It seems like our week of Fox Madness continues! You've read all our interviews with all the other voice actors for Fox McCloud, but you were probably left wondering where the interview for the Starfox Assault Fox lurked? I mean, we didn't make any mention of it nor did we hint at whether or not it existed. Well, it does and it's here! Jim Walker not only did the voice for Fox McCloud in Starfox Assault, but he also came back to voice him again in everybody's beloved game Super Smash Bros. Brawl! Starfox fan or not, in some way or another every Nintendo fan has heard his voice, and it's only natural to be curious about the face behind the voice. Without further ado, we present to you all our interview with Jim Walker!
Q: How did you get into voice acting?
I grew up in LA and had a band. To pay the rent, I was throwing 500 copies a day of the LA Times from my ancient 1976 Chevy van. That sucked. Absolutely hated it. Hated my life, in fact. I worked from roughly 2am till 7am every day. Not good hours for me. My friend, Rick Marotta, was doing session work, playing drums for tv and radio commercials. He told a few people in the ad music world about me, and that I could sing. One day I got a call from an ad music person who said he was in a bind, and needed someone with a voice like Mike Patton from Faith No More. He asked if I could do it. I said YES (total lie). I went down, did the session, didn't really sound like Mike Patton but no one seemed bothered, and got on well with the ad music guys. That's important!
Forgive the tangent, but getting along with people (even if you don't particularly like them) is a skill like anything else, and something that everyone should strive to have in the toolbox. I mean, if you were a producer, who would you rather be in a room with; A great voice-person who's friendly, seems happy to be there, thankful for the gig, and is prepared and focused?
Or: A great voice-person who's weird and quiet, distracted, keeps checking the time, and hasn't spent anytime preparing? Who would you hire again? Yeah. But you'd be surprised how many people out there are in the latter category.
Anyway, after that first call, I started getting calls regularly which was fantastic. I quit my paper boy job. One of the ad music guys knew I did voices and recommended me for voice-acting job. It was for something that Ringling Brothers was putting on called Aladdin On Ice. Sounded kinda cheesy to me, but I got the gig. It ended up being a blast! I was hired as a sort of utility voice, meaning any small parts they hadn't cast yet, they threw at me. All the original voice actors (including Robin Williams) rerecorded their original parts for this show. I got to be a fruit seller in the marketplace one moment, then I was a peasant hollering something, some guy in the palace, and so on.
A few months later the same company was putting on a thing called George Lucas On Ice. They wanted me for that too. Same kind of thing, small parts. But this time, I was thrown in the iso booth with some of LA's top voice artists. Five of us crammed into this booth. I was scared to death. When it came time to record the voice for Indiana Jones, the guy who was supposed to do it admitted that he hadn't done his homework and his Indy wasn't too good. The producer asked if anyone else could do it. Everyone shook their heads. So I figured, what the heck. I said, I'd take a shot at it. They were happy with it, lucky me. That day, I ended up voicing a bunch of characters for the show; C3P0, Chewbacca, a bunch of villains. It was great.
Life went on like that for awhile, but as nice as it was to be a working voice guy, I just couldn't take LA anymore. I'd lived there my whole life and wanted to get away, and see something else. I ended up moving to Portland, OR. That was the best move I've ever made. I found my soul city. I got an agent up here, and I've been working ever since.
Q: How did you land the job as Fox McCloud?
I received the audition via email from my agent (I'm with In Both Ears here in Portland). It was for a videogame called Starfox and there were multiple roles that needed auditioning. I'd then send my audition mp3s back for scrutiny. There were about 17 roles to audition as I recall. I spent the entire afternoon coming up with character voices for all of these roles, really working hard, trying to be as creative as I could. The very last role of the batch was for Fox McCloud. I figured, oh that's the lead, so I'm sure I won't get that because they'll get someone with a recognizable name to do it. So I just voiced it in my regular speaking voice. I didn't do a character at all. My agent called a couple days later and told me I got it. Go figure.
Q: Were you aware of what Starfox was prior to lending your voice talents in Starfox Assault?
