Toonarific Interviews
- Bob Bergen

August 29, 2003

Voice Actor Bob Bergen is now the current Porky Pig!

These guys are awesome! Insomniacmania.com recently contacted us regarding an interview they did with Bob, and asked if we would be interested in posting it here. Well duh?! Of course we would. This interview is incredible, so make sure to not only read it, but to visit Insomniacmania.com for more great interviews and a ton of other goodies. Do it!!!

Voice Actor - Voices for Warner Bros, he usually takes on Porky Pig, but has been known to portray Marvin and Tweety!
Voice Actor - Voices for Warner Bros, he usually takes on Porky Pig, but has been known to portray Marvin and Tweety!
Voice Actor - Voices for Warner Bros, he usually takes on Porky Pig, but has been known to portray Marvin and Tweety!

Synopsis - Bob Bergen, always wanted to be Porky pig since he was at the age of 5. Ironically enough a phone call to the man who played him back then (Mel Blanc) lead Bob into the world of voice overs. We were very fortunate for Bob to answer our questions and so he did very generously with great enthusiasm! Please continue to read the interview for Bob is more than "Just Another Pretty Voice."

Bob Bergen - InterviewQuestion - What inspired you to become a voice artist? Even from a young age there are reports of you imitating voices and perfecting Porky pig instead of doing school work?

Bergen - I wanted to be Porky Pig since I was 5 years old. I loved cartoons, and seemed to have a knack for imitating characters. I use to tape record cartoons and memorize em. I figured out at an early age the "pattern" or "formula" for Porky's stutter. Even though my voice hadn't changed, and I didn't sound exactly like the character, I learned his personality. In school when asked a question by a teacher I'd answer like the teacher. I got in ooodles of trouble, but didn't care!! I was having way too much fun!!

Bob Bergen - InterviewQuestion - Originally from Cincinnati, your family relocated to LA when you were 14. It was due to your father's new job up there. How excited were you in moving to the place that you knew could fulfil your destiny?

Bergen - I was ecstatic!! Los Angeles is where I knew I needed to be to pursue animation, but I always figured I'd get here as an adult. The day after we arrived I got hold of the yellow pages and started calling every animation company in the city to find out how to get into voicing cartoons.

Question - What made Mel Blanc, your ultimate idol? Which cartoon characters that Mel voiced, were your favorites? I always liked his work as Barney from the Flintstones. His laugh is classic!

Bergen - The fact that he did so many different characters made him my idol. Porky, of course, is my fav! Since I studied his work I figured out which voices weren't his, such as Elmer Fudd, The Roadrunner, Granny, etc. I also figured out that they would speed up his voice for many of his characters. If you slow down Daffy you hear Sylvester's voice. BUT-it's Daffy's personality. Mel Blanc was amazing because of his acting. The voices at times were similar, but the personalities were all varied. And yes, I always loved the various laughs Mel gave to his characters. He seemed to consistently give them all a signature laugh. The early Bugs Bunny had a laugh a la Woody Woodpecker, whom Mel created for Walter Lantz years later. Daffy's "woo-hoo", Porky's lil giggle, and yes Barney Rubble's laugh, are all evidence of his amazing acting abilities.

Question - How many contacts did you have to sift through before getting solid details on how to get into the voice over world? Hanna Barbara referred you to Bob Lloyd, who at the time had the only voice casting office in Los Angeles called The Voicecaster. What happened next?

Bergen - Bob Lloyd referred me to Daws Butler, who did almost every voice Mel didn't. Where Mel was king at WB, Daws was king at Hanna Barbara.

Question - You studied with Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear! What techniques did you learn at this time and what tips did you get from Daws?

Bergen - Daws was the person who taught me it's all in the acting, not the voice. Good acting will support the voice. Daws also taught that physically playing the character brings it to life. He was an amazing, talented man.

Question - How have you changed Porky or any of the other characters you now portray? Like Mel have you given any of the characters new signiture attributes?

Bergen - Well, I hope I haven't changed Porky at all. My goal is to try to keep the character as unchanged as possible. What has or might change is Porky will be in different situations then he has in the past. Duck Dodgers has expanded his role a bit from the original short, so he has more presence. But he's the eh-suh-seh-eh-same pig as before!!Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - You did not even get to meet the cast of Space Jam at the premier of the movie? Does it ever annoy you that your face is usually not seen by the camera? Do you sometimes feel other actors look down on you even though you kind of acted with them?

