If you are unaware of who Jason Harris is, there is a good chance you've at least heard his voice. If you haven't, then you are bound to with the release of the brand spanking new film Top Cat: The Movie in which he provides a plethora of voices.
Not letting go of a chance, when Jason recently tweeted about the movie, I asked him for a Twitterview (Twitter + Interview) to get to know him and his art (as a voice artist) and especially about Top Cat: The Movie, a film I'm eagerly awaiting.
Raghav Modi (RM) - Hi Jason, thank you so much for the opportunity. Now, besides voicing Top Cat, you are also lending your vocals to a number of other characters in the movie?
Jason Harris (JH) - Yes. I play Choo Choo, Brain, Griswald, Strickland, Big Gus, the Maharaja, and a few smaller roles. I had initially voiced all roles for the scratch track because the director working on it knew my work from a film called "Anyone's Hero" They initially hadn't planned to do a final English version. That idea came later.
RM - How is it shifting from one voice to another?
JH - That is a weird skill I have. I like to have characters talk to each other and did the scratch that way. Like a play reading. For the final though it was important we miked each character separately.So we would have sessions dedicated to 1 specific character at a time. As far as technique, the key is to find a way to embody each character and make it your own. Once you find that, you can call it up in an instant. But finding it initially can be tough.
RM - Top Cat has always appealed to both the young and the old with its lovable characters and cheeky humor. What appeals to you about the cartoons?
JH - All the character have a lovable silliness about them although they actually deal with serious problems. In the original especially It's about being wily with a sense of humor to overcome whatever hurdles and unfair situations life throws at you.They are easy to root for!
RM - What really drew you towards the film and made you want to do it?
JH - Well honestly I am an actor and was hired. But this was unique in that I got to play many roles, cast the others, and voice direct sessions. I would have tweaked the story and added more jokes throughout but we had to stick to what we had since it was being dubbed into Spanish, but still the thought of doing all these iconic characters was exciting and to be honest... A bit overwhelming. I would have preferred a little more time, budget and flexibility but such is the business reality of film. To do this great with this much and these constraints, we did the best we can with what we are allotted.
RM - There are always people who feel that classic films or cartoons should be left alone and not remade or turned into movies. What would you say to them?
JH - Mixed feelings honestly. They are timeless and the thought of tweaking them to introduce to a new generation is exciting. That said it is a huge challenge to keep the essence of what made them iconic and yet make it relevant. When it works it is wonderful and gives new life, but often there are stumbling blocks along the way- even in the final product. But you have to try!
RM- Tell us about some of the other films you are working on please?
JH - My bio is all over the place. I hosted Double Dare 2000 in the states on Nickelodeon, and have done hundreds of cartoons, commercials,etc. I just did small parts and directed the loop group for the new Ice Age movie.I'm doing the same for a new animated film about the Yankees. I also run a loop group in the US that supplies VO actors for TV+film. Boardwalk Empire, Smash, Damages, and Royal Pains.
RM - Being able to voice so many different characters, do you have a routine to keep your vocal chords nice and healthy?
JH - Yes! It gets harder as you get older but I've always been blessed with flexibility. I sip warm water all the time. And try to get rest before work. Plus, I practice a lot and am always drawn towards new voices and sounds and how to recreate them.
RM - Who's your favorite character from Top Cat: The Movie and why?
JH - I kind of love them all in their own way. Strickland, Griswald, and Gus were the most physically tiring. Top Cat had the most pressure to to get it as close as possible. I had lots of fun with Choo Choo and Brain and their one liners Oh and I LOVE Bill Lobley as Dibble, Bob Kaliban as the judge, and Chris Edgerly as Benny!
RM - Lastly, what can be expected from the movie for the people who grew up watching the film and for those who have never seen the cartoons?
JH - Honestly, an exciting fun effort. It was a low budget undertaking. So don't expect perfection, but from my end which is vocal performances, we had an eager, talented cast who did their all to stay true to the roles and bring them new life. I hope we succeeded for the most part.
Thank you Jason and all the best on you future endeavors.