Lights, Camera, Appropration!: The Problem with Hollywood’s Aversion to Traditional Voice Actors

Why not keep the iconic voices we know and love?

Adam Lovegrove
22nd May 2023
Image from IMDb
Illumination’s casting of Chris Pratt for the titular character of The Super Mario Bros. Movie has raised discussion once again on Hollywood’s problem with casting celebrity stars in animated films over the original voices of characters.

Everyone knows who Super Mario is. With a history of games spanning nearly 40 years, he has undeniably become one of the most recognisable characters of all time. If I were to ask you to name some of Mario’s most recognisable traits, what would you say? Many would go for his thick moustache; or his blue overalls; or even his bright red hat with the big letter “M” on it. But almost anyone you ask would be quick to mention his high-pitched Italian accent. It is a central part of his identity that Charles Martinet has provided the voice of for so many years, who has helped shape the Mario we know today.

So when Hollywood star Chris Pratt was announced to be the voice of the famous plumber in his upcoming movie, the internet erupted. Thousands of Twitter replies, Youtube comments and posts on any social media site you could imagine responded in anger, humour or just plain confusion at this casting decision. For a movie that seemed to keep it’s world so accurate to it’s videogame counterparts, from the locations to the character designs, people were outraged at the decision to replace one of the most iconic features of Mario. But why?

Chris Pratt sounds nothing like Mario though, not even attempting to somewhat resemble the voice Charles Martinet gave the character all the way back in 1994

The most obvious issue is the fact that Chris Pratt’s voice simply does not suit Mario. Other celebrity re-castings of videogame characters usually make some amount of sense, such as Ben Schwartz’take on Sonic the Hedgehog, which manages to maintain the character’s cocky and carefree attitude while also providing a much more childish voice to fit this inception of the character. Chris Pratt sounds nothing like Mario though, not even attempting to somewhat resemble the voice Charles Martinet gave the character all the way back in 1994.

Charles Martinet truly loves the character of Mario

But underneath this problem lies Hollywood’s focus on sales figures over all other matters, opting for A-List names on posters to sell tickets rather than pleasing the loyal fans who have made the existence of these franchises possible for so long. Chris Pratt may rake in a larger profit at the end of the day, but Charles Martinet truly loves the character of Mario, having stuck with him for so many years and being as crucial to Mario’s personality as the design itself.

There’s a misconception that voice actors are always less talented than Hollywood stars, and shouldn’t be given the opportunity to voice in blockbuster films. But the reality is that voice actors are seen by the industry as easily replacable because the character will always look the same. Studios need to provide more protection for these beloved voice actors: a job which deserves so much more respect than it gets.

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