The Ben 10 panel in the Indigo Ballroom was filled with new and old faces of the now 12-year-old franchise, including that of the moderator Eric Bauza who had voiced Dr. Psychobos from the Ben 10: Omniverse series. The panel was comprised of the executive producer for the newest incarnation/reboot, John Fang; co-creator from Man of Action, Joe Casey; the original voice of Ben returning for this incarnation, Tara Strong; the new voice of Gwen, Montse Hernandez; the new voice of Diamondhead, Roger Craig Smith; the new voice of Stinkfly and previously the voice of teenage Kevin Levin, Greg Cipes; and the voice of Four Arms in the new and Omniverse version, John DiMaggio.
Bauza first asked Fang and Casey about the longevity of the Ben 10 franchise all around the world. Fang answered that he thought the show’s longevity and uniqueness is due to the show presenting things from a kid’s point of view. A kid is given a magical watch which can turn him into any alien he wishes, and he can do anything he wants as that alien, which, Fang said, is almost any kid’s dream come true. Casey replied he thought the show’s continued popularity is also due to the fact that Ben is also portrayed as not being perfect, and he screws up a lot, which people can relate to. Bauza added that he liked the many different versions of Ben 10 over the years from super serious to action/adventure/comedy versions and now a younger version for a new generation of fans.
Next Bauza asked Strong, who was the original voice of Ben and continued voicing young Ben in subsequent incarnations, about what has changed or has remained the same in voicing Ben now. Strong said from an acting perspective, Ben is the same as he was 12 years ago when she first voiced him, except the world he’s in now is a bit different and more fun and cute than before. Strong said she’s liked all the versions of Ben, including Yuri Lowenthal’s teenage version of him. Strong added that, internationally, there’s better Ben 10 merchandise abroad, especially in London and Australia.
Bauza asked Montse, who was attending her first ever convention, about what she brought from her real life to Gwen, who in this incarnation is super smart and quick. Montse thought in this version, Gwen and Ben’s relationship is a lot friendlier than in previous incarnations, and Gwen treats Ben more like a little brother than her cousin. They still argue though, of course. Bauza then jokingly asked which voice actor do you hate working with the most. Immediately, Strong said Roger Craig Smith, but only because after recording Ben 10 with the cast on Monday morning, she then records Unikitty which also features Smith, so she spends almost the entire day with him. Bauza then turned to Smith and asked him what his best moment was in voicing Diamondhead. Smith replied his best moment was probably putting up with Montse’s tirade as Gwen. Smith added that Diamondhead himself is ultra confident like teflon, so nothing fazes him. Bauza thought Diamondhead would smell like Axe Body Spray. Bauza next asked Cipes what he brings from his life to voicing Stinkfly, and Cipes jokingly replied saying he doesn’t shower for weeks before coming into the recording studio, so he’s usually recorded alone. Cipes then answered he usually has a lot of fun voicing Stinkfly since getting stinky means having fun being wild and free while kicking butt. Bauza finally asked DiMaggio about what he thought was the essence of Four Arms. DiMaggio thought he identified best with Four Arms gregariousness and outward energy.
Bauza then asked the entire panel what their favorite moment has been so far in making this new Ben 10 series. Fang replied he liked being able to work with the whole creative team which has been fun and playful. Casey replied making the show more comedic is a very big deal for the group Man of Action, who has always thought Ben is a fun character. Strong answered the comedic element and the new aliens are fun, as is working with Montse as Gwen. Strong also praised all the actors who have to voice the aliens since they have to voice Ben as that alien, so they have to keep Ben in mind while voicing the alien. A few of the alien voice actors have asked Strong to voice Ben saying their line, so they can get a feel on how Ben would say the line. Montse said the whole experience has been so fun for her that it really doesn’t feel like work, and she looks forward to their Monday recording sessions. Smith said he liked being part of the reboot and being able to reintroduce Ben 10 to a new audience, adding that it’s always fun recording the show with the cast (with the exception of Strong, perhaps due to her earlier joke). Cipes said he loves his life and feels that he’s actually living a dream to be able to walk into Cartoon Network Studios and go to work in a playground. Cipes added he feels honored to have been a part of the Ben 10 franchise for so long, starting with voicing Kevin Levin and now Stinkfly. DiMaggio said frankly he just likes having a job because he has a mortgage, but in all seriousness, he likes being able to bring the franchise back to life. DiMaggio added being able to reinvent and revisit something is always good.