Nope, never heard of it.
Q: When voicing Fox, did you go off of what previous voice actors established or did you do your own thing? Was there a particular approach to his voice that was requested of you?
No, I'd never heard the other actors performances (still haven't actually). The audio was recorded up in Seattle. The date was close to my wife and my anniversary, so we decided to make a mini-vacation out of the job. I have friends up there, and my wife's mother and sisters live there, so while I was recording she was hanging with her family. Then we'd hang with my friends at night. The second day of recording I had a hell of a hangover.
What I remember most about the sessions for Starfox was this; Nintendo is a Japanese company, so they'd flown out a Japanese producer for the sessions. He didn't speak a lick of English so they had a guy from Nintendo America there to translate. I met the Nintendo guys, then went into the booth. When I would finish a line, I'd look through the glass to see what everybody thought. If the Japanese producer liked it, he would put his thumbs up. If he wanted me to try something else, he told the translator. After deliberation, the new direction was almost always, "More intensity..." It was exactly like Bill Murray at the commercial in LOST IN TRANSLATION. The producer couldn't understand the words I was saying (he was trusting the translator to make sure that end was held up), but he was looking for a certain spirit, an attitude. Other than - more intensity - I wasn't given too much direction. Also, I went to Barnes and Noble, and looked up in a Japanese/English dictionary how to say "Good afternoon, how are you?" in Japanese. Shocked the hell out of the guy the next day! In a good way.
Q: Do you find any similarities between yourself and Fox McCloud?
Fox is a good man in a tight corner. If I strive to be anything, it's to be someone you can count on when the chips are down.
Q: Were there any lines in Starfox Assault that you particularly liked or even hated?
It's so long ago I can't recall specific dialogue. My favorite part of the entire session was the last half an hour of the last day when I got to do all the death and pain screams. It was a half hour of getting in touch with everything primal in me, everything stem brain, and just letting it out, screaming, screaming, screaming, again and again in a banshee shriek from hell. Made me very calm after.
Q: Were there any lines or dialogue that were cut from the final game that you know of or remember?
Here's something you probably don't want to hear. I've never played any of the Starfox games so I have no idea how it all came out. I've seen little clips on YouTube, but that's about it. I didn't have the right gaming system when Assault finally came out, so I never got around to it.
Q: You did the voice for Fox yet again in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. What was it like coming back to do his voice again?
Since it was my real voice, I'd say it was a snap!
Q: You are also credited as doing the voice for Leon Powalski, psychopathic chameleon of the universe, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. What was it like voicing such an off-the-wall character?
They asked me to do Leon at the end of the first day of recording. I didn't know I was doing it till then. They described the character to me, I opened up my yap and that's what came out. I try not to over think things too much. A record producer friend of mine has a motto - First Thought, Best Thought. It's not always true 100 percent of the time, but I'd say 95 percent of the time it is. It's trusting your gut, and just doing whatever your instincts tell you to do.
Q: Who did you enjoy voicing more? Fox or Leon?
Fox. Leon only took 20 minutes or so, so I don't remember much of it.
Q: So, who is your favorite Starfox character? It's only standard that we ask!
Fox McCloud, of course.
Q: If you could come back to do the voice of Fox McCloud (or maybe another character) in say, some future Starfox title, would you?
In a heartbeat. It was a great experience.
Q: You are another of many talented voice actors who have lended your talents to the legendary Starfox franchise, and are forever a part of it. Is there anything you would like to say to the fans?
Thanks so much to everybody who's enjoyed the games over the years. Much appreciated! And as far as any of my personal philosophy goes I'd like to say to everyone
out there: Bring a book, because there's always a line.
Yet another fantastic interview by another great voice actor! On behalf of the entire Starfox fanbase, we thank you Jim for contributing to the series we all know and love and hope to hear you again in the future! This concludes all the English voice actors for Fox McCloud to date!
We'll continue to update as the week progresses, between interviews and E3 it will be a busy time. Lets hope we see or hear of some Starfox related news during Nintendo's conference!