The first day on a job is never easy. It only gets that much more difficult when you’re following a legend.
Such was the case for Troy Baker, Travis Willingham and Christopher Corey Smith – three talented young voice actors who stepped into the recording booth – and some very large shoes – for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite.
The trio was tasked with creating the voices of Batman, Superman and the Joker, all the while remaining respectful to the landmark performances of some very well-loved actors that had come before. Early reviews say the three actors hit their mark, as well as outstanding notices for the ever-hilarious performance of Charlie Schlatter as the voice of Robin.
None were strangers to the voiceover world. Baker has crafted an impressive resume as the lead character in Bioshock Infinite along with roles in video games like Batman: Arkham City. Willingham continues to expand his repertoire with roles in animated series like Avengers Assemble and The Super Hero Squad Show. Smith has supplied voices across the realms of television and video games, most notably in Mortal Combat vs. DC Universe. And Charlie Schlatter, recognizable for his live-action television roles in Diagnosis Murder and Ferris Bueller, has logged a significant number of hours in the recording booth prior to inheriting the role of Robin.
All four actors were taking on the iconic roles for the first time, and the esteemed task of meeting lofty expectations was not lost on any of them.
“It’s a different take on Superman, probably a lot funnier than you’ve ever seen him,” says Willingham, who admitted to doing his share of superhero role play as a kid – complete with Superman underwear and the blanket/cape tied around his neck. “In this piece, Superman is definitely a hyper-alpha-male, super boy scout, naïve to an extreme, and probably a little annoying. He’s the guy that reminds everyone that their greatest endeavor can easily be eclipsed by him doing the same exact thing — with only his pinky, and with both eyes closed. And it antagonizes Batman more than anyone.”
“There was a lot of humor throughout, and deadpan deliveries are a big part of it. When you have Troy Baker on one side as Batman, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, it definitely heightens the interplay. Then you’ve got Batman being sarcastic and Superman being naïve and not really getting the joke – that just makes it that much funnier.”
Baker is no stranger to the Batman universe, having played Two-Face in the popular videogame Batman: Arkham City, as well as some cool roles in Dark Knight productions on the horizon. But this was his first time providing the vocals under the cowl. “There have been so many iterations of Batman – from Adam West to Christian Bale – and someone just recently asked me who my favorite Batman: for me, it is unequivocally Kevin Conroy,” says Baker of the voice actor from the original Batman: The Animated Series.
“Kevin is the Batman that I grew up with. So when I was recording, there was always a little of that ‘what-would-Kevin-do’ in the back of my head. But I just tried to bring my own thing to the performance. Nobody can ever top Kevin Conroy. I just focused on trying to do the best Batman I can.” Smith had an equally impressive task – bringing a new take to a role that has been defined several times by the likes of Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger, Richard Epcar and Kevin Michael Richardson.
“I did listen to various clips from different folks, but I also didn’t want to do a copy of anybody,” says Smith. “I didn’t want to do Mark Hamill or Richard Epcar, and I admire both of them greatly. I think I was able to find a bit of a regional dialect that wasn’t too noticeable, but separated him from people who have come before.” For every version of the Joker, the actor must bring forth that sinister laugh. For Smith, as has been the case for so many others, the trick was not shredding his voice while conjuring that cackle.
“At first, the laughing did strain out my voice, because it doesn’t live in a comfortable place,” Smith admits. “After the first five or six times, you figure out where it needs to be in your range. It becomes a muscle memory thing, but it’s still a vocal work out. By the end of it, you are exhausted.” Smith’s version of the Joker definitely impressed Baker, particularly coming off a job the two recently did where Smith filled the superhero role.
“Keeping in mind that Kevin Conroy is my Batman and Mark Hamill is my Joker, so anybody that tries to fill those boots is in for trouble,” Baker says, “But Chris just knocked it out of the park. From the first time he delivered a line and then did the Joker cackle, all of us turned and stared. We were speechless. It wasn’t Hamill, it wasn’t Heath Ledger, but it was perfect Joker.”
Based on the popular video game, the TT Animation produced LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite arrives May 21, 2013 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Digital Download. The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack will include UltraViolet™*. Release will include an exclusive Lego Clark Kent/Superman figurine on pack while supplies last.
— via Press Release from Warner Bros Home Entertainment