Meandering Monday about Getting the Right Voices and Keeping Them

When I listened to George Guidall reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods some things struck me. First of all, what I take as the narrator’s true voice – and Wednesday’s – sounded remarkably like Anthony Hopkins in the Marvel Thor movies (trying not to do a spoiler here, but there’s a link between that role and one of the main characters in Gaiman’s book where the vocal similarity really stands out. Couldn’t have been a deliberate choice in the audiobook – it was released eight years before the first Thor movie.) Mr Guidall never seemed like he did much with the tone/timber of his voice – he still mostly kept that gravely quality – but his characters were all distinct, and even the females were believable. It was so clean and differentiated that I felt like I was listening to the characters instead of the narrator.

Listening to audio books in a series works better for me if all the books are read by the same narrators. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading will always be a part of what I remember of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. (Brandon Sanderson’s completion of the series seemed seamless, but I wonder if my perception was colored by having the same narrator’s who read the books that Jordan wrote.)

I feel the same about Roy Dotrice reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Unfortunately, Mr. Dotrice died in 2017. I bellyache often about Mr. Martin STILL not finishing the series, but if he ever does, they will need to find someone who can – imitate? – Roy Dotrice to read the final two books (much the way Brandon Sanderson’s writing continued Robert Jordan’s), or it may not work for me. Keep that in mind, Mr. Martin (isn’t Bill cute, thinking that George cares…)

My Significant One and I watched a Russian movie dubbed in English. She liked the movie and some of the actors so much, she found another movie with a couple of the same actors and watched it. The dubbing used for the particular actor she liked was done by a totally different person, and it was very off-putting (it even affected her opinion of the actor, even though only the dubbed vocal was disappointing. I don’t think the people who dub movies give much weight to these consistency issues.

I wonder – when movies are dubbed into other languages, do the actors have a say in who does their dubbing? It would be best if the actor themselves could dub their own voice, but not everyone can do multilingual well. What if actors had particular voice doubles (like vocal stuntmen) who always got the job of dubbing them into other languages. It would probably take some computer AI to simulate the actor dubbing in all those languages.

Dubbing has a large impact on my opinion of a foreign film. I avoid non-dubbed foreign language films – I have too much difficulty trying to read captions and follow what’s happening on the screen at the same time. My Significant One has no trouble with that – another way that she’s superior to me.

I may not have always been so deficient. I recall watching Akira Kurosawa’s Ran in a movie theater in the eighties, and I was able to follow it. Now, consider we’re talking Japanese language, English subtitles in a movie theater where you can’t rewind, AND it’s an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. So many substantial stumbling blocks, and yet I was able to get through it.

Perhaps it’s just part of the glory of aging. Just saying…

What do you have difficulty with now that used to be a piece of cake? You know where the comments go…

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Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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