An Interview with John Stocker

Hello Moon Chasers! Emily here. I had the opportunity to sit down with John Stocker at FanExpo Canada 2012 in Toronto for an interview. I took notes during the interview and I have typed up everything below. We hope you enjoy this interview, and we think you’ll be happy to read about how much he still loves Sailor Moon! You can also find more information about John Stocker’s voice acting and directing credits on his website.

And now on to the interview…

John Stocker

Natalie Brady: One of the biggest mysteries of Sailor Moon was who did the voice of Princess Snow Kaguya in Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts on Ice. Linda Ballantyne is sometimes unofficially credited as the voice actor for this role, but she said in an interview that she can’t remember if she voiced this character. Do you remember who provided the voice of Princess Snow Kaguya?

Due to a chaotic production schedule, where episodes and movies were randomly recorded at the same time, John is not surprised that Linda Ballantyne is unable to recall if she played the part of Princess Snow Kaguya. He said that some roles were uncredited simply because it could be difficult to attribute specific roles to specific actors/actresses after the fact. He also commented that he’s sure he has uncredited parts throughout Sailor Moon as well.

Natalie Brady: What was your favorite memory from working on [the Sailor Moon] movies?
Moon Chase: What were your favourite and least favourite parts about directing Sailor Moon?

His favourite memory of working on Sailor Moon, in general, was working with a wonderful cast. He likened the recording of Sailor Moon to a production line, as it was pumped out very quickly. Production values were not high for the series, and he found the popularity or “cult following” as he called it, to be random and surprising. Sailor Moon was also his first adventure in voice directing and happened rather unexpectedly after the previous voice director left the show.

He continues to work with some of the cast, which he enjoys. For example, he noted that he would be working with Katie Griffin on the Tuesday after FanExpo, and that they also worked together on Totally Spies! He also mentioned that Karen Bernstein is a talent agent now and he often sends his talented students to her agency.

His favourite moments were interacting with the cast. Although they didn’t hang out after recording sessions, many of them are still friends. He sees Katie, Susan, and Ron often.

His least favourite things about working on Sailor Moon were the high tension level of sessions and dealing with negative energy during production. For example, some people were fired on the spot or had to hear comments that they weren’t any good.

Moon Chase: If you could have played any character in Sailor Moon, which character (or type of character) do you think your voice would have suited the best?

Although John played some uncredited voices in Sailor Moon, he commented that he likes playing villains. If he could have played a recurring character, he said he would have liked to play Wiseman.

Moon Chase: Which character in any cartoon that you have acted in seems the most like your own personality?

After giving it some thought, John said that the character he’s played that seemed the most like his own personality would be Newton Gimmick from Teddy Ruxpin.

Moon Chase: We have heard that you were the voice of the original Mr. Mini-Wheats. Does this encourage fans of your work to give you gifts of Mini-Wheats?

John never receives gifts of Mini-Wheats, but he’s okay with that! He said the cereal is too sweet for him and he considers it a junk food. However, he very much enjoyed doing the voice!

Moon Chase: If more episodes of Sailor Moon were made, would you want to direct Sailor Moon again?

John responded to this question with a very enthusiastic “Absolutely!” He also said he would like to approach it in a different way and make it more edgy. He is willing to travel to direct more Sailor Moon, and would jump at the chance because he would love to work on it again. Production studios – take note! John Stocker really wants to direct more Sailor Moon. You can find his contact information on his website, and we’re sure he’d love to hear from you!

Moon Chase: When putting together the dubbed episodes of Sailor Moon, how much improvising was allowed for the voice acting cast in the studio?

In dubbing, John said that there is no improvising at all. They used the rhythmoband method at the time, and the script was very strict and based on lip flaps to match mouth movements on screen to the spoken dialogue. The only place they had flexibility would be when a character was seen from behind or you otherwise couldn’t see their mouth.

Moon Chase: You have worked with the voice cast of Sailor Moon in other productions as well. How have you noticed voice talents changing (theirs and yours) over the years?

