And the Oscar for Best Voice Acting for an Animated Film goes to…Carlos Alazraqui for the voice of El Chupacabra in Disney’s “Planes.”
(Applause, applause…standing ovation).
While voice over actors haven’t reached that echelon in Hollywood just yet, Alazraqui, 51, who has given a voice to countless characters in animated films and TV shows over his nearly 20-year career, says things are getting better.
“There’s an effort to make voice actors more prominent and turn us into these cult celebrities and let the industry know that we’re fantastic,” Alazraqui told me during an interview for his new film “Planes.” “We’re the best studio musicians you can hire!”
In “Planes,” Alazraqui plays the character El Chupacabra, a legendary airplane from Mexico who “races with a whole lot of heart and more dramatic flair than is recommended at high altitudes.”
During our interview, Alazraqui, who is of Argentinean descent, talked about how big the role in “Planes” is compared to others in his career, and reveals what he likes even more than cartoons.
What did you think the first time you saw what El Chupacabra was going to look like?
I thought it was awesome. He had a big barrel hull and this telenovela style to him. I thought it was great visually. I thought I could really take advantage of it.
Does an idea for the voice come to you fairly quickly when you see the character or is that something you have to work on for a while?
It was instantaneous. I had a small picture of him at the table read and I just went for it. John Lasseter (chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios) was there and he liked it and they hired me.
I mean, you do a lot of voice work for animated projects, but this is a pretty big deal when Disney is involved.
Oh, absolutely. I’ve worked on big projects like “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet 2.” I’ve worked on a lot of cartoons [on TV] like “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Fairly Odd Parents.” I worked on “The Family Guy” for the first season. In “Monster’s University” I was the tour guide when Mike is a little kid and going on a tour of the university. But this is the most prominent role in a feature that I’ve ever landed so far.
The last time I interviewed you was back in 2008 for “Space Chimps” and we talked about what cartoons you watched as a kid. What about as an adult? Do you watch cartoons now?
You know, I only watch a little bit. I like to watch the old ones like “Go Go Gophers” and “Tennessee Tuxedo” – the cartoons I grew up with. Occasionally, I’ll take a few minutes and check out “The Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” or “Futurama,” but usually I’m watching sports or “The Walking Dead” or CNN. I don’t watch as much animation as you would think.
Not even the ones you’ve worked on?
You know, I’ve done a ton of episodes of “Fairly Odd Parents” and maybe I’ve seen the show like three times over 10 years. For me, I love doing cartoons, but I love sports and watching ESPN more.
What teams do you follow?
San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, L.A. Clippers, and Golden State Warriors. Those are my teams.
We’ll I’m over here in San Antonio, so we’re still heartbroken about what happen in the Finals.
Ah, man. You know, when Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard missed those free throws [in Game 6] I thought it was going to come back to haunt you.
Yeah. I’ve been a 49ers fan all my life, so we have that in common. It’s hard to be a Niners fan living in Texas.
Yeah, that’s Dallas Cowboys country! I was watching University of Nevada – Reno beat Boise State about three years ago and I thought, “I hope the 49ers can draft Colin Kaepernick.” And sure enough.
Hey, so, are you still comfortable being the go-to guy when it comes to Latino animated characters? You’ve done a lot in your life.
Absolutely. I’ve been doing “Handy Manny” for a long time (he voices Felipe “the Phillips Screwdriver” among other characters). I love it. It lets me tap into my Argentinean side. I don’t mind it at all. I like to choose super positive characters.
What part of your Argentinean background do you identify with the most?
Probably eating steak and being loud. Argentineans are not shy. It helps I have the ability to be crazy and fun and enjoy a good steak and a glass of wine and some good whiskey.
As animation gets more cutting-edge every year, does that somehow make your job easier as a voice actor or is it all the same?
You still have to work on the voice first and then work outward from there. You still have to imagine things in your own mind because most of the time you’re working alone. I’ve worked with some amazing talent, so I learn by watching. Even though the technology is getting more cutting-edge, you still have to count on the performances. The performances are what make the movie funny.
Well, I’ve always felt there should be an Academy Award given to voice actors.
Well, of course it would go to El Chupacabra!