Otakon 2014 – Linda Ballantyne, Katie Griffin and John Stocker Q&A

No moderator was needed as John Stocker, Linda Ballantyne and Katie Griffin took over the panel with hilarious anecdotes, experiences of recording and changes in the industry.

    Linda: How many people were here yesterday? I’m going to change all my answers: ‘I hated working with these two.’
    John: I wasn’t realy the voice director.
    Katie: I was Tuxedo Mask.

    John: You’re here because you know this is a Sailor Moon panel. And we were part of the original production of Sailor Moon. To my far left, may I introduce Sailor Mars, Katie Griffin. And to my immediate left, Linda Ballantyne, Sailor Moon! *audience applauds* My name is John Stocker and I had the pleasure of being the series voice director when I was doing some voice acting roles throughout the recordings.
    Katie: He was grandpa.
    John: Yeah.

Stocker opened the floor to audience for questions. “And when we’re done with questions, we say goodnight!” “Or we make up stories.” Linda prompts at the end. The first question was a comment that probably echoed in many fans’ hearts. The fan shared that she was watching the series since she was 5 years old, a fav dubbed series at the time. She and her friends were a group of sailor scouts and series shaped her childhood. *fan applause*

    Linda: One of the things we learned when we come to all these conventions is hearing all these stories. It’s the best part about having done this show: you get to hear about how you affect people in so many different ways. Some of the stories are so touching, so hard to hear quite frankly because some did not grow up in an ideal lifestyle. It seems Sailor Moon was sort of the answers that they really wanted, the answers that they really needed. So hearing the stories to us, is just like “gasp* it’s fantastic. Anytime you want to share with us, we love them. Thank you!
    Katie: And for anything we do as voice actors, when we do we ever get this kind of love? We don’t get to see our audiences…ever! And Sailor Moon fans are the best in the universe so thank you for being so supportive.

    Q: What’s the most unusual experience you ever had with a fan?
    Linda: Well for me, certainly the very first convention I ever went to. I received messages saying, “Please, can you come to Anime North, I really want to meet you.” It is in Toronto. And no one had ever reached out to us to say, ‘Would you like to do a convention?’ I was thinking no one were really interested. Jack was my buddy on facebook. I was like, “I’ll look into it.” So I reached the convention and than I was terrified. I was thinking I will go in and they will throw rotten fruit at me. “Who are you?” “Um, Sailor Moon.” “What?!?” So I called Katie and asked, “Katie do you want to come with me?” She said, “Sure! I’ll call Susan.” Susan Roman came too, John was there. I was there all nervous thinking no one was going to show up or no one cares. People kept on telling me “People are going to show up, they are going to love you.”

    When I got there, I was amazed by the cosplay. There are so many people dressed up. The very first fan that ever approached me at these conventions was dressed as something, I don’t know what…but she looked fantastic. She walked over to me in the hotel, when I just got there, she walked over to me and she circled around me, and than she stopped. She looked at my nametag which said ‘Special Guest: Linda Ballantyne’. She looked up at my face, back down to my nametag, “Linda Ballantyne, the voice of Sailor Moon.” I said “Yeah.” “Now I met two of you. This is going to be a good convention.” And than she just turned around and walked away.
    Katie: I saw it, I was there.
    Linda: And that was my experience.

    Katie: Not just strange things, but information that people have on you. You can find things out on imdb and communities. I did alot of on-camera stuff when I was younger and when I was 18 which was a very, very long time ago. I did a show in Canada called ‘Are you Afraid of the Dark?’ *fans cheer* I didn’t know it aired in America, I thought it was just Canada. I looked very different, alot younger. I was in the grocery store when someone came up to me and said, “Oh my god, ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ Dede!’ And I had forgotten my name. “I cannot believe you have just pegged from when I was 18.”

