When I think of all the conventions that I have been to over the years, I think of the lines. Lines to get in, for the bathroom, for the vendors, and most importantly, lines to meet the convention guests. More often than not, the lines to meet these guests are met with a hurried conversation and a hefty fee for an autograph and/or picture. However, Dream Con 2019 subverted this expectation. In only their second year, the team at RDCWorld1 was able to invite premiere voice actors as special guests. The smaller size of the convention allowed from some of the best interactions with convention guests that I have ever had.
Voice acting guests for Dream Con 2019 included John Burgmeier, Linda Young, Chuck Huber, and Kyle Hebert. If you were a fan of anime in the late 90s and into the 2000s, these names may ring a bell. Together these four voice actors make up a substantial portion of hit animes Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho. If I am being honest, I was smitten by these announcements. While their credits between the four of them number in over 900, these are voices from two of my favorite shonen animes growing up. The opportunity to meet voices from your childhood is one I will always take. Not to mention with the success of Dragon Ball Super, they are still voices I am hearing whenever Funimation boots up.
Dream Con provided its con-goers with multiple opportunities to interact with their voice actor guests. In the traditional fashion, they were posted at the respective tables for autographs and pictures. With the size of the convention not being overwhelming, I was able to have conversations with each of them for longer than I have ever been able to at previous conventions. They were all so easy going and with over twenty years of experiences in this realm, it is apparent how much they loved to interact with the fans.
Dream Con also added multiple panels this year and many of them were helmed by their voice actor guests. This is where the convention and its intimate size shined. While it may have been easy to just place these guests in front of a group of people for a Q&A session, Dream Con offered more specialized panels that allowed the guests to speak on different aspects of their career. The focused approach meant that no matter which panel you went to over the weekend with the guests, you rarely heard the same information or stories twice.
Kyle Hebert: Geek Talk
Kyle Hebert who voices Adult Gohan from Dragon Ball Super, Ryu from the latest Street Fighter installations, Sosuke Aizen from Bleach and over 500 other credits led the Kyle Hebert: Geek Talk panel. Simply, it was just him and his wife Christina Louise talking about different aspects of geek culture and their importance. Their panel was essentially what we do on But Why Tho? the podcast, so it was a treat to see Hebert passionately share his favorite comics, shows, and convention moments.
With Christina Louise, his wife in attendance who is an accomplished writer in her own right added a layer of perspective from someone who wasn’t involved in this realm prior to her relationship to Hebert. In fact, she shared how she didn’t even know what Dragon Ball Z was when they got together despite the show already reaching its peak popularity in the US. A highlight of the panel was truly Hebert taking a backseat to Louise at times as she spoke about her experiences as a writer, where she writes under the pen name Ryter Rong, and it’s intersectionality with Hebert’s voice acting career. With only a handful of us in the room, we were able to talk about anything that came up with no real structure. It was a wholesome panel and the easygoingness of Hebert and Louise made an hour and a half feel like no time at all. They are relationship goals and I hope that my wife and I reach their level of cohesiveness when we are their age.
Voice Acting Workshop
In addition to his Geek Talk panel, Kyle Hebert also conducted a voice acting workshop on Saturday and Sunday of the convention. While I expected the discussion to inevitably turn to Hebert’s time on Dragon Ball franchise, the conversation stayed firming in the voice acting discussions. During this panel, Hebert shared his experiences getting into voice acting and peeled back the curtain to enlighten those in attendance on the realities of the field.
He provided attendees with a plethora of resources for starting out with recommendations for equipment, sites to get portfolios out there, best practices for voice recovery and where to live if this career path one that one really wants to embark on. In addition to talking about his best experiences, he also shared other compelling stories such as actor Carl Weathers asking him to use a stereotypical Cajun accent for a video game he was directing, not knowing that he was cast in Red Dead Redemption 2 and Days Gone until after the games’ release, and stories of on-screen actors not making the transition to voice acting so smoothly.
A highlight of this panel was that at the end Hebert took volunteers through a series of voice acting lines. He directed those who were brave enough o give three levels of effort; small, medium, and large. Almost as if he was in the studio, he gave feedback to guided each person to achieve a better sound than when they started. This panel really showed Hebert’s passion for voice acting. He is dedicated to his craft and is not afraid to share his expertise with fans who are looking to have a little fun or are serious about the field. Hebert’s insights on voice acting were authentic and it is apparent he is a man living the dream His passion even sparked a desire in me to throw my own voice out there.
With all four voice actor guests having pivotal roles on Dragon Ball Z, it is no surprise that Dream Con had all them in a room for a chat about the show itself. Linda Young, the voice of Frieza, Chuck Huber, the voice of Emperor Pilaf and Android 17, John Burgmeir, the voice of Tien Shinhan, and the aforementioned Kyle Hebert conducted a more traditional Q&A session about the anime. While we have covered the importance of the Dragon Ball franchise on But Why Tho? the podcast (episode 15 and episode 89) I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about the early days of when the US started to dub the show.
Even more, telling was that the actors did not think that the show would grow to the popularity of one of the most revered shonen animes in the world. In retrospect it is easy to say, well, of course, it was going to be big as it was already popular in Japan. However, as the actors shared their experiences of not really knowing what roles they were auditioning for, it really put into perspective that the process of US dubbing was not as popular as it is today.
The actors continued to share their experiences voicing their characters, the direction of their characters, and some of their best interactions they have had with fans that really solidified for them that this show was a success. Listening to the actors talk about their characters, the passion for what they have developed into is evident. Even Hebert shared his disappointment of Gohan’s character into adulthood which received the appropriate acknowledgment from the crowd.
As I sat in the audience learning the personalities of the actors, I found a new appreciation for the work that these professionals put in every day. They even admitted that the characters they portray aren’t really within their personality. Linda Young, for example, shared her trepidation for playing Frieza. As she is not as vindictive and evil as he is, on the contrary, she was very lovely and nice to speak too, she often had to put herself in a different mindset to unleash her final form. Despite the dichotomy in their personalities, Young still continues to have one of the most recognizable voices in the entire series.
As three of the four actors on the panel are also staples on Yu Yu Hakusho (John Burgmeier – Kurama, Linda Young – Genkai, and Chuck Huber – Hiei) they also they Yu Yu Hakusho Everything! Panel. Due to time conflict with other events, I was unable to attend. However, I am sure it was as informative and driven by fan interaction as the Dragon Ball Z panel was.
Ever since I met Sean Schemmel, the voice of Goku, at Albuquerque Comic Con I have had a new appreciation for meeting voice actors. His passion for his work was evident and was as nerdy as the fans who were coming to speak with him. I hoped the voice actors who were invited to Dream Con 2019 shared his sentiments as they have been in the industry for almost thirty years. Interactions with them all did not disappoint. The size of the convention and the multiple panels culminated in quality experiences and information that I will take with him whenever I am listening to their voices wherever they are cast.
I am both grateful and impressed with Dream Con being able to pull together this profile of guests in only their second year. While I continue to attend Dream Con because of its different take on a traditional convention, the addition of voice actor guests lends itself to creating an experience that is now all-encompassing. I look forward to who the team Dream Con brings next year as I know that I will be there front and center of every panel to soak it all.