Hollywood disrespects voice actors

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Voice actors in Hollywood aren’t receiving the opportunities they deserve. They are often passed up for “household names” to sell box office tickets, along with facing a plethora of other issues.

While voice actors have been fighting to get recognition for their efforts, celebrities that are cast in roles for animated films aren’t putting in any effort at all. In an interview for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” actor Seth Rogen revealed that he wasn’t altering his voice in any way as he portrayed Donkey Kong.

“I was very clear, I don’t do voices. And if you want me to be in this movie, it’s gonna sound like me and that’s it,” Rogen said.

Graphic by Sean Mullins.

Rogen is not the only celebrity to face backlash for working on the movie. When the cast was announced in a September 2021 Nintendo Direct livestream, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Chris Pratt playing Mario.

Pratt does have some solid voice acting experience in “The Lego Movie,” but viewers have grown fatigued with his presence in films. This came up following the announcement of him being cast as Garfield, which sparked a series of memes where people made fake announcements of Pratt being cast as different characters.

In a teaser trailer, Pratt didn’t imitate Mario’s usual accent, but it was later revealed in a Variety article why the iconic character wouldn’t maintain the same voice.

“Pratt revealed that one of his first attempts at the Mario voice got rejected by the film’s directors, Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, because it far too resembled Tony Soprano,” Variety writer Zack Sharf said.

While this does explain the change, it feels more like a copout for selecting a celebrity with a limited vocal range. It’s especially cheap when there are skilled voice actors available, such as Mario’s usual voice actor, Charles Martinet, who was cast for a smaller role. Other celebrities in the film also put in more effort, such as Jack Black as Bowser and Keegan-Michael Key as Toad.

Hollywood’s poor treatment of voice actors, however, has been present for years. The release of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has only highlighted the issues.

In June 2021, a “meet the cast” promotional video for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” introduced the Looney Tunes characters that would be in the film, but the only actor it named was Zendaya as Lola Bunny. None of the other voice actors, including Eric Bauza as Bugs Bunny, were credited. While it may seem harmless, voice actors have been fighting for years to get the slightest bit of recognition for their hard work.

“The celebrity voiceover industrial complex needs to be stopped,” Twitter user childishgamzeno said in response to the trailer. “Don’t get me wrong, I looooooveeeeeeee Zendaya … but as a fellow artist I’ve seen Hollywood disrespect voice actors way too many times on every level.”

The lack of respect extends beyond failing to credit voice actors in trailers. For years, there has been no voice acting category at most major award shows. The Annie Awards, which specifically recognizes animation, has recognized voice acting for years, but other award shows like the Oscars have not done the same.. Voice acting takes as much talent and skill as on-screen acting, so there’s definitely a need to recognize the hard work and dedication of the craft.

Aside from award shows refusing to acknowledge their talents, there’s a concern that corporations will try to replace them with artificial intelligence  in order to cut corners. Vice reported that some voice actors are being asked to sign away the rights to their voice to be used with AI, which could lead to their voices being used without proper compensation. Voice actors expressed their opinions and concerns about the future of voice acting to Vice.

“It’s disrespectful to the craft to suggest that generating a performance is equivalent to a real human being’s performance,” game and animation voice actor SungWon Cho expressed.

Although the situation may seem bleak, audiences are starting to show their discontentment for the poor treatment of the actors. Voice actors are only asking for respect, credit and employment. This isn’t an outrageous request, and it’s a shame that they are being treated as disposable.

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Elise Palmer
Culture & Lifestyle Editor | + posts