    John: Many of my experiences come from the very beginning of the series. The very time-I don’t know how many years now, but it wasn’t when I was a voice director. I was called in to do little characters here and there. I would do deliveryman, mail man, I would do some evil voice, than I would play a nerdy guy for six lines. I was the go-to guy for different voices. I was the go-to guy to do little tiny roles and it was great. One day, the producer had a little disgreement with the previous voice director. And turned to me and said, *in a high pitched voice* “John, do you want to be a voice director?” And I never voice directed before so I was very caught off guard. But that was the way she was and she was ambitious in so many ways. When she asked you something, she made a decision. “I love you, I’m going to give you this extra role.” And so I knew I had to make a decision about whether or not I wanted to be a voice director. I though, ‘I never done it before but it sounds like fun.’ And I said, “Yeah, sure.” And that changed history of my career, although I still do lots of voice work, I do more voice directing and constantly voice casting now than I do voice acting. I love it! It’s been great. But it’s one of those strange moments to turn out to be a career altering move.

    Linda: My little strange fan thing was one fan who had a tattoo of Sailor Moon on her arm. I said, “That’s a cool tattoo!” She was like, “Would you sign my arm? Right here?” I was like “Sure.” and I signed her arm. “Alright, it looks good. I’m going to get it tattooed.” *audience laughs* I would have written it neater.

    Q: Sailor Moon is getting a new cast and series. There is also also another series that came out last year about a another organization that protects humans. *pause*
    Katie: That protects humans…okay. *realizes it’s about ‘Totally Spies’. Oh, is your question about whether it’s coming back?
    Fan: I also follow that show too. How easy was it to go back to voicing Alex after so many years?
    Katie: John is also excited as he is also the voice director for ‘Totally Spies’. When season 5 of ‘Totally Spies’ ended, I got vocal nodules, which are callouses on your vocal chords. So *high pitched voice* Alex has this really high voice *drops voice back down* I can’t do it now as I’ve been talking for two days, her voice is so extremely high in comparison to my regular voice and these little callouses developed. I was so rookie that I should’ve figure that one out sooner. I couldn’t do a higher range so I had a really raspy voice for a really long time. Michelle Lamoreaux from Marathon contacted me around Christmas time with a text, ‘Good news, Season 6’ and I started bawling because they’re going recast me because my voice can’t get there. Luckily for me, there was a bit of a gap between seasons and we didn’t start until Spring [2013] right? And my voice came back magically.

    John: At the beginning, there was some residual. But Katie-bless her-is so professional because if she can’t be right at the top of her game and we worked together longer than probably any other performer. And Katie is such a perfectionist that her voice has to sound just perfect or she gets very upset.
    Katie: Oh yes, I had all sorts of nervous breakdowns.

John asked the fan about “What do you know about Season 7” and the fan (who is cosplaying Tuxedo Mask ironically) talked about the stuff he read on the grapevines of the net. Fans really do get around!

    John: It is very possible for Season 7. Even ‘Martin Mystery’, I’ll be very hopeful.

    Q: I loved the original series. I would come home from school and watch it. I made my little cousin watch it and he hated it. *audience laughs* Can you talk to my friend on the phone? She had to cancel her trip this week because she started a baking business. She was going to bake you a cake, but she had to miss you.
    Linda: Is she on right now?
    Fan: I can get her on right now.
    Linda: Come up afterwards. *evil laugh*

    Q: Now that we have six seasons, what was your best experiences doing ‘Totally Spies’?
    Katie: When I was doing ‘Totally Spies’, I was in Canada and the other two spies were in Los Angeles. They would record their part in Los Angeles and I would hear them through my headphones and I would do mine. So it wasn’t the three of us in a room together having a blast. We did have fun. It was a super fun show. But for specific episodes, me personally, any episodes with Oinky was very fun. I love it when Alex got all protective of her animals. She loves her animals. Those were fun.
    John: How about the one when you voiced your own mother?
    Alex: That was fun. I had to be grown up.
    John: If I may add to that, one of the best things about ‘Totally Spies’ is that if you’re an anime watcher, you’ll know that it straddled the line between Western animation and the Japanese style. The big eyes, the slightly elongated fingers. They had some of those elements that they [the animators] wanted to bring in. But one of the most wonderful things about it in comparison to current animation was that it used an old element which was the goofy monsters. All the bad guys in ‘Totally Spies’ were goofy. None of them were really scary. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the series, but you have agree with me that when they were suppose to be rough, they were really rough. There was this over the top surfer dude and that’s a wonderful element which I think is the reason why it had maintained it’s status. I think they can show it to a whole new generation of kids. It didn’t try to entertain anyone. It was purely entertainment. It was a girl power show and it had this silly element that is still so sorely lacking in today’s animation. That’s why today, we do animation, in the old days, we do more cartoons. I know it’s semantics but there is a difference. There was that element of frivolous, whimsical, silliness. ‘Totally Spies’ encaptured it.

