Mattel is an American multinational toy manufacturing and entertainment company that was founded in January 1945. The products and brands they currently produce include Barbie, Hot Wheels and Thomas & Friends. Mattel has a presence in 35 countries and sells products in more than 150 countries – making it the world’s second largest toy manufacturer.
What was the brief?
Mattel came to us via an intermediary production company and translation house to help them with the dubbing of Thomas & Friends from the US English origination into UK English. Mattel has been a part of producing Thomas & Friends since 2010 and while the show has always been considered British property, they have been producing US and UK versions.
During our conversation, Ian McCue, who is the Creative Executive at Mattel, said “since 1983, Thomas & Friends has always been voiced by adult voiceover actors but for the first time in history, Mattel made the decision to refresh the show. They decided that they wanted to explore using child actors to voice the engines.”
The CGI version of series 25 was originated in the US with US English child actors voicing most of the engines and they came to us to create a UK cast to dub the completed series into UK English.
What did we do?
As Thomas & Friends had originally been recorded with US voices, a key part of the project’s success was to cast suitable UK voices to dub the show.
“As the entire project took place during the pandemic, the first challenge was always going to be auditioning and casting the voices for each of the engines,” said Ian. “I think The Voiceover Gallery did a fantastic job of finding voices that had a similar tone to the US cast and sending us potential options to choose from for each of the engines. The team collaborated with us and gave their honest opinion which really helped move the process along swiftly.”
At TVG, we also wanted to get the recording schedule correct while also meeting client deadlines. Especially with it being with young children in the middle of a pandemic. It was up to us to make the children feel as comfortable and confident as possible whilst working from their home studios. They worked to an audio track rather than seeing the video so for them it was a very isolated experience – they needed a lot of encouragement and hand holding to get through those first months.
“A key part of the overall process that I really wanted to mention was the amazing direction the children received from The Voiceover Gallery during their recording sessions of each episode,” said Ian. “Singing the songs also proved to be a challenge for some of the children, but The Voiceover Gallery made sure to provide tips to build their confidence.”
Our challenge was then to piece together the audio from 7 different home studios and make it sound like it had all come from a professional studio environment while also ensuring the lip synch was as good as if the voices had done the origination. With pickups and re-records also needed it was a game of juggling audio and to-ing and fro-ing with parents before we were satisfied, we had a really great result.
Over the months since this project started, we have refined our processes and the children have got more familiar with their microphones and as such their performances are fantastic in every episode. “It was great to see the children really take ownership of their roles overtime and become more like their characters as they recorded more and more,” said Ian.
What happened next?
The UK version of Thomas & Friends is now showing on Milkshake! After the show aired in November 2021, some of the UK voices have had the opportunity to record for the Thomas & Friends toys, which will include most of the main engines.
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