Pokémon USA recasting controversy
On March 21, 2006, it was discovered that Pokémon USA (now a part of The Pokémon Company International) and TAJ Productions were going to recast the voices for the English dub of the Pokémon anime starting in season nine. Only two of the original voice actors, Carter Cathcart and Kayzie Rogers, stayed with the dub. The company used the special that aired on April 29, The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon, as a testing ground for the new voice actors. This caused a controversy in the Pokémon fan community.
Because of the Pokémon franchise's waning popularity in the United States, the international Pokémon distributor, Pokémon USA, began looking for ways to cut costs on production of the English adaptation of the series, and decided to find a new partnering company who could produce the English adaptation for less money.  Nintendo of America, who was Pokémon's master license holder outside of Japan, had signed a ten-year subcontracting deal with 4Kids Entertainment to produce the anime. Once 4Kids Entertainment's contract expired in early 2006, they were outbid by TAJ Productions, who had earlier assisted 4Kids in their production of the English-language version of the series. However, according to statements made by Veronica Taylor and Eric Stuart, the voice actors were to be replaced with different sound-a-like voice actors to keep production costs low. According to Stuart Zagnit, it was not allowed for the voice actors to be brought over to the new dub production because the voice actors were under contract with 4Kids. The new voice actor of Brock, Bill Rogers, said he thought that Eric Stuart had voluntarily left the show when he first heard that he was auditioning for Pokémon. The special The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon, which aired on April 29, was used as a testing ground for the new voices.
As a result of this, and the discontinuation of anime in their block as they were planning to move to The CW network, Kids' WB! decided not to renew the series, and Cartoon Network, the sibling cable network owned by Kids' WB's owners, Time Warner, started to air the series as of September 8, 2006.
According to 4Kids Production president Norman J. Grossfeld, his company became aware that after season three or four, the Japanese Pokémon rights owners had established The Pokémon Company. And at that point, "We basically saw the writing on the wall," said Grossfeld. "It's like, 'Okay, when the contract's up, we're done.' It was definitely not a surprise."
Grossfeld also stated that the voice actors in all of 4Kids's productions were required to sign a contract that forbade them from performing the roles they performed at 4Kids for a different company for a certain period of time. He believes the contract stipulated that period to be one year after the last time the actors performed that role at 4Kids. After The Pokémon Company decided not to continue production work at 4Kids, many of the actors approached Grossfeld and asked if he would enforce that stipulation. Grossfeld stated that he never provided the actors with advice on what decision to make. "I'm not in a place to undermine 4Kids Production's business by telling you something or not," said Grossfeld. "So ultimately, the actors made their own decision. Whatever way they made their decision, they made their decision. We never actually enforced that clause."
Voice actor reaction
Former voice actors
Members from various Pokémon forums emailed the former voice actors.
This was sent by a staff member of Serebii Forums:
"Thanks for your very kind letter. There's very little I'm permitted to say on the subject other than what you've already stated in your e-mail. On a personal note, I'm very saddened by this development as I'm quite close to Ol' Meowth. The only thing I can tell you is I'm not leaving the VA business by any stretch of the imagination, and I hope to (like all cats) land on my feet
Thanks again and I'll be sure to pass your note onto my fellow VAs
"Pokémon USA has decided that it's too expensive to use 4Kids and the actors that have made Pokémon the TV show such a success for the last 10 years. They have 'behind our backs' re-cast the show with 'sound-a-likes' to try to save money. They actually believe the fans don't care. They are starting with the 10 year anniversary special - starring all new voices. The main cast, me included, has taken a lot of pride in the characters we have helped to create. To change now, on the last season, based on greed is a sad example of what big business kids marketing really is.
Please spread the word - maybe some fan buzz can stop this tragedy.
Eric "Brock & James" Stuart"
"Name: Eric Stuart
E-mail address: es101867 @ aol.com
Homepage URL: www.ericstuart.com
Comments: A Letter From Eric:
I want to thank the fans for all of the support. You have really made me feel the work I have done has actually meant something. I have enjoyed making the voices for Brock, James (even Butch!) come to life. It has been a fun ride.
I do want to clarify a few things based on what I have read around the internet. It’s amazing what power some of you think we voice actors have. Yes I have directed a bunch of cartoons but I have no say to what the content is. We do adaptations. All the director does is try to piece together individual performances and match lip flap. What changes in the story is due to a lot of different factors including the broadcast standards of America compared to Japan.
Next I would like to address my personal situation. I love doing these voices. I feel very attached to the characters I have helped to create. As for the financial gain, yes it’s a job, but if you only knew the small part of the pie we voice actors get for dubbing you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. When I said PUSA is driven by greed they think they can do it all without the original voice actors and 4kids. We didn’t want more money they wanted to spend less overall and that cut into the talent budget. It’s much more complicated. And yes, PUSA is being greedy. They will learn though, trust me, just try to tune in to Pokémon next season. You may have a hard time finding it on any network.