Over the years, John feels that everyone has gotten better. He also noted that the voice business is highly competitive and there is little loyalty. Thus, it is necessary to keep improving all the time. He still works with talent from Sailor Moon because they are good at what they do, including Katie Griffin and Tony Daniels. He hasn’t worked with Vince since Sailor Moon though.

He also commented that some of the cast had worked together before Sailor Moon, and some of the voice talent sounded very similar. For example, Tracey Moore and Terri Hawkes both played the same character in Care Bears, called Shreeky (the nemesis of “Beastly” who was played by John), and their voices were almost identical in that performance. Likewise, they both played the title character in Sailor Moon, and fans often don’t notice where the switch happened (Tracey voiced the first 14 episodes, then it switched to Terri)

Moon Chase: What are some of the qualities that you feel a great voice actor needs to make it in the animation industry?

In order to make it in the animation industry, a great voice actor needs to have a very good understanding of context to play their part well. They need to be willing to do their homework, including reading the whole script and not just their own lines. They should also be able to read lines as though they are their own dialogue. Related to this, John mentioned that the cast of Sailor Moon would watch the episodes in Japanese before recording sessions, to hear the original emotion and inflection for each role in different scenes.

Moon Chase: What do you think is Sailor Moon’s legacy almost 17 years later?

John considers Sailor Moon to be a very iconic series, and expects it to be around for several more generations. He thinks that even if it isn’t airing many years from now, it will continue to be referenced.

Moon Chase: Have you heard about the Sailor Moon revival? How do you feel about Sailor Moon returning to countries around the world and being aired for the first time in some countries that never aired Sailor Moon before?

He has heard about the revival and he thinks it’s great, although he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to join the anniversary event at Anime Revolution in 2012. He said that the hype that is preceding Sailor Moon right now is going to generate a lot of interest when it comes back to North America. He also said one of the things he loves about Sailor Moon is that it’s harmless and purely entertainment.

Moon Chase: What is your educational background and what kinds of influences led you to working in anime and cartoons as well as directing?

John has always liked doing voices and has a facility for it. People who hired him in the past noticed his talent, but he was also lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He feels very blessed in his career.

He also likes to make people laugh. He said he prefers to have some fun at work, and make people laugh at work for a positive environment. He says that animation is a light form of entertainment and it “won’t change the world” so it doesn’t need to have a serious approach. He feels that it is important to have fun with it because it is a fun medium. He also said that a cure for cancer or having no more war would change the world, not whether Sailor Mars turns left or right.

Moon Chase: If you can choose a series to direct, what kind of series do you find the most creatively satisfying to work on?

John loves to work on series for “really little kids.” He doesn’t like these shows to be overly simplistic, he likes them to be a little edgy and push the envelope a little. He thinks kids can understand more than they are often given credit for, so he likes to work on shows that are catered to their intelligence. He also loves being able to work with kids too, because they’re very off the wall and spontaneous.

Moon Chase: What advice do you have for fans aspiring to work as a voice actor and/or director?

John’s advice for getting into the business and working as a voice actor and/or director is not to do it, because you’ll be taking away some of his work! In all seriousness though, John’s advice if you would like to succeed as a voice actor is to take lessons, study, and practice. He said you should be diligent and be ready to sacrifice a lot because your time will no longer be your own. Also, you will need to have a flexible day job, at least when starting out, so that you have time for taking lessons and going to auditions.

Moon Chase: Anything else you’d like to share with the readers of Moon Chase?

John’s final thoughts for the readers of Moon Chase – if anyone has any influence when it comes to Sailor Moon, he would love help to get the chance to direct more Sailor Moon. And he will repay the favour with laughter and love!

Moon Chase: Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you! It’s been a pleasure and we are sure fans will be happy to hear how much you still love Sailor Moon! We hope to hear that you will be directing more episodes in the future!

Photo courtesy of John Stocker. Used with permission.

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