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Old 05-09-2019   #1
Zecora
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Default History of Canadian voice acting

Sorry if there's already a thread for this, but does anyone have a comprehensive history of the Canadian voice acting pools? (Both Vancouver and Toronto.)

I know that Vancouver voice acting has been around since at least the late eighties, with shows like Captain N: The Game Master. Some still-active Vancouver-based actors such as Blu Mankuma, Richard Newman, and Doc Harris were born in the forties, suggesting they've been acting for a while, presumably originally in live-action and radio work in the seventies. Do we know the earliest animated anything to be recorded in Vancouver?

I know Toronto-based voice acting has been around even longer, since at least the early sixties, judging by the early Rankin-Bass stuff. I know the early Toronto voice actors like Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles, and Larry D. Mann started out in radio. Do we know the earliest animated anything to be recorded in Toronto?
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Old 05-10-2019   #2
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

Where Canada's entertainment service industries congregate can usually be explained by two things: government subsidies or proximity to the United States. With voice acting, it's the latter.

NYC was entertainment's biggest hot spot for a very long time. Toronto, the largest "close" Canadian city, benefitted through co-productions and the like. The Rankin Bass specials, for example, were headed up by companies based in New York, but had aspects of their production (including VA work) done in Toronto. It's more or less an identical story for the Marvel Super Heroes and the original '67 Spider-Man cartoon.

My gut instinct is that Montreal is Canada's second oldest distinct VO talent pool. Cinar and Saban started the avalanche in the late '80s, but Cinelume was already dubbing things like Astroboy a few years earlier. I'm sure there are older productions (even excluding NFB shorts), but as anyone who's looked into these projects knows, they often lack proper credits.

Vancouver became a thing for animation voice work in the late '80s. This was reflective of the changing times in the US entertainment industry. More and more television work was moving out west to LA, so Toronto no longer made much sense for runaway productions. Vancouver did. A lot of the first wave of actors were people who did radio commercials.

I'm not aware of any notable productions out of Calgary prior to Blue Water's opening in 1999. Other places, like Halifax, Ottawa and Winnipeg, aren't regularly putting shows out.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #3
martyyahar
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

Disclaimer: I am NOT Canadian and have never been to Canada (or Texas, see below), so I am going off secondhand information from a variety of sources (such as people I know who have been/are from/ live there, formal encyclopedias, etc.), so take what I say with a grain of salt. I just find the topic interesting, given it combines my interests of acting, localization, and geography.

That outta the way, Calgary becoming the next most important voice acting locale after Toronto and Vancouver (I'll get to Montreal) doesn't 100% surprise me; it may not be as prestigious or really commonly used as a media town, but it is the next largest city in terms of population as far as Canada goes, and thus there's a greater chance of finding or making a workable talent pool, I assume.

I can't speak on to Calgary being cheap at all, but I'm 100% positive it's cheaper than Vancouver, from what I can gather. It also helps that it's still geographically close to Vancouver; at least relative other major Canadian cities and also anything major in the United States, besides Seattle.

I also find it amusing that an American cultural semi-equivalent to Calgary, Alberta is Houston, Texas and both wound up being voice acting centers, especially for English anime dubs. Granted, this is somewhat more reflective of the fact anime isn't a priority for many companies outside Japan; and even when it's the thing the company focusses on, the licensing costs take a gigantic bite out of dub production.

As for non-Japanese animation and any video games, a split comes in: Calgary has both a higher proportion of non-anime animation voice acting and a higher proportion of video game voice acting. However, I imagine a big reason why Houston gets voice work in ANYTHING that ADV/ Section23 doesn't feed them is because a lot of video game developers are based in nearby Austin and they can't always manage to outsource the acting. This tells me there must be a decent amount of animation studios and animation-adjacent companies in Calgary's vicinities, even if basically none of them came before Blue Water. I also know the Canadian government gives benefits to media made by just Canadians or something along those lines; but being as I'm not Canadian nor have looked into this at all, I can't describe exactly how it affects anything in Calgary.

Digression: Austin isn't a small city in the slightest, but nearby Houston seems to get a teency bit more acting work with regards to video games. I imagine it has to do with Houston being cheaper yet having a larger amount of people. Houston productions have also had an apparently longer/ easier time to find a foothold- as much of Austin's voice-acted work isn't as successful as the stuff from Houston. Why San Antonio doesn't do much, despite having more people, being comparatively cheap, and being even closer than Houston to Austin is explained by the fact San Antonio just lacks the aforementioned foothold Houston has or maybe a good amount of people in Austin-based things are technically based in San Antonio. Anyhow, back to Canada, I got out there with that one.