    Q: What is the most favorite episode that you’ve ever been in?
    Linda: You know they change right? Like ‘I like the time when I was drunk.’ *audience laughs* I like it when it makes me laugh, but I like serious scenes too. Like when all the sailor scouts are all lying there, essentially dead. And I was trying to bring them back. I can’t remember what she said-it wasn’t ‘Moon Cosmic Power’-but she was just giving in, and I love that stuff. I remember when we were doing it, and I was sitting there watching it, saying the lines when we mean everything we’re saying…and we’re just watching since we want to know what happens next. *stares at invisible tv* *audience laughs* And than the director goes ‘And that was your line.’ And than I go, ‘Can we go back?’ I love doing that kind of stuff too.

    Q: Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars and grandpa. Wow, Sailor Mars was my favorite. When you’re at home and you’re watching anime and you hear your voice coming out of this character…what is that like? What was going through your mind the very first time that happened?
    Katie: It’s pretty magical I would say. Because you remember doing the lines, you remember acting the part, being in the part. And when it is suddenly embodied in this character on tv, you go, “Oh, that’s so cool!” And I remember seeing one of the cartoons-I can’t remember which one-and I went “Oh, I would have changed my tone if I had known what that character looked like.” *audience laughs* But it’s pretty magical that’s for sure. You get used to it though.

    Linda: You get used to it. And than sometimes you go, “Oh god, they used that one? I hated that take!” And you’re really critical of yourself. But I think everyone is critical of themselves to a certain extent.
    John: Sometimes, the feelings don’t really go away. Let’s be honest, once our children are older, you don’t sit there and watch cartoons with them anymore. And occasionally, I don’t usually sit there and watch cartoons unless there is a reference necessary. So when I see something when I click on, I’m still taken aback when you see something that you’ve done comes to life. What is animate: it’s to give life.

    Q: When you did voice overs, were you aware that some things were censored or altered? What do you think about it now?
    Katie: We were confused. Looking back on it now, we didn’t know alot of stuff that were going on. When we were recording, we didn’t know the storylines or plotlines because we were recording different episodes all at the same time. We weren’t given scripts ahead of time. We didn’t know and all of a sudden-we said this yesterday so not to be repetitive-all of a sudden with Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, we’re watching and were like “That’s strange, they’re cousins. Hm, because I’m not like that with my cousins.” *audience laughs* *shakes head* They’re not cousins.
    John: Even as voice director, we’re not privy to the original versions. Sometimes we couldn’t get the edited versions so I had to look at something since for reference purposes. When we did the dubbing, we basically had the cut version. We didn’t know that an uncut version existed. We didn’t have anything handy to compare it to nor did we have time.
    Linda: Sometimes censorship can suck. It would have been nice if they didn’t have to do that, but it was a long time ago too. The target was kids.

    Q: Do you wish they would have the later seasons sooner so you could have done the voices for them? The S and Super S?
    Linda: Those were the ones I did. I’m the guilty one.
    Katie: I did all four seasons except for 10 episodes because I was in Los Angeles. Otherwise, I did all the way through.
    Linda: You mean would we go back and switch it up? I don’t know, because we didn’t really know what was happening anyway. I don’t think we would switch it up.

