Thursday, January 17, 2013

Podblast! Talkin' Toons

I'll admit, I'm still testing out what does and doesn't work with this blog so far, but I'm halfway through the month and still going strong!  Which means I can try something new, this time taking a look at something that's taken over my listening moments lately:

Podcasts! know, those little episodic deals that are like radio shows that you can download?  Sometimes they actually are radio shows?  Anyway.

Every now and again, I'm going to take a look at one of the podcasts whose episodes (pods?) are filling up my mp3 player, and we're going to start with the one that lured me down this rabbit hole in the first place.  The initial podcast that, upon consumption of a ridiculous number episodes in a single day, left me not just wanting more, but craving it.  Instead of feeling like I was drowning in the audible presence of the same individual, I instead felt like I had been alone for days with no reminder of my own humanity, and desperately needed that connection again just to keep myself sane.

I'm speaking of course of Rob Paulsen's podcast Talkin' Toons.

Doesn't look familiar?  How about now?

Yeah, if you ever watched a cartoon since the 80s, you've heard the voice of this Emmy award winning actor.  In case you question this, I dare you to check his imdb site and scroll through to any show you remember watching when you were young.  I bet you he probably did a voice on it somewhere.

A few years ago, as Mr. Paulsen puts it, he had a break between jobs and decided to keep himself busy by starting up his own podcast, simply answering questions and talking about being in the business of voice work in animation.  Thus was born Talkin' Toons, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a personal reason for listening.

I always wanted to do cartoon voices growing up.  Even young, I knew I couldn't compete with the "handsome hunks of Hollywood" for any kind of acting, but I loved to do characters and play pretend. I'd sit and listen to accents and speeches, watch tons of cartoons (as people have already guessed) and would sit by myself, trying to twist my voice just to see what I could get out of it.  I even studied cartoon "acting," as it were, trying to figure out how I could get my voice to carry all the weight that many actors could get with facial expressions and body control.

The funny thing was, growing up I was also learning sign language, which is exactly the polar opposite of learning how to manipulate your voice, since most of signing isn't even hand usage, but facial expression and body posture.  But both teach the art of nuance, since even the slightest inflection in a voice or shift of posture while communicating could change the entire message of what you were saying.

I will admit, I always felt a little guilty taking such a love of sound, since I grew up with a Deaf sister.  The fact that she would never hear a bird sing, a car horn blare, or even just the sound of the wind in the trees, much less funny cartoon voices, made me both doubly appreciate those funny little voices on the television as well as keep my feet on the ground, as I never wanted her to feel bad that she couldn't take part in something I enjoyed.

Sadly, I don't think voicing cartoons was ever meant to be, as my love is still there, but life simply didn't run in that direction for a possible career.  But it hasn't stopped me from having Mel Blanc as one of my all-time heroes and following the careers of voice actors both for American and Japanese animation.  Sometimes, I'll admit, I do still think about that dream and wonder.

Of course, some voice actors rise above the rest, with talent that simply makes you truly wonder if the pay scale in Hollywood is fair.  Your Maurice LaMarche, your Tom Kenney, your Frank Welker (especially your Frank Welkers), your Tara Strong and Jennifer Hale and all these other talents bring such life to drawn characters that we all have such strong ties to.  For Rob Paulsen, I know he can bring a smile to every face in a room full of people with a simple "Hellooooo, Nurse!" or "Narf!"  I've listened to him say that he's reduced people to tears with a "Cowabunga" or...well, there's a reason he regularly has to sing this at live appearances:

In his podcast, Rob tells stories of getting started in acting, tells tales of recording sessions, and, starting after a few basic Q&A episodes, starts bringing in other talent to interview.  Have you wanted to hear the story of the man who voices both Tigger and Pooh (Jim Cummings), or perhaps you want to listen to stories by June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel (95 years old and still acting!)

Every week, another great episode from Rob (who, I'll point out, doesn't get paid to make this, and is busy already doing...well, just look at that imdb page!), and each one is just as enjoyable as any before it.  The man has a genuine warmth in his voice, and just by listening you can hear both the love he has for his art and the love he has for his fans.  Every name he reads of someone with a question is handled like it's an old friend.  I'll admit, when he read my name aloud to ask my question, I almost fell out of my chair and couldn't wipe the grin off my face for several hours.

Episodes of his podcast can be retrieved from iTunes or from his own personal website.  Every episode is free, but you might notice a special event on there where a bunch of actors who played every character from your childhood got together to read "A Christmas Carol" for charity.  My recommendation: listen to a few episodes, realize just how much these characters mean to you, and then pay a dollar for some entertainment.

And as Rob always says at the end of his podcast, "Laughter is truly the best medicine; you can't OD and the refills are free."

Thank you, Rob, for all the refills, may your supplies never run empty.

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