• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Ten Minutes With Michael Dobson - AKA Bulk Biceps

    Continuing with our coverage of all things diminutive and marshmallow-hooved, I got a chance at EverFree Northwest to sit down with another veteran of the voice acting industry. Michael Dobson's career spans over three decades, and has included roles such as the Caped Crusader, Nappa from Dragonball Z, Starscream from Transformers, and—most relevant to our fandomthe incomparable Bulk Biceps. 

    I was able to snag ten minutes to ask him some questions about voice acting, horses, and voice acting while riding on horses, and despite the fact that I showed up to the interview wearing an American flag-patterned morphsuit and matching cape, he still stuck around to answer some of them. He's a cool guy.

    You’ve been doing voiceover work for just about thirty years at this point. What got you into voice acting in the first place, and then what encouraged you to keep doing it?

    I started off in theater and I had a film and TV career for a while, and then what happened was, the industry in Vancouver dropped off for film and television, and I had eventually gotten on to G.I. Joe Extreme. I guess my brothers and I, when we were kids, used to do voices and stuff like that, and we never thought that you could get paid for something like that, right? And then I met Scott McNeil, who’d been doing some voice work, and Gary Chalk and people like that working on He-Man, and fortunately for me Scott said, “Susan Blu, a director from LA, is coming into town. You should take her workshop.”

    So I did, and then I think it was two months later she was running auditions for G.I. Joe, and when I walked in she went, “Hey, I remember you!” Luckily for me, she remembered that I did quite well in her class. So anyway, I was auditioning for Sergeant Savage, and I added a little bit extra to the dialogue that was in there because I went to military school and I kind of had a feel for that. She goes, “I really like that little bit that you put in. It just kind of sealed it all off.” I got cast in G.I. Joe, and then shortly after that I was on [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles.

    I think I’ve always loved theater, and [voice acting] is like the closest thing to actually being on stage and enjoying that kind of environment. So I ended up focusing most of my energy into voiceover. Having a family, it works out best that way.

    Because you have a more adjustable schedule?

    Yeah, you know, you’re not on set at three or four in the morning or anything like that. When you have a family, especially when your kids are really young… I love being a dad, and I love hanging out with my kids, and so being away from my family was kind of one of those things where it’s like, “Eh, that’s not cool. I want to be home and enjoying time with my kids.” So this works out well. I’m fortunate that it’s more like a normal job, and I’m fortunately that I get to spend a lot of time with my family.

    Out of the voice roles you’ve done, are there any that stand out to you as ones you’d love to do again, either because you feel like you could’ve done it better or because it was just so much fun the first time?

    Ooh, there’s so many! I’ve always loved Batman. I’ve been a huge fan of Batman since I was a kid, all the way back to the Adam West days. I still love Adam West, he’s awesome. He’ll always be the Batman I remember growing up with. And it’s funny because I didn’t realize how campy that show was until I became an adult. Now you watch it, and you laugh because you get the jokes, right? But when you’re a kid you’re like, “Oh my God, he’s the coolest guy in the world!” Getting to play Batman, that was pretty amazing for me. That was a big milestone for me.

    I really enjoyed playing Starscream in Transformers, although at the time there were a lot of mixed feelings within the fanbase because there were a lot of hardcore G1 fans as well as the sadness of Chris Latta passing away, and I totally understood what the fanbase was feeling at the time. But what’s interesting is that, over time, I’m finding now that I’m getting more accolades for the work that I did from Armada to Cybertron, so that’s pretty cool. And I liked the story arc. I liked the fact that it was a torn Starscream, that we saw a different side of him, which was interesting because we were like a hundred million years before G1 in the storyline. And I would say one of the other things was… being a turtle was cool. Being Leonardo in Ninja Turtles, that was awesome.

    I think working on anything that’s got a positive message is cool, like this show, My Little Pony, for example. It’s cool whenever you get an opportunity to work on something that’s giving a positive message to the world, and especially something like this where you see such a huge fanbase and people actually live it. Like, they actually are kind to one another and actually are supportive to one another. When you’re fortunate enough to be on a show like this, what could be cooler than that, right? It makes you feel really good about what you do.

    I saw that you’ve worked with Andrew Francis (Shining Armor) and Lee Tockar (Snips, Steven Magnet) before on Bionicle: The Mask of Light…

    Oh, they’re awesome!

    Was that how you got into voicing for this show, meeting those guys and hearing about it through them? Or was there something else that brought you towards where you are now?

