As far back as I can remember, I have always loved doing voices. A strange talent I had obtained in my youth to vocally mimic almost anything I heard. One minute I was singing “The Christmas Song” as Alvin and the Chipmunks, and then next spouting cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger lines from Predator. Just hearing the kids laugh in class while I mimicked teachers and classmates was a gift in itself. Though, as a child I was told such a gift would change once I neared puberty, so I took that negativity and focused on practicing every single day to prove them wrong. When asked, “How do you do that?” or “How do you get your voice so high?” I never really had an answer. It just came naturally. By the age of 12, I could tell exactly which characters Hank Azaria voiced on The Simpsons just by ear, which both amazed and confused my mother. She explained that I just had an ear for it. When watching Animaniacs, I would tell my friends that it was one guy who played Yakko, Pinky, and Dr. Scratchansniif, to which they scoffed. “But they don’t sound anything alike. Yakko’s voice is WAY higher. How do you know?”
I don’t know how I knew. I just did. This was before the internet was huge and a simple Google search could put to rest any debate. But, that was then and this is now. Now, you can find anything you want on the internet. Podcasting alone has exploded onto the scene over the past few years, and I’ve found myself finding more and more related to the things in my life that I love. I was lucky enough to one day stumble upon an amazing podcast about voice acting that was not only incredible but is also hosted by my voice acting hero growing up, Mr. Rob Paulsen.
My generation grew up hearing him provide the voices of the aforementioned Yakko, Pinky, and Dr. Scratchensniff on Animaniacs and a slew of others on Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, G.I. Joe, and my all time favorite, Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These days he’s entertaining a whole new generation. My little cousins hear his voice daily on Jimmy Neutron, Fairly Oddparents, and Danny Phantom, just to name a few.
Needless to say, when I discovered this podcast I was blown away. It’s perfect because it’s for everyone, kids and adults alike. Anyone who loved cartoons growing up (and let’s be honest, who didn’t?) needs to check this show out. What started out as Rob doing the podcast himself, answering fan questions and talking about the world of voice acting, blossomed into something more. He now has a fellow voice actor guest on each episode pretty much weekly. While my knowledge on the subject is vast, Rob and his guests always impress me with something new. Hearing behind-the-scenes stories of the cartoons they worked on, auditioning for roles they didn’t end up getting, and the general comradery between the actors in the voice-over world is truly heartwarming.
The first moment I was really wowed was when he had Maurice LaMarche on the show as his first guest. For those unfamiliar, this was basically a Pinky and the Brain reunion! Hearing those two voices together again brought me back to my childhood, and the show is littered with amazing moments like this. As of May 12th, 40 episodes have been released with guests including Billy West (Futurama), Nolan North (Uncharted series), Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show), Tara Strong (Fairly Odd Parents), Dee Bradley Baker (The Clone Wars), Jess Harnell (Animaniacs), and The Joker himself, Mark Hamill! Picking a favorite moment is difficult for me, but hearing Rob and Jess Harnell as Yakko and Wakko stands out as a personal favorite, and, because I’m a huge Brian Wilson fan, Rob and Billy West singing an impromptu Beach Boys song with Billy on guitar. I mean, wow! And, you’ll also constantly find yourself saying, “Oh wow, so THAT’S who did that voice?” or “Woah! That was them?”
The real kicker is the fan interaction! Rob is heavily into Twitter, and all questions for him and his guests can be tweeted to him on his account, @yakkopinky, and answered on the show! More podcasts need to take a cue from this. Involving the fans is what keeps something like this strong and adds to the experience. Just reading Rob’s interactions with his fans on Twitter and hearing him on the show give you an idea of just how dedicated he is to his work and to his fans. The man loves his job and it shows!
I can’t recommend Talkin Toons enough. If you have any interest in voice acting or if you just love animation as much as I do, then this is a must listen! All shows can be found on iTunes (for free!) and on Rob’s website robpaulsenlive.com.
To quote the man himself, “Laughter is the best medicine and the best part is you can’t O.D. and the refills are free…”