    Q: What are the most difficult parts and easy to express in voice acting?
    Katie: The first part was the screaming. We screamed alot. It was physically exhausting. Physically, we would be in there for 3 hours and never have to exercise ever again because we were screaming our heads off.
    Linda: Certainly the hardest for me was being told “Be like Terry [Hawkes].” “Oh, okay.” And when I hear something, I can mimic. It is easy. So they would play me Terry saying a line so I would do exactly as Terry would. They would say “Terry is not here so go head.” I would have to think, ‘How would Terry say that line?’ And it was really, really frustrating because I’m not Terry. And it was not in my real voice to sound like that or go like that so it was really, really tough for me. For the first few episodes certainly, I would get so frustrated because I would scream, scream and scream and everything was high. *does high note* I was getting so frustrated that I would come home crying some days. “I hate this, I hate where this character is going and I don’t get it at all.” My husband said, “You have to make this character your own.” “You don’t understand, they don’t want me, they want Terry.” “You’re not Terry, you’re Linda. So make it your own.” *tearfully* “I think you’re an idiot.” *audience laughs* I would go back the next day, go in there and *crying* “They don’t understand how hard it is for me.” One day, I was so frustrated when I went into the studio and I knew that it was going to be another day like that, and I said ‘You know what? You just start making this your own.’ *audience laughs* And while I was driving there, ‘What do you want out of this character? What do you think this character should be doing? What do you think this character should be going. Okay.’ And I went in there and things just started to change. And things started to be more goofy. And things started to be more right. *Serena’s flirty voice* “Oh, Darien!” I came home so happy with my day. “I figured it out, I had to make it my own.” *audience laughs* And my husband said, “Good idea, honey.” That’s why I keep him around. *audience laughs*

The fan also asked for an autograph. Linda noted that they’ll be at the booth signing autographs. Katie adds that they only have half an hour to sign so “You have run very, very fast.”

    Q: Did you see the new remake of Sailor Moon Crystal? What do you think of it? If it comes over here, would you take your voice roles?
    Linda: We would take it. It’s not even a question. We have not scene it. My hunch is, we won’t be doing it if it comes over.
    Katie: We just don’t know anything about it. The thing is Canada and the States belong to two unions. If you belong to one union, they have to get all the people from one union [to work on a series]. That is the way it works. We’re not part of the Union in the States. We would do it!
    John: Right now, all signs point to the new cast who are revoicing the old series.
    Linda: That’s funny, because I don’t see them using the same cast. Because it’s a whole different ballgame.
    Katie: See that? We’re going to make all kinds of rules today.

    Q: It’s about 15 years since Sailor Moon came out. What are some of the changes you experienced whether in directing or the recording?
    John: The biggest change is not the style of voice directing because that generally remain constant. If it’s a dubbing show, the lips have to match. If its a pre-lay show, the emotions have to be right. That hasn’t changed and won’t ever change. But what did the change is the physicality of the recording. When we did Sailor Moon, it was on dual rolls of film, one that contained the actual images and the second roll that was run simultaneously and manually synced to the pictures and a bar, a spring so that the picture and the new words were running underneath.
    Linda: Handwritten.
    John: Handwritten. It was actually the most accurate form of dubbing that really matched the lips. The new style of dubbing now, the current system, you don’t have manually sync anything now and you don’t have to wait for things to arrive by courier like those days. Since the dubs of 20 years ago, things have changed so much. Courier, fedex, because that’s how they came from Japan and they would fly in with the courier at the airport to get to the studio. Now, it was mp3, mp4, wav files, what-have-you and you can get everything you need. It is all synced up electronically so that you can stop and start, go back to the beginning again in a heartbeat.
    Katie: Like the way they do karaoke.
    John: Like the karaoke machine, there is a red light, amber and than green which is when you start. And it is typed as opposed to handwritten and can be very accurate, but not was before.
    Linda: And it was crazy. You only got to see a certain amount of lines and you had no idea how long the line was going to be. Sometimes how long your scream was going to be. It might just say “Ah!” Like A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h. So you’ll be sitting there go “Ahhhhhhhhhhh…..” *holds scream* And keep going and going. *breathes in* “Ahhhhhhh…..” Your mouth [on screen] is open so you can’t take a breath because Sailor Moon cries forever. *audience laughs*
    Katie: Her mouth is this big so Linda would have to go on.
    John: And manual editing. Now editing is electronic as well. That was also an issue: having to join two screams together seamlessly. So if you took a breath in the middle when you weren’t suppose to, they could put it together beautifully. The old days, there had to be a thump or something that was cut.