Lastly, for those of you who over the last 10 years have corresponded with me you know where I stand with the fans. For those of you who want to speculate on what my motivations are, so be it, you don’t know me or don’t care to find out the truth behind my rant. I am less angry than I am disappointed. It would have been nice to have had a chance to finish the Pokémon legacy. Now it ends on a sour note.
All I ask is one thing: When you watch the original cast episodes remember that those actors worked hard and loved ‘being’ the characters you grew to know so well. It was much more than a job to all of us.
"Hey Scott- Unfortunately, this is very real. We have been informed that Pokémon USA has already made plans to do the Anniversary special with substitute voices. Apparently, they haven't made a firm decision on the next season yet. None of us have been formally asked to do the show, we've simply been told we'll be replaced. Pokémon USA has made no effort to negotiate with 4Kids, simply feeling that getting a cheaper rate to dub the show is enough. They care nothing for the quality. They will be using new script writers, voices, music, etc. We (the voice actors and those at 4Kids who work so hard on the show) are all extremely upset as we care very much for Pokémon and what we've worked to create. However, there is nothing that we can do. It seems that the only recourse is for fans to write to Pokémon USA and tell them how wrong their decision is and how it will adversely affect the show.
Thanks for your concern. Please spread the word and let's all try to work together to right this wrong before it's too late.
Subject: Re: FW: The PokéCommunity Forums Contact Us Form - Pokémon Urgent news
Thanks for your note. Unfortunately this is all too true. Pokémon USA recently informed us that they are dubbing the Anniversary special with sound alikes. They are not sure about the next season. None of us (actors, script writers, etc.) have even been asked to continue working on the show. They have not even attempted to negotiate with 4kids. They say that the show will be exactly the same even though they are replacing all the elements and using all new people totally unfamiliar with the project. We are all extremely upset about this turn of events as we care so much about the show and have no say in the matter whatsoever. I am hoping that if enough people write to Pokémon USA and express their dismay, we may right this wrong before it is too late!
Spread the word!
Thanks for your concern.
Date: Sun Apr 30, 2006 5:16 pm
Subject: More about rumors rlil2001
Interesting that we just had a discussion about rumors.
Apparently the new voice of Brock posted on Serebii's message board. I can't not look at the boards, I guess. It's like a car wreck. I might register with this message board myself just to reply to this. This is just making me angrier. (yes, I know who this person is) Just the first part of the message is posted here since I don't have time to respond to the whole thing right now.
This person does not speak for us and does not know our business or the specifics of why we aren't doing the show. The contracts do not per se prevent us from doing the show. It was that _no one even appoached us to do it, no negotiations, nothing, was done to allow the possbility._ The contract is not impermeable in this fashion, and this VA has no idea what he's talking about. That's why all of this is very shady and why I'm very angry.
URGH. This is one headache of an example of rumors.
He wrote more, but I have to go. I just wanted to clear this up here. This person should not be speaking for anyone, especially what isn't true."
"As for the non-compete clause--I'll say it again in this message if the person or anyone else wondering about this wants to read it for him or herself without looking through the archives. The contract did not present unimpeachable terms whatsoever. We could very well have continued with the show, that is, if we knew what was going on in the first place. We didn't know the licensing contract was ending. We didn't know they were considering soundalikes. No job offers were made. In fact, the producer at 4Kids had been sent the materials for the next season and was awaiting further correspondence. There was no indication anything out of the ordinary was going on, until the decision had already been made. Now, you can take a job away if it's yours to take. No one disputes that. But the reason used to justify these decisions was an erroneous reference to the original actors' contracts. Anyone who has seen a 4Kids' actor's contract knows that the cited reason is not correct. It's never a good idea to discuss other people's contracts publicly, especially when you haven't seen them. The new VA who posted on that message board and whoever wrote that blurb on PUSA's website were, one could conclude, perpetuating hearsay. Who started or allowed the hearsay? That's my question, although I have a good idea who it is."
New voice actors
I am hesitant to post here as I fear that many of you are greatly upset with what you heard from this weekend’s special, but I feel that someone from the new group of VAs must speak up.
Please understand that during this tough transitional time, the new voice actors that are working on Pokemon are trying their best to fill some very big shoes. In the past, I have had the opportunity to speak with many of the original Pokemon actors. They are terrific, talented people and I have a great respect for all the work that they have done in these past eight years to bring Pokemon to television, movies, etc. Unfortunately, due to the contracts that these actors have signed with 4Kids, they are no longer able to work on Pokemon. So, no matter what letter writing campaigns you start, these actors will not be allowed to work on Pokemon outside of the 4Kids studios.
