If there’s been a consistent theme through these latest columns, it’s been a look at the voice artists that “Star Wars: Clone Wars” just wouldn’t be the same without.
Yes, there are the stars, and we do love the likes of Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter, James Arnold Taylor and what they bring to Ahsoka, Aniken and Obi-Wan. Yet would the series be the same without the likes of Corey Burton, Matt Wood, Tom Kane and Dee Bradley Baker? The answer is definitely not. Why you could do one heck of an episode with just though four guys in the recording booth.
Well, kind of. You see, Tom Kane admits he doesn’t go to Hollywood, where the series is recorded, that much. He prefers to be near his family in his home state of Kansas.
“That would be fun. I know I would love doing it. Besides, I think the more Yoda, the better,” Kane admits. “I’ll fly to Hollywood if they need something special like a behind-the-scenes thing. Otherwise I’ll stick to my home studio.”
Then again, Kane is one of those veteran voice actors you can rely on. His resume is chock full of animated characters many toonheads know and love all too well. This kind of professionalism in turn gives the man a bit more leeway than the more junior members of the SWCW cast…within reason.
“I know George (Lucas) listens to the stuff,” Kane admits. “He just doesn’t do it while we’re recording. He’s much more interested in putting it all together afterwards. Plus, you got a guy like (Supervising Director) Dave Filoni. There’s a reason George picked him. George is comfortable enough with Dave to let him handle recording the dialogue.
“Obviously there are times we do changes, and some of them even come from George. He’s done a few minor re-writes. A good example is he’ll redo a scene because it didn’t quite express what he intended. That’s normal. It happens in every production. In fact, I would say George has corrected far fewer things than a lot of other people in similar positions I’ve worked with. He doesn’t usually stir things up unless they really bother him.”
In fact, the Jedi Masters at Lucasfilm trust Kane so much, they grant him some extraordinary leeway, particularly when it comes to voicing Yoda. It can go so far as to let Kane rewrite the little green guy’s dialogue if it doesn’t fit what he thinks Yoda would say.
“At Lucasfilm we actually call it ‘Yodese,’” says Kane “The thing is I ask the writers to not put it in Yodese. Put it in straight English and let me adjust it. Even though they are fantastic writers, they don’t have an intuitive grasp on how Yoda speaks. I’ve gotten comfortable enough that they let Turn it backwards I will,” he jokes quickly switching into Yoda’s voice.
That doesn’t mean Kane can rewrite Yoda’s lines all the time.
“There’s a great story in one of the early stories of ‘Clone Wars,’” Kane recalls. “There was a script where the dialogue for Yoda wasn’t written in the correct pattern. I told the director that I thought the lines were wrong. I said let me do it the way I think it should be. The director then said we should do another version the way the writer did it, just to cover ourselves. Then Dave Filoni said lay it down, George wrote it. What could I say? If George wrote it, it was perfect.”
At the same time, Kane admits Yoda isn’t one of the easiest roles he’s ever taken. That’s because one must fill some big shoes when playing the little guy; his creator Frank Oz.
“Now with Yoda, the goal is always to make it as true to Frank Oz as possible. It’s not a similar situation. Change I do not. Yes,” Kane says, whipping a little more Yodese. “It’s a little different for me because of Yoda. With a cartoon character, in most of the cases you are doing something that’s new. There’s usually a breaking in period, then a settling in period. Listen to the first season of The Simpsons, you’d hardly recognized the voices today. It was very different.”
Another thing that’s a bit different is it doesn’t look like there will be no standalone episode starring the ultimate Jedi Master. Nothing like “Ambush” will be seen for the foreseeable future.
“There are so many stories you can do with Star Wars that they still are exploring,” Kane explains. “I’ve done a number of episodes with Yoda that have yet to air, of course. I do know Dave has said the same thing. He has told me that we do need to come up with another ‘Ambush’ sort of thing. The fans are demanding it. Many say it was their favorite episode and I’m not going to argue.”
One thing that will remain constant though is Kane as the Narrator. Love it or hate it, Clone Wars would not be the same without Kane’s seriously purple intros every episode.
“When George was growing up, that was what he was listening to,” Kane explains. “The whole concept of the Star Wars universe is from there anyway. That was an idea he had from day one, like the old Superman radio show with ‘faster than a speeding bullet!...the strange visitor from another planet!’”
At the same time, Kane admits he has a ton of fun doing it.
“Yeah!,” he exclaims. “It’s a voice that has such an odd combination, in a good way, of the 40s radio attached to a state-of-the-art animation. It certainly works. We’re going to hear the Narrator on every show. No plans to alter that.”
One thing that might be altered though is the importance of the third character Kane plays, Admiral Wulf(f) Yularen. It appears the Clone Wars survivor is going to get his own standalone episode sometime around March.
“I’ve settled in with Yularen. He is involved a bit. In many ways, he’s a new creation. [Yet] He goes back to ‘A New Hope,’” says Kane. “Now as things progress you’ll see him become more human. Over time, we’ve had him grow a bit. He’s not quite as stiff as in season one.
“There’s an upcoming episode that I can’t give too much away on just yet. You’ll learn he has a much, much deeper life than the show has let on. You’ll learn where he comes from and what has affected him over his career.
“One thing people have to realize is Yularen is not really a bad guy,” says Kane, “even if the first time we ever meet him he’s around the table with Darth Vader on the Death Star. Based on that, you would assume he was a typical Imperial bad guy.
“The example we really should use is General Rommel of World War II. Rommel obviously was fighting for the wrong side, but he was an honorable soldier. This was supported by the likes of General Montgomery of England and every American general. Every one of them had the utmost respect for him. Rommel essentially ended up being killed over his honor. The Nazi High Command forced him to commit suicide because he refused to do certain things.
“We use that with Yularen. He doesn’t change. The government around him does. He will always be the honorable officer, but the Empire is going to get more and more powerful and darker and darker. He’s a military officer. He’s also a survivor. It happens a lot in history.”
In the meantime, Kane is keeping himself exceptionally busy. He’s just been cast as Ultron in the upcoming Mighty Avengers series that apparently has started production. He’s also doing a lot of work for the Seth Green, Matt Senreich and the guys at Shadow Machine, not only on Robot Chicken but for a new series they have in development for Fox. Kane also admits he’s hoping to be called back for more work on Wolverine & The X-Men, where he was the voice of Magneto. At this moment this that’s wait and see, pending the word from Disney.
Otherwise he’s totally pleased with his work on Star Wars: Clone Wars.”
“Speaking as a fan, I couldn’t help noticing that by the end of season one we were stepping it up a notch. With season two we’ve taken it to a whole other level.”