Bergen - I wasn't even invited to the premiere of Space Jam!! Us voice folk don't usually get to be included. They like to reserve the seats for actors whose faces are well known for the paparazi. I did eventually get to go, but had to beg my way in. As of this writing I'm told the voice actors aren't invited to the premiere of the new Looney Tunes movie Looney Tunes: Back in Action. This angers me more than my face not being seen. But it's still early. Maybe someone will try to get us in!!!

Question - You portray the character Masaru in the Anime movie Akira. That is one weird film, what did you think when you read the script or your dialogue in the movie?

Bergen - LOL!! I thought exactly what you did!! It IS an odd yet brilliant film. But it's become a classic!!!!!! And I understand a live action version is in the works.

Question - You voiced Bucky in the Emperors New Groove, what was it like to work along side David Spade and John Goodman? Bergen - I never met either of em!!! All of our lines are recorded separately. But with good editing it looks like we were right next to each other recording our dialogue.Question - I'm curious why did you take on more anime/puppet projects before voicing for Looney Tune characters? Lupin and Wembley (Fraggle Rock)?Bob Bergen - Interview

Bergen - LOL!! Because I had bills to pay!!!!! Most on my VO work to this day is non-Looney Tunes related.

Question - You revoiced for Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Basketball Diaries? What was wrong with his voice at the time? He is an annoying actor, could you please replace him? Bergen - I revoiced him in the TV version so they could replace the dirty stuff. They actually tried him first, but his voice had aged too much since they filmed the movie. He actually did a great acting job in Diaries. It was a challenge to match his performance.

Question - It's a sticky, you can either play an over hyped 8 pac manga hero or a looney crazy toon. I'm sorry to keep going on about anime, but Teknoman! What was it like to play "Slade/Teknoman"? Do you also do special affects for the cyborg like character? Bergen - Slade/Teknoman was one of my favorite roles. I loved his dark, brooding side!!! We recorded 40+ episodes and UPN only aired 26 of em. I'd love to see some network air them all!!! I'm not sure which cyborg character you refer to.Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - You have also revoiced for Kevin Dillon and Willem Defoe for the movie Platoon. Were you ever asked to voice the "Green Goblin" since it was Dafoe who played him, in the last Spider-man movie? Would you ever consider it for a computer game?Bergen - I've never been asked to revoice Defoe in a Spiderman project. That would be a challenge since what I did was revoice his natural voice. His Goblin voice was very different. Not sure if I'd be the right choice.

Question - For the following several years you studied voice acting and acting in general. What was it like to actually watch your idol Mel Blanc record a project for Warner Brothers? What did voice did he perform and for what cartoon?

Bergen - Watching Mel Blanc work was like a dream come true. I actually got into the session after calling him on the phone. I was 14 and had just moved to LA. I found his number in the phone book under his wife's name. During our chat he mentioned he was currently recording an ice show with the Looney Tunes characters. (by the way, I taped this conversation and recently found it in a drawer. The conversation will be up on my website soon!!) I took note of the studio he was working at, and after I hung up called the studio to "confirm" Mr. Blanc's session for that week. I sorta played like I was Mel's personal assistant. The studio gave me Mel's recording schedule and I ditched school to watch him record. He sat in a chair at the mic. In one hand he had a cigarette and in the other oxygen. He'd go back and forth from one to the other. By the way, this recording was done in the late 70's. Marvin the Martian was named Marvin. In the old days at WB he had no name. Chuck Jones called him Antwerp because he looked like a little ant. In this show that Mel was recording his name was Antwerp. It wasn't til the 80s that he was named Marvin so they could market the character with toys, dolls, etc.Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - Actor/producer Casey Kasem is a good family friend of yours. He was the one who helped you set up your first agent. Are you still in contact with Casey? What other projects have you guys worked on over the years?

Bergen - Actually he was a good friend of another family friend. They had Casey send me an autograph picture for my high school graduation. I sent him a thank you note, mentioned I wanted to do voices for cartoons, and included my phone number. He called me up and had me make a home made demo, which he gave to his agent. His agent signed me and that's how I got my professional start. I see Casey from time to time. I'm one of dozens he's helped get started in the biz. he's a very generous man!!

