The Voice Actors of Futurama, Spongebob, Fraggle Rock, And More

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Futurama’s Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, and John DiMaggio. All photos CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle.

Some of the best panels I’ve ever been to at Dragon Con have been those featuring voice actors. Never pass up a chance at one of these, especially if it’s a panel of three or more. You never know when Pinky and the Brain will start doing Who’s on First?

This year, one of the first panels I went to featured Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, and John DiMaggio—all voice actors each with wonderful careers, but gathered here as Futurama‘s Hermes, Kif/Calculon, Amy, and Bender. (They all play various other roles as well.)

On their favorite episodes and favorite scenes that didn’t make it in

LaMarr: His favorite scenes were in “A Flight to Remember,” the episode that parodies the movie Titanic, in particular Hermes’ limbo competition.

LaMarche: “‘Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences.’” When the audience chuckled, he added, “not for that, but yeeeeessss.”

“I loved taking that one-note character that just screamed things, and then [going into character voice] whoa, there was something in that hippie… my hands are, like, huuuuge… and they can touch anything but themselves… Putting him through this mid-life crisis arc–I loved playing that episode. Plus I got to work with Katee Sackoff. She’s such a wonderful actress.”

As to a favorite scene that didn’t make it, he named the episode “Calculon 2.0,” in which there was supposed to be a scene where they activate his acting unit. “They turn up the Shatner,” LaMarche said. “It’ll be on the extras. And then they turn up and turn down Peter O’Toole. They had to balance all the ham circuits until he was Calculon again.”

Tom: “All my favorites are episodes where Amy hooks up with other characters,” she said. LaMarche chimed in in the voice of Kif, “Amy, how could you!?”

DiMaggio: “My favorites are ‘Luck of The Fryish’ and ‘Jurassic Bark.’ And ‘Amazon Women on the Moon.’ A little death by snoo snoo. That’s a good way to go out.”

On their favorite cartoons growing up

LaMarr: “Bugs Bunny. My favorite cartoon-no, actor—is Bugs Bunny.”

LaMarche: “I always dug the Bullwinkle cartoons. I think that was the first time I picked up a voice *like that.* But I had to do it like this [puts up hand antlers]. Huge fan of Looney Toons, too, but when I could do Bullwinkle, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I could go to Hollywood and do cartoon voices.'”

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Tom: “I like The Jetsons. I still have all the toys.”

DiMaggio: “I loved Scooby-Doo. Also the Super Friends. [in-character voice] Meanwhile in the Hall of Justice, Batman and Superman try to figure out their relationship!

Hey, that’s the voice of that guy… from that other thing we watch!

A few weeks ago, I interviewed DiMaggio about his current role in Pound Puppies, and he mentioned an in-progress documentary about voice actors called I Know That Voice. During the Futurama panel, DiMaggio showed a clip of the film and announced that the first cut of it was for sale at the con. (Keep an eye on GeekMom for a future review of the full film.)

No, I haven’t finished those errands!

Many voice actor sessions are held as a panel, but there are a few actors who can more than hold the audience alone, including Rodger Bumpass, most known today as the voice of Squidward on Spongebob Squarepants. He’s also the voice of Professor Membrane in Invader Zim, Dr Light in Teen Titans, and has had roles in assorted Disney and Pixar movies, most recently, Monsters University.

He’s an incredibly friendly guest who happily provided fans voice mail message recordings and responded to an audience member’s, “Have you finished those errands?” with a prompt angry-Squidward, “NO, I have NOT finished those errands!” as if rehearsed. (Or perhaps as if this happens on a fairly regular basis for a guy whose natural voice isn’t that far from Squidward.) And because many of the questions in that panel were (enjoyably!) Squidward-targeted and answered as Squidward, I’ll let Bumpass himself tell you more:

 

Down in Fraggle Rock

I couldn’t even count how many actors whose roles I’ve enjoyed whom I’ve seen on panels (and in elevators and bars) over more than a decade of Dragon Con and other events. But none has made my inner fangirl as happy as meeting Red and Mokey Fraggle and their puppeteers this year. (Sorry, Nathan Fillion. You can’t win them all.)

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Mokey, Kathryn Mullen, Fraggle Rock co-creator Michael Frith, Red, and Karen Prell.

Karen Prell (the hand and voice of Red), Kathryn Mullen (hand and voice of Mokey), and Michael Frith (co-creator of the show) came together to talk about the show and its 30th anniversary. Like I’m sure it was for many of my age, Fraggle Rock holds exactly the place in our hearts that it was designed to. It was created as a story about the interconnectedness of humanity (well, Fraggles), both with one another and with their environment. Frith described it as “the first weekly half-hour musical comedy drama with puppets.” And while for us as kids, it seemed like a simple and delightfully musical world, it’s possibly one of the most challenging shows ever put together, with an impressive budget behind it. They would have up to 18 puppeteers in a shoot, filming for three days, as opposed to the now-common one. That’s in addition to the day of recording music, doing read-throughs and other rehearsals, etc. The crew is still close and recently gathered 100 people for their 30th reunion.

After answering a few questions as themselves, Prell and Mullen produced their respective Muppets from under the table and in an instant became their characters again.

“Do you still receive fan mail from kids newly discovering the show?” asked an audience member.

“What’s a fan?” Red asked Mokey. “We do get mail from Uncle Travelling Matt.”

Did I mention Pinky and the Brain?

If somehow you’re still unconvinced of the fun that is a voice actor panel, I’ll just leave you with this:

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.