That said, the new actors that have been brought in to voice these existing Pokemon characters are trying very hard to capture the spirit of the original cast. So please, don’t look at us as horrible people who are stealing jobs away from others. Instead, try to understand that we are actors who admire those who came before us and only wish to do all that we can to produce the best show possible.
This new Pokemon project only started a short while ago and many of us have been researching previous episodes to find a way to best capture the spirit of the show. Together with TAJ Studios, we are working with producers, directors and engineers who worked on the show’s earlier seasons. These professionals are also trying their hardest to get us to the right place so that this transition will work for the fans. This will take a little time, but we are working hard to make the fans happy. Please believe me when I say that I am not involved in this project for a “quick buck”. When I was asked to take over as the voice of Brock, I was honored that I would be able to carry on a legacy, and I promise you here and now that I will do the best I can to make that possible.
My reasoning for posting to this site is twofold. Firstly, I wish to inform the fans about the process that is going on to keep Pokémon the same great show it always was. And secondly, I wish to get feedback from the fans that I can take into the studio with me to help improve whatever I can to make the show great. I welcome all the input that you have, but please be mindful that there is a human being at the other end of this dialogue. I know that everyone at TAJ studios is concerned with the outcry of the fans over what has happened. Please try to help us make this show work for you.
I will post more in the days ahead, but for now I thank you for your time and patience during this transition. Sincerely, The New Voice of Brock
PS – Please understand at this time I can not post my real name due to possible repercussions from all the negative energy out there on the internet and in the world outside the web."
Many fans were upset and opposed the idea of recasting the voice actors with new ones. Some were open to the idea because they weren't fond of the old voice actors in the first place. Some wanted to see the special episode before making a comment.
Some fans who opposed the idea of recasting decided to send letters to Pokémon USA by mail and e-mail. An online petition had also been made by online members.
However, on April 29, 2006, after the special aired, many Pokémon fans disliked the new voices. According to a Bulbagarden Forums poll, one person liked the special, 17 people said it was OK, 15 people hated most of the voices, and 30 hated the new voices altogether (as of April 30 at 1:19 PM ET). Some Pokémon fans planned to boycott merchandise from Pokémon USA, and many started to write complaint letters to Pokémon USA.
PUSA's reaction to complaints
After many complaints from the fans about Ash's voice, which was done by Kayzie Rogers (as "Jamie Peacock") they re-casted the voice actor for Ash. It was announced at Comic Con International that Sarah Natochenny would do the voice of Ash. Also, The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon special was re-dubbed. Sarah Natochenny's performance of Ash is still a controversy for some in the Pokémon Community up to this day.
The following response was posted in May 2006 at Pokémon.com
"Dear Pokemon fans,
Whew! The last couple of days have been exhausting for us -- we've been going through all of the emails concerning the television special we aired recently, The Mastermind of Mirage Pokemon. The show was fantastic, with a mostly positive response. Many said the action was "awesome", that the plot and storyline were "outstanding", and that the overall look of the animation was "very, very cool." Once again, you've proven yourself to be the best fans in the world, and we always appreciate your comments!
We also heard you were concerned with the new voice actors, and many of you have voiced your concern (pun intended) through your e-mails and letters. Believe us - we are fans of the TV show, too, and we care just as much about something like voice changes as you do. We changed the voice actors for the main characters because we were told that the actors who used to provide voices to our characters had conflicting contractual commitments. So, we hope you will help us welcome the new voice actors into the Pokémon family - we think they're great, and they did a great job on The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon during the shortened transition period between production studios... Nothing else was changed, and it is still the same awesome show you're used to seeing every week, with great storylines straight from Japan, original music, and a well-thought out plot (which is the most important thing when producing a TV show)!
Pokémon has always been about fair play and teamwork, and we expect the same from our fans. In other words, if you have comments, complaints or praise, let us know directly at [email protected]. We always welcome constructive criticism!
We are, and always have been, dedicated to our fans and how passionately and strongly they believe in Pokémon. We promise to always take your concerns to heart as we continue to make the show your favorite every week. Watch this space in the upcoming days for even more exciting news about Pokémon, and don't forget to check out our Pokémon coverage from E3 next week!
Aftermath and returning voice actors
During the PUSA/TAJ dub, only five 4Kids actors played roles (not counting recycled stock footage from past episodes to voice certain Pokémon): Ken Gates (credited as Rodger Parsons), Kayzie Rogers (credited as Jamie Peacock, who initially left after Following a Maiden's Voyage!, returned in The Rise of Darkrai, credited under her real name again, and left again after Alola to a New Adventure!), Jimmy Zoppi (credited as Billy Beach), Matthew Mitler, and David Lapkin, who returned at the beginning of season 10. Parsons regained his role of the narrator; Rogers continued voicing Jessie's Wobbuffet, Mimey, Ash's Cyndaquil, Ash's Totodile, and Gary's Umbreon; and Zoppi was still the voice of Gary Oak and Dr. Namba.
