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Anime Expo 2010: Toonzone Interviews Voice Actor Kyle Hebert

Voice actor Kyle Hebert was one of the special guests of honor for the 2010 Anime Expo. Early in the convention, Toonzone caught up with Hebert for an exclusive interview to discuss his latest voice acting work, the state of the anime industry, and much more:

TOONZONE NEWS: I hear you are working on the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series right now. Can you comment?

KYLE HEBERT: I did a couple of bit parts. It’s nothing huge. I’m under a gag order from Marvel, but they said it was OK to say that I’m on the show. It’s obviously not going to air for a very long time because it hasn’t been animated yet; like with cartoons they always record the audio first. I’m pretty psyched because I’ve always been a huge fan, anime fan, cartoon fan, voiceover fan, so getting to do this has been a crack in the Holy Grail for me; to break into the world of domestic voiceover.

TZN: Would we be able to find your characters on a Marvel character database?

KYLE HEBERT: Hmm . . . once it’s out, yeah. I think so. One of them I think is findable, *laughs*.

TZN: So what’s the difference in recording a pre-lay animated series like Avengers, compared to recording for a videogame and recording for an anime series?

KYLE HEBERT: Anime and videogames record one actor at a time, and that’s a technical reason. Obviously with anime, you are matching lip flaps — doing lip synch. And with videogames, if it’s a Japanese game, you are matching the timing of the Japanese audio. We don’t really have visual reference for the cut scenes. Sometimes we do but generally we don’t, so we’re reading the script off an Excel spreadsheet on the screen for a videogame. For a pre-lay cartoon, you have the extremely awesome perk of getting to record with your peers. You get to record with the whole cast. Coming from also being a fan of old school radio drama, that’s just cool. We don’t go through the entire thing start to finish. We’ll do like a part of the scene and every script is broken down like in anime by number and code and everything. It’s like “OK guy, we’re going to do lines 10-17. We’ll do a read through and all the characters in that scene we’ll go through.” We’ll lay down a couple of different takes, and the director will kind of finagle the performance. But we’ll get to hear everyone else as they record and that’s extremely fun because we’re cutting jokes in between takes and everything. That’s something I wish were a part of anime, but it just can’t be. I know in Japan they record together as a group, but because the west pays such attention to keeping things lip synched, an American viewer gets taken out of the story just like that if the synch is off; live action or not. So there’s a very concerted effort to maintain lip synch as well as a faithful performance.

TZN: You also worked on the fantastic live action web series, There Will Be Brawl. How did that start for you?

KH: Matt [Mercer], the director, actually approached me. We were working on a videogame, I think Infinite Undiscovery or Star Ocean? I forget. But we recorded in China, and we were just walking the streets of Shanghai, and he goes, “You know I’m working on this new Nintendo-verse sort of parody. Would you want to be Wario? I think you’d be excellent at it.” It’s like, “Thanks! I would love to!” I felt a little nervous because he didn’t want me to audition. He just thought I could do it. I mean yay, kudos on that. I always love when a director has faith in you, just knows you can do it. It was kind of nerve-racking though because coming from voiceover, the script is always in front of you. Here, you had to memorize it, and that was a bit of a struggle for me. I haven’t had a lot of on-camera experience . . .

TZN: There was Pirates of The Carribbean.

KYLE HEBERT: Well the Pirates of the Carribbean thing, I was an extra. It wasn’t a spoken part. It wasn’t even a credited part, and whatever shots I could’ve been in weren’t used. But I was on the set for two days, twelve hour shoots.

TZN: I saw your costume picture on your MySpace page.

KYLE HEBERT: That’s right, I totally ninja’ed a picture in the port-a-potty. They said, “Don’t take any pictures!” At the time, MySpace was the big social network, and my friend goes, “Why’d you post that? Aren’t you worried? Disney is going to go after you.” And I was like, “Really? They’re going to go after that?” Out of all the things in the world to go after. They got to . . . ah, it’s crazy.

TZN: Did you guys ever get to finish production on There Will Be Brawl? I know production stopped for a little while.

