An Afternoon with Mike Pollock

Interview originally Recorded on October 11th, 2010

Mike Pollock is one of New York's premier animation voice-over actors. Saturday morning cartoon viewers of FOX and The CW might recognize his voice as Garbageman on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dr. Eggman and Ella on Sonic X and the Sonic the Hedgehog video games, Bigoriki in Gororiki, and Langston Lickatoad in Viva Piñata. He is well known to Pokémon fans as the Narrator. TSS_Killer and inu-liger had the opportunity to interview Mike and to discuss voice acting on October 11th, 2010. Below is a transcript from that interview.

Video of Interview

Interview Transcription

TSS_Killer: Hello everybody. This is TSS_Killer from PocketMonsters.net and PPNStudio.com and we're here today to present a very special interview with Mr. Mike Pollock.

Mike Pollock: Thank you so much.

TSS_Killer: And to my right over here is inu-liger. inu-liger: Hello.

TSS_Killer: Okay, let's begin shall we? Now Mike, for people that are not familiar with your voice acting work, I know that people know you as the second anime narrator from Pokémon of course and also Dr. Eggman from Sonic X, Besides that can you please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into this industry?

Mike Pollock: Sure. I started with a love for radio from as far back as I can remember and I listened to the DJ's doing their DJ thing, "Hey good morning Shaman 20!" I said, "I can do that!", and once I actually got into radio and I realized there's so much more to it than disc jockeying, I actually wanted to do more of the commercial stuff 'cus in commercials you could act, you could do characters and stuff, and I said, "I could do that!".

So I eventually got into radio through College and part-time at a radio station in Syracuse, said, "Well that DJ thing is great but I wanna to do production and make commercials!", and I did that in Syracuse and Rochester for a while, then came back to New York and eased out of radio and into full time voiceover, so I did a lot of cartoons, commercials, video games, stuff like that.

TSS_Killer: Certainly! inu-liger: What made you choose to pursue voice acting as a career? Was there perhaps another voice actor, past or present, that inspired you to get into voice acting, on top of that?

Mike Pollock: Watching every cartoon as a child probably influenced me to some degree or another. But the, obviously the legends of the, well, me being the child of the '70s, and the legends of the '70s and earlier, the Mel Blanc's of the world,the Rocky and Bullwinkle cast, brilliant people I got a chance to actually speak to all of them ever so briefly when I was in high school, which was a very cool moment.

Um, yeah any cartoon I ever saw as a child I said "I could do that, possibly even better!" So, yeah, and then when I got the chance to do it I said "Yeeahhh, this is good."

TSS_Killer: Inspiring words indeed.

Mike Pollock: It's also excellent for the short attention span in us all. And I'm in the room for an hour or two, and on to the next thing.

TSS_Killer: Yes indeed, and a lot of people will vouch for the, uh, lack of attention span in the last few years sadly.

inu-liger: Mmm hmm. TSS_Killer: But um...

Mike Pollock: I'm sorry, what were you saying? I'm kidding!

TSS_Killer: We- we kid over here, like I said, we have tons of fun on PM.net.

TSS_Killer: OK, alright so... As many people know, Rodger Parsons was the first narrator for the Pokémon series. Now Mike, as far as we're concerned, how did you come to work for 4Kids, for the dub especially, and did you take into any consideration or take any sort of inspiration from Rodger Parsons as fitting into the role of Narrator?

Mike Pollock: My entry into 4Kids was actually in an earlier episode of Pokémon. Uh, I was in "Carrying On" playing the grandfather of Malachi the Pidgey messenger service trainer. Um, so that was a quick little half hour of my life, I was like "Oh this is cool, I'm not the most exciting character."

"Hello, I'm just a kindly old grandfather." And that eventually got me into when 4Kids started doing the whole Fox Box 4Kids TV thing.

TSS_Killer: Ahh yes.

Mike Pollock: And then they'd said "Well here, do these other things as well 'cause we're between narrators at the moment", So when the narrator position opened, um, it was actually a bit of a surprise, I was brought on for Jirachi Wish Maker as just being the narrator and that, and then they'd said "Well here, do these other things as well 'cause we're between narrators at the moment".

So um, the only real direction I got as far as being a narrator was, we wanted it to be a grandfatherly type of voice, which I don't think it really ended up as being so grandfatherly. "If my grandfather sounded like this, I'd be a little freaked out!". That's what they wanted, that's what they like and that's what they got. And I prefer to, since Rodger came back to the role, I prefer to consider that he book ended my career as the narrator.

