'American Dad!' actor Dee Bradley Baker reveals his techniques of manipulating sounds
You might not recognize him by his name or even his face, but it is very likely that you are familiar with is his voice and vocal stylings.
The man we are talking about here is Dee Bradley Baker, famous for lending his voice to renowned Hollywood characters, including Klaus the Fish on American Dad!, Squilliam Fancyson on Spongebob Squarepants, Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb, Bagheera on Jungle Cubs, Daffy Duck, Tazmanian Devil & Toro The Bull on Space Jam, and the parrot on Pirates of the Caribbean.
Now, you might be curious to know how he makes all these iconic sounds and voices all by himself without any musical instruments or anything.
Talking with Lorraine Cink on Marvel Entertainment’s YouTube show This Week In Marvel, the voice acting legend answered it all—his inspiration for his varied voices and how he works to develop new sounds for his animal characters.
Baker revealed that he initially listened to animal soundtracks and CDs to familiarize himself with their sounds and nature. Subsequently, he built his own version of the vocabulary of animal sounds in his head.
There was a time when I came out to Los Angeles where I really started focusing on doing animals and creatures where I’d drive around, and we just make sounds in the car. I’d listen to animal soundtracks or animal CDS that I purchased and would just start building up a vocabulary of squeaks and roars and growls and chambers in my head.
He further shared that he treats his sense organs like the whole Orchestra, and he picks up the various instruments such as bassoon, kettle drum, or piccolo trumpet in his imagination all through his mind. He says, "It’s like you have the whole Orchestra around you, and you can pick up the bassoon, you can pick up the kettle drum, the piccolo trumpet, you know, and just use that, but it’s all in here (points to his face)."
The Star Wars: The Clone Wars voice actor also added that many don’t consider the job of a voice actor in the first place, and even if they do, they don’t experiment with their voices because they are afraid of looking stupid. But that’s not the way he thinks.
He stated in a very jolly tone that he doesn’t mind looking stupid. “I have done children’s theatre and standup, so you cannot just hurt me,” the actor added.
All of that training [children’s theatre and standup] was really, really, really helpful to me to just being open to experimenting and then extending and pushing a sound or a character idea.
With his fearless approach and passion for his work, Baker has over 620 acting credits under his name, most of them being his voice acting projects. According to IMDb, his career’s first voice acting dates back to 1984—he voiced as Tolmekian soldier in the movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
His other notable early day voice acting projects include Porco Rosso, Space Jam, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Jungle Cubs, amongst many.