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Interview: Let’s Voice Undertale

We talk to a group of fans making a love letter to the indie game.

In Undertale, Sans, a skeleton, is made entirely of funnybones.

Sans: Everybody’s favorite wiseguy.

Let’s Voice Undertale is a fandub of the beloved indie game Undertale.  I sat down recently to talk with Blair Shaffer, the producer, voice director, and primary video editor; Sean Chiplock, who plays Papyrus and Asriel’s first form; Dreux Ferrano, Jr., who plays Sans, Burgerpants, and Mad Dummy; and Shane Talerico, who plays miscellaneous roles. Many of the cast and crew have worked or are working on other great projects, like Ferrano, who is currently on the podcast Bedtime Stories and a fandub of The Invisible Man. Additionally, Ferrano previously worked on Yu Yu Hakusho club. Chiplock, who works as a professional voice actor, can be heard, in games like Killer Instinct and Legend of Heroes. Talerico can be heard on the Dungeons and Dragons podcast Wait, Wait, Don’t Kill Me.

Even though Let’s Voice Undertale has not yet released its first episode, they are already breaking the Internet: their call for voice actors crashed castingcallclub’s servers, and the website was forced to rewrite their code. I spoke to them about the project and their love of video games and voice actors.

Courtney Hilden (TMS) What inspired you to make a fandub of Undertale?  What is it about Undertale that you think really needs a fan dub treatment?

Blair Shaffer I knew I wanted to do a fandub the moment I realize that these characters have distinct voices that people were coming up with on their streams. There’s a streamer named Vinesauce Joel, and he does a particular good pirate’s voice.  When I heard his voice I thought “Wow, I wish someone would do a fandom of the game.”  I was like “I got to look this up. Surely someone else is doing this.”  Nobody was doing it, and I was like “I’ll do it.”

TMS What do you love about Undertale?

Shane Talerico I’ve never played a jrpg. I never played Shovel Knight, but I really like Undertale. It’s just very meta. It throws you on your ass all the time. Where you might think this is just a typical game, it’s not at what all what you expected it to be. And the game is very self-aware. It uses save, so it knows when you’ve done something and reset it back. [The game] says “Hey, I know what you did.”  People’s dialogue changes when you do that stuff. The game remembers. And you can get one of many, many endings, and it’s all affected by your choices. And there’s lots of little secrets. Even though it’s not a beast of graphical prowess; it’s pixilated for the most part, it feels nostalgic. I just started playing it a few months back [and] it already feels like a nostalgic trip.

Dreux Ferrano, Jr. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the game. I beat it. My first one was a genocide run, because I knew everyone was going to be like “Oh, I beat Sans, I beat Sans. Did you beat Sans?”  So I beat Sans, and that was the main reason why I played it. I knew that if a project came out that gave the character’s voices, I want to be in the first one, because maybe that could spell opportunity later, so, I would say I’m a part of this project because I am a fan of the game as much as I am playing the game of voiceover, where you want to be in the popular project because if someone official happens, they might look to that. It could lead to something more profitable in the future. I’m very business-oriented.

TMS When did you first get involved with Let’s Voice Undertale?

Ferrano I just happened to search Undertale, because I knew it was popular at the time, and this one popped up. It already had Sonicmega [Sean Chiplock], who I go way back with. Me and him knew each other a long time ago, and so I auditioned for it, to see if I could get into any of the roles, because if Sonicmega’s in it, maybe they’ll cast me too. That tends to be what happens.

Talerico The way I discovered it was kind of interesting, because I had been wanting to get into voice acting for awhile and I had purchased a professional microphone for that purpose. I wasn’t on any website or anything like that. I found [it], just in my Google search for Undertale stuff. I didn’t actually expect that I was going to get picked for anything, because I hadn’t done anything professional before, but I had been told by a lot of people I had a voice that was good for voice acting, so I gave it a shot. At first I tried for a main role like Papyrus, but, once I heard other people’s renditions, I knew I wasn’t getting that part. There are a lot of little characters in that game, and I don’t have a very unique voice, but I have a varied voice.

