There’s a rule in Hollywood, it’s always good to be busy. In Part One of our interview, Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt explained how long it took for them to get really busy, and how working on Naruto helped get them there. Then Yuri gave some deserved shine to Glen Murakami and Dwayne McDuffie, who picked him to be Ben Tennyson in Ben 10: Alien Force.
Of course, that isn’t all Yuri and Tara have going for them. Fans of the game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe might recognize Tara as Wonder Woman. Canadians might like to know Yuri is Bobby Drake on Wolverine & the X-Men. That isn’t all, either.
So read on, and just find out how busy these two are:
NEWSARAMA: Now what are you doing with Wolverine & the X-Men?
YURI LOWENTHAL: Well, you can watch the show if you’re in Canada. Last I heard, it will be coming to Nicktoons this January. I’m Bobby Drake, better known as Iceman.
The word of mouth has been good, so far. I’m hoping that when it comes to the U.S. it also goes over well. We recorded 26 episodes and I want to do another season.
NRAMA: You’ve worked with Steve Blum [voice of Wolverine] before, right?
YL: Many times.
NRAMA: There are a lot of people from the same circle doing the voices. It must make sessions almost like a family thing there.
YL: It is. That’s another job I love showing up for. It’s a room full of really talented people, and it’s hard to get all that talent in a room at one time, to be honest. Jamie Simone, the vocal director, is very patient with us.
Also, it’s absolutely in the line of the Marvel comics we all enjoyed. Being a fan myself, I was really impressed, in fact I was stunned, at how the creative guys kept it real. I was also stunned by the story line they came up with. They’ve gone into some deep dark places in these first 26 episodes. I got to see the first three episodes and my jaw dropped. Some of it is so close to the comic; no whitewashing or backing off of anything. It has some really difficult elements.
NRAMA: From what I understand, they are televising the show on a later time period, so they can go into more mature areas.
YL: Yeah. I was very surprised that Nicktoons took it. It took a very long time for that show to find a home in the United States. From what I understand, it was really British money that funded it. They knew they had a BBC deal, but for the longest time they had no commitment here. I was also kind of surprised when it was Nicktoons. They are not really known for superhero stuff. I guess they are now having their own superhero phase.
NRAMA: Just to be complete, Tara have you appeared on Alien Force or Wolverine yet?
Tara PlattTARA PLATT: No I have not. I would love to. I know the guys who work on the show, so it’s always possible. I’ll just wait to see how both series plays out. I’m working on it.
YL: We’re all working on it. I’d look forward to it.
NRAMA: That brings up another interesting thing. Tara, your growth has been more horizontal than Yuri’s. For instance, I noticed you do things like being a feng shui consultant. You don’t just do acting.
TP: I just love learning. The best way to put it is if Yuri calls himself a geek, I call myself a student. I love learning. I love reading and figuring stuff out. So, to keep myself active and going, I take a lot of classes when I’m not working as an actor. Then I’m basically in school. Not only am I a certified feng shui consultant, but in the last year I’ve become a certified hypnotherapist. In the end I’ve wound up with all these degrees afterwards.
NRAMA: So you collect diplomas the way Yuri collects comic books?
TP: I suppose so! [laughs].
YL: Suffice that she’s the smart one in the family.
NRAMA: Yuri how would you describe Afro Samurai’s Kuma as a character, both in the first series and how he's portrayed in the upcoming Resurrection?
YL: Kuma's huge for me. You'll get me talking a lot about that on the DVD extras for Resurrection. He's such a thrill to play. He starts out as Afro's best friend and ends up his worst enemy. I get to go to the dark places. He got me teamed up with bad men like Sam Jackson and Ron Perlman, two of my favorite guys in the business. Plus, no matter how many times they kill him, he keeps coming back. Kuma's big journey was in the first installment of Afro, not as much screen time in this one, but he plays a pretty big part in the end and he's got a badass chopper, so who cares?
You get to see a lot of him in the Afro video game which comes out the same day as Resurrection, I think. I can't wait for Jan. 27th, basically.
NRAMA: Also, considering your admitted geekdom, what was it like playing Superman?
YL: Once again, don't even get me started. I couldn't even— I still can't even — wrap my head around it. As a comic book nerd who grew up running around the yard in tights and a cape — even, you know, last week [laughs] — you play a role like that and you might as well retire afterwards. The pressure I felt going into it was immense. Like it wasn't hard enough auditioning for a role like that, but actually getting it. I don't know. I wish I could have done it longer.
