|(An actual cel from one of the Yamato films of "Yuki", aka, "Nova" given to Ms. Wilson|
by Meri Davis, chair of A-Kon)
Star Blazers, adapted from the popular Japanese anime Space Battleship Yamato, remains one of the most powerful influences of my life. Along with Gerry Anderson's brilliant outer space parable Space:1999 and the original Battlestar Galactica, the three series formed something of a trinity that turned my imagination -- and, soon, my pen -- in the direction of outer space. I had Star Blazers dreams and wrote original fan fiction as a result, short stories and even novels in the Star Blazers universe, starting with Against the Legions of the Red Sun, a twenty-six chapter novel, my version of a third season, post-Comet Empire. I eagerly awaited the real third series, which was promised but never delivered to our TV screens. At my very first con in Boston right before I turned eighteen, I snapped up buttons in the dealer's room and attended a screening of the Arrivaderci Yamato movie in Japanese, up in the Gamilon Headquarters Suite.
I loved Star Blazers. And I love it still.
|(Season One, a beloved permanent addition to my Writing Room)|
So imagine my glee when I connected with the brilliant actress Amy Howard Wilson, who provided the voice of Nova, one of the most beloved and heroic icons in all of Science Fiction. Ms. Wilson was kind and gracious enough to share with me her experiences -- and to take me back in time to the studio, on board the very Argo herself.
How did you land the role of "Nova" in Star Blazers?
AHW: In high school, I was bit by the acting bug and went to the American Academy of Arts for two years. It was a great program. I learned how to fence, dance, took vocal and voice classes, all that great stuff. When I graduated, I still didn't have a real good idea of how the business side of everything worked, so I decided rather than to head for auditions off the bat I'd see if I could get work in related aspects of the industry. I worked as a receptionist for a casting agency, and then as a sales rep for a jingle writer -- he wrote the jingle for 8 O'Clock Coffee. When Star Blazers came around, I'd taken a clerical job working in the front office of the Weist-Barron School for TV and Commercial Acting. I was answering phones and taking a voice-over class. Tom Tweedy, who voiced "Mark Venture", and Eddie Allen, who voiced Gamilon Leader "Desslok", were also taking classes at the school. A casting director named Kit Carter called the school looking for non-union talent for this new Japanese cartoon. They didn't even have a working title at the time! When they asked us if we were interested in auditioning, I shot my hand up. They did two days worth of auditions for the women, and I was the last one to go in. I don't remember much after that apart from a couple of days of anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. And when it did, I was a very happy girl! And here we are today.
What was the studio like?
The studio was called Film Sound, and was located between 41st and Lexington in New York City. It was a tiny, tiny studio. As I recall, it was only about fifteen by thirty feet. In the booth, the only things we had room for were a small table and a chair. The mic was mounted right on the table. There was a huge TV set outside the window so we could watch the time coding, the animation, the cue beats. It was really, really interesting. I had never experienced anything like that before. All that technical stuff was a real learning curve. We had to watch for the right cue, listen for the beeps in the headphones -- three beeps, and you had to start speaking where the fourth beep would have been. You had to stay in character. Our sound engineer, Jim Frederickson -- back then, we didn't have computers and nifty software packages to be able to fix things in post production -- had to rewind the tape every time we screwed up a line. Jim had a tape of funny sound effects, and after having to rewind the tape thirteen or fourteen times, he'd know we were growing frustrated and would play one of these silly, crazy noises, like a duck quacking or a whistle, to break the tension. And on the very next take, we'd get it right. More often than not, each of us would do our section of the script, just our lines, individually. It was particularly trying, dubbing from English to Japanese, because the two languages didn't always line up -- which made for some funny ad-libbing, depending upon how long the scene ran. It was the most economical way of doing things. For a big production house like
|(The lovely Amy Howard Wilson, Center, with Kenneth Meseroll, " Derek|
Wildstar", L and Eddie Allen, "Desslok" R)
With far-reaching magic!
We were on the heels of all the big name shows that had been done before, like Speed Racer and Astro Boy. But this was new, different. It was a series where rather than being self-contained and episodic, where you could watch the show out of sequence, in the case of Star Blazers you had to watch every episode, which led to the one following it and referred to the one before it. It was breaking new ground as far as Japanese imported animation. We didn't know if anybody would be watching.
To Be Continued...