Sean Chiplock Even before Undertale was officially out, I already knew I was going to be a big fan. I’m familiar with the game itself because I backed it on Kickstarter. By the time I was done with the game, I knew in my gut I was going to be following everything relating to the game. So after I became Undertale trash, I naturally feed over into my voice over hobby. My [professional] tumblr is actually pretty recent. I think it’s only been two or three months old, and it was at the request of my mentor, because I do really stupid voiceover stuff in my free time, but I didn’t really have anywhere to post it, because Twitter doesn’t really work with the characters, and Facebook doesn’t work because everyone’s too busy trying to be popular to others at the same time. Things really started heating up with the Papyrus and Sans voice skits that I started doing, because Papyrus is totally me. He’s way too energetic, and he’s smarmy. He gets annoyed by bad puns, even though he makes them all the time. I ended up doing skits, I ended up helping to do comics, and doing the songs. Things really exploded and people kept asking if I would do certain sections, like “You should do the dating scene” or “Oh, you should do this as Asriel, you should do all this.”  At one point, I got an email from Casting Call Club, and normally I don’t audition for anything on the site, but I saw the thing for Let’s Play Undertale. I like this game enough and I’d like to see it happen. I’m confident enough in my Papyrus and Sans voice that I feel like that the only people who could do it justice are me and maybe a select few other people.

TMS So how did it feel when your call for voices got so viral that it crashed casting call’s website?

Shaffer You know, I was beyond words. The worst part was I set [the casting call page] it up in the most unprofessional way possible. I had listed one character and then accidentally published it, and there was no way to take it down. It took me a week to finally put everything together. It was horrible and when I saw that people not only looked passed that, but were totally invested, I could not have been happier.

Talerico I’m still coming to terms with the fact that this might blow up. It probably won’t be too big, but it’ll get circulated out a lot, especially with people pimping it out of their tumblrs and YouTube pages.

TMS So, Blair, you’re in college right now. Are there any college classes that are inspiring you?  Did you learn any technical skills that make Let’s Voice Undertale happen?

Shaffer Originally, most of my skills came from teaching myself. I’ve put together a few videos on my YouTube channels, so I have some idea of how to edit, but I recently just started taking classes in video editing, and that’s going to help a lot.

TMS Dreux, you, of course, are famous for your How to Let’s Play video series. How did you use your experience from those videos in your voice acting work on this project?

Ferrano Well, I don’t really know what I’m famous for. I mostly did little sketch comedy, that’s what that was all about. When it comes to voice acting, most of what I use is from the professional training I’ve had in New York, and through my college years.

TMS Sean, obviously, you have lots of experience working as a voice actor. What previous experiences did you draw on for this particular fan dub?

Chiplock I think to best to answer this I have to extrapolate it not just my audition but when I helped Blair casting the other roles as well. So, one thing that makes it relatively easy for people to latch onto Undertale is that each of the characters has a very focused personality quirk. If you think of stuff like Skyrim, or Fallout, a lot of big games where characters have very multi-layers and complex personalities, maybe you can really devote yourself to someone, but you may not find yourself liking everybody in the cast, because there’s just so much to process. With Undertale, a lot of the characters are very fleshed out, but they’re very easy to identify. The reason we have such a large fandom is typically because everyone has one or two characters that they like more than anyone else, and it’s usually because of a personality quirk. So, how that relates to the auditions was now that we had the personality quirks down, it was as simple as A.) Do they present a personality that fits that character or what we have a mind? and B.) Outside of that, can they act?  So if you were able to be exuberant and loud as Papyrus and you were able to do emotions pretty well, you were already ahead of 90% of people who auditioned. I’m not just saying that about this project. This usually applies to amateur voice projects in general. I feel like I had a little bit of an unfair advantage in that regard because I’ve been doing this professionally for a number of years, and so, once I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do with the characters, it was just a matter of doing the audition. If we had two or three people who were equally good for the role, I would say “Have them tweak this, because I really like what I’m hearing.”  I don’t like railroading people into a specific performance, so I would try to say why I would like you to tweak it. So I think in general, without railroading people, I think we were able to get a lot of performances that were very close to the projected personality of the character, but without throwing away what the individual actors had that made their’s unique.

