Saturday, 28 September 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Takei Say

Colin's Blog. Star Date: 9 / 28 / 13.

My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of meeting Star Trek legend George Takei last night, as part of Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's production of "Sci Fi Spectacular". George co-emceed the evening, which showcased iconic music from small screen and cinematic science-fiction. It was a wonderfully geeky night, made even geekier afterwards when I had a chance to meet the man known as Mr. Sulu.

"I've always been a Star Trek fan", I gushed, embarrassingly holding up the photo line. "But I'm also a big cartoon buff!"

"Ahhhh," George replied, in that patient velvety tone - the one he uses to mask pained inner reminisces of the hotel room he left behind.

"And I'm always surprised at how much stuff you turn up on," I raved. George then began proudly listing off a few of his more recent TV appearances - some of which I thought we could highlight this morning, along with some of the other cartoon contributions he's made over the past 40 years as an accomplished voice actor.

Predictably, Takei's first voice role in a cartoon was as Hikaru Sulu in Filmation's Star Trek, the animated version of the popular TV series. It ran from 1973-74 on NBC. In his 1994 book, "To The Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei", it was revealed that Takei wasn't even originally cast in the cartoon. His voice was supposed to be impersonated, but fellow cast member Leonard Nimoy refused to sign on to the project until Takei and Nichelle Nichols (who played Uhura) were hired. Nimoy felt it would help to stay true to creator Gene Roddenberry's original vision of ethnic and cultural equality, but the cast was also known to fight for each other in times of financial instability, especially in the uncertain times after the original live action series was cancelled. In fact, Walter Koenig who played Chekov, also wasn't in the original voice cast - but he was later brought on as a writer, in another act of crew camaraderie.

George Takei reprised the voice of Sulu a few more times throughout the years, including in various video games, in an episode of Drawn Together and in Futurama's 'Where No Fan Has Gone Before', which recruited and re-suited many of the original Star Trek TV cast, who appeared alongside the crew of the Planet Express. George Takei also appeared as himself in 4 other episodes of Futurama. Well, at least his head did.

Takei has also made 4 guest appearances on The Simpsons, but has yet to appear as "George Takei". He's played a restaurant owner, a game show host, and a waiter named Akira. Takei originally portrayed Akira in a 1991 episode entitled 'One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish', but was later replaced in subsequent episodes by Hank Azaria.

Unfortunately, like Akira, many of Takei's cartoon roles in the late 90's/early 2000's tended to teeter towards stereotype. In Disney's Mulan from 1998, he portrayed "First Ancestor". In 2002's Jackie Chan's Adventures, he voiced "High Mystic". That same year, he also played "Warrior #4" in Samurai Jack. From 2003 to 2007, he portrayed "Master Sensei" on Disney's Kim Possible. See where I'm going with this? 

Takei has always been proud of his Japanese heritage, so while he'd be fine with these roles, you still have to assume it didn't provide him with much in the way of range or challenge. But fortunately from 2003 on, it seemed like Takei's deep, dulcet tones started to be treated with more respect, and the casting became more frequent and creative.

That even started back in 1999 when he was cast as Mr. Fixx in Batman Beyond. He's the big guy in the brown suit.

Perhaps taking inspiration from that villainous turn, the makers of 2010-2011's The Super Hero Squad Show cast Takei as the (sometimes) mighty Galactus.

The more booming qualities of Takei's voice were tested in 2 different Transformers cartoons - as Yoketron in Transformers: Animated (2009) and currently as Alpha Trion in Transformers: Prime. (2012-present)

After listing off a few of the characters he's portrayed, Takei then reminded me of perhaps the most interesting role he's played. And a startling one too depending on the sci-fi fan you're talking to. "I'm the only Star Trek actor to reach over into Star Wars", he said. Which is true!

George Takei lent his voice to a 2009 episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, where he played Lok Durd, heard briefly below at the :28 mark. And much to his and our benefit, the universe didn't even implode upon itself afterwards!

In addition to action/adventure (and as we've learned from Futurama), Takei can also handle comedy.

In Archer, he voiced Mr. Moto in a Season 3 episode entitled 'Drift Problem'. In Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In All The World, he voiced Mayor Screwsum. And in Chowder, he portrays a little white cat named Fois Gras.

Also on Adventure Time, he portrays the studly Ricardio, the Heart Guy.

George can also do family-friendly. He's been featured in a couple of more recent Scooby Doo movies. He was cast in a reboot of Hasbro's Pound Puppies not long ago. And you'll hear him this November in Free Birds with Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson.

All of these roles raced warp speed through my mind last night, and before I knew it, my photo was taken and it was over.

"Live and long and prosper", he said with a Vulcan salute.

"You as well, my friend", I stated sadly, sheepishly offering a counter salute and shuffling off, wishing I had more time to talk about what his future had in store for us.

When I returned to the table, Chrissy, my girlfriend, asked why I didn't get him to sign my DVD. In the heat of the moment, I had forgotten I was holding my Season 4 Futurama DVD, the one containing 'Where No Fan Has Gone Before'.

"Go up there and get it signed," she insisted.

"No way", I said, stammering. "He'll think I'm a loser!" (The irony of that statement is not lost on me, by the way.)

"Gimme this and I'll do it", Chrissy said, swiping the DVD from my trembling hands. She brought it up to Mr. Takei, he asked for the proper spelling of my name, and minutes later, she brought the DVD back to me, signed. That's true unconditional love right there. The kind Gene Roddenberry wanted. The kind George Takei would've been proud to hear about, but from a friend in the safe confines of his comfy hotel room.

"I'd like to live long and prosper with you," I swooned, gazing into my girlfriend's eyes.

"Great", she mustered, completely unaware of my intentions to ask her to see Walter Koenig with me at next month's Comic Con.

May all of your relationships "live long and prosper" as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment