A Panel with Attack on Titan Director, Mike McFarland

Posted: March 24, 2014 by Ian Gaudreau in Anime & Manga, Movies & Television
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Mike McFarland

Mike McFarland

We had the absolute pleasure of meeting Mike McFarland at Anime Boston 2014!  McFarland is most known for his work on Fullmetal Alchemist, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, One Piece, and his current work as Director and voice of Jean Kirstein in Attack on Titan.

Keep reading to learn more about the McFarlands work as both director and voice actor:

What drew you to become a voice actor?

Well at the time, it was another thing for me to try.  I was involved with theatre prior to voice acting, so I had acting experience.  I have also been heavily involved in improv, which helped me practice and refine many of my character voices.  I was lucky enough to get an audition with FUNimation in 1997, which got my foot in the door, and I have been fortunate enough to continue to work with FUNimation.

As a Director, where do you feel the most pressure or give most of your focus?

Prior to recording, I try to research names, proper nouns, and other pronunciations to make as natural flow as possible.  It is important to have the pronunciations correct because the viewers will definitely notice, so I really try to make sure we have them right and that my voice actors say them correctly.  I also try to vary up my voice cast when I can, which keeps the voice actors new and refreshing.

Since voice recording is usually solitary  in a recording booth, we normally don’t have all of the voice actors present at one time.  Threfore, it is quite a challenge to ensure that the conversations between characters flow smoothly and that the tone is appropriate.  We also need to make sure that the volume stays consistent throughout a scene.  As a Director, I help give the voice actors clarity and direction to match what I am looking for.

What has been your greatest challenge with Attack on Titan?

The biggest difficulty was definitely casting the 3 leads.  I had a full week of all-day auditions, with dozens of different voice actors coming in each day.  Casting the three main leads took a lot of time, but we were very pleased with the result. [When asked if McFarland made the final decisions]  I conducted the auditions and then gave my suggestions to my superiors, who made the final decision.

How long does it take to make an anime episode?

We usually work on what we call batches, which are a group of 5-8 episodes.  When we start the batch, we don’t move on until all of the episodes in that batch are completed.  Normally, we produce 1.5-2 episodes per week, but the recordings in the batch all overlap and are integrated together when we are working on them.

Do you prefer more serious or comedic animes?

I like the dark, mature material a lot more for anime.

As Director, do you try to completely replicate Japanese version or try to make it your own?

When it comes to the story and emotion, we try to get as close to the original anime as possible .  Sometimes we make a switch, for example, Armin is male (played by Josh Grelle) in the English dub.  Ideally, a Japanese and American viewer could talk about the same episode with the same experience, with only their language being the difference.

Favorite characters from Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist?

Wow, I am not sure about Attack on Titan, there are just so many cool characters.  Mikasa, Armin, Annie, Levi…there are a lot of great characters in that show.

For Fullmetal, definitely Alphonze.  he is just a pure and nice boy.  He is a really nice character.

How do you think Netflix streaming has affected anime viewership?

I believe it has an effect.  Attack on Titan is probably the most viewed brand new show.  Instant streaming is a great option for people who want to check out a new show but don’t want to buy.  It allows them to check it out without having to put on the financial burden.

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