TMS Sean, I was reading through your tumblr. You said on your tumblr that you started voice acting as a kid. You and your brother would make up voices for your video game characters. Do you remember what kind of voice you did for each character?

Chiplock Oh yeah. There’s this character you meet at the beginning of the game [BomberMan 64] named Tommy, and he’s smarmy little smug shit. He’s adorable. And the first thing he says is “Tommy’s name is Tommy. Tommy is the cutest little hero in the whole galaxy.”  Because of how the game worked, Bomberman didn’t talk, but everyone else in the game did. My brother would always want to voice Tommy, because he was younger. I would usually help provide voices for the bosses. The moment that got me into voice over was when I was looking at a behind the scenes video on Adult Swim, and it was showing they recording a section for Trinity Blood. It showed Troy Baker in the studio recording with the subscreen that had the actual scene he was dubbing. It was that moment that made me go “Oh right!  This exists. This is a thing people do.”

TMS Were you into cartoons a lot as a kid?  Did you do voices for that as well?  Or was it mostly a video game thing?

Chiplock I didn’t do voiceover for that. That was just typical tune-in-brain-off-sort of thing.

TMS Shane, why did you get started in voice acting?  Was there a particular movie or video game, something that got you interested?

Talerico Tom Kenny, the voice of Sponge Bob, but that’s not why, actually. It was his voicing [of] Spyro from the Spyro games, which I actually didn’t know he voiced Spyro until recently, but he voiced another character that’s basically Sponge Bob’s voice, and that came out right before the show came out, so he was probably testing that voice out. I guess it’s just this accidental thing. A lot of times they started as regular actors, and then they cultivate a kind of voice that sounds good in animation. They just get cast into a role because they were in the right place at the right time.

TMS Do any of you have any favorite voice actors?

Chiplock I feel sometimes I’m behind the curve, because I don’t have favorite voice actors like most people do. I don’t tend to focus on people; I just tend to focus on performances.

Ferrano  TomaMoto. He’s very successful. He’s the reason why I do what I do now, because he had a direct involvement in getting me my first paid roll. And when it comes to people I look up to, I would say Jim Cummings and Mark Hamil.

Talerico You know, I feel ashamed that I don’t remember everyone’s name. Tara Strong, who does like Timmy Turner, and Bubbles, and a million voices. The voice actors for Futurama and Adventure Time. John DiMaggio does Bender and he does Jake the Dog. He’s got a very specific voice. He’s an actor, so it sounds good in cartoons, but I guess what inspires me is that I want to make the voice that everyone says that I’m good for.

Shaffer Right now I think I’m biased because I’m working with him, [but] probably Sean Chiplock. I love him because he’s very down to Earth. You can tell him to do something and not only will he do it, he’ll go “How high?”

TMS Who do you think has had the biggest impact on your work so far?

Talerico Tom Kenny. He’s my fallback. He’s so cool. And he’s really nice. I’ve heard a lot of stories where he’s always friendly to people. He’s just a cool guy and that’s the kind of person I aspire to be: someone who’s just really nice, but also talented.

Chiplock At least as a mainstay I have told people that if I could have Kari Wahlgren’s range, Liam O’Brien’s, raw energy, and Steve Blum’s peer network, I would never have a day in my life where I wasn’t working.

TMS What’s been your favorite part of this project so far?

Chiplock Hearing the auditions, to be honest.

Talerico I think I like the community a lot because I’m not the only nervous person involved. A lot of people are pretty nervous. The only people who aren’t nervous are the ones who have been doing this for so long [that] this is just another project for them. I’m one of few that this is their first project. I’m learning a lot of stuff.

TMS What kind of stuff have you learned?