Legion of Super Heroes was a really good show that fell victim to bad timing and studio mismanagement. I'm glad that team at least got to go on to Batman afterwards. Brave and the Bold is pretty damn cool. But in the end, I got to be freakin' Superman. What else is there to say?
NRAMA: What in the world is Van Von Hunter?
Yuri LowenthalYL: That remains to be seen. It's an odd project I worked on with some guys at Tokyopop. They had a manga they were trying to develop into a film, and in the casting found out that the guy in the manga is actually based on a real guy. The writers of the manga hadn't told them that…and the real guy actually shows up. They've got no real choice but to cast him. I thought I was gonna have a bigger role in the film, honestly, but they ended up spending more time on this guy. I became more of an assistant than anything. This guy's pretty wacky, like, not even really an actor. I don't know if they'll ever be able to put together a film out of what they got. The guy kept going off the rails, never learned any of his lines, and I'm pretty sure his accent was fake. Who knows, man. Half the stuff I've worked on never gets completed. You'll probably never see it.
NRAMA: Tara, I saw you are working on two other projects. What can you tell me about: playing Jade in Love Sick Diaries and Lacey in The Last Bad Neighborhood
TP: Well, when I'm not working behind a mic in voice over, my passion is acting in front of the camera, and those titles are two recent feature films that I worked on which are just finishing up and getting prepped to release soon.
Love Sick Diaries is a really edgy love story in which I play the best friend of a girl caught up in things and I attempt to help her as things spiral out of control. The Last Bad Neighborhood is a fun indie action film. I even have a fight scene in it, which is totally cool. I never really think of myself as the tough chick, and yet, here I am getting into fights, throwing my weight around and having a blast.
It is also a really interesting movie in that the filmmakers had the experimental idea of mixing comic illustrations with the action, so it almost feels like you are inside a comic book, like the characters are popping off the pages; bouncing between live action and illustrated images. I went to the cast screening at the end of last year and I am really looking forward to it getting released this year, if for nothing else than to show off my guns!
NRAMA: So what is Monkey Kingdom?
TP: Monkey Kingdom is our production company. I don’t like to be still. I like to keep a lot of things going. I also believe in creating your own opportunities, finding your own creative voice, and building your own niche. For us, what we decided is as our careers developed, if things got slow, which often happens the way the industry works, we had to assure that we had projects to work on whether we were hired by someone else or not.
So, a couple of years ago, Yuri and I decided that we should create our own production company. This way we can do film that we’re excited and passionate about. We are actually in post-production on our first feature film, which is called Tumbling After.
NRAMA: What kind of film?
TP: It’s a psychological thriller.
YL: More thriller than horror.
NRAMA: Are you guys performing in it?
TP: We took small roles in it because we like to keep working, but we’re both producing. Yuri wrote the script.
YL: It should be coming out next year. I don’t know when exactly or what venue. We’re talking to several distributors. We’re waiting to see who is interested. It’s definitely a genre festival type of film.
NRAMA: So are you trying for Sundance, festivals like that?
YL: I don’t think it’s hardcore enough for Sundance.
TP: I think it will go more towards horror/thriller festivals, which are growing all over the U.S. There are so many genre-specified festivals. I’m certain that’s a really good target market audience. We are really pleased. We think it ended up a really good movie. It’s our first movie and we are very pleased with the results.
YL: The idea behind Monkey Kingdom and doing our own shows is Hollywood can be a very frustrating place to work in. You constantly feel your career is in the hands of other people. It’s been really hard to generate our own projects. So getting this done has been very positive. It’s given us a modicum of control.
NRAMA: So are you planning to do more Monkey Kingdom projects in the future?
TP: Absolutely. We’re also talking about what film we’ll produce next year. There is a couple that we are interested in. So, by the end of next year we want to go into production on our second movie. Yuri and I have written a number of scripts. Yuri is a really good writer. So we are trying to produce some projects that we’re really passionate about.
We’re also looking at doing some things like web features. We’ve also talked to our voice acting representatives about pitching an animated project. So there are a lot of little fires going on.
YL: We’re also doing a book on voice over.
TP: We’re co-writing it.
NRAMA: Cool. I’ve seen the DVD Bang Zoom! did. It’s interesting to see all the kids who are now wanting to do that as a career, isn’t it?