Question - Don Pitts received one of the demo tapes you made for Casey and soon after you were in the studio to work on your first cartoon, Spiderman and his Amazing Friends! What was it like to be working with other talented voice artists like Neil Ross and Christopher Daniel Barnes?

Bergen - This wasn't the Spiderman series with Chris Barnes. This one was Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, which was about 10 years before the version Chris did. Course I did work on that version as well. The Chris Barnes Spiderman was great!!! Those were some of the best scripts ever written for animation.

Question - What voice work did you do in the Spiderman series?

Bergen - For both shows I just did guest roles. For the Chris Barnes version I played Ned Leeds, who's well known my Spidey fans.

Question - You have also been a student of improv? What exactly is that about?

Bergen - Improv is unscripted theater. It involves a variety of exercises in which an actor must create as they go along in a scene. It teaches you to make quick decisions. I think improv is the best training any actor can have!!

Question - The voicing of Looney Tunes did not come about for you until 1990. You joined a handful of other actors to voice Porky, Tweety, Marvin the Martian, Henry Hawk, Sylvester Jr., and Speedy Gonzales in a variety of different projects. How were you contacted to become part of the franchize?! What was your initial reaction? Where you skeptical at first?

Bergen - I'd sent WB tapes for years. The first project they did after Mel died was Tiny Toons. WB had held many auditions looking for actors to take over the Looney Tunes. After many auditions they now have a small handful of us to do the toons. We all can cover each other, which is why you'll see different names doing the same characters. Sometimes it's a financial reason, sometimes it's a producer's choice. I was never skeptical, just very grateful!!! It's a dream gig!

Question - You quit Universal to pursue your acting career. You used to work there as a tour guide. How has Universal changed over the years and when you were there did you used to throw in some impressions to entertain the tourists?

Bergen - Universal is more like an amusement park now. When I was a guide 20 years ago it was a working studio first, and a tourist attraction second. I did on occasion throw in voices from time to time. I'd worked on a film called Gremlins which was filmed on Universal's backlot. I'd often throw a few gremlin voices in as we traveled through.

Question - At Universal you often had the chance to watch the filming of movies and TV shows during your lunch breaks'. What productions did you see being made?

Bergen - Hmmm..let's see. Knightrider, Murder She Wrote, Voyagers, Psycho 3, Back to the Future, etc. I was on that backlott most of my days off to observe and learn.

Question - Which of the directors did you beg, to get them to listen to your vocal talent? Which one actually gave you a part to play and what was it?

Bergen - I would knock on the casting director's doors almost everyday asking to read for something. Mark Hirschfeld, who was casting The Facts of Life at the time, asked me "If I let you read for something will you leave me alone??" I read, booked a gig, and ended up doing about 4 episodes.Question - Your resume now consists of 100's of cartoons and commercials, and computer games as well as on camera stints on such shows as The Facts of Life, Days of our lives and Gimme a break. How important do you think commercials are in getting that big break? Did you get to walk away with any of the products you advertised?

Bergen - Commercials are the day to day work in voice-over. Many people make a great living just doing commercials, so they really won't lead to a big break. They will, however, allow one to make a living while pursuing other aspects of the biz. I think the only product I got to walk away with were coupons for Del Taco.

Question - How vital is it to have a good demo tape? How did you get yours done?

Bergen - First of all, demos are now on CD, not tape. A demo is your calling card. You have to have one to get an agent, work, etc. I did mine the same as everyone. I hired a producer when I was ready, laid down the tracks, and the producer edited my first demo. With websites and the internet I think the days of sending out 100s of demos is long gone. People can access the top talent on sites like voicebank.net. Mine are on my website, and it's very easy to just e-mail the link rather than having to snail mail it.

Question - Your acting ability was rewarded by an invitation to the White House, due you participation in Mrs. Bush's literacy program. You were asked to play Sylvester Jr for her radio program called Mrs Bush's story time. What was your initial reaction to the invitation and appreciation from Mrs Bush for your voice talent as Sylvester Jr?