    Well, I was that kid in school who was always doing voices. I remember somebody asking me one time, “What’s your real voice?” And that was when I realized, “Oh, wow, I am that kid.” And then I ended up doing school announcements and things like that, and that was fun because I sort of became, like, this small celebrity at the school. Y’know, people would be like, “Hey, there’s the voice guy!”. But it never occurred to me that you could actually do that for a living. I think what I loved about it, like I was saying before, was that it was so much like theater. It’s that same level of energy and commitment that you’d have to have taking on a role and performing it on stage. It’s very much using a similar skillset, if you will, when you’re behind the microphone. You always have to remember your character is doing things, like they’re walking around or lifting things up, or maybe they’re in battle, or they’re on the deck of a ship that happens to be really noisy. So you’re constantly using that theater of the mind, and it’s interesting when you watch us all work, because you can see that the facial expressions, the gestures, and all that stuff is all going on as if we’re in front of a camera. It’s a good workout. Good therapy.

    What specifically got you into Friendship is Magic? What attracted you to working on this show?

    I’d love to say that I got to pick it, but I didn’t. I was working with Jayson [Thiessen] and Jim [Miller] from DHX… I had worked with DHX before on other projects, and those two producers got to know me, and they know the kind of stuff that I do. I just happened to audition for Dr. Cabelleron, actually, and sort of based him on a character from Indiana Jones, and I got the role. I had no idea about Bulk Biceps until I showed up at the studio. I got there and Jason and Jim were there, and they said, “Dude, dude, can we talk to you for a second?” They were all excited about this character. And then I heard about Snowflake, who’s now Bulk Biceps, and they’re telling me what they did and how the fanbase responded to this character, and how it ended up being a character that they wanted to introduce into the show and give a higher profile to.

    And so I went into the studio and started doing it, and of course I’m like, “YEEEEAH!”, doing all this stuff, and I remember the first time I did it the director was sort of looking at me going, “I think you gotta, uh… no, pull it back a bit,” and all of a sudden Jayson steps in and goes, “No no no, this is awesome, keep going!” So I kept on going, and I’m looking through the glass at them in the studio while I’m doing the dialogue for it, and they’re giving me the thumbs-up saying, “Keep going, man, you can’t go too big with this character, just have fun with him.” And it’s cool, because when you see him in the show, and you see the dynamics between him and the rest of the ponies in Equestria, you can see how he’s a lot like the comic relief in the show, because he’s not a threat to anybody. He’s not an aggressive guy, per se, he’s not a bully or anything like that. He’s a guy who’s just amped all the time. He just loves everything, right? For everything he’s like, “YEAH! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!”

    He’s just like that, and so it’s fun, because when you see him animated in the show, it’s like… when I first saw it, I went, “Oh yeah, I like this guy. He’s a lot of fun.” And it was cool the way fans responded to him. I went from just a handful of people on my Twitter account to, within a couple days, approaching a thousand followers. And the cool thing was that I was following people back and we were messaging back and forth, and then a few days later SilverSlinger sent me the pendant I’m wearing. And [SpikeFiremane] has done a carving for me, which I’ll get to see sometime over the weekend. Everybody’s just… it’s such an amazing group of people. I’ve never worked on anything before where I had such an outpouring of support, like people just going, “Dude, you were awesome!”, “It was so funny!”, all that. And I started to see Bulk Biceps growing more popular. People were doing fanart and things like that, and then there was this whole Bulkamania thing that came about too, which I thought was pretty hilarious. It’s been fun, man. It’s been a lot of fun.

    Can you tell us anything about whether we can expect to see Bulk Biceps or Dr. Cabelleron return in Season 5 or beyond?

    It’d be so great to be able to say something here… all I can say is there’s a lot of really, really awesome episodes upcoming in Season 5. The writing just continues to grow, and I think the fans are gonna be super excited that there’s a lot in the upcoming episodes that’ll make them go, “Hey, I know what that is!” and stuff like that. The producers on this show working with Hasbro, they’re doing such an amazing job in every way, as you know, with the music score, the writing, the animation. And what’s cool too is that you can see on Twitter how a lot of the artists that work at DHX are on there tweeting about stuff.

    It seems like everyone at DHX is very social and open to communication, and that’s part of the reason why this fandom can exist.

    Yeah! This show is something that everybody’s very proud of, and as much as I’d like to tell you stuff, all I can say is watch Season 5, it’s gonna be really kick-butt, there’s gonna be lots of wonderful surprises in it, and I think the fans are gonna really, really love it. From what I see, it just keeps getting better and better, and Season 4 was already awesome. You will not be disappointed [with Season 5]. There’s a lot of really exciting things happening, and the cool thing is like what I said before: when you work for a production company like Hasbro and DHX, and you see that level of excitement when we go into work, and you see people just stoked about this thing… I mean, how can it not get better?