    Q: For alot of the repetitive scenes, transformations, throwing of the weapons or the sayings, was there one take which they re-used? Or did you have to say them over and over again?
    Linda: I remember having to say it every single episode. Even new episodes of cartoons, there is something called the library for any tv series. For the recording, you’ll sit there for 20 minutes going through different ways of saying “Yeah. Yeah! Yeah…” You do all that so you think, they’ll have to put that in there since you’ve done it every single way, but it doesn’t matter. Libraries are silly. I can honestly say, I never done a series where they said “Ah, let’s use what we already done.” I remember begging them, “Please, can you please get the transformation?” I’m always losing my voice. *feebly* “Moon Cosmic Power….”

The next question was a request for a Serena and Raye bickering scene which Linda and Katie quickly got into. It was sketch they prepared beforehand which they argued about Serena’s ‘meatball head’. *audience applauds*

    Linda: I’m transforming before this thing is over.

    Q: Which fan interaction was your most favorite, made you laugh or touched your heart?
    Linda: Certainly the one I spoke about before, I’ll think on another.
    Katie: We hear so many stories about how Sailor Moon saved people’s lives. Just before we came, two in a row, where they were so moved that they started crying, I started crying, we were all crying. I can’t imagine another show that has that much of an impact on people’s childhood.
    Linda: I had one person come to me one time and she said-she was crying and I’m crying-and she said, “Sailor Moon came along at a time when I was at a very bad place. And I didn’t want to continue living. And I got to a time when I didn’t want to go on anymore, the only thing I had was Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon saved my life.” And she turns to me and she saids “I’ll like you to meet my daughter.” *audience awwws* And they’re both dressed up in Sailor Moon outfits. That kind of stuff, that’s what it is all about.

    Q: You were talking on impact on other people’s lives. Have your character ever have an impact on you?
    Katie: Sailor Mars-believe it or not-is basically me. So everything that has to do with Raye…. Sailor Moon has this huge backstory right and when you look at all the different things Raye likes, the only difference between Raye and Katie Griffin is-besides her being anime and I’m not-is that she is an Aries and I’m a Capricorn. And she likes this weird fish, tilapia or something. We’re super similar and maybe the impact was that since it was such a big show for me, it was such a huge part of my life. Because I’m a voice actor was because of Sailor Mars. I was a student on campus and wouldn’t have even thought of the voice over world. So that is the impact that Raye had on me.
    Linda: At the time when I was doing Sailor Moon, any little eyebrow movements at the time, they made us do a sound to. “Mm? Mm.” So I’m constantly doing that at home. My kids would follow me and make funny sounds. And I’m always losing my voice. In the morning if I can go *makes throat sounds* than I know I can make the sounds that I need to. So all morning, I would go *makes funny sounds* trying to warm up. My little one year old toddler would go *makes up and down ‘ah’ sounds* *audience laughs* I would say, “Are you making fun of me?” And she would go *smiles* *audience laughs*

    Q: What kind of advice would you give up and coming voice actors or artists?
    Katie: Learn to hear the word ‘no’. And than, ignore it! Keep going because you’re going to hear alot of- *turns to Linda* I’m stealing your answer…I’m turning into you! I’m turning into Linda!
    Linda: She wants to be me.
    Katie: *in Raye’s voice* Whatever, meatball head! Everything we do, when we book something, it’s such a high and so exciting. It’s a win! And we’re competitive by nature. But we also deal with so much rejection. If you can’t take it and you can’t take criticism, if you can’t take alot of rejection, than it’s probably not the best industry for you. But if say, “I’ve got this.” than go for it.