YL: Every week we get an inbox full of emails, a lot of it being what does it take to get into voice acting. After a while, it gets hard to answer the same question every time.
TP: Then when a number of our friends, who are also into acting, started asking questions, we thought it was time to do the book. So we really try to break it all down, real nuts and bolts, but keep it very much our voices. We are writing it for our fans and friends, including tips and tricks we have learned over the years.
NRAMA: Speaking of roles, one of my friends who’s into gaming told me to tell you Tara that Wonder Woman does thump.
TP: Yes, she does kick butt, doesn’t she? I haven’t had an opportunity to get a copy, but someone sent me to a YouTube site that has her. When I saw it all I could think was “She’s awesome!”
YL: One thing I have to add is I don’t have the time to play like I used to, so YouTube has become one of my favorite places. It’s great to have all these people who not only play the game, but then post the characters from all the games we play on YouTube so we can see them.
NRAMA: One thing Tara, your voice is a little higher in real life. Did you lower it to play the Amazon?
TP: I did a little bit. The truth is the majority of roles I play tend to be those strong, mature kind of women. It’s what I tend to get cast in. I find it awesome because I love those kinds of roles. So I did lower my voice a little bit. Actually, how I do it is I mainly just change my attitude. I think about being a strong warrior, and that’s what mostly changes my voice. I get into the attitude. That’s what creates the voice for me.
NRAMA: Was it a satisfying project for you?
TP: It was so much fun! It’s like when Yuri got to play Superman. How can you not enjoy playing fantastic, strong, iconic characters like that? Of course, it was a little terrifying for me because they had me on phone patch with the executives from DC. Being it was Wonder Woman, they really wanted to get it right. She’s very important to them. They literally had to approve every single thing I said. That was nerve wracking. I’m glad that I got the role because I really wanted to do Wonder Woman. It definitely isn’t a sucky job. Still, it’s pretty intimidating to hear a voice on the phone criticizing you every thing that you do.
NRAMA: That sounds kind of what Richard Epcar told me he went through when he did the Joker.
YL: Richard was on Cloud 9 for so long after that role it was getting funny. Every time I ran into him he was constantly going (in Epcar’s natural voice): “Hey Buddy! Did I tell you I’m doing the Joker?” And I would have to say “Yes Richard, you told me the last ten times we met, too.”
TP: I thought he did a great job.
NRAMA: That’s funny, considering Robotech is continuing and you are now involved in it Yuri. [He’s cast as Marcus[.
YL: Yeah! It’s an amazing thing for me, too. I’ve been a fan of Robotech since I was in high school. That’s when I started watching it. I would literally cut my last class to get home in time to see it. I thought by the time I was doing voice work, that I’d miss that boat. There wouldn’t be any more new Robotech stuff. For me to get to work on that, especially under Richard’s tutelage, it was a dream come true.
NRAMA: So a new Robotech project is go, right?
YL: I think so. It might be on hold because of Warner Bros. acquiring the rights to do a feature film. So it’s kind of in a holding pattern.
NRAMA: So you might wind up working for Bruce Timm before you know it.
YL: Hey! There aren’t many better people to work for. Worse things can happen.
FUNIMATION ANNOUNCES A TON OF ACQUISITIONS
FUNimation announced over ten new acquisitions over the holidays. Here’s the rundown (all releases are 2009 unless otherwise noted):
• Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone - Directed by series veterans Hideaki Anno, Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki and produced by Studio Khara. Some call it the greatest anime series of all time.
• Gad Guard - Another popular series from the Geneon library. Directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori (Jyu Oh Sei) and produced by Studio Gonzo. The animation director was Masahiro Aizawa (Hell Girl)
• Gungrave - The supernatural anime series was created by Yasuhiro Nightow, creator of the popular Tri Gun series, and based on the Playstation 2 videogame. The series was produced by Madhouse Studios and aired in the U.S. on G4TV’s "Anime Unleashed".
• Ikki Tousen - This battle-action series is based on the popular manga comic created by Yuzo Shiozaki and inspired by the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The anime was directed by Takashi Watanabe (Slayers, Desert Punk, Wallflower) and produced by J.C. Staff Co.
• Last Exile - A personal pick for one of the best series of the decade. The action is breathtaking and the animation is dazzling in this riveting adventure epic from legendary Studio Gonzo, directed by Kouichi Chigira (Full Metal Panic!) and featuring original character designs of Range Murata.