KYLE HEBERT: We did finish. We finished with ten episodes, maybe eleven. The finale was split up over two episodes and we finished between, I want to say four and six months ago. It got posted on The Escapist, and we got a huge outpouring of support. I remember the final shoot, we had a bunch of extras, obviously most of them from the LA area. But some had flown in from other states. One guy had flown in from Australia on his own dime. He just wanted to be a part of it, because he’s such a fan of There Will Be Brawl. That was pretty cool.

TZN: I know you’re a big geek for technology, comic books, videogames, animation, and everything. What did you think of Nintendo blowing it out of the park at E3? And are you excited about the 3DS?

KYLE HEBERT: I’m very excited about the 3DS. I’m a little bummed because I did get to go E3, but the line was so horrifically long to try out the 3DS, it’s like if I stand in line for this, I’m going to miss everything else–

TZN: Like Kinect?

KYLE HEBERT: I did try Kinect and it worked pretty well. I’m a little skechy about the feature.

TZN: And the price?

KYLE HEBERT: Not just the price, but everyone else trying to do their own Wii-type thing. Like PlayStation Move. I tried that out and it was like, nah, I’m not really sold on it. Kinect, it’s cute. It’s a novelty thing kind of like the Wii. And obviously, the Wii has resonated with the sales figures and everything. But in terms of gaming, I still think Xbox and now PS3 have really come into their own.

TZN: Were you a big fan of the Street Fighter series before you worked on Street Fighter IV? And how excited were you to play Ryu?

KYLE HEBERT: Well I knew that the game series is obviously iconic. It’s huge. I used to play a couple times in the arcade and some of the home iterations and I always sucked at it. So I wasn’t always a fan of the series, but I knew when I got to try out and here I was reading for E. Honda and all these other iconic characters of the series. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” And when I landed the role, even though I’m more of a Soul Caliber player because I can button mash on that. Street Fighter requires some strategy, remembering combos, and I could never do that. But still, it blew me away because I’m part of another huge franchise. This is cool, you know. I got Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, and now this? That’s sweet. It feels really, really great. And I’m hoping, because I know you’re leading into Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I’m hoping that I’ll get to record on it. I know we got a Spring release date. I say “we.” You know, Capcom has a release date, and I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that the dub cast will get to keep their roles and we’ll all get to come in and just bash it up.

TZN: Do you know if that was the first time there was like an English voicecast for Street Fighter?

KYLE HEBERT: Street Fighter IV, as far as I know, is the first time the game had it. Obviously the anime series before [did] . . . as far as I know, part IV was the first time we had a full English dub of everything. And obviously, Capcom gives the players the choice to listen to whatever language they want. Super Street Fighter IV, we did some more content for that, added some new stuff there, and that sold really well. And obviously, everyone is jonesing including myself for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I did play some hands-on at E3, and I think it’s amazing.

TZN: You mentioned earlier, you’ve been a part of some great, big franchises like Naruto, now Naruto Shippuden, Bleach, and now Street Fighter. You’ve been a big part of Dragon Ball Z. Vato Falman of course in Fullmetal Alchemist. But with all the new franchises you’ve worked on, do you have a new favorite character you’ve gotten to work on? Something that you’ve recently done?

KYLE HEBERT: Of recent years, I would say Kamina of Gurren Lagann, definitely.

TZN: Kamina is awesome.

KYLE HEBERT: Yes, he is very epic, very manly. I am looking forward to meeting the Japanese seiyuu [Katsuyuki Konishi] here. I heard he is on the guest list as well. So hopefully we’ll get to hang out a little bit. I’d love to meet him. This is a rare opportunity to do East meets West. I’ve met a couple of Dragon Ball Z Japanese seiyuus, but obviously these guys and gals are the reason that the shows are here in the first place.

TZN: What about an English dub for the movies for Gurren Lagann?

