Monday, July 10, 2006

Saving the dub

Not too long ago, 4Kids declared that it was backing out of producing the Pokémon animé series, instead leaving it all to Pokémon USA. At first this was greeted with exuberance because of the changes to the storyboard and dialogue that 4Kids tried to make in order to Americanise the dub — which was partly the reason, when I finally realised it, why my interest in the animé itself dropped away. But if there were to be any improvements to the rendition of the animé outside Japan, it would have come at an arguably great cost: When 4Kids left, it wanted to take Veronica Taylor, Eric Stuart, Addie Blaustein, and some other voice actors with them.

According to Animé News Network, the old actors, save for Erica Schroeder, were wiped off the board. Ikue Ootani, off for maternity leave from what I heard, had to turn the Pikachu voice over to Shinichiro Miki but will probably return for the voice if Pokémon USA allows. Veronica Taylor, the voice of Ash, was replaced with Jamie Peacock. Exit Eric Stuart, the voice of Brock and James, enter Bill Rogers. Rachael Lillis — Misty, Jessie, and May — had to give way to Michelle Knotz. Addie Blaustein (Meowth) had to give up her seat to Jimmy Zoppi. Compared with the original actors, from reports I read, the new actors were wanting, even with attempts to emulate the original actors, but since I haven't seen the movie in which this change was introduced, Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon, I can't really say whether I like them.

So when it became clear that the removal of 4Kids would cost them most of the original voice actors, all of which (except Erica Schroeder and Ikue Ootani) were signed under the 4Kids contract and could not be transferred, the campaign to 'save the dub' started. Now, I admit that when I first saw the topic on PKMN.NET, I put my signature down for a rudimentary petition before I realised why the change was taking place. Since then, I've pretty much regarded the subsequent campaigns on the Pokémon Community, Pokébeach, and with little more than disgust — to put it short, everyone wanted to have the cake and eat it too. Apart from the fact that most of the protests were occuring on the Internet and few responses actually got to the offices of Pokémon USA and 4Kids, I was able to determine that the campaign was both ill-fated and bound to last no more than a few months. Some still have banners in their former signatures, echoing their call of sedition.

Why there was no point in having this whole hootenanny with the voice actors comes down to a few good reasons.

  1. As I mentioned before, the protests were conducted over the Internet more than via snail mail. And as for the snail mail, chances were high that such letters, due to paratactical reasons, would never get to the people responsible for the actor changes.
  2. The only indicators of progress apart from updates on respectable websites were emails claiming to be from the old and new voice actors, the former sort congratulating everyone for their solidarity against the change and the latter sort discouraging others from going any further. Exceptions to this rule were present, though; in one email Addie Blaustein claimed to have been pleased with Jimmy Zoppi's characterisation of Meowth.
  3. The fact that Taylor and company were under a contract that prevented them from defecting to another contract was largely ignored. It was technically impossible to keep the voice actors because there would have been legal reprehension that might have cost both parties more than just adapting to the change.
  4. There are other examples that demonstrate how such changes could be beneficial for the franchise. One is Scooby-Doo. The first episodic series, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, and Scooby-Doo (featuring Scooby-Dum, the white-coloured relative of Scooby) had 89 episodes between them all, compared to more than 400 for Pokémon prior to the voice-actor change, when they ran from 1969 to 1979 and still remain popular as the cornerstone of the surviving Scooby-Doo franchise. Then popularity fell when the next seasons gradually omitted Fred, Daphne, and Velma, leaving Shaggy and Scooby with Scooby's cousin Scrappy-Doo, and popularity resumed only when the older episdes containing the original characters were re-aired. Using this as an analogy to the Pokémon voice actors, Pokémon USA will agree to re-broadcast the episodes using the older voice actors once popularity fades enough due to the quality of the new actors, just as the quality of Scooby-Doo episodes diminished when characters were removed. In other words, the voice actor change could turn older episodes into classics and inherently be better for everyone!
Now, I realise that this is bound to touch a major nerve in the world of Pokémon and am publishing this rant in the fear of receiving hate mail in response. However, as James had said about politics, you have to take a side knowing that you're ready to give your all to defend it. Here, though, it was a matter of people being so stubborn that they missed the details altogether and overall refused to take the good with the bad.


Lucy said...

Yep I heard about the new voice actors taking the place the old ones. At first I was kinda of upset. I was soo used to the old voices for about seven years. And when 4Kids gave up the license and give it to Pokemon USA, I was thinking maybe this will be good. The voices will be good, nope. When I watched the special I cringed, but it can't change the fact the voices will be used for the new season. I know they will get better. Hopefully. Now the net has gone out of hand with the changed voices thing. There were petions and everything. Now that too me that is out of control. Those will will never work. But anyway...I will still watch the anime. It was the first anime I got into and it isn't stopping. But I might not get into it as I was. I will be watching the Japanese version a lot. I will give it a chance.

Jazzu said...

I am glad to see that some people have been looking at this SOVA thing rationally. The non-competition clause in the old VA's contracts does prevent them for going to work at Pokemon USA. (The reason that VA's like Jimmy Zoppi can work on the new dub is because they chose to leave 4Kids) SOVA has become less of an orginized and mature protest, and more of a holy terror upon the community. And if you look at pokebeach, you will find a clip of the new re-dub of Mastermind, the voices have improved 200% from the first time.

Robcore™ said...

You know what will happen, don't you? They'll knock the series off when the D/P version comes out, and so then they'll not need to emulate them.

Could be wrong, but it's just an idea. As for the actors, I was upset at first for their jobs, but after reading why it's happening, I'm alright with it.