't even on the hand. But I could see the hand from there. Then with Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Warners and Disney Animation becoming so successful, there's been an explosion.

"I remember when all the animation was being sent overseas. There were animators [here] but they couldn't work. Everybody was afraid of computer animation. Now they're cutting down trees trying to find animators and for people who work computers. So it's a real good time for everybody including voiceover people. There's so much work to do.

"The business has really changed for the better. In the old days voice folks didn't get residuals or reuse payments for their work. They weren't being rewarded for the work that they did. The Screen Actors Guild and the industry has changed all that, so it's much better for actors and their families, too.

"It's also opened up tremendously for on-camera 'celebrity voices,’ so there's all kinds of people doing voices now, and really enjoying it. What used to be a handful of people has now grown to several hands, arms and maybe one leg. I'm just trying to hang on to one of the hands."

How does Welker feel about the new competition from the live-action celebrities?

"Again, speaking for myself -- but I think a lot of the other actors I've talked to feel this way -- is that, it doesn't really matter who does the voices as long as you have an opportunity to compete," he says.

"I'd love to read for some of the other roles. Usually we're ignored because they want to get celebrity voices. If it's for the sound, because a celebrity has a unique voice, then that's understandable.

Stars like Tom Hanks and Tim Allen get the high profile voice over acting work due to their celebrity status. TM & © Disney/Pixar.

"Studios do it because when they go into advertising, they can say, 'Hey, Toy Story starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen from Home Improvement,' as opposed to saying 'Toy Story starring Jim Cummings and Frank Welker.' In terms of promotion for adults, I can understand it.

"I don't think the kids would know the difference between Tom Hanks' voice or Tim Allen. I don't think it really matters. I do understand the need for promoting, and it makes sense, that if you're going to have a major motion picture, adults will figure, 'Well shoot, maybe I'll take the kids. Tom Hanks is in it.' That does make sense. I totally understand that aspect.

"But when all the production companies bring in celebrity voices on Saturday morning shows, it's a one-upsmanship between the studios to say, 'Look who I've got.' 'Yeah, well, I've got…'

"It's almost a shark frenzy situation. It doesn't bother me as long as I'm still able to audition against them. If they get it, they deserve it. If the voice is unique and individual and I was that production company, I would cast who's best for the show.

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