KYLE HEBERT: No. Unfortunately Aniplex America made the decision for subtitled only. And they said a dub would not be produced unless it went to TV. So I’ve been whoring on the social networks, Facebook and Twitter, “Hey fans, e-mail SyFy.” Because that’s where the TV series aired multiple times. It was a ratings success. The DVD sold well. So if you guys want to see it dubbed, let SyFy channel know. Go to SyFy.com, hit their contact link , and let them know you’re a fan. I know the whole cast would love to come back.

TZN: How do you like seeing the new sequences for Falman on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood?

KYLE HEBERT: It’s a bigger role, and I knew it was coming because the fans said, “Oh, if they ever do a series based on the manga, you’re going to have a lot more to do.” And I’m very happy about that. So I can’t wait, as we get further and further into the series, I know it’s wrapping up in Japan and the fans are getting to see the FUNimation [version on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim].

TZN: I think they are showing the final episode this weekend at the convention.

KYLE HEBERT: Oh wow, that’s cool. That’s great, that’s excellent. I’m excited to see the evolution — it’s kind of a forced evolution of the anime industry because of the bootlegging and downloads affecting DVD sales, and there’s no money going back into the system to keep it going. But as the window shortens between broadcasts and distribution, digital distribution to the fanbase. I think we are seeing a new business model in place.

TZN: You’ve been a part of this business for a long time. You are very well connected. You interact with the fans on the forums and social network sites. You go to the conventions. Do you think the industry, in order to survive, has to move more toward digital distribution?

KYLE HEBERT: Absolutely.

TZN: And doing official releases online, not just for the anime, but also for manga as well. Like doing digital publishing for the manga, which the big publishers have not gotten on board with yet.

KYLE HEBERT: Right, right. I think they need to. I think they can look at their sales figures and go, “You know what, we have to evolve with the times.” I know the internet is a scary thing, but you know it’s been mankind’s greatest blessing and curse. It streamlines businesses to where there’s no overhead, so people lose jobs because of it. But, you can also get anime much cheaper on iTunes, Xbox Live, PSN. We’re in the day and age where you can sample a whole DVD volume for free. And again, it’s kind of been forced because of the bootlegging thing. And the fans are saying, “Well I don’t want to shell out $30 for a DVD and not know what I’m getting into.” So I think it’s completely fair. I love what FUNimation and VIZ are doing by streaming the shows as they are airing in Japan and shortening that window and getting official titles on there. And absolutely, with the manga stuff, get it out there.

TZN: So what are you working on right now that you can tell us about? Besides Avengers? Are you still doing Bleach?

KYLE HEBERT: Bleach is actually on a filler arc right now. I’m not being called in that. Shippuden is continuing on as well and doing well on Disney XD. I am continuing on doing Kiba.

TZN: They finally got it on TV.

KYLE HEBERT: Yeah, finally got it on TV. Akamaru is the size of a lion, he’s huge. And Kiba’s got some good dialogue scenes in there. I’ve recorded on a ton of games, unfortunately under a non-disclosure agreement. But believe me, when they come out I will be pimping them out hardcore.

TZN: Any shoutout or anything you would like to say to the fans out there?

KYLE HEBERT: I want to thank the fans for their support through the years. I love coming and hanging out with you guys at the conventions. And I love the chance to geek out and get in the booth and have fun doing what I’ve always been passionate about, which is voice acting. If you guys are interested in having your own voice acting critiqued, I do private sessions on Skype. For more details, go to my website, http://www.kylehebert.com/ .

TZN: Can you give us a little bit of the DBZ narrator, like a “Next time on Dragon Ball Z?”

KYLE HEBERT: That’s what I get a lot. I do a lot people’s voice mails, like that, they’ll whip out their phone, *In DBZ Narrator Voice*: “Next time on Dragon Ball Z!”

Currently, Kyle Hebert can be heard playing the Ox King on Dragon Ball Z: Kai which is broadcast on NickToons; Kiba in Naruto Shippuden on Disney XD; and Falman on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. Hebert also confirmed he will be returning to play Teen Gohan once again for Dragon Ball Z: Kai.

Return to Toonzone’s Anime Expo 2010 Coverage

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