Editorial | Voice actors deserve more respect


Gage Skidmore | Wikimedia Commons

Actor Chris Pratt will play the voice of Mario in the new live-action movie based on the Super Mario Bros.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

When Shigeru Miyamoto announced that Chris Pratt would play the voice of Mario in the new animated movie based on the Super Mario Bros. video game, reactions were largely negative. Many cited that Pratt is not the type of person they envisioned playing the character. 

Pratt has starred in roles such as “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” as the grisly male hunk who also serves as the occasional comedic relief. He just doesn’t seem right to play a small Italian plumber. Many think Pratt’s rendition of Mario will feel wrong when the perfect voice already exists. 

Charles Martinet is the long-time voice actor for the character of Mario in the video games. His signature “Wahoo!” is one of the defining sounds of the videogame world. Fans of the franchise feel that the choice of actor to voice Mario in the movie was unfair. It reflects a larger issue in the film industry of a lack of respect for voice actors. 

The pattern of casting A-List actors over voice actors is nothing new. Similar casting patterns occurred recently with the new “Space Jam” movie, where the original voice actors did not play the part. There is also the issue of producers giving roles to people who aren’t of the same demographic as the character they’re playing. 

Hank Azaria apologized in April for voicing Apu — a character that reinforced racial stereotypes — on “The Simpsons.” Azaria, who is white, had played the character since 1990 until January 2020, and acknowledged that it was not his place to voice an Indian character. Additionally, Jenny Slate and Kristen Bell both quit voicing Black characters on the shows “Big Mouth” and “Central Park,” respectively, in June 2020 — stating that the parts should have gone to actors of color. 

Voice acting is a wonderful way to delve deep into a character and to reach different audiences than live-action. One example of this is Disney. Kids and adults all over the world have watched Disney movies for decades and love them. Non-white characters were mostly non-existent in Disney’s history up until about 30 years ago, and still remain sparse in Disney’s repertoire. “Aladdin,” “Mulan” and “Pochahontas” championed on-screen animated diversity in the 1990s, but many of the characters of color in those movies were voiced by white actors.

It seemed that Disney tried to continue this trend of on-screen character diversity played by non-diverse actors in the 2000s with “Brother Bear” and “Emperor’s New Groove.” “Princess and the Frog” is when Disney’s casting started to intentionally lean more toward casting people of color into the roles of characters of color. 

Moana” and “Coco” were both praised for the accuracy of their casts and for their voice acting. The film industry should continue to find voice actors that are truly right for their parts, and they should use voice actors that already exist for the live action remakes and spin-offs of their original characters.

This article was updated to reflect that the new movie based on the Super Mario Bros. video game is animated, not live-action. It was also updated to reflect other inconsistencies between animated and live-action films. The Pitt News regrets these errors.