Clone Wars Weekly: Voicing ALL of the Clones

This Friday’s episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, entitled “Rookies,” is one of those chapters that displays the true potential of the series for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, there’s hardly a Jedi to be found. There’s some small cameos by Obi-Wan and Anakin, but that totals about two-three minutes. Yes, General Grievous and his army of Droids are there, but you need someone to hate.

The real stars of “Rookies” are the Clones. By that we mean Commander Cody, Captain Rex, Sarge and four, well, rookie clone troopers. More important, all seven clones are played by only one actor, Dee Bradley Baker.

That’s right. One person. Then again, Baker is probably one of the few actors who could pull it off and explains a lot towards why he’s rapidly approaching legendary levels when it comes to voice acting.

First, a little backtracking. If you need to compare Bradley to a true v.o. legend, try Frank Welker. As it turns out, both hail from Colorado. Both started in stand-up. Both also did their share of other acting work. Welker’s resume includes Scooby-Doo (and Fred Jones), Marvin The Wonder Dog, eight of the Transformers or a half dozen of the Tiny Toons. If you check out his resume on the IMDB, the total number of acting listings are rapidly approaching 600, with about 500 of them being voice work.

Sixteen years Welker’s junior, Baker is putting together an equally impressive resume. In the last year he was Perry The Platypus from Phineas & Ferb, Klaus on American Dad, about half the aliens on Ben 10: Alien Force and an ocean of characters for Spongebob. If you look up Baker’s resume on the IMDB, you’ll see his credits include over 200 projects since the data base’s earliest listing in 1992.

The way Baker caught the attention of SWCW’s supervising director Dave Filoni’s was doing all of the animal voices for Avatar: The Last Airbender. This included Appa and Momo. What Filoni had in mind for Baker though was something a bit different.

As every Star Wars fan knows, the Clone Troopers all come from one person, Jango Fett. They are also grown from one planet, Kamino. When they initially are “born,” they look and act very much alike. As they mature, they start developing their own personalities, this also includes their appearances and, more important, individual voices. So, when animating them, Filoni got the idea to use one actor, but one with the breadth and depth to voice an army of them if needed to. This often means voicing two or three of them per episode.

According to Baker, how he distinguishes each clone is by first going over the script and looking for particular adjectives in their descriptions. A good example is Commander Cody’s stalwart and no-nonsense Captain, Rex. The clone captain is a full-metal, to-the-wall type that automatically commands loyalty from his subordinates. This allows Cody to be a bit quieter, more thoughtful, but also to have a broader sense of warmth and humor.

“We start with a basic core voice like Rex, then we take into account the personality traits that are built into that character,” Baker says. “Some are younger and rougher around the edges, or older and more cynical. So we attach an adjective or two to each one, then we record each one separately, giving each character a different feel.”

“As you go through the recording sessions, you become familiar with the different feel of each character, so they really become individuals and it’s surprisingly easy to recreate each one once you’ve done it for a while. When you paint a picture or write a book, each character you create becomes this little polished thing, so when you come back to it there’s this immediate familiarity. To that end, voicing all the clones is not as difficult as it seems.”

Even more impressive is Baker does all his sessions in isolation, not even using playback to see what he did for each individual clone.

“It’s a great acting challenge to give these guys an individual sense of humanity,” Baker says. “One of the outstanding things about this series is that we’re giving the clones a sense of identity that they never had before. I think humanizing the mass of soldiers is really interesting and a wonderful addition to the storytelling.”

Now think of this, in the episode “Rookies,” Baker is doing as many as five different clones in one sequence. Aided by a punchy script by Steve Melching (“Ambush”) and solid episode direction from Justin Ridge (who also worked on Avatar), it’s one heck of a performance, one that Baker confessed he’s going to be emailing friends and family about in order to insure they see it.

Check it out tonight, and you’ll see why Baker’s so proud, too.

Next column: We move from Clones to Droids.

Related Stories:

Clone Wars Weekly 9: The Continuing Malevolence

Clone Wars Weekly 8: Continuing the Story

Clone Wars Weekly 7: Debut Week

Clone Wars Weekly 6: Writer Henry Gilroy, p3

Clone Wars Weekly 5: Writer Henry Gilroy, p2

Clone Wars Weekly 4: Writer Henry Gilroy, p1

Clone Wars Weekly 3: Creating a New Clone Wars

Clone Wars Weekly 2: From Big Screen to Small

Clone Wars Weekly 1: Director David Filoni

Movie Review: Star Wars: Clone Wars

Twitter activity