Pokémon USA recasting controversy
On March 21, 2006, it was discovered that Pokémon USA (now a part of The Pokémon Company International) and TAJ Productions were going to recast the voices for the English-language dub of the Pokémon anime from season nine onwards. The company used the special that aired on April 29, The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon, as a testing ground for the new voice actors. This caused a controversy in the Pokémon fan community.
Because of the Pokémon franchise's waning popularity in the United States, the international Pokémon distributor, Pokémon USA, began looking for ways to cut costs on production of the English adaptation of the series, and decided to find a new partnering company who could produce the English adaptation for less money. Once 4Kids Entertainment's contract expired in early 2006, they were outbid by TAJ Productions, who had earlier assisted 4Kids in their production of the English-language version of the series. However, according to statements made by Veronica Taylor and Eric Stuart, the voice actors were to be replaced with different sound-a-like voice actors to keep production costs low. TPCi has made no official statements on these claims. The special The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon, which aired on April 29, was used as a testing ground for the new voices.
As a result of this, and the discontinuation of anime in their block as they were planning to move to The CW Network, Kids' WB! decided not to renew the series, and Cartoon Network, the sibling cable network owned by Kids' WB's owners, Time Warner, started to air the series as of September 8, 2006.
Voice actor reaction
Members from various Pokémon forums emailed the former voice actors.
This was sent by a staff member of Serebii Forums:
"Thanks for your very kind letter. There's very little I'm permitted to say on the subject other than what you've already stated in your e-mail. On a personal note, I'm very saddened by this development as I'm quite close to Ol' Meowth. The only thing I can tell you is I'm not leaving the VA business by any stretch of the imagination, and I hope to (like all cats) land on my feet
Thanks again and I'll be sure to pass your note onto my fellow VAs
"Pokémon USA has decided that it's too expensive to use 4Kids and the actors that have made Pokémon the TV show such a success for the last 10 years. They have 'behind our backs' re-cast the show with 'sound-a-likes' to try to save money. They actually believe the fans don't care. They are starting with the 10 year anniversary special - starring all new voices. The main cast, me included, has taken a lot of pride in the characters we have helped to create. To change now, on the last season, based on greed is a sad example of what big business kids marketing really is.
Please spread the word - maybe some fan buzz can stop this tragedy.
Eric "Brock & James" Stuart"
"Hey Scott- Unfortunately, this is very real. We have been informed that Pokémon USA has already made plans to do the Anniversary special with substitute voices. Apparently, they haven't made a firm decision on the next season yet. None of us have been formally asked to do the show, we've simply been told we'll be replaced. Pokémon USA has made no effort to negotiate with 4Kids, simply feeling that getting a cheaper rate to dub the show is enough. They care nothing for the quality. They will be using new script writers, voices, music, etc. We (the voice actors and those at 4Kids who work so hard on the show) are all extremely upset as we care very much for Pokémon and what we've worked to create. However, there is nothing that we can do. It seems that the only recourse is for fans to write to Pokémon USA and tell them how wrong their decision is and how it will adversely affect the show.
Thanks for your concern. Please spread the word and let's all try to work together to right this wrong before it's too late.
Subject: Re: FW: The PokéCommunity Forums Contact Us Form - Pokémon Urgent news
Thanks for your note. Unfortunately this is all too true. Pokémon USA recently informed us that they are dubbing the Anniversary special with sound alikes. They are not sure about the next season. None of us (actors, script writers, etc.) have even been asked to continue working on the show. They have not even attempted to negotiate with 4kids. They say that the show will be exactly the same even though they are replacing all the elements and using all new people totally unfamiliar with the project. We are all extremely upset about this turn of events as we care so much about the show and have no say in the matter whatsoever. I am hoping that if enough people write to Pokémon USA and express their dismay, we may right this wrong before it is too late!
Spread the word!
Thanks for your concern.
Many fans were upset and opposed the idea of recasting the voice actors with new ones. Some were open to the idea because they weren't fond of the old voice actors in the first place. Some wanted to see the special episode before making a comment.
Some fans who opposed the idea of recasting decided to send letters to Pokémon USA by mail and e-mail. An online petition has also been made by online members.
However, on April 29, 2006, after the special aired, many Pokémon fans disliked the new voices. According to a Bulbagarden Forums poll, one person liked the special, 17 people said it was OK, 15 people hated most of the voices, and 30 hated the new voices altogether (as of April 30th at 1:19 PM ET). Some Pokémon fans planned to boycott merchandise from Pokémon USA, and many started to write complaint letters to Pokémon USA.
PUSA's reaction to complaints
After many complaints from the fans about Ash's voice, which was done by Kayzie Rogers (as "Jamie Peacock") they re-casted the voice actor for Ash. It was announced at Comic Con International that Sarah Natochenny will do the voice of Ash. Also, The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon special was re-dubbed. Sarah Natochenny's performance of Ash is still a controversy for some in the Pokémon Community up to this day.
TAJ Productions went out of business in early 2008, and DuArt Film & Video became Pokémon USA (now called The Pokémon Company International)'s new partner in producing the English adaptation. Because the show had grown somewhat in popularity over the past two years, production costs weren't kept as low, and DuArt brought back many of the original voice actors to play newer, smaller roles, and Ted Lewis was brought back to continue playing his roles (notably Giovanni) and Mike Pollock was brought back to continue playing Mr. Contesta with the departure of Craig Blair from the franchise. Other actors from the original cast who have returned to voice characters in current episodes include Rachael Lillis, Maddie Blaustein (briefly before her death), Erica Schroeder, Lisa Ortiz, Jason Griffith, Dan Green, among others. However, DuArt has kept most of the main voice cast from the TAJ dubbed episodes for consistency.
- Save Our Voice Actors (archive)
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