TSS_Killer: Well you certainly did a great job in your three-year tenure, I can definitely say that, and uh, it's just wonderful you know, hearing your voice now as well as back in the series. You really set a tone for the AG series, as it's known as.

inu-liger: I just uh, before I get into the next question, did they ever mention why you were replacing Mr. Parsons?

Mike Pollock: Don't ask, don't tell. I was glad to have a gig.

inu-liger: Did you take a lot of enjoyment in working on the Pokémon dub, and did you ever have any regrets or nitpicks about your own work on the show?

Mike Pollock: I had a great deal of fun doing it, I love doing all the voice acting stuff just cos' like I say it's quick in, quick out, have fun, be lots of people, go on to something else. Um, the biggest challenge is not really knowing what I'm talking about. 'Cos I go in and I see the entire script is there, but I'm really only focusing on the couple of paragraphs at the beginning that I'm reading, the couple paragraphs at the end that I'm reading, and I didn't really know what I was talking about, but as long as the director did, and could make me sound like I did, you know that was it. And the trickiest part is having too much fun and just giggling my way through the dialogue and be like, "Oh again sorry, take 18, sorry!"

TSS_Killer: Well, we thrive for improv in this business as you well know, Mike, so we really, we really know what we're talking about, especially here where we just ad-lib stuff, especially on the website.

TSS_Killer: OK, now Mike before we continue, I'd like to say that Rachel Lillis and Eric Stuart say best regards for you and say hello.

Mike Pollock: HI!

TSS_Killer: Hello there, heh heh! That was very fluid, all right! inu-liger: There you go.

TSS_Killer: Now... Now Mike, have you ever had a chance to take a look at the Best Wishes series that's going on in Japan right now?

Mike Pollock: No I don't, I'm raising two kids with a crazy wife who's also busy raising two kids, not much time for watching stuff except, the only Japanese stuff we're watching at home now is the Power Rangers stuff my son is watching, so.

TSS_Killer: Ah yeah, Super Sentai.

Mike Pollock: Yeah he's taking up all the Japanese viewing in the house watching that.

TSS_Killer: And to my own admission, the Super Sentai series is just much better than Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger was in the States. And it's actually geared to more of a broad audience. In my own admission, my brother still watches that, so... Very good.

Mike Pollock: I'm sure he would agree.

TSS_Killer: Yes, indeed.

inu-liger: And having dubbed for various anime shows, have you ever had the opportunity to watch any of the original Japanese content first before going to do your dub voiceovers, in order to form a basis for your character's voice or, do you and the director sit down to just form a new voice from scratch?

Mike Pollock: It depends on the studio. 4Kids usually discourages listening to the Japanese unless there's one particularly tricky part of a dub, and they wanna see exactly where the voice is supposed to be in the shot, so then they'll listen to the dub. But other studios will offer to play the Japanese first just to not only get a voice at the start of the session, and just seeing, you know, we're kinda trying to match that.

inu-liger: And to get the emotion conveyed in the scenes as well.

Mike Pollock: Yeah, also from a technical standpoint before recording each line, oh it's gotta be this long and it's broken up like this.

TSS_Killer: Now we have it well documented on pocketmonsters.net that 4Kids definitely changed a heck of a lot of lines, especially in the early Kanto and also in the Johto series. Now anybody that reads any Pokémon websites, especially ours, they know that a lot of paint edits occur, because especially in the older episodes you had Japanese written on the signs, and that's why they changed to kind of a pseudo, uh, letters. Actually I've seen a few Japanese anime series from TV Tokyo that do the same thing nowadays.

inu-liger: Or we get the short-short skirts turned into regular skirts.

TSS_Killer: Right, right, and the best one I think was when they turned the onigiri, the rice ball, into a sandwich. I think that was a major, a real major turning point in the paint edits. Thankfully they don't do it as much nowadays, to my own admission. And at least they keep it, they keep it more true to the Japanese series, but um, Let's just say the voice acting is *lacking* nowadays.

inu-liger: And the scriptwritng doesn't help.

TSS_Killer: Yeah. I uh, just four words here, "I am not a noob". That's the direction where the dub is going nowadays.

Mike Pollock: The more recent stuff with 4Kids they've actually left more foreign stuff in. GoGoRiki, which was an excellent series if I do say so myself, where I play Bigoriki the big burly blue crow, I guess he was. Um, it's a Russian show, they left in all the Russian letters, 'cos they figured 'No one can read that!' But the Russian people can.