After showing some clips from the show, Cipes noted that it’s no wonder Ben 10 is such a beloved show worldwide from Europe to Asia to Australia where every other kid is wearing a Ben 10 T-shirt. Bauza said in addition to Ben 10 being available on the Cartoon Network website and app, a new Ben 10 app was just introduced earlier in July called Ben 10: Alien Experience which allows one to play as any one of Ben’s many aliens and battle other aliens via augmented virtual reality. Cipes played the app around the convention area and even made a short video.
After playing some Ben 10 trivia with the audience, was Q&A. First, how did the creators of Ben 10 come up with all the aliens on the show? Casey replied that he grew up collecting comic books and enjoyed playing with powers in different ways, and it was just a matter of narrowing down which powers they thought were the most fun to do.
Cipes was asked what it was like playing Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beast Boy from Teen Titans, Go!, and of course, Stinkfly. Cipes said it’s the best job in the world since he has so much fun and gets to connect with kids all around the world which is his favorite part. Cipes added that he had always wanted to be in cartoons, and now he gets to do what he loves.
For the entire panel, who is your favorite alien? DiMaggio, under a little pressure from Cipes as well as the promise of $20, answered Stinkfly. Cipes said after playing the Ben 10: Alien Experience app, he really liked playing with fire with Heatblast but Stinkfly always has a place in his heart. Smith also answered Stinkfly in hopes of the same promised $20 from Cipes. Montse answered Gray Matter, and Strong followed suit with Gray Matter as well. Strong also noted that she loves Daryl Sabara’s voicing for Heatblast as well as Travis Willingham’s Cannonbolt (and of course, Stinkfly). Casey said he was going to say Diamondhead, but because of that $20, he’ll go with Stinkfly. Fang said after Stinkfly, his favorite is Gray Matter. Bauza said he likes Diamondhead as well since he got to voice him for Ben 10: Omniverse. In response to a second question about which alien would be the hardest to voice, the panel just went into a barrage of Stinkfly impressions.
For Strong, what is the hardest issue Ben has in this incarnation? Strong replied that probably the biggest adjustment she has had to make in voicing Ben is that Ben is not as mean to Gwen as in his first incarnation. The only other issue Strong said she has is when all the voice actors don’t show up in time for a voicing session.
How does Strong put herself in the mindset of a boy being a girl/woman herself? Strong replied when you audition, you get a picture of how the character looks, so you have to think in your mind how the director is thinking on how the character sounds like. Strong also said you have to trust yourself and your skills, so you should always be playing and practicing with your voice via singing lessons or improv classes. That way, you’ll be able to do what is asked of you in the recording booth. Strong added it’s important to play around with your voice and different ages and not care how silly you look doing so.
Next was my question which made the entire panel go silent when I asked it. I said that I was glad to hear Strong back as the voice of Ben and even though I love how David Kaye is voicing Grandpa Max, I wondered why Paul Eiding, the voice of Grandpa Max in every animated incarnation of Ben 10 wasn’t brought back as well. After what seemed to be a long awkward silence, Fang finally replied that when they were looking at voices, they were trying to find a different take on Grandpa Max’s voice for the new series. Bauza noted it was a very diplomatic answer to the question.
For the entire panel, what was the first voice you ever did? DiMaggio answered his first ever voice impression was of Billy Crystal doing an impression of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. Cipes said he started out as a prank caller when he was a kid, but his first voice audition was for Beast Boy 17 years ago for the original Teen Titans series. Smith said his first voice was with Strong for a defunct Disney Chicken Little series, and he voiced Steve Dobbs’ pig character, Runt. Smith added that he started out mimicking other voices which is what a lot of voice actors do. Montse said she was still learning actually since Gwen is her first big voiceover role, but she first started playing with her voice when she played with dolls as a kid. Montse added she’s still learning what her voice can do, and it really helped being around other voice actors. Strong said she used to do little animal voices, but her first voice over job was as the voice of Hello Kitty for an animated series when she was only 13 years old.
The last question was how was Overflow created? Casey replied they liked characters with water based powers, and even though they’ve had other characters with water powers before, they wanted to create a new spin on a water powered based alien. With that, the panel ended to maybe a few cries from Cipes who didn’t want it to end.
(Screencaps courtesy of the Ben 10 Wikia)