Vocal Magic

So we are coming to the end of another Guest Week and here is the well-informed opinion of a man I’ve known for over a decade.

—Written by Opinion_Invalid—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

Firstly, a massive thank you to the author of this blog – Ryan (Vagrantesque), for allowing me the opportunity to voice my personal opinions with a top-ten countdown. I have made every effort to ensure that the accuracy of the information in this article is correct, however I cannot vouch for its total reliability. Please note that I have not included every individual release that each of these voice actors have been involved in – I have resolved to simply listing the first/most appropriate film, television show or videogame from which I am familiar with their work…

No. 10 Harry Shearer

Voice of: Seymour Skinner, Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, and many more (The Simpsons)

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Harry Shearer, of This Is Spinal Tap fame, provides the voice behind a very replete roster of Springfield denizens – largely comprised of the more sophisticated male roles in the popular television series. Hugely impressive is Shearer’s incredibly diverse range of inflections individualised for each particular part, along with the remarkable ability to alternate freely between the dialogue of Mr Burns and Waylon Smithers in a single take of recording. Equally deserving of mention is Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria, both of whom dub the voices behind a mind-boggling number of characters in the show.

No. 9 Steve Ritchie

Voice of: The Announcer, Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat II)

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The uncompromising demeanour of the ruthless, taunting Shao Kahn demands an intimidating set of pipes spawned from the very gates of hell – which Steve Ritchie expertly delivers. Doubling up as the game’s announcer, Ritchie single-handedly sets the mood before every contest with his extremely low-pitched “round one, fight” intonation, and acknowledges the victor thereafter in that powerful sonorous tone – “Scorpion wins.” The Mortal Kombat series would definitely be lacking if not for Steve Ritchie’s extraordinary input.

No. 8 Lynne Litteer

Voice of: Tanya Adams (Command & Conquer: Red Alert)

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Red Alert’s capable and totally badass protagonist, Tanya Adams – voiced by Lynne Litteer – asserts herself certainly as the dominant mainstay in the virtual fictional setting. The dual pistol-wielding agent’s phrases are confidently articulated with exuberance and gusto, resulting in truly kickass dialogue in-game – “I’m there,” “cha-ching,” “let’s rock” to name some examples. In addition to Tanya, both the engineer and spy possess fantastic vocal quality and tonality; audibly enhanced further when Frank Klepacki’s adrenaline-pumping Hell March is playing in the background.

No. 7 David Hayter

Voice of: Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)

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Solid Snake – the gruff, cigarette-smoking veteran of war – speaks with a cold, raspy vocal timbre provided by the brilliant David Hayter. Considering that for the most part, players of the videogame series can expect to be silently schlepping every recess and crevasse available to avoid being spotted, the banter between Snake and Dr Hal Emmerich – known commonly as Otacon – is definitely a welcome and humorous relief from regular stealth protocol. Unique in that Solid Snake’s utterances are rather softly and calculatedly delivered, Hayter’s vocalisation suits the legendary hero’s persona to a T.

No. 6 Jim Cummings

Voice of: The Narrator (Where’s Wally? – The Animated Series)

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The animated series based on everyone’s favourite forever-elusive protagonist – the persistently concealed Wally – is superbly narrated in a very eccentric and zany style by Jim Cummings. Serving as a direct conduit between the characters on screen and the audience, Cummings’ highly unusual inflection especially counteracts the sly, devious vocal performance of Julian Holloway; who voices the cunning – albeit unsuccessful – Odlaw. It is important to note that Brad Garrett, of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, lends his amazingly deep, resounding voice to Wizard Whitebeard in the television show.

No. 5 Steven Russell

Voice of: Harold, Mister Handy/Gutsy (Fallout 3)

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Steven Russell employs an incredibly rough, laboured form of speaking to convincingly sell the unfortunate charter of Harold – the Fallout series’ melancholy talking tree. Russell’s richly engaging audible offering is bolstered by his vocal performances behind the Mister Handy and Gutsy robots, further conveying the themes of Cold War patriotism and paranoia. Despite Fallout 3’s story being inundated with irritating voices pertaining to the likes of Moira Brown, Grandma Sparkle and Alistair Tenpenny, the videogame is certainly redeemed by the fact that Ron Perlman, Liam Neeson and of course Steven Russell make a lasting, enriching contribution to the virtual experience.

No. 4 Jon St. John

Voice of: Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem 3D)

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Responsible for spawning innumerable memorable phrases such as “There’s only two ways this can end – and in both of them – you die,” the iconic character of Duke Nukem is expertly realised by the immensely talented Jon St. John. Drawing upon Clint Eastwood’s utterances in Dirty Harry, particularly the immortal “Go ahead, make my day,” Jon St. John utilises a superbly lowered pitch to voice the masculine, unashamedly ballsy protagonist in the Duke Nukem series.
“Hail to the king, baby.”

No. 3 Claudia Black

Voice of: Morrigan (Dragon Age: Origins)

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Morrigan’s sharp-witted responses to Alistair’s probing questions and her quick, punchy counterarguments to Sten’s qualms are afforded through the conduit of Claudia Black – who voices Dragon Age: Origins’ eloquent, shape-shifting mage. Black’s clean, sophisticated intonation seldom wanes nor falters, and proves tough to oppose whenever an argument escalates amongst the headstrong party members. However there is also something about Claudia Black’s delivery of the script which lingers, hauntingly so, serving to accentuate the mystic and undisclosed nature of the fascinating maleficar witch.

No. 2 James Woods

Voice of: Hades (Hercules)

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Acting as the voice behind the corrupted Hades, James Woods’ unmistakeably fast articulation and smooth free-flowing speech complements the lord of the underworld’s demeanour perfectly in Disney’s Hercules. Woods’ signature rapid enunciation is flawless, ensuring that the conspiring villain is portrayed as extremely shrewd, nimble and highly suspicious. Worthy of mention is Danny DeVito, who lends his voice to Phil (Philoctetes) in the film, brilliantly assisting in bringing the Greek mythological setting to life.

No. 1 James Earl Jones

Voice of: Darth Vader (Star Wars: Episodes IV, V & VI), Mufasa (The Lion King)

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Overdubbing the dialogue to the actions and movements of David Prowse as the imposing Darth Vader during the Star Wars films’ post-production, James Earl Jones’ sonorous tone is truly unrivalled in presence and dominance. The cutthroat villain’s lines are masterfully delivered with emotion and strength – “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am” and “Apology accepted, Captain Needa” – longstanding favourites. The stark, continual breathing, entirely enclosed helmet and ruthless attitude would not convey intimidation quite so effectively if not for Jones’ splendid vocal contribution to the character.
Equally exceptional is James Earl Jones’ handling of Mufasa’s voice in Disney’s The Lion King – which is conducted wisely and capably in Jones’ hands. The engaging, resounding timbre of Jones’s pipes carries enormous weight in the context of the film – particularly due to the majority of the plot revolving around Mufasa’s involvement in the events as they unfold. James Earl Jones presents a truly likeable and respectable character through his performance – confirming absolutely that Jones is the pertinent authority of voice acting.
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