I am miffed a bit how in spite of the fact most major American companies focus on English-language media, and any other language being an afterthought or the job of a contractor, that a predominantly French-speaking place became Toronto's understudy (for voice acting, at least). I am aware that Montreal has a large amount of anglophones for French Canada, but what prevented Ottawa, London, Kitchener, or Halifax from being used before the west coast boom? My best guess is that French-language productions were the original meat of the Montreal scene, and English Canada talent sorta crept in when English versions of them were needed but Toronto wasn't usable for some reason; so Montreal-English dubs got a rep for outsourcer American companies early in the game and just never really faltered- unlike some other small English media production cities. That said, what I said is just an educated guess, not a certainty on my part.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #4
Nightmare Crusher
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

I'm going to have to trim a lot of fat, but your post is based on a huge amount of unfounded assumptions and otherwise strange claims.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
I can't speak on to Calgary being cheap at all, but I'm 100% positive it's cheaper than Vancouver, from what I can gather.
If you can't figure this out then we're in trouble.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
I also find it amusing that an American cultural semi-equivalent to Calgary, Alberta is Houston, Texas and both wound up being voice acting centers, especially for English anime dubs.
How are Calgary and Houston equivalent to each other?

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
As for non-Japanese animation and any video games, a split comes in:
It is unclear what you mean by split. The following explanation does not involve splitting.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
Calgary has both a higher proportion of non-anime animation voice acting and a higher proportion of video game voice acting.
Higher proportion relative to WHAT? This is not a coherent claim.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
However, I imagine a big reason why Houston gets voice work in ANYTHING that ADV/ Section23 doesn't feed them is because a lot of video game developers are based in nearby Austin and they can't always manage to outsource the acting.
This is nonsensical. You say that Austin based companies outsource to Houston because they are unable to outsource their voice work. If they were unable to outsource voice work they would do it in Austin itself.


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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
This tells me there must be a decent amount of animation studios and animation-adjacent companies in Calgary's vicinities, even if basically none of them came before Blue Water.
[citation needed]


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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
Houston productions have also had an apparently longer/ easier time to find a foothold- as much of Austin's voice-acted work isn't as successful as the stuff from Houston. Why San Antonio doesn't do much, despite having more people, being comparatively cheap, and being even closer than Houston to Austin is explained by the fact San Antonio just lacks the aforementioned foothold Houston has
This is circular logic. You are effectively saying, "Houston does more voice work than San Antonio because Houston does more voice work than San Antonio." You fail to explain why this "foothold" exists.


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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
I am miffed a bit how in spite of the fact most major American companies focus on English-language media, and any other language being an afterthought or the job of a contractor, that a predominantly French-speaking place became Toronto's understudy (for voice acting, at least).
Because there are a ton of English speaking people in Montreal. Quebec in general is one of the most bilingual places in the world.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
I am aware that Montreal has a large amount of anglophones for French Canada,
A fact you apparently know.

The fact of the matter is that English is a much more widespread language than French, or really any other language, so internationally released media is likely going to be in English.

Side note: What does it mean to become Toronto's "understudy"?

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
but what prevented Ottawa, London, Kitchener, or Halifax from being used before the west coast boom?
Because it's BIG. The English speaking population of Montreal probably outstrips the ENTIRE population of Ottawa, the biggest city you named. As for the others... Kitchener? Really?


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My best guess is that French-language productions were the original meat of the Montreal scene, and English Canada talent sorta crept in when English versions of them were needed but Toronto wasn't usable for some reason; so Montreal-English dubs got a rep for outsourcer
But why? Why would Toronto projects "creep" into Montreal? I don't think that's it at all. IMB mentioned Cinelume, which is a Montreal founded company which was producing English dubs all the way back in the sixties. And even today Montreal is home to a variety of internationally linked companies, such as the Canadian arms of several massive game developers. The English VO industry in Montreal looks pretty home grown to me.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #5
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

I can only theorize why Montreal became the second stop for English VO. It is Canada's second largest city population-wise and the population is more bilingual than you might think (though, that probably wasn't the case back in the '80s). It may be due to the NFB being based there, thus facilitating media production from the late '50s onwards. The city's French connection is very important, as well. It is the hub for French Canadian media. Many shows recorded in Montreal have been Canada-France co-productions, which is still the case to this day. It's also hard to believe Haim Saban's life in France had nothing to do with Montreal being one of his company's preferred spots to do things in the early days.

What I find most interesting about Montreal's English VO pool is how good it has been at retaining talent. You look at the names active today and many have been working since the '80s. There's never been a big exodus of actors to other Canadian cities or Los Angeles, even during the slow times. If actors leave, it's usually because they've retired. I don't know if that's just because Arthur provided a lot of on-and-off work for 20+ years or if people just like living there.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
I can't speak on to Calgary being cheap at all, but I'm 100% positive it's cheaper than Vancouver, from what I can gather. It also helps that it's still geographically close to Vancouver; at least relative other major Canadian cities and also anything major in the United States, besides Seattle.
Depends on which actors, but the ones you hear in Blue Water's stuff are notably cheaper than the Vancouver ones. That's because they're not signed to ACTRA, Canada's dominant acting union.