• Nabari No Ou - The shonen drama is based on the manga series of the same name by Yuhki Kamatani and directed by Kunihisa Sugishima (Speed Grapher, Yu-Gi-Oh!).
• Oh! Edo Rocket - Edo period comedy anime series from Madhouse Studios. The series is directed by Seiji Mizushima (Fullmetal Alchemist).
• Samuruai Champloo - This samurai tale with a hip hop twist was created by Shinichiro Watanabe, of Cowboy Bebop fame, and produced by studio Manglobe. Samurai Champloo aired in the U.S. on [AS] in 2005/2006.
• Slayers Revolution - The series is directed by Takashi Watanabe, known for his direction of the previous hit franchise Slayers releases including Slayers, Slayers Next and Slayers Try. Coming in 2010.
• Soul Eater - Unapologetically surreal and action-packed, the tale of living weapons who team with human masters to hunt evil souls. Directed by Takuya Igarashi (Ouran High School Host Club).
• Vandread - This mech comedy series was directed by Takeshi Mori and produced by Studio Gonzo.
CN CELEBRATING POWERPUFF’S 10TH ANNIVERSARY
To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking Emmy-winning series The Powerpuff Girls, Cartoon Network tapped acclaimed series creator Craig McCracken, to select his favorite episodes for a 14-hour marathon from 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (eastern). This leads in to the world premiere of The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!! on Jan. 19.
"What started as a clever seven-minute student film, The Powerpuff Girls helped establish Cartoon Network as a creative force around the world," said Rob Sorcher, chief content officer of Cartoon Network. "Today Cartoon Network celebrates 10 years of the now-iconic brand and the brilliance of Craig McCracken, who continues to bring us the classic cartoons of tomorrow."
"Where Professor Utonium used sugar, spice, everything nice and an accidental dose of Chemical X to create his Girls, we used artists, writers, actors and an intentional dose of creative freedom to create a show, that to my humbled amazement still resonates with audiences a decade later," said series creator Craig McCracken.
The Powerpuff Girls' 10th anniversary special is written and directed by McCracken. It was produced at Cartoon Network Studios by the same team currently producing McCracken's Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Believe us when we say you ain’t seen nothing until you see Mojo Jojo singing ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
NINA PALEY SINGING THE BLUES
One of the most acclaimed animated feature films doing the festival circuit last year was Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues. Now it looks like a copyright issue might prevent it from ever seeing wider commercial release.
The Boing Boing website reports Paley’s film is being stopped because of its use of 80 year-old jazz songs by Annette Henshaw that were part of the soundtrack. Apparently, she used the music without getting permission to use Henshaw’s songs. Now Henshaw’s publishers are apparently asking $220,000 upfront and $15,000+ per song used.
Paley, an independent filmmaker who took three years to make the film, admits she can not afford that price. Obviously this story is far from over.
NASA GOING ON QUANTUM QUEST
Variety reports that NASA is entering the animation business.
Quantum Quest, is an independently financed 3D animated film being made in conjunction with NASA, has assembled its voice cast, which will include a pair of Captain Kirks and a pair of Darth Vaders. William Shatner, Chris Pine, James Earl Jones, and Hayden Christensen are part of the voice cast of the $10 million pic that is being financed by Taiwanese studio Digimax.
Samuel L. Jackson, Amanda Peet, Jason Alexander, Sandra Oh, Mark Hamill, Abigail and Spencer Breslin round out the voice cast. Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong also will lend his voice, marking his big screen debut.
Directed by Dan St. Pierre and Harry Kloor, Quantum Quest will debut first in IMAX then conventional theaters in late 2009.
The story centers on Dave (Pine), a photon who lives in the sun and who is drawn into a galactic battle between the Core (Shatner) and the Void (Hamill). Penned by Kloor, the film will take the audience to the outer planets and moons of the solar system. The film interweaves animated sequences rendered by Digimax with actual space imagery captured from seven ongoing space missions. The pic was initiated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the outreach program of the Cassini Huygens space mission in 1996.
Conceived by Kloor (Star Trek: Voyager), the project has been gestating since 1996, with a cast that originally included John Travolta and Anne Archer . Production on the film could not begin until the Cassini/Huygens--a $3.5 billion endeavor--reached its target and sent back its discoveries. Final images and radar data, providing a partial radar map, were released by NASA this year, enabling the film to proceed.