Chris Pratt playing Garfield and Mario isn’t an ‘Italian erasure’, but it’s bad news for Hollywood voice actors


The casting of animated films has not historically been a hotbed of public controversy. Before Robin Williams’ turn Aladdin, the first gripping title, A-list animated performance of modern times, voice casting has rarely been discussed outside of the industry.

While early Disney films boasted of popular Broadway artists, renowned composers and vaudeville legends, they did not attract much criticism. Now, however, the cast of voice actors has become a magnet for fan outrage.

This week it was announced that Chris Pratt will play Garfield the Cat in a new comic book adaptation, having recently been announced as voicing Mario in an animated adventure based on the Nintendo games. The response from fans has been, it is fair to say, half-hearted. He was jokingly accused of “Italian erasure” as Mario and Garfield asked fans, “Did he win a bet with a witch?” to get the role.

Pratt isn’t the only one attracting the wrath of the Internet. Idris Elba, chosen to voice Knuckles in the sequel to another game adaptation, Sonic the hedgehog, had to specify that he would not “sex” the animated echidna.

Less controversial but still eliciting whispers of discontent, Pixar’s first trailer Light year, which sees Chris Evans voicing the fictional character from the Toy Story universe, voiced in the original Tim Allen films. Technically, he doesn’t express the Buzz we know, but fans are still wary.

Dr. Sam Summers, animation speaker and co-host of the Disniversity podcast, explains why these controversies are so prevalent.

“The increase in the celebrity cast has also coincided with a move away from the adaptation of classic source material,” he says. “For a long time, most CG movies were original stories or based on lesser-known books, so there wasn’t much controversy over the casting. It’s only recently that we’ve been seeing a lot of great animated franchise movies, as Pixar classics themselves are becoming great franchises and Lego movie convinced people that they can adapt anything.

When it comes to these franchises, however, a big deal for fans is when these celebrity voices replace established voice actors. The first one Transformers The film caught fire when Hugo Weaving was chosen to play the voice of Megatron instead of the original cartoon actor, Frank Welker. Pratt replaces Charles Andre Martinet, who has voiced Mario in games since the ’90s. If anyone has lost sight of the rise of the famous voice actor, it is the voice actor specialists who bring the songs to life. characters for decades, and the stage stars who once dominated big-screen animation.

The greatest source of controversy, however, has been racial sensitivity or the lack thereof; the decision of certain European territories to dub the main character of Joe in Pixar’s Soul starring a white actor drew widespread condemnation, while Hank Azaria has given up on voicing Apu in The simpsons after years of criticism.

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A racially appropriate cast immediately requires more thought than studios seemed to give to animated films in the early 2000s, where politics seemed to simply throw as many stars into the cast as possible.

It should be noted that Pratt could be very good at both of these roles – Garfield feels close to his character of Andy Dwyer in Parks and recreation, while Mario is not a million kilometers from his Lego Movie role of construction worker Emmett – and fans can still be won over.

But as the animation begins to focus more on franchises and popular existing character adaptations, there will be more of these controversies to come. Chris Pratt may soon have some company on the Internet’s hit list.

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