TSS_Killer: Now Mike do you ever, in any of these roles, have you ever taken the time and actually sit down and watch what you do, and also, let's say would you only watch the episodes of Pokémon that you worked on, or would you watch, you know, the early stuff or the later stuff after you've left?

Mike Pollock: Well with Pokémon not only would I only watch the episodes I was in, I would only watch the parts of the episode I was in!

TSS_Killer: Two minutes!

Mike Pollock: Many opens and 'boop-boop-boop-boop' and many closes, great. Make sure my name's spelt right in the credits. Um, with some of them, some of the plots of some of the shows, not necessarily Pokémon but, other shows the plots are just so involved that I can't make any sense of them, either when I'm recording them or when I'm watching them back but some of the ones that actually had a more linear plot, I said 'oh this is...he's a good guy, he's a bad guy and this is happening' I'll watch them, and especially when my kids were of the age and of the attention span where they'd be willing to watch them too. It'll be fun to wake up early on Saturday morning and, look it's this show!

TSS_Killer: Yes, and just to quickly add on that, For one thing I know that the Pokémon anime has definitely taken a turn where they're catering for 5-year-old kids now, and pretty much abandoning the rest of us, I mean most of the people that go onto the website are over the age of 20 and ironically when this series started I was 10 years old. So you know, being a hyper kid and being inspired by, you know, Pokémon and everything, having the Pokémon card battles in the lunchroom, or the schoolyard before they banned that. So it conjures up great memories and, you know, proves my love to the series.

inu-liger: But it's like PUSA, being Pokémon USA for short, they took the western notion that cartoons are for kids, like the stereotype, and REALLY kicked it up a horrible notch.

TSS_Killer: Yes indeed, especially in the last couple of seasons. They're really catering to the 5 to 10 demographic which thinks that, um, which think that they are more profitable, definitely. And also not to mention that most of the television stations are actually getting fined for showing Pokémon advertisements during Pokémon itself when it went into syndication.

inu-liger: Yeah, under anti-infomercial regulations.

TSS_Killer: Yeah, yeah I remembered just one more thing here, a local station WPIX, I've known that a few times they were fined, even 5 years after the fact.

inu-liger: Yeah because what happened was, I believe they had to file some papers and stuff you know, and, by regulatory laws they had to actually report that information, so they shot themselves in the foot.

TSS_Killer: Indeed so.

inu-liger: OK and to build upon the last question further, in the case of Dr. Eggman in the recent Sonic games, did you ever have a chance to try out or play the games that you'd actually voiced?

Mike Pollock: The closest I got to playing the games, I got close to playing the games twice. I bought a game as a gift for a couple nephews of mine, they happened to play it while I was in the house and I was like "Oh great, that's fun to watch." But the coolest moment was when the Olympic games first came out, and there was a kiosk at the mall where they were demoing the Olympic games, and I said "Really? I'm in that, play it for me!" and I had the guy demoing the games, he had played Eggman in tennis or something, I was like "Oh cool, I was that, thanks bye!" That was enough.

TSS_Killer: Now, um, since you were of course narrator for the Pokemon series by 4Kids, and also you were Mr. Contesta in the PUSA dub, um, have you noticed changes in the way that the production is being brought forth in comparison from 4Kids to PUSA?

Mike Pollock: Um, there's a little more, respect might be a strong word, but respect for the Japanese. Um, they will play you the Japanese these days, whereas 4Kids would tend not to. And I'm not in enough episodes these days - if you're watching, you know who you are and you can hire me! - to have made more comparisons, but yeah I'm gonna say there's a little more Japanese respect happening, a little more Japanese openness, whatever that word might be.

TSS_Killer: Mmm hmm. And just a quick sound bite: Suki desu neeeee. Had to say that English a lot of times I bet.

inu-liger: OK, um, do you believe that the messages and themes in the Pokemon series are intended to be addressed only to children and preteens, as is the common notion these days, or do you reckon it could also appeal to people in their 20's and 30's too? Well I guess we can disregard the last couple seasons however. In other words, do you think Pokemon is really just a kids show, or do you think it, you know, it goes further than that?

Mike Pollock: It's probably intended to be a kids show, but as with any well-written show there's stuff for everybody, 'cos the folks writing it have got to figure 'Well there'll be parents stuck watching the show, we should make it-'

inu-liger: Especially in theatres.

Mike Pollock: "Yeah, we should make a little interesting for the parents". So yeah, you could- I'm sure there are themes that if you're watching intently enough, you can say "Oh that's useful".

