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How CD-i brought Philips Funhouse and Diana Ross together

>> Sunday, January 27, 2008

During our talks with the guys behind Philips Funhouse, one interesting topic was about their unreleased kids-project on CD-i: Treasures of Oz. Oz was going to be a 'younger version' of Funhouse classics like Merlin's Apprentice. The project started in 1995 when some 'FunHeads' started a new games department within Philips: Philips Kaleidoscope. Unfortunately not known by a lot of people as in the end they didn't release any titles, but Treasures of Oz will be remembered as one prototype of their catalogue. Things got even more interesting when Philips signed Diana Ross to do the voice-over of the Oz story! Below you'll find some interesting anecdotes from during the time Oz was produced. Like how Diana Ross got involved with the project.

"I hardly know where to begin! There was a long list of possible candidates for Glinda, including my top choice, Julie Andrews, who was unfortunately not available. The Director of Development for the Home and Family division, Laurie Sale, contacted Miss Ross' agent, and the dates were set.

MIss Ross liked the irony. In case you didn't know, she had starred as Dorothy in a production of The Wizard of Oz titled "The Wiz" (which also starred Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow). And now here she was doing the voice for the Good Witch of the North.

Despite Miss Ross' status as a superstar, I found her very easy to work with and willing to take direction; this was her first job as a cartoon voice. What she didn't know (and I never told her) was that it was also my first job directing a cartoon voice. I had helped Cliff record Cam Clarke for all of the Merlin's Apprentice voices, and the many voices of Labyrinth of Crete on CD-i, but I had yet to go solo, and I actually directed Diana Ross, our superstar talent, before I recorded the other voice artists. More about my other seven--actually eight--voice actors later.

Miss Ross was only with us twice, both times at the Mark Graue Studio in Burbank, California, which specializes in voice-over recording. The first time was to record the voice for the actual animation. The second was to record the instructions for the games.

It was a bit later that I really appreciated the power of digital sound. Near the end of production, after we had already recorded Miss Ross, we changed one of the games, so that you needed to get only three answers instead of four, at the easiest level. Problem was, we had already recorded Diana Ross saying "four times." And she was in Europe on tour. And calling her back would have been prohibitive. We considered scrapping her instructions and rerecording them using the voice of the Wizard, when I remembered that Miss Ross had said the word "three" in another context, something about the silver shoes taking her home in only three steps.

The inflection was all wrong, The timing was all wrong. The pitch was all wrong. Back in the old days when we edited sound with tape and a razor blade, we never could have substituted the "three" for the "four" and made it at all believable. But with the power of digital sound, I stretched, pitched, and equalized that "three" until it fit. I can still tell, but no one else can. (I had done something similar, although not as difficult, with Cam Clarke's voice in Cartoon Carnival.)

Cam Clarke should have been dubbed "the voice of CD-i." And what's funny is that he kept getting all of these gigs at Philips without any referrals! One group would cast him, and without even realizing that he had every done another CD-i title, another group would cast him. I don't know how many titles he worked for, but I know he had at least one voice in every Funhouse title, and a voice in Oz (the Scarecrow). He also narrated Surf City (Philips Sidewalk) and Zombie Dinos (Philips POV).

Cam was the casting director on Oz, and he told me that both the casting session and the actual voice recording were unusual in the animation industry. The auditions were unusual because I didn't ask the actors to lock down a specific voice before I chose them; I was looking for a particular acting style and ability, knowing I could get the voice I wanted if I picked the right actor. Apparently this is unheard of, and actors are constantly trying to remember what they did in an audition when they actually get the part, sometimes months later.

The other unusual thing I did was to record all of the actors at once. Normally, the voices are recorded one at a time and then spliced together. It makes it easy to isolate and adjust voices in the mix. But I don't much care for the acting performances, and so I put everyone who was in a particular scene in the same room, each with a separate microphone, and had them play out the scenes in real time. The actors loved it, and, as you can hear, the performances were very lively.

Oh, and about the eighth voice I mentioned. I had originally cast seven voices other than Dian Ross to play in Oz, and many of them "doubled up" to play other voices. At the last hour of recording, we had one scene left to play, the one with the tiger in the woods who asks the Lion to kill the giant spider. I asked for readings from every male voice there, but they sounded too much like other voices they had done in the show. Suddenly we realized that one of the engineers, John C. Hike, was also a voice artist with a union card. We signed some paperwork, put him in the booth, and got our tiger at the last minute.

With all of the material we produced, and the vast amount we had planned, there was always something exciting going on there."

With great thanks to the ex-members of Philips Funhouse

1 reacties:

John February 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM  

Nice story Bas, I'd like more stories like this. Quite exlusive, I think! How do you dig up stuff like that!

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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