Bergen - I thought the invitation was a joke!!..til I called the number to RSVP. It was a thrill to go to the White House!! I took my Mom and we had a blast!!!!! I stuffed my pockets with paper towels with the presidential seal on em from the men's room to give away as souvenirs when I got back.

Question - What was the Presidents desk like? Did you see a red button or accidentally press anything with a similar description there?

Bergen - LOL!! I didn't get close enough to see the buttons.Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - You were casted as the game show host of the children's version of Jeopardy, JEP!? How did you find working with children? Do you have any memorable moments on set?

Bergen - Jep! was a blast!! It was probably the hardest gig I ever had. The host of a gameshow has to keep the game going, keep track of the score, etc. It's very involved. The kids were great!!! Lots of fun!!! My most memorable moment was when a kid tried to bargain for a bigger prize. This was fun!! The producer kept shaking his head "no" and the kid kept on trying...all while the camera was rolling.

Question - You also worked at the annual Hollywood Christmas parade for ten years. Your job consisted of spending two hours prior to the parade warming up an audience of literally hundreds lined up and down Sunset Boulevard. You can be seen in your portfolio interviewing famous artists like James Stewart, Halle Berry and Mr T!? What were they like in person and who else took your interest?

Bergen - The parade was fun because everyone is there with a lot of holiday spirit. The first year I did the parade James Stewart was the grand Marshall. I was thrilled to be able to interview him. The interviews aren't that long since the celebs are all in moving cars. But you try to get as much quality time as possible while they move down the street. Over the years I did have some interesting experiences/bloopers. Roseanne slugged me because I called her Roseanne Barr and she'd just married Tom Arnold. I called Lou Gosset Jr. Montell Willimas. I called Mayor Tom Bradley Mr. Belvedere. (the script had him in a different location in the parade). But hey-it's live entertainment which adds to the fun.

Question - Did the crowd ever entertain you?

Bergen - I'd get the crowd to sing songs, we'd do trivia contests, etc. They had a blast.Question - Roseanne "Arnold", slugged you because you called her by maiden name, what's that about? When you say slugged you mean she hit you? So she really is a She Devil? Bergen - LOL! Let's just say she has a short fuse. Actually she backhanded me in the head. I didn't get hurt, really. But I DO have it on tape!! Know a good lawyer???Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - I've got to write out some questions for Louis Gossett Jr, is there anything you want me to ask him that you never got round to?

Bergen - Wow, the parade he was in was years ago!!!!! No idea what to ask!!!!!!!

Question - Halle Berry, what was she like to talk to? Is she attractive in real life like she is in the movies I keep playing back...just for her?
Bergen - She's gorgeous!! Check her out on my website!!!!!

Question - Is Mr T very philisophical? How much gold was he wearing?

Bergen - His pic is up on my site as well!!! He's got a ton O gold!!!!! And no, not very philosophical. Just big!!

Question - What techniques did you teach at your animation voice-over workshop at the Judy Carter's California Comedy Conference in Palm Springs?

Bergen - I did a 2 day animation VO seminar. I covered everything from how to create characters, how to sustain the voice, how to remember them, etc. I also covered the business of the business, such as demos, agents, etc. The people were very talented!!!

Question - What connections put you in contact with Ken Kragen? What were you asked to do in the opening act for Rogers' 1999?

Bergen - My manager at the time co wrote and directed my one man show. After the first few performances he showed a tape of the show to Kenny Rogers manager who asked me to open for him. I took my 90 minute one man show and cut it down to about 20 minutes. It was a blast!!

Question - Did you anticipate how much attention you would receive for your show "Bob Bergen, Not Just Another Pretty Voice"? Why did it only run for 3 months?

Bergen - Well, I chose to stop after 3 months. That's a long time to be doing the same thing week after week. I got some nice reviews and really enjoyed performing the show. I'm possibly going to bring it back in 2004.Bob Bergen - Interview

Question - Why did you become an active member of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences? Do you find it is a credible membership on your resume'.

Bergen - I'm a huge fan of television. You have to earn a spot in the TV Academy by your body of work. I was honored to have the credits to join. I just completed voting for the 2003 prime-time Emmys. It's great to be able to give back to a business that's been so good to me.

Questin - What was it like in studio for the production of Space Jam? Did you get to meet Michael Jordan, Bill Murray or Danny DeVito? If so what were they like to work with? Who did you like and dislike and which actors would you like to work with again?