TSS_Killer: And to key on that further, just remember that, um, the games and the anime series have completely different demographics. Like I've seen people in their early or mid 20's walk around with Pokewalkers, and it's just amazing to see the loyalty in the series, I mean a lot of people have discounted the anime series for probably the last 5 years. But the games are definitely going strong, and I think they're going to continue that in the future.

inu-liger: Yeah 'cos Diamond and Pearl actually outsold the original R/G/B games. TSS_Killer: Indeed so.

TSS_Killer: Now Mike, while you were working with 4Kids and maybe PUSA as well, do you have any moments or little-known stories to share with us, any particular moment that maybe you would find amusing- Bloopers, or other things?

Mike Pollock: Apart from giggling uncontrollably in moments when time was short and I should not have been giggling, um, Most of the memorable moments are probably unprintable in even a non-family publication. Um, cos we're a bunch of people locked in a room, get a little goofy, a little dirty, a little scatological.

TSS_Killer: Alright, now welcome back to part two, and next question we're going over to inu.

inu-liger: OK um, what you advise someone who would want to pursue a voice acting career, would you try to persuade them or dissuade them from, you know, entering such a career? Any, you know, tips?

Mike Pollock: It's a big investment in time, energy, effort and money, so I recommend it 'cos it's great fun if you got the skill to do it. I happen to be right now working as an assistant and animation coach here at PDR Voice Over Coaching in New York, where we train people not only for animation but for commercial voiceover and narration and audio books and stuff like that.

inu-liger: Yeah I suppose we should get you to give us a visual tour of the whole studio afterwards.

Mike Pollock: Sure. And what we tell, we don't work with young people here as such, which is the choice of the coach in charge Peter Rofé, but you can buy his book which is called "Voice For Hire", which is also available on my website, signed for your convenience. And there's a section of animation in there which I have a couple pages in. But the important thing is to first learn to act, and develop your acting skills, do any acting you can at community theatre, school theatre. And then when you are enough of an actor and you have confidence in your acting abilities, then you can concentrate on the voice actor part, and get a nice demo done.

Among other things we produce demos here, again another big investment but if you're willing to make that investment to get your demo done, to market it and send it out to all the right people. Then it can be very rewarding.

TSS_Killer: You know, I was at a panel at Comic Con yesterday, and I do have to admit that a lot of the voice talent that I've seen on that panel, especially what they've picked from the audience, it is really getting improved because, and especially with voice coaching services that are offered here, um, I hope that this will show the other animations studios that, you know, you don't have to go to-, you don't have to have everybody sound like they're from the surfer guys or anything.

TSS_Killer: So heh, I could name a few dub series right now, but I don't want to, that have that kind of stereotypical, you know, sound to it. And I know you'd probably know that by now, Mike.

inu-liger: Yeah this is like the anti-plug-plug-plug moment to counterpoint his plug-plug-plug for that book. TSS_Killer: Indeed so.

TSS_Killer: Now Mike, was there ever a character that you'd ever been offered at any point in your career, that you've even rejected another role to just try and get it? Or have you ever had another series role offered, and you couldn't take the other series?

Mike Pollock: No, I've never turned down a role on purpose, anyway, just because I love doing it too much. I would work cheaper than I am in certain situations because I love it so much, }but don't tell anyone who would want to pay me.

Mike Pollock: But, no, just the opportunity to get into a room and even do a plain boring incidental character is great.

inu-liger: Does voice acting provide you with job satisfaction or have you regarded it at some point as just a source of income?

Mike Pollock: It's great when I'm doing it. When I am between roles, like for example waiting for the next audition to come in, it's pretty crappy. No one's calling me! Oh! But yeah, when I am in the studio recording something, as I was earlier today, it's like, "Wow, this is cool!"

TSS_Killer: And to key off probably what was on the last question there: Now, was there any particular time where you had an interest so much in a voice that despite how much it would pay like you would take a steep pay drop just to play that character? Do ya have any certain examples?

Mike Pollock: Any character that makes me laugh I would pretty much do for free. Again, don't tell anyone!'Cus I love to just sit and, well, laughing when I'm recording is a bad idea. But laughing in my head when I'm recording and saying a line thinking, "Wow I should be laughing at this if I wasn't recording it right now!" Just having fun and making myself laugh and hopefully making someone watching laugh, makes it all worthwhile.

inu-liger: For Pokémon, would you record by yourself in the booth or did your record as a group with the other voice actors from the same show?