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Originally Posted by martyyahar View Post
As for non-Japanese animation and any video games, a split comes in: Calgary has both a higher proportion of non-anime animation voice acting and a higher proportion of video game voice acting. However, I imagine a big reason why Houston gets voice work in ANYTHING that ADV/ Section23 doesn't feed them is because a lot of video game developers are based in nearby Austin and they can't always manage to outsource the acting. This tells me there must be a decent amount of animation studios and animation-adjacent companies in Calgary's vicinities, even if basically none of them came before Blue Water. I also know the Canadian government gives benefits to media made by just Canadians or something along those lines; but being as I'm not Canadian nor have looked into this at all, I can't describe exactly how it affects anything in Calgary.
I think you might be overstating Alberta's impact. I'm not an expert on the nitty-gritty of the province's media industry, but from my perspective, there doesn't appear to be a tonne of companies doing work there. Pretty much every animated project from there is done at Blue Water. Bioware is the biggest game developer there, but like some of Canada's other AAA game studios, they don't seem to care for Canadian actors ... There are younger indie companies, like Next Machine Studios and the Hermit Collective, but they've yet to do something big.

You might've seen an increase in Alberta actors doing stuff this decade, but that's probably because of Ocean. At the beginning of the 2010s, they expanded Blue Water to Edmonton and started casting projects jointly between Vancouver and Alberta. This may have been a cost-cutting move, though I'm sure they appreciate having a wider pool of actors to choose from.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #6
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

Lemme get outta the way i have no special expertise in Canada/ Texas and am 100% with your statements calling out my errors. I in no way present any kind of authority and didn't intend to be the final arbiter, and should have been clearer in stating what i said was nothing remotely absolute as much as educated guesses at best. I really apologize for the frustration. If my explanations still come off confusing or annoying, lemme know.

I brought up Montreal as a strange example of English voice acting scenes, because i heard back in the day (when US productions were first moved up there), it was as French-speaking as Quebec City. Furthermore even today, the population is only 14% English out of 1 million people (which is about 140k), compared with Ottawa's 990k (as of 2017, but this might include Gatineau). The figures could also be for native speakers as well.

I will concede it was a mistake to bring up the other cities; but since you called out Kitchener specifically, I was choosing cities in eastern Canada that weren't direct suburbs of another place (i.e. Toronto)- unless you were confuddled for some other reason.

I do not remember what i was on about wrt Montreal English works being Toronto's understudy. I think it had something to do with an idea in my head that companies that had to outsource, but couldn't use Toronto for whatever reason seeming to choose Montreal. But that is 100% guess. The thing about animation studios seeming to be within Calgary's grasp was 100% guess.

The comparison of Houston to Calgary wasn't really definite and should have said that. The main reasons I look at them similarly is because they are the largest cities of frequently compared subivisions and among the largest in general but never the absolute largest at any point both countries' histories afaik. What I meant to say by the split but botched in editing for some reason, is that Calgary gets a bigger proportion of non-anime animation for the projects that come to it and Houston gets more video game work for the projects that come to it.

The foothold i mention for Houston is referencing a guess that they must have had time to develop a reputation/ talentbase sooner than San Antonio or Austin (but i'm probably wrong in Austin's case), due to Houston seeming to be contacted earlier down the line. I do concede that if Austin companies couldn't outsource work, they'd do it in Austin and much of the rest of the digression being illogical. We should avoid discussion about anywhere in the US however and get back on topic, however.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #7
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

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I brought up Montreal as a strange example of English voice acting scenes, because i heard back in the day (when US productions were first moved up there), it was as French-speaking as Quebec City. Furthermore even today, the population is only 14% English out of 1 million people (which is about 140k), compared with Ottawa's 990k (as of 2017, but this might include Gatineau). The figures could also be for native speakers as well.

I will concede it was a mistake to bring up the other cities; but since you called out Kitchener specifically, I was choosing cities in eastern Canada that weren't direct suburbs of another place (i.e. Toronto)- unless you were confuddled for some other reason.
I'm not sure where you pulled your figure from, but at best that's an outdated count of the number of people who ONLY speak English. The total amount of people who speak English at all, which is the important one, is much larger. According to the Canadian government and some basic math it totals up to 1,352,105.
https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-r...TABID=1&type=0

I'm "confuddled" because Kitchener is tiny. You wouldn't ask why there isn't a voice acting hub in Boise, Idaho or Des Moines, Iowa.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
martyyahar
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Default Re: History of Canadian voice acting

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I'm not sure where you pulled your figure from, but at best that's an outdated count of the number of people who ONLY speak English. The total amount of people who speak English at all, which is the important one, is much larger. According to the Canadian government and some basic math it totals up to 1,352,105.
https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-r...TABID=1&type=0

I'm "confuddled" because Kitchener is tiny. You wouldn't ask why there isn't a voice acting hub in Boise, Idaho or Des Moines, Iowa.
Ahh, that's where i messed up; I used figures for native speakers AFAICT. I do concede what you mean about Kitchener.
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