Dublin Comic Con has been a staple of the Irish convention scene for the last number of years, drawing anything from hundreds to thousands of attendees each year. This year however the organisers arranged a second show known as the Anime Edition. This focused more on the Japanese animation fanbase, whilst also bringing guests from both TV, film and video games. Whilst also being my first time attending a Dublin Comic Con event, I was lucky enough to be granted an opportunity to interview Eric Stuart on behalf of ComicBuzz.
Before you read the interview, if you are unfamiliar with Eric and his work, please feel free to look over the links below:
Behind the voice actors: http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/Eric-Stuart/
And now, on with the interview!
Mary: So, knowing that the Pokémon franchise is now twenty-two years old, did you ever imagine from the first day you went into record the show that it would still be airing today?
Eric: Not at all. Many of the shows that I have worked on, when you sit down with the producers and the people that are casting, they always say “this is going to be the next big whatever”. And we, as actors, go: “Yeah okay, whatever.”
This show, I think, was a surprise, a success even when it first came out. But as I now look back on it, there was always a moral to the story that the characters, our characters, and fans could relate to. So, the fact that our wholesome message has lived on for this long has made a lot of sense to me. It’s pretty amazing that the two franchises that I am most known for are both still going! Between Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, I appreciate it, it’s nice to meet the fans that were six and seven when they first met Brock and James, and all these characters. And now I get to meet them in person and they are in their thirties and make me feel very old.
Mary: Even from the start of the show, the Pokédex was played as though it has its own opinion of Ash and his choices. Was the dialogue a direct translation from the Japanese, or did you improvise with the writers for the dub?
Eric: It was not a direct translation a lot of times on many of these shows, because a lot of cultural things don’t translate. Look at the riceball and jelly donut joke with Brock all the time, and that was just to make the food universal. No, we definitely didn’t improvise [but there were] definitely some moments where we could bend the line a little bit to fit more with what we were doing. Not so much with Dexter; with Dexter I needed to read those, that’s the Pokédex’s real name. I needed to read those so that you could learn what the Pokémon can do. So, we didn’t really go against what the script said as an actor, but the translation is not a direct translation.
Mary: Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon were two of the biggest shows to hit TV during my childhood. Having played a number of important characters in both shows, Brock, James and Seto Kaiba, who would have ended up marrying Nurse Joy or Officer Jenny in the end?
Eric: Wow! You see, I don’t think Brock would ever make up his mind. I think he is torn between the two kinds of women. Joy will take care of you when you’re sick, and Officer Jenny is in charge and takes no nonsense. I think as teenage boys go, he will always be confused. But Seto Kaiba, I don’t know. I always thought if he was to end up with someone, it would be someone like Mai Valentine. You know, he needed a counterpart that would rival him. And she was always tough, but I don’t know. That is a tough question. I also think it’s great that they never really went that way. I mean there is a lot of fans that always wanted to see Jessie and James get married, and this and that, but they’re young and that’s part of the story line. It’s more about the friendship. The adventure and the friendship. And you know, I can relate to that kind of high school boy, those puppy dog crushes, that’s part of, I guess, growing up, right? And that’s as far as it needed to go.
Mary: How were you first introduced to anime and the convention scene?
Eric: So, I worked at a recording studio, where I produced and directed radio and TV voice overs, commercial things, not anime. One of my clients said, “Eric I have a client that’s doing these dubs, cartoon dubs, and is looking for young voices. Would you be interested?”
So, I auditioned and I got the role of Gourry from a show called Slayers. And I had grown up watching Battle of the Planets as a kid, which is G-Force, and was one of my favourite shows as a kid… [It also] introduced me to anime, but I never thought I would be a cartoon voice actor.
So, when I got this role I started to do a little bit more digging into the whole scene, and it was still underground. I mean if you went to a video store back then (I’m old, that’s what we had) the anime would be in a back corner somewhere.
So, okay, we’re dubbing shows, but nobody wanted to do that, no one wanted to dub it. It was kinda looked down upon, it was like “What is that? No one’s watching that!” And in that same cycle, actors were doing all this work in New York and then came Pokémon and it was the same kind of thing. We thought it would go to the back room in the back corner somewhere and nobody would discover it.
I think Pokémon changed anime. It became mainstream. We tried to dub it so it was a universal show, so that if it was used in another country, it didn’t have Japanese food. So, the food made sense to France or Germany, for example. It became everyone’s show and because of that the convention scene really exploded and became a bigger deal.
So, I didn’t do conventions for probably for the first ten years of working on the show. I was too busy! I was directing the shows, I was playing music, I was doing all sorts of other things. And fans would say, “When are you coming to this, or that?” I was just, I really don’t have the time. And then I made a move to Nashville and that freed up more of my time. And I said, you know what, I should do this. It’s very flattering that anyone ever wants to meet me. I mean that’s very nice, because we work so hard and we work in a booth alone most of the time. There is no live audience, so I don’t know if you laugh at my jokes. I don’t know if that moving episode touched you and got you through a tough time. I have heard some amazing stories from fans, which have brought me to tears because you sometimes take for granted the power of these characters and playing these roles. Which is why I also do some very family friendly shows; I don’t do anything else besides that, because I have people that grew up watching me and they want to introduce me to their kids.
Mary: So, are you ready for tomorrow?
Eric: I am. I love Ireland, I’ve had a good fan base here for a while. Never been to Dublin before. I’m very excited to meet the fans in person yes. And of course, I’ve got a gig tomorrow night too!
I would like to thank Olivia and Dublin Comic Con for granting me the opportunity to have this interview and for inviting me to the press night. It was a memorable weekend all round, and I will certainly be back again. A huge thanks to Eric Stuart for talking with me for several minutes. A lovely man who is never short for words!