Interview: John DiMaggio and Exclusive Pound Puppies Clip

Pound Puppies image courtesy of Hasbro Studios
Pound Puppies image courtesy of Hasbro Studios

John DiMaggio’s much-loved voice will be coming through your TV in the upcoming premieres of two original animated series on Hub Network, Pound Puppies (as Niblet) and Kaijudo: Clash of the Dual Masters (as Master Nigel Brightmore), both returning with new seasons in June.

DiMaggio is, of course, most known to Futurama fans as Bender Bending Rodríguez, Sr. But it would be hard to find a geek who wasn’t a fan of something he’s been a part of, whether it’s Princess Mononoke (Gonza), Gears of War (Marcus Fenix), Batman: Under the Red Hood (The Joker), Pirates of Silicon Valley (Steve Ballmer), or a small but memorable role in Wreck-It Ralph (Beard Papa).

Pound Puppies is entering its third season, based on the toys and television show from the 80s but with an updated look. With the motto, “A pup for every person and a person for every pup,” they run Shelter 17, an operation under the pound that helps match dogs with new homes. Last year it won a HUMANITAS Prize for excellence in writing for children’s television animation. (Watch an exclusive clip of the season three premiere at the end of this post.)

Pound Puppies has a fantastic cast full of geek-favorite voices. Alanna Ubach (Strudel) was Liz Allan in The Spectacular Spider-Man (and was Josie on Beakman’s World!). René Auberjonois (Lenard McLeish) we loved as Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, among so many other roles. (Betty White voices his mother, Agatha McLeish!) Cree Summer (Cupcake) is another voice-of-so-many, including Penny in Inspector Gadget and Elmyra in Tiny Toon Adventures. And I’m always happy to see Michael Rapaport or Eric McCormack in a cast.

Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters, entering its second season, is a part of the Duel Masters franchise, including the related CCG from Wizards of the Coast. It stars a boy named Ray who can summon a myriad of creatures from a parallel dimension. He and his friends join the Duel Masters to save the creatures from the evil Choten who wants to enslave them.

Kaijudo‘s voice cast is also full of familiar sounds. It’s led by Scott Wolf (Ray) of Everwood and V. You’ve heard Phil LaMarr (Gabe) in Metal Gear Solid, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Samurai Jack, among so many other things. Add Dee Bradley Baker (Master Jaha) to the list of “more voices than we can name,” although my favorite is probably Perry the Platypus in Phineas and Ferb. (Can you make that sound? I can’t!) Oded Fehr (the Choten) you know from V, Charmed, The Mummy, and the Resident Evil movies. Kari Wahlgren (Allie) has voiced Emma Frost and done quite a bit of anime work.

I talked to John DiMaggio about his part in Pound Puppies as well as his long history of work:

On Pound Puppies

It’s a funny show. I enjoy doing the show. It has a great cast, and it’s a lot of fun. Alanna Ubach and Yvette Nicole Brown and Eric [McCormack] are great. Michael Rapaport, who knew, right? Michael Rapaport flew in and did it, he’s really funny. And René Auberjonois, that guy is doing everything! It’s all great. It’s a show that most kids and parents can watch and enjoy. It’s got something for everybody.

On his own “Pound Puppies

I have Francesca and Monique. They sound like French prostitutes, but that’s OK. They’re not French prostitutes. I rescued them. One of them was named Monique and one was Dominique. That’s a lot of -iques. So I said, I like Monique for this one, and that one’s Francesca. They’re good girls. They’re almost three, and they’re sweet, sweet girls. I love having them.

The last time we did a round of press [for Pound Puppies], we took pictures with our dogs and cats–any animal that we have–and a lot of people on the show have pets and rescues. I encourage everyone to go out and adopt a dog or cat. I have two dogs and two cats. When my girlfriend and I moved in together, she had two cats. It was the animal Brady Bunch is what happened over here. I got a zoo somehow.

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If your Brady Bunch of animals got cast in Pound Puppies, who would you get to voice them?

I’d do them all myself and pay myself quadruple scale. *laughs* It would be fun, and that goes along with the show–matching puppies with their human counterparts.

On his favorite childhood cartoons

I’ll be 45 this year, so I was a 70s kid. I loved Super Friends. Super Friends were my favorite. Gosh, what else? Scooby-Doo, of course. Hong Kong Fooey! Back in the early 80s, they did a Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. That was pretty funny. Just Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and all that. The old things we used to watch after school. Johnny Sokko. Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot! It was Saturday mornings! Schoolhouse Rock, Scholastic Rock, Multiplication Rock, all the things that rock.