    Linda: I would say read out loud alot. If you want to get into voice acting, read out loud. Who here hates reading out loud? Raise your hand. Okay! *raises hand* I was that kid in school who could not read out loud. They would say “Let’s read out loud.” and I would just put the book in front of me and say “Please God, do not let that teacher pick me. I would die if she does.” And I was a very outgoing kid. I was not shy, but I could not read out loud. I could read, just not out loud. I would just go “Uh…uh…” Other kids would go “Ballantyne can’t read. Can’t even pass grade 1.” I kept on not getting parts in school plays because they would give me cold reads and it was nerve wreaking. Alot of it had to do with training my head and my brain to work at the same time. It was awful for me. Until I went to university and a theater school, at that point mmm…27? 27 years old, couldn’t read out loud to save my life. I knew I wanted to be an actor. They said that “Tomorrow, we’re going to read out loud, going to do cold reads.” I went to the teacher and said “Um, I can’t do that.” “Yes, you can.” “No, I can’t. I’m not good at reading out loud. I don’t think I should do that.” The teacher said, “Well, this is what you’re choosing to do for a living. Learn how to do this because you’re going to need to know.” I asked “How do I learn how to do this?” “You do it. You read out loud all the time. Just read out loud the newspaper.” So I started doing that. Taught myself how to read out loud. I still don’t like cold reads-don’t get me wrong-but read out loud. Get good at it.

    John: Back of the corn flakes box, a tube to toothpaste. Magazines, magazine advertisements, read it like a commercial is what you want to do. Many of you here probably want to be voice actors, animation voice actors. That’s terrific, but you’ll be hard press to make a career solely on animation without having commercial work. The ability to do commerical reads as well. You’ll need an agent no matter what you do. You’ll need an agent and that agent makes most of his or her money off commercial work. That is 70% off the voice market if you want to work. Most of us don’t believe what we say, but you have to make a living and you have to be the best whore in the world.
    Linda: Yes, ‘whore’. He just said that.
    John: I said whore and I’ll say it again. *audience laughs*

    Q: While you were working on different projects at the same time. How do you keep the same voices separate and be able to check them back in?
    Linda: Usually when you do a character, you try to figure out your key line. Like maybe for Sailor Moon, it’s *flirtatious voice* “Oh, Darien, you’re so wicked.” And I know that’ll get me to where I need to be for her character from that line so I can go on to do other ones. When I was doing ‘Cyberchase’, my line was always *as Wicked* “Wah, oh, look at you! Better yet, look at me!” And I know I can go there. It sets all your muscle memories in your voice and body when you do that one line.
    John: And when I’m voice directing, when I find that quintessential delivery, that perfect delivery in that little speech, I would ask the engineer to save that in a reference folder. And when they come in, I have that point of reference I can play back in case I detect that its too high or too low or too gravally. Alot of performers simply say, “Play my reference for me.” And there it is. It’s two lines and they do the line.
    Katie: You do so many shows that you may go, “What am I suppose to sound like again?” And they play that reference.
    John: So often, the voice generates the energy of that particular character. So when you do something in a different voice, that changes everything about the character. The rhythm, the thought process.

    Q: Thank you for doing Sailor Moon. I didn’t think it was that important back than. All I knew was that it came on right before Dragon Ball Z. But than I thought since I was here with the tv, I might as well watch it. *fans laugh* What you do, everything that you do falls under the banner of what we love. So thank you. *audience applauds*
    Katie: And right back at you. You have no idea how it feels when someone gives you so much love. You just go “Wow!” My family just go “Whatever.” I have a 7 year old and 2 year old when I was doing ‘Inspector Gadget’. I came home and my 7 year old named Jet, I go “Jet, I’m going to be doing-” But he doesn’t care. I would show him things, but maybe because he is a boy, maybe he just doesn’t care.

    John: Well, that’s a terrific way to end things.
    Linda: We’re not cool.
    John: Thank you for letting us spend the weekend with you guys. Thank you for coming out and asking questions.

John reminded fans that they would be signing in the Dealer’s Room for a while and asked fans to drop by.

    Linda: I haven’t transformed yet! Here we go! *in Serena’s voice* Moon Cosmic Power! *audience applauds*
    Katie: *in Raye’s voice* Mars Fire Ignite! *audience applauds*
    John: Thanks….for coming! *audience laughs*

Whether John spoke in Raye’s grandfather’s voice is uncertain, but it was hilarious either way.