Bergen - Never got to meet the on camera talent. We recorded the voices in a separate facility then where they filmed.

Question - What was the Director Joe Pytka, like as a person? What was he like to work with what were his methods of motivation? Rumor has it that he spent $35,000 on a truffle in his West Hollywood restaurant Bastidein in November 2002?

Bergen - Joe didn't direct the voice talent, Ivan Reitman did. I never got to meet Pytka, but I've heard some rather "interesting" stories from many actors who've worked with him.

Question - You have also voiced many anime projects? Spirited away and Nadia of the Mysterious Seas are just a few of the productions. What characters did you portray and do you feel the roles were right for you?

Bergen - For Spirited Away I played No Face. It's a very creative, imaginative film. As a character actor I'm cool playing all kinds of roles. I don't audition for anime projects, since the directors know my work they'll just call me directly for a session.

Question - What funny moments have ever happened on set? Either it be for an anime or Disney production?

Bergen - Hmmm...don't know any funny moments. Spirited Away did have more vomit scenes then anything else I've done. Ya don't get enough good puke scenes these days!

Question - How difficult is it to lip-sync in comparison to other animations? Also which for you do you find most restricting?

Bergen - Because of matching sync anime is much more of a challenge than standard animation VO work where they animate to your soundtrack. Ironically anime dubbing pays a fraction of standard animation VO work. it's a shame!! Because of the skill involved it should be just the opposite. I much prefer standard animation to voice because the actor is much more free to perform.

Question - Do you collect your own memorabilia? Especially that for Porky Pig?

Bergen - I have some. I bought a Porky statue on ebay a few years ago. And fans send me all kinds of cool things, too!!!!!

Question - Do you use body language to help gain the appropriate tone in some scenes? Were all of your lines for an episode recorded at one time or did you have to come back and do pick ups or looping?

Bergen - You use the body big time when doing cartoons. As I stated before, this is what make the character come to life! Recording a cartoon can be one or many sessions. Feature can take a few years, while an episode for TV takes about 4 hours.

Question - You do a lot of computer game work now, how different is it to voice over work? Do you find it easier or more rewarding?Bob Bergen - Interview

Bergen - It's a lot like a cartoon but can be a bit tedious because you have to record all the options a player might have in the game.

Question - You portray Luke Skywalker in the JK2 games. What research did you do for this particular role? Are you a fan of Star wars?Bob Bergen - Interview

Bergen - I actually turned down the audition because I didn't think I could do Mark Hamill. I still don't think I do. But I do my best to keep the integrity of the character Luke. I didn't do any research for the part. And I'd say I'm an average fan of the franchise. I've seen all the movies, but never stood in line for hours at a premiere.

Question - I play JK2 all the time, you did a great job of Luke. Its more perfected than the guy who played Lando I'll tell you now. You got to take into account that the games are set after the Return of the Jedi. So Luke should naturally sound more older and wiser. Why exactly do you feel you don't pull off a good impression of Mark Hamil?

Bergen - Well, I just don't think I sound like Mark. As far as I'm concerned he IS Luke!! But I've gotten great reviews playing the character, so I must be doing something right. And I appreciate that you notice the "Return of the Jedi" character traits. One thing I do work hard on is to make sure I play Luke differently depending on his pre or post Jedi experience. The character matures from film to film and I have to take that into account when playing him for a game. We've done some games where it takes place around the first Star wars film. Luke is a much younger, almost whiney character. Post Jedi he's darker. I enjoy the contrast when playing him in the different versions.

Bob Bergen - InterviewQuestion - What do you think of the new trilogy?

Bergen - They're fun!!!!

Question - What are your upcoming projects ? Any more games or movies coming up?

Bergen - I have a few new Star Wars games waiting to come out. Also The Haunted Mansion for Disney, Brother Bear and Home on the Range, also for Disney, Looney Tunes:Back in Action for WB, I did the teaser trailer for Chicken Little. And Duck Dodgers just debuted to huge numbers!!! VERY proud of this show!!

Question - Is there anything you would like to add?

Bergen - This was fun!!!!!! Thanks for the interview!!!! People can check out my website at bobbergen.com. I answer every e-mail myself!!!!

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