Mike Pollock: We do it exactly the opposite as Japan does it from the videos that I've seen. It's just, everyone individually in a room, usually scheduled one right after the other, and 'cus when your dubbing you've got to do a lot of fine placement of audio goes here, audio goes here, audio doesn't go here, so it's easier to record someone and cut and paste, and trim and move and slide.

TSS_Killer: Now also on that note you said that you watched how Japan does it, there was a special last month that aired on TV Tokyo about how they did the Black and White and when they went into the studio, and yes you had: Rica Matsumoto, and I'm sorry if I can't even get the other two Japanese names, but the voice actor that played Dent and Iris, they basically had three microphones there and had pretty much like a surround sound, video screen probably. And I don't know, to me that would seem to be a better case scenario because you can actually, you know, key off other peoples emotions in that particular case. Well I guess whatever the American voice actors decide to do and the studios definitely is worthwhile. Now, when you are walking out or when you go to any conventions,

TSS_Killer: Are you pleased with the recognition you get for Pokémon, Sonic X, or any other role? Do you have any pride that you would take into that?

Mike Pollock: Oh, sure. It's not the kind of gig where people tend to recognize you on the screen, but at con's, you know especially if you've been introduced and people go, "Oh that's who it is!" and of course the flip-side of that is when there are, oh say three or more of us, and the crowd flocks to someone else, that's awkward. It's like, "Ah! Oh, how are you?" Yeah, so, the being ignored next to the clump of fans of other people, that's awkward.

inu-liger: Yeah, and of course, to be fair to like a lot of times, you know, what they give out as the promotional pictures and the website booklets and stuff, don't always match what you see in person because sometimes they will use photo's from years ago, which is quite common.

inu-liger: Being that you're best known to Pokémon fans as the voice of the Narrator and Mr. Contesta, Are there actually any other characters you've actually voiced on the show? You did mention the grandfather at first.

Mike Pollock: The grandfather was the first thing.

inu-liger: But were there any other characters that you voiced on the show that fans might not commonly know that you actually voiced or maybe weren't credited for?

Mike Pollock: Most recently I did Charon, the evil scientisty type guy. And then there was the guy at a carnival with the Boston accent, which was fun to do, who's name I should remember but don't. Then I was, I was th... at least one or two actual Pokémon. I was Hippowdon and possibly someone else that I don't recall now. It's been awhile! You should call me! No, there have been no brilliant gender-bender roles like for example Ella in Sonic X which I am extremely proud of because the fact they would cast me as a middle aged latina maid, makes me laugh.

TSS_Killer: And keying off that same question, A particular fan wants to know, did you voice Langston Lickatoad in Viva Pinata?

Mike Pollock: Yes I did. That was the closest I got to my actually voice. Yes, "Hi! I'm Langston Lickatoad!" That was pretty much that. Yeah, it was me. Thanks for watching that show. That's a good show. Everyone should watch that show.

TSS_Killer: Buy the DVD's now. Mike Pollock: Yes.

inu-liger: And to close off our interview with this I guess final question: Are there any current projects and shows that you've been doing voice acting work currently for? And is there any other exciting said work/projects that you've been doing that you could tell us about?

Mike Pollock: Yes, all the really cool stuff I can't tell you about 'cus its non-disclosure agreements. But there are a couple of young skewing cartoons that I've done pilots for, waiting for those to be picked up. Holiday season probably 2011, I'll be a couple of animated plush toys, which I will be plugging the heck out of on my website because its really cool. I've always wanted to be a talking toy and while I'm not going to be a talking toy for any of my existing characters these are brand new things that are going to be a lot of fun.

I'm doing a lot of stuff along with many of my east coast brethren representing whatever the heck I'm doing. Uh, that just end up in the dollar cut-out bin at your Wal-Mart. Don't bother investing money in those. And I've done a couple of commercials recently, also on my website.

SunSetter Retractable Awning which I guess runs during the summer months. I was Mr. Sun, the lovably annoying, "It's a sun, sun, sunny day!" And recently I was 'Your Brain' for Focus Factor Dietary Supplements. "Hello. This is your brain."

inu-liger: Just for the record, what's the address for your website?

Mike Pollock: It is: itsamike.com

TSS_Killer: All right folks, thank you very much for watching. And I would like to thank first of all Mike Pollock. You're just a great person in real life, definitely, definitely indeed. And for Inu_liger and myself, this is TSS_Killer saying: "Thanks for watching!" We'll see you later!

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