Hollywood to voice actors: The guy from The Love Guru outranks you.

Daws Butler at work.

Daws Butler at work.

First, we learned that Dan Aykroyd would, for some reason, be voicing Yogi Bear in the upcoming CGI/live-action hybrid film. Weird for several reasons, including:

  • Dan Aykroyd hasn’t been the kind of name that can sell a film for years
  • Dan Aykroyd is “retired”
  • And most important to me, Dan Aykroyd is not a voice actor.

Voice actors are a talented breed. Daws Butler made Yogi and a ton of other Hanna Barbera characters the cultural icons they are today. Since his death, a select group of voice professionals, many trained by Butler himself, have stepped forward to keep his characters alive. So now that Yogi’s going all big budget, it seems unfair to rob a working voice actor of the payday by giving the role to a semi-retired purveyor of magic skull vodka.  No offense, Dan.

But it’s certainly not the most egregious offense ever levied against our golden-throated brethren.  After all, Yogi hasn’t really had a regular voice since Greg Burson stopped working in 2004 (Google that for a truly sad tale), so recasting the part doesn’t hurt any one specific artist.

"This makes me very angry, very angry indeed."

"This makes me very angry. Very angry indeed."

Which brings us to the rumor that Mike Myers may voice Marvin the Martian in yet another half CGI/half C-list actor combo movie.  Really?   Really, everybody?  We’re cool with this?  Mike Myers, the guy responsible for what may be the least watchable movie of all time?  (FUN HOME GAME: Find a friend.  Got one?  Good.  Now refer to Mike Myers as “the guy responsible for what may be the least watchable movie of all time” and see which film your friend thinks you’re talking about.)

Yes, a man who is already immeasurably rich is going to get the keys to another dump truck full of money in exchange for what will very likely be a terrible, unresearched imitation of Mel Blanc, while Joe Alaskey–easily one of the most talented voice actors working today–continues to toil in relative obscurity.  Or, more likely and more insulting, Alaskey will end up doing one of the movie’s disposable bit characters while Myers ham-tonguedly mars (Get it?  Mars?) Marvin’s legacy.

Their love didn't follow the rules...of space.

Their love didn't follow the rules...of space.

Look.  Some of the most recognizable (and lucrative) characters in the world are cartoons.  Yet, Hollywood continues to treat the performers  who bring them to life like second class citizens.   Take a look at any poster for Space Jam (WARNING: Do not take a look at the movie Space Jam.)  You’ll see that the top-billed stars are Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny.  Oh, I’m sorry!  Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. So why is it that when the movie premiered, Michael was led into the prestigious Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, while Billy West and the rest of the voice cast were shunted into an entirely separate screening.  I mean, I get that Jordan is going to get the press attention, but were they afraid he might accidentally catch some talent if he spent 90 minutes in the same room with a voice actor?

I’ll tell you what will change things:  If the audience starts caring.  For every ten people who know Will Smith starred in Shark Tale, I want one who can name any Maurice LeMarche character.  The more Hollywood thinks you care, the more we’ll see voice actors in trailer credits and on talk shows, and the less likely Justin Long will somehow end up voicing Alvin the Chipmunk.  I dream of a day when our children’s children will line up to see Frank  Welker walk the red carpet to receive his lifetime achievement award.  And if somebody tells Tom Kenny he can’t go to the same premiere as David Hasselhoff, he can look them right in the eye and say “Fuck you, man.  I’m SpongeBob SquarePants and I’ll go any place I Goddamn please.”

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