There’s a plethora of channels now. Could you imagine? I’d never have left the house if there were 14 channels to watch cartoons on.

On comics

When I was a kid, there was only one comic book I had. I love it, and I got a series of them, and I wished I saved them. It was the Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man. There was one particularly unbelievable issue. I think it was 1976, ’77. It was Spider-Man and The Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players. It was awesome. It was against the Silver Samurai, and he was the bad guy. Something had happened where John Belushi got something sent to him, but the address got smudged, and it was for a Mister Lu-Shi. It was sent to Rockefeller Center, and John Belushi got it… it was pretty funny. And Peter Parker went to the taping [of Saturday Night Live], and our boy was the host, the grand creator of Spider-Man, Stan Lee was the host! It was great. The whole cast dressed up as superheroes to fight the Silver Samurai. That was my favorite one. I’ve yet to be at a convention and find that [due to always being busy with commitments at the convention]. If I could find that, that would be the greatest thing ever.

[Note to John: When you go looking for it, it’s Marvel Team-Up Vol 1, #74 from October 1978.]

When I mentioned Chicago Hope…

It was a great show to work on. Everybody was good. Adam Arkin, such a great guy. Hector Elizondo was awesome. He was awesome. Hector Elizondo was one of the coolest guys. He was friends with my first acting teacher. He worked on a soap opera called The Doctors with her. And I really didn’t know that–I kinda knew that they knew each other. But I show up for the first day of work, and he looks at me, and he goes… “1980… 1980.. Newark, New Jersey, Peppermint Players.” That was the company I was in! That was the first day on the set, and it blew my mind. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. He is the consummate professional Every time I see him, he goes, “Qui cosa fai?” (He talks to me in Italian.) Such a sweet man. Such a wonderful, wonderful actor. One of the greats. That’s the thing. I started out here doing that, and then I started auditioning for animation stuff. I was doing voiceovers for NY when I was out there, but Chicago Hope brought me out to Los Angeles, and that’s how I started doing animation stuff. That’s all there really was. There wasn’t a lot of advertising stuff. That was all in New York. Then I started booking stuff here.

On his favorite roles

I loved doing Futurama. You know, listen, I loved them all. It’s like picking your favorite kid–you can’t because you leave out all the others. Any job I’ve had, the work was hard but good. But that’s the kind I like. They’re all a lot of fun. It’s a joy doing what I’m doing. It’s a lot of fun. I’m really fortunate to do what I do. I get to play–I get to work and play at the same time. That’s just awesome.

On his next project

I’m executive producing a film right now called I Know That Voice. We’re in the last two weeks of post-production. We already have about 1,500 pre-orders of the DVD on IKnowThatVoice.com. We’re really excited. Hopefully it’ll be available over the summer or at the end of summer. We just have to find somebody to work out the distribution deal. I think it’s going to be the Bible for people interested in voice acting. It’s exciting! I’m thrilled! And the majority of the people in Pound Puppies and Kaijudo, we have–we’ve interviewed them. The film is everything you wanted to know about voice acting but were afraid to ask.

But on the fact that IMDB says he’s voicing Wolverine in the upcoming Deadpool game

No, I’m not Wolverine! Ha! I think I’d know if I was Wolverine!

On voice work

The joy of this job is to be able to do completely different, even diametrically opposed characters. That’s the joy of it, the fun of it, the challenge of it. It’s really a blast to do. I love being able to play like that. As an actor, to make those choices, different directions and different characters, to be able to pull it off–that’s the name of the game. And that’s what I love about doing voiceover for animation. I just love it.

Plus people–that’s the whole thing of I Know That Voice. People freak out when they find out I’m Bender and Marcus Fenix [in Gears of War] or Nigel in Kaijudo and something silly like Rico in Penguins of Madagascar. To be able to have that kind of range and work that muscle–that’s the biggest joy I get out of my job. It’s pretty awesome. I’m really excited to be able to flex that muscle.

Pound Puppies premieres on Hub Saturday, June 1, at 9 a.m. ET. (Its regular time is 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays.) Kaijduo premieres in its usual time slot on Friday, June 21 at 6:30 p.m. ET. Watch our exclusive clip of Pound Puppies from the first of two back-to-back premiere episodes “Working K-9 to 5,” courtesy of Hasbro Studios:

By day, Ruth works to make open source software communities better. The rest of the time, she makes things, which means her husband and kids know to watch out for stray sewing pins and to ask before eating anything made of fondant.