TAJ Productions went out of business in early 2008, and Pokémon USA (now called The Pokémon Company International) partnered with DuArt Film & Video to continue producing the English adaptation. Because DuArt's production budget wasn't as low as TAJ's, several former 4Kids voice actors began to return to the series. Initially, they were ones who had played only minor or recurring characters, such as Kayzie Rogers, Marc Thompson, Dan Green, and Amy Palant. However, in Lost Leader Strategy, Rachael Lillis voiced Maylene, and later Sunflora and Shinx, making her the first main cast member of the 4Kids dub to return to the series since the voice switch. Maddie Blaustein returned briefly before her death in 2008, voicing Chatot in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time & Darkness.
Seven voice actors have reprised their roles previously done in the 4Kids dub thus far in the main series. In The Thief That Keeps On Thieving!, Ted Lewis reprised the role of Giovanni, while Mike Pollock reprised the role of Raoul Contesta in Yes in Dee Dee, It's Dawn!. Much later, Bella Hudson, credited as Erica Schroeder, voiced an older Nurse Joy in The Island of Illusions!, and Sean Schemmel voiced Lucario in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U. Andrew Paull reprised the role of Steven Stone in Mega Evolution Special II, and Wayne Grayson reprised the role of Lance in Flash of the Titans!. Megan Hollingshead reprised the role of Nurse Joy in Working My Way Back to Mew!, after a gap of almost 16 years.
In Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution, several actors from the original dub reprised their roles. Ted Lewis reprised the role of Corey (alongside Giovanni), Carter Cathcart as Fergus and Lisa Ortiz as Miranda. In addition, Dan Green returns as the voice of Mewtwo, having first voiced the character in Mewtwo Returns, over 18 years prior.
- David Lapkin (returned in Following A Maiden's Voyage!)
- Dan Green (returned in The Keystone Pops!)
- Bella Hudson (returned in Bibarel Gnaws Best!)
- Sean Schemmel (returned in Nosing Round the Mountain)
- Mike Pollock (returned in Luxray Vision)
- Marc Thompson (returned in Journey to the Unown!)
- Amy Palant (returned in Tanks For The Memories!)
- Evelyn Lanto (returned in Hot Springing a Leak!)
- Greg Abbey (returned in Hot Springing a Leak!)
- Rachael Lillis (returned in Lost Leader Strategy!)
- Maddie Blaustein (returned in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time & Darkness)
- Wayne Grayson (returned in Crossing Paths)
- Ted Lewis (returned in A Full Course Tag Battle!)
- Jamie McGonnigal (returned in Staging a Heroes' Welcome!)
- Scottie Ray (returned in Pokémon Ranger and the Kidnapped Riolu! (Part One))
- Jason Griffith (returned in Cream of the Croagunk Crop!)
- Lisa Ortiz (returned in Hungry for the Good Life!)
- Rebecca Soler (returned in Losing Its Lustrous!)
- Christopher Kromer (returned in Giratina and the Sky Warrior)
- Marc Diraison (returned in Stealing Peace of Mind!)
- Darren Dunstan (returned in Frozen on Their Tracks!)
- Eva Christensen (returned in Try for the Family Stone!)
- Suzy Myers (returned in The Brockster Is In!)
- Kerry Williams (returned in Scraggy and the Demanding Gothita!)
- Stuart Zagnit (returned in Explorers Of The Hero's Ruin!)
- Matthew Charles (returned in A Surface to Air Tag Battle Team!)
- Jayne Grand (returned in Pokémon Black & White: Adventures in Unova)
- David Wills (returned in To Catch a Pokémon Smuggler!)
- Pete Zarustica (returned in Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction)
- Andrew Paull (returned in Mega Evolution Special II)
- Anthony Salerno (returned in Thawing An Icy Panic!)
- Todd Garbeil (returned in A Relay in the Sky!)
- Tara Jayne (returned in Pokémon Generations)
- Lisa Adams (returned in The Power of Us)
- Megan Hollingshead (returned in Enter Pikachu!)
- Save Our Voice Actors (archive)
- Sands, Tara, & Yurko, Steve. "Nor-man's Land with Norman Grossfeld." 4Kids Flashback, Spreaker, 13 Dec 2023. https://www.4kidsflashback.com/episodes/4kids-normans-land, 38:59–42:51.
- Pokémon IS going to be Recasted...-_-;
- PPN Save the Dub Campaign
- Pokémon IS going to be Recasted...-_-;
- The Incredible Rachael Lillis!
- The Incredible Rachael Lillis!
- New Dub Voice Discussion!
- New Voice cast - Discussion
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