Talerico One time [Ferrano and I] we’re hanging out. He [was] just talking about the best kind of microphones you can get, [and] the best kinds of audio interfaces you can get. I just thought if I just threw enough money at the problem, it would be solved, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. He’s really smart, and he’s had a lot of insight. Essentially, Undertale is one of those things that a lot of people take very personally. Dreux [was] saying this is going to be a make or break type of thing for some people. You might get torn apart, which is always a risk, if you’re doing anything on the Internet.

TMS What part of this project are you most proud of?

Shaffer I guess I’m most proud of is one of our cast members is actually a script writer for plays, so he’s been writing some pretty fun skits just for Undertale that we’re going to be doing.

TMS How do you manage getting everything recorded when your actors are not in one location?

Shaffer Good question. We have a website set up on Freed Camp. It’s like another website called Base Camp, but free. And what it lets us do is set up a listing of what needs to be done to be done and assign people to it, and then they can upload files to it. It makes things very simple. We also have a channel have set up on Discord. [The actors] They can do a live recording with me and I can make any corrections they need right there, and then they just send me the finished audio file.

TMS That sounds like a lot of file management to handle. If you weren’t using those websites, you would be forced to use something like Dropbox just to hold that information.

Shaffer You’re absolutely right. I was panicking when I was first working on these episodes because “Oh God, how am I going to do this?”  And then I was able to find that website and Discord, and it’s made everything so much easier.

TMS What’s your favorite thing about voice work?

Talerico It’s fun. A lot of people, they take a while in life to find what they really want to do. For me, this is kind of one of those things. I want to be able to entertain people. I don’t have the face [for acting], unless I do comedy stuff. I’m not a Brad Pitt, you know.

TMS Oh honey.

Talerico No, no, no, I’m not putting myself down or anything. I’m just recognizing a fact. With voice acting, it’s harder because you have to put in so much more work to help reflect those emotions. You can’t have monotone deliveries on most things. You have to be able to make it varied and alive. You have to bring your voice to life without people seeing your face and that, to me, is very interesting. [It’s] One of the things I like best about it.

TMS Do any of you have any favorite fan dubs?

Shaffer: Yes. Multiple. If I had to pick, I would say the amazing team at Team Four Star. There’s [also] this guy on YouTube named Xanauzumaki. He did a fandub of pretty much every single 3D Zelda game. It was insane and it was so much fun to watch. What was unique about it was the heart he put into every single episode. You could tell that he was just having a blast writing these skits.

Talerico: I’ve heard a few. There’s this online comic creator named Hiimdaisy, who creates these things for Persona 4. The writing combined with the voice acting was great. Out of all the fandubs I’ve seen, that was definitely my favorite. Um, so am I a big fan of fandubs?  Not really. I don’t have anything against them.

Ferrano: I don’t hate fan dubs. I don’t watch them.

TMS: If any of you could work on another fandub, what would it be and why?

Talerico: I was thinking Mass Effect; I really like that game. It’s so good already. I would just be lowering the quality. It would have to be something I guess that doesn’t have voice work like Undertale. Maybe Shovel Knight. It’s more action-based. It’s a platformer, but that would be fun. I’d like to do an official fandub of that game.

Ferrano: I’m working on one right now of the Fatal Fury movies. We’ve already gotten one episode out. I believe there were three Fatal Fury movies. We did the first one, which is the origin story of Terry Boguard’s fighting technique. It’s all like summed up in three scenes, so it’s really, really funny to work around.

TMS: I know it’s still early, but do you have any plans to work on other fan dubs after you finish Let’s Voice Undertale?

Shaffer: You know, I was thinking about that. I’m hoping we’d be able to stick together somewhat as a team after the project, but honestly it all depends on whole the cast is feeling. Perhaps we’d do another game that doesn’t have voice acting.

Courtney Hilden is a blog editor and poetry reader at Bayou Magazine. She has been published at Quaint Magazine, among others.

(via Sans Fan Art, image via Red 18fire on Deviant Art)

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