The web comic properties of NAMCO Bandai’s Shiftylook label are inspired by the classic 8-bit arcade games the company hopes are primed for revival. And for its first animated series, Shiftylook tapped a voice actor going through his own retro renaissance to play a character who just hit 25 years.
Voice actor Rob Paulsen stars as both Bravoman and Alpha Man in the just-debuted “Bravoman” web cartoon which loads a new episode every Monday to Shiftylook.com and its accompanying YouTube channel. The 30-year veteran of the animation world is best known for starring as Raphael in ’80s animation juggernaut “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and Yakko Warner on the acclaimed “Animaniacs.” And in recent years, Paulsen’s best known parts have put a renewed spotlight on his career as he currently voices Donatello for Nickelodeon’s high rated “Ninja Turtles” revival while “Animaniacs” is enjoying a second life as a daily cartoon on The Hub network. On “Bravoman,” Paulsen is led by the joint creators at Shiftylook and UDON Entertainment including “Skullkickers” writer Jim Zub who scripts the first episode.
CBR News spoke with the actor about the Bravoman gig and his classic parts coming back around 20 years after “Animaniacs” made its debut and 25 years since the original Turtles show bowed. Paulsen noted that the style of the new web series matches the sarcastic tone of the Warner’s world. “It’s a lot of self-effacing humor and smart-assy stuff like we did in ‘Animaniacs.’ I love doing stuff like that,” he said of “Bravoman.”
“For Bravoman, they wanted kind of a vibe that was confident but also a little reticent. Confident reticence! I know that’s oxymoronic,” Paulsen laughed before explaining that the secret to capturing he diminutive video game hero came from one of his other comic book roles: the Tick’s pudgy sidekick Arthur from the ’90s animated series. The actor slid easily into the nervous accountant turned moth-themed superhero’s high voice, saying, “‘Arthur was up here, uh, kind of a reluctant hero because of the Tick.’ They liked that attitude for Bravoman. ‘Yeah, I guess I’m a superhero, but… no no, ouch! That’s hurts!’
“And when we were checking out other voices, I did this kind of knock off of George Takei for Alpha Man, and they said they dug that. It worked really well all together, and that was a different enough voice that I could do both in the series, and they wouldn’t bleed into one another. They’re both voices I really enjoy doing, and Alpha Man has got this kind of snarky smart ass vibe that he uses to keep Bravoman in check. It’s a fun gig to play characters opposite each other who both come out of my brain.”
“Bravoman” rounds itself out with other actors and staff Paulsen said add to the cutting edge humor of the show. “Dee Baker [as Doctor Bomb] and Romi Dames [as Waya Hime], the other actors on this show, are so adept at playing that kind of stuff. They of course come with their own pedigree. Romi has been doing so much other work and is known by people from ‘Hannah Montana,’ and Dee Bradley Baker speaks for himself from ‘Phineas and Ferb’ to ‘Portal’ to ‘Clone Wars.’ He is an incredible talent,” he said.
“And this is exciting because it’s a whole new medium for me to work on something that’s designed for the web. The folks at NAMCO Bandai have done a great job and are just really on it. It looks great. It sounds great. Randy Rogel from ‘Animaniacs’ wrote the theme song, and I’m singing it. He’s the guy that did ‘Yakko’s World,’ so it’s like they’re really going after incredible people on every aspect of the show. I’m incredibly proud of working on this.”
Paulsen expressed surprise at the fact that some of his older work has come back around in such a big way, particularly “Ninja Turtles” where he’s traded up the gruff Raphael for the brainy Donatello in the new series that appears every bit the merchandising bonanza the original series was. “I’m a Ninja Turtle again, which is crazy,” he said. “And it’s huge right now. The opportunity to get another crack at that franchise in one career… are you kidding me? And that the folks at Nickelodeon and Viacom, [producers] Ciro Nieli and Peter Hastings hired me to do it again with a different Turtle was not only significant in my career but a very unusual circumstance in terms of the life of a franchise. I really don’t know too many shows that can come back after 25 years. I mean, there have been iterations of the Turtles in between. But I can’t think of one show that was a huge hit and did a couple of movies and then went away a little, and then got a huge boost and marketing campaign from a Viacom and again became a hit worldwide.
“And this wasn’t like they said, ‘Let’s get Rob and give it to him,'” he laughed. “I had to audition for it and was happy to do so. But the fact that they had the confidence to give me a crack with a different [character] was great. And I think in some ways, it was really smart too because they’re using it as a marketing tool. And now what happens is that you’ll see [at conventions] is moms and dads in their old Turtle garb bringing their kids in the stroller in new Turtles garb. It’s cross-generational, and that’s very unusual and a huge thrill.”
The actor spends his free time in the recording booth too as Paulsen hosts the popular “Talkin’ Toons” podcast where he interviews colleagues and luminaries from the voice acting world. “I’m still learning every day,” he said. “When I’m surrounded by these really talented people at work and then I’m surrounded by them when we do our podcast, I’m just reminded of how incredibly talented these people are. I just had Gregg Berger on and Daran Norris. We’ve had Billy West and Mark Hamill and Nancy Cartwright and Grey Delisle and Jennifer Hale and Maurice LaMarche… they’re all great friends on mine. But when I’m sitting there talking to them, I’m reminded of not only how much great work we’ve done together but how talented they are.
“I don’t want to stop getting better until they put me in the ground, man,” he laughed. “And it’s for two reasons. I need to get better so I can keep my chops sharp and keep working because there are always new people coming up and I have to be competitive. But the competitiveness and the desire to be better is a result of this passion I still have — as much as I ever had — to really do this gig. I want to create characters and delve deeply into them and hopefully bring a lot of entertainment to people because it entertains me.”
“Bravoman” is live online now on Shiftylook.com with new episodes debuting every Monday.