Speaking Toys - license on voices?

So Santa brought several talking toys to the kids for Christmas, specifically Shrek, Donkey, and Kim Possible. All of them say phrases that are direct quotes from their movie or TV show, but none are in the same voice as the actor. Shrek is particularly bad - he sounds nothing like Mike Myers, and I do a better Scottish accent than the toy does. Why don’t toy manufacturers use recordings directly from the original movie or show? Are the voices licensed differently than the character images and names? Would they have to get permission/pay money to the original actor, not just the owner of the character?

I don’t understand the ins and outs of the rights situation, but it happens all the time over here with licensed toys, and it’s only ever the sound bit that gets changed. My daughter has a Tweenies clock (the gameshow style clock that spins randomly and then chooses what activity the Tweenies will do next), and it playsd absurdly different music from the TV one, to the point where you wonder why they bothered flogging the thing at all.

My niece has talking Shrek and Donkey toys (It may be important to note that these are from the first film). IMO, they do have the voices of Meyers and Murphy. It’s simply that the recording quality is horrible and the speaker is a piece of junk. Toys, statues etc that are based on a character as portrayed by a specific actor are generally approved by the actor before production (obviously this doesn’t apply to garage kits or other copyright/trademark infringing products). I don’t know whether this is a legal requirement or simply a matter of politness. But, the Gandalf figures made by Toy Biz based on Ian McKellen’s portrayal were approved by him before the final sculpt was used to mass manufacture. They’ve already got his face, I don’t see why the same wouldn’t be true of his voice.

BurgerKing had a line of talking Simpsons watches a few years ago. In one watch, Bart and Lisa ask “Are we there yet?” and Homer yells “No!”. The high pitch of Bart and Lisa sounds almost completely unlike whatserface and that chick from Herman’s Head/Dharma And Greg. But for some reason, the low tones of Dan Castalanetta’s Homer sound just fine.

And if the SpongeBob Squarepants clock I got my niece doesn’t feature the real voice of Mr Krabbs/The Kurgan/Frankenstein in The Bride (With Sting and Flashdance chick)/Preacher in Carnivale/Guy in Earth 2/Sherriff in Pet Semetary 2, than I’m the Pope. I may not remember his name. But I know his voice when I hear it.

Having bought and sold a few Talking Pee Wee Herman dolls over the years, I can also say that voice quality varies greatly even in different specimens of the same toy. This is not the kind of thing employees notice when unpacking deliveries and stocking the shelves. There was a problem a few years ago when quality control missed a Tellytubby toy which was supposed to be saying “Again! Again!”. Some of the units sounded more like “I got a gun”. There was also the story (I would not believe it had I not seen the footage on the news) of a talking Elmo whose “Hug Elmo” came out as “F*ck Elmo”.

I’m assuming that manufacturers are more interested in making talking toys which are sturdy enough to withstand kids, and durable enough not to wear out before kids get tired of them , than they are in making talking toys which reproduce the actors’ voices with high fidelity.

I have wondered the same thing about computer games that tie into movies. My kids have the Nemo computer game, and the voices sound like the movie actors, but production of the game would be somewhat extensive I would think.

That would back up my ‘cheap equipment/poor quality control’ hypothesis.

Game consoles hook up to a standard television will of course deliver superior sound.

These Shrek & Donkey dolls are from Shrek 2, and as far as I can tell are NOT in the original voices. I even compared them to the same phrases in the DVDs, and even the cadence of the voices is different. Plus, Shrek sounds more Canadian that Scottish.

Your second point is interesting though. I’d assume Mike Myers doesn’t have to approve the visual appearance of a Shrek toy - he had nothing to do with the computer generated character in the movie. Perhaps recording with a different voice excludes him from the toy approval process altogether.

Lots of computer/console games that tie into a movie hire some of the primary actors to do voice work for the game. The Spider-Man 2 game for example credits Tobey Maguire, Kirstin Dunst, and Alfred Molina for their respective parts. All other characters from the movie (J. Jonah Jameson, Doc Ock’s wife, etc) are voiced by some generic voice actors though, not their original actors. A lot of the game dialog is completely different than the movie dialog, so I guess the actors did spend some extra time in a recording studio doing the voices.

They may have agreements with the actors. If I recall correctly, the reason Robin Williams didn’t do the voice in Aladdin 2 was because Disney had used his voice for marketing purposes, which he had expressly forbidden.

Clancy Brown, in case anyone’s wondering.

Ooh, I even found a cite.

Speaking as someone who’s lived in Scotland for his whole life, I can assure you that Shrek has always sounded more Canadian than Scottish.

Speaking as someone who’s lived in Scotland for his whole life, I can assure you that Shrek has always sounded more Canadian than Scottish.

Whoops. Sorry.