2002 BotCon Voice Actors Panel

Participating in the panel were Neil Kaplan, Mike McConnohie, Peter Spellos, Wankus, and Dick Gautier.

The first question at the VA panel was directed to McConnohie. The fan got as far as "I have a question about Tracks..." when McConnohie interrupted him to say with a smile, "No, he's not gay." Gautier then jumped in to say, "But Rodimus Prime is!"

Kaplan had initially auditioned for X-Brawn, but they called him back to re-do his audition voice without the southern accent, and that's how he got the role for RID Optimus Prime.

Neil Kaplan filled in as Megatron for one RID episode when the Megs actor was on an extended vacation on a boat in France.

Neil Kaplan is sort of hard to figure out. The good news is that he was genuinely ecstatic about his job as Prime on Transformers, and would very much like to play more Transformers roles in the future. He seems to be very much a "fan" himself, partly of Transformers, but more of "stuff" in general. He loves cartoons, toys, science fiction, etc.. He even described how he had read some online forums when his part was announced and saw people worrying that Prime would sound like his goofy Digimon character. On the flipside, on more than one occasion during the convention he sort of went off on rants about the Armada cartoon being really horrible. While a couple of the criticisms I heard had some legitimacy, he mostly seemed to be saying "Armada suxxorz". Most of his comments didn't strike me as rational, although, admittedly, at both of the the two times I am aware of him making such comments he was drunk.

We had learned before the convention that Peter Spellos had small parts in some movies that lie somewhere between soft-core porn (like late night on Cinemax) and simple "titty flicks" (like the old "Up All Night" movies on the USA network, except without the gratuitous frontal nudity cut out). During the panel, Hooper_X (at least, it sure sounded like Hoop; I didn't bother to turn and look because I recognized the voice) started his question by saying that Spellos had done some interesting work early in his career (Spellos then interjected, "Bring it on," and made a similar gesture with his hands). Then, as a play on the old "how do I get into voice acting?" question Hooper asked how to get into softcore. Spellos explained how he'd gotten his start, and that he had worked in a lot of Roger Corman b-movies. "I've got lots of skeletons in my closet, and I'm proud of every one," he said.

The famous Sky-Byte song ("who's the baddest shark in town?") was completely improvised by Spellos. The script they had just said "Sky-Byte sings". They decided to bring the song back again in the last episode when they realized that the series closed on a shot of him.

After some question which the audience wasn't pleased with or had already been asked (I don't remember what it was) Spellos joked, "I love it when the audience heckles each other."

Spellos, as has been somewhat publicised, has a short but visible role in "Men In Black 2" as the subway operator at the beginning of the movie. He has also landed a recurring role in a new NBC series called "American Dreams" as the director of an American Bandstand show.

McConnohie was wonderful all around. Funny, charismatic, and doing great "announcer" type voices all the time.

Dick Gautier hadn't been aware that the voice work for RID was all done as ADR/dubbing, which led to some good converation between the panelists in which the differences between the two shows' recording was explained for all. Just to make sure everyone's up to speed: Recording for G1 was done before the animation, as with most American cartoons. All the actors sat together in a single room where they could play off of each other and interact. Recording for RID (and all dubbed shows where the animation was done first) is done with one actor in the room at a time, and they have to start their lines at exactly the right time -- prompted by a series of beeps -- and also end at exactly the right time, neither before nor after their character's mouth stops flapping. (Beast Wars/Machines were also done one-actor-at-a-time, although the animation came second for those shows.) McConnohie did a lot of this explaining, and shared the term "acquired animation" with us, which some of the higher-ups like people to use these days. (McConnohie thought it was silly.)

Gautier was asked about his role as Serpentor, and he gave us an enthusiastic "This, I command!". He went on to explain that it was a good line to use during B&D sex... "Put on those boots, pick up that whip... this, I command!"

Somebody asked McConnohie and Gautier about working with Frank Welker, and they both (naturally) raved about Welker's incredible talent and his good character. McConnohie told a story about a day in the studio when they had a chance for a short break between takes. During the downtime, Frank was in the back of the room and made a call on a payphone; he picked up the handset, dropped a coin in, dialed, talked, and hung up again. Except, of course, there was no payphone in the room and he had nothing in his hands the entire time. He'd done the entire charade himself.

They were also asked about Scatman Cruthers and Chris Latta. Both of them were spoken fondly of. Gautier described Latta as a man with "a lot of demons" who was too tough on himself and always very stressed out.

During G1, Wally Burr's relentless pefectionism led to the actors often being kept in the studio for very long periods of time. (I can't actually remembers the numbers, and I didn't write them down, but I believe it was as much as 10 hours at a time.) It was, apparently, largely due to Burr that the Screen Actors Guild eventually instituted time limits on how long members could be forced to work at a time.

Gautier explained that doing bad impersonations is a great way to come up with good voices for new characters.

Peter Spellos was able to call on Matt "Thylacine 200" Greenbaum by name ("Matt from Long Island") when he had a question, because they'd spoken on Friday night, and talked about living on Long Island. Also, Michael McConnohie spent a lot of time with Rik "Silverbolt" Bakke, including inviting Rik to lunch with him on Saturday. They met through Rik's series of interviews, naturally. McConnohie even introduced Rik to the other actors in a manner which suggested he'd told them all about him already. Coolies. ^_^

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