Lisa Ortiz is a household name among Pokemon and Sonic the Hedgehog fans. Popularly known for voicing characters like Slayers' Lina Inverse and Amy Rose, this esteemed actress has also played roles in such anime as One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh!, His and Her Circumstances, and Revolutionary Girl Utena. That's not to mention her contribution to video games like Smite and Street Fighter V.
Today, Lisa plays a critical part in developing the English adaptation of the Sun and Moon animated series. I had the privilege of sitting down with her at Anime Boston this year to discuss her position as ADR director of the show. Learn what it's like to audition and how to come up with fun Pokemon puns below:
What led you to taking over as the ADR director for the Pokemon franchise?
I had been asked if I could take over. I worked on the show before, and I also worked on production with DuArt Film and Video. I stepped away from Pokemon for a while, but I was directing in other places, for games and other shows. They had asked me if I would like could come back, and I said that I’d love to! It was the 20th anniversary, so I thought the timing was perfect.
What’s the auditioning process like for the show? Has it changed at all over time?
It is different from when the show first started. I generally run most of the auditions, and I always bring in both people that I know and some fresh faces. Sometimes I choose who gets the part, and other times decisions are made by the Pokemon Company International, who coordinates with the company’s main headquarters in Japan.
It’s always a process. Usually I get lots of different demos, so I’m always trying to find new talent to balance out the cast.
Describe your experience as an ADR engineer for the Pokemon series.
It’s a lot to do at once! You have to be really fast while you're running the board, watching the actors perform, and checking the sound. I like having that much control over everything, because you know exactly what’s happening. After I record an episode, I’ll watch it over to see how it works cohesively. Sometimes I have alternate takes, or I move things around so that everything is put together well. Being an ADR engineer feels a little like being a mad scientist, but everything works out in the end.
Back in the day, Pokemon was one of many shows that used to be heavily censored for the sake of hiding its Japanese origins. Now that the franchise seems to have adopted a more global identity, is the series as censored as it once used to be? If so, could you explain how?
That’s not something that I can necessary speak to, as a lot of what we do comes to us directly from the Pokemon Company International. They make a lot of those decisions before they send the footage to us. It also depends on American broadcasting guidelines. I know there have been times where fans have complained that other companies censored too much of the original show, but sometimes those restrictions came from the networks. We were on Cartoon Network, and now we’re on Disney XD, so the broadcasting guidelines have changed.
When directing other actors, do you have them preview the Japanese performance first?
I do, but I don’t want them to mimic those performances. I want them to understand the energy and the pacing of the scene. Not every studio does that, but I like to champion this method. There are some actors who feel as though the Japanese performances influence them too much, but for the most part our cast members are able to separate themselves from their overseas counterparts.
What measures did you take to keep Sun and Moon fresh while maintaining the personality of the overarching franchise?
I worked on the tail end of X and Y and Black and White, but the animation style of Sun and Moon is so different. I spent a lot of time watching it to understand it more, but I also know where the overarching series has come from. This season makes so many cool references to prior episodes from past shows, and my goal is to always try to keep the energy up so that it stays fun and buoyant. I draw a lot of inspiration from the Japanese version, too. I’m a nerd that way.
There’s a relative to Professor Oak in the Sun and Moon anime that frequently makes Pokemon-related puns in the Japanese version. Since some of the names are different from their English counterparts, how do you guys work around these jokes?
The person who adapts the script is Carter Cathcart. He’s been doing this for ages, and he knows the show inside and out (he also voices Meowth and James). He works very hard to make sure that all of the Pokemon references from the older seasons fit, and we work back and forth on the puns to try to come up with something fun. Marc Thompson, the actor who plays Samson Oak, is also really great at coming up with some of these gags. Sometimes we’ll listen back to the original creatures, and we’ll play around with what we hear. We may not always hit the mark, but we usually find ways to keep the spirit of it there. That’s one of the great things about working on Sun and Moon – it’s a really fun, bright, playful show!
Pokemon Sun and Moon is currently airing on Disney XD. Thank you Anime Boston for the wonderful opportunity, and thank you The Cartoon Cipher for help with questions Check out the channel's latest April Fools’-themed episode on Ghost Stories here.