Why would a writer/illustrator find inspiration in a documentary about animation voice actors? All forms of creativity can help other creative people. Nothing is more empowering than hearing a whole slew of creative people discuss why they love being creative and their own creative process. That’s exactly what John DiMaggio’s documentary I Know that Voice! did for me.
I’ve been a fan of animation since I was a child and I believe many kids share a love of cartoons. Brought up with Garfield and Friends and The Real Ghostbusters as personal favorites and then adding great cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even then I knew the characters were voice actors behind mics and even noticed crossovers, like Garfield and Peter Venkman had the same voice. I loved the character voices and how much they added to the characters, so much that if they changed the voice to the wrong kind of performer it could put you off the show.
Futurama is the show that truly brought the art and skill of voice acting into full light. Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Tress McNeille, and Maurice Lamarche all voiced performers in other shows I knew. The shows’ characters were so unique I wanted to know more about them. The more I learned the more I learned the actors behind them. This led to listening to the audio commentaries for the entire series repeatedly (EVERY episode as commentaries check them out they’re as good as the show!). I remember hearing of DiMaggio’s documentary when it was still in development when he mentioned it during one such audio commentary and it immediately piqued my interest. When I saw it on Netflix I was psyched.
I Know that Voice features much of the cast of Futurama and more. The voices from Rugrats, Batman, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and even Looney Tunes all make an appearance.
You hear about how it is acting first. How doing a silly voice, or imitating a famous character is nothing…anyone can do it. In my favorite segment they clearly point out how it is not enough to sound like Porky Pig…can you do Shakespeare as Porky Pig? Followed by clips of your favorite voice actors reading a famous monologue from As You Like It.
You get to know not only the process of the actors, but of voice directors. Casting agents. How the show is assembled. How they all interact. Even the history of the art in animation (the voice recording started out with radio talent and is indeed still pays homage to its radio roots during the record.)
DiMaggio himself is present, but not overpowering, which shows his dedication to the project, as he seems to have a personality that is naturally a showman. Here he pays homage to his friends and colleagues and takes a background role. Which is another element of the voice acting population: they all seem to have reduced or lack of star ego. That camaraderie is impressive, especially in show business!
This entire process was profoundly inspiring to the creative process. My own writing and creative brain is deeply moved by the processes of others, and you won’t find a better example of a process in action than I Know That Voice! AND the extra bonus is it’s damn entertaining!