Interview with Jan Rabson

Jan Rabson is a voice actor known for his working with Pixar and Disney. He has worked on “Toy Story 3”, “Up”, “Cars Toons” and “Finding Nemo”. Jan also voiced Tetsuo in American dub of Japanese cult classic “Akira”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jan about his voice work and his films.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you give us some background as to how you got involved with Disney and Pixar?
Jan Rabson: Basically I got involved originally through Mickey McGowan and went in with a loop group doing background voices for the original “Toy Story”. After I got back from that session I told my now wife that I had just worked on what “Steam Boat Willie” was to 1920’s this film was animation for the 90’s. I could tell that this was going to be fantastic and it was really exciting. We worked with John Lasseter himself. With Pixar we don’t just act like a normal loop group – we get to do real individual characters (Axel, great death scene in “A Bug’s Life”, Sparks in “Toy Story 3”, etc) We improvise and they choose what they like in the editing room. It’s a fun creative process. It was a fantastic time. They are great people to work for.

MG: What is the process for being brought on a set to provide additional voices?
JR: Usually it happens through a wonderful woman by the name of Mickey McGowan. They call her and generally will ask for a certain person. I have been lucky that Pixar has chosen to bring me back each time. I have done most of their films with the exception of 2. Those couple films were shot out of the country and they needed specific voices for those shoots. I also have been lucky to do a lot of their shorts as well such as the ones with Mater from “Cars” and those for “Toy Story 3”. I have just been very lucky. I have been riding this wonderful train and having a ball until it stops.

MG: How did your involvement in “Akira” come about and what was that experience like?
JR: “Akira” was interesting. It was so long ago that I don’t remember it 100 percent but I do remember I had worked with Wally Burr once or twice before and he had this reputation for being a real man eater. Frankly I thought he was wonderful and it was great working with him. When I got cast I had no idea how big of a film it was or it was going to be. It was the biggest film in Japanese anime at the time and was like 60,000 frames per film which was unusual at the time. It was just myself, Wally and the engineer in the studio. We worked about three or four days and on one of those days a group of Japanese business men came in and sat stoned faced watching me. We had taken a break and if you saw what happened in a film you would think it was phony but all of a sudden these guys just started smiling and busting out cameras to take pictures. Wally said breaks over and the guys went right back to the way they were before. (Laughs) I also remember we were working on the big metamorphosis scene and it ended up being like 20 takes of me screaming and begging for tea and honey.

MG: Can you tell us about being credited sometimes under a different name?
JR: That’s my pseudonym. I once got a Los Angeles public library card under the name Stanley Gurd, Jr. because my card had run out and they wouldn’t give me a new one so I made up a name. Years ago a lot of anime was done under the table so people used different names. Stanley is actually the name of a nerd character I created similar to Pee-Wee Herman. I love doing the character of Stanley Gurd, Jr

MG: What is your inspiration when doing multiple voices on a project and how do you distinguish each one?
JR: It really depends on the character and what kind of personality he has. I grew up in East Meadow, Long Island and my father worked in Brooklyn so I had a wide variety of characters to choose from. My dad owned a small business and a lot of different types of people would call him some who were really weird. I also have relatives from all over the world so I borrow a lot from them and from people who I grew up with.

MG: How did you get the role of Larry Laffer in the “Leisure Suit Larry” video game?
JJR: That was another one that I auditioned for and had no clue really what it was. People told me it was a big gig and I guess it was in the fact that the game was well known but I was getting paid in those days scale or a little bit above so I didn’t make much off those cd-roms at all. I had a ball working with Al Lowe and he and I are still good friends. Al would let you ad-lib and I would just go crazy! Al would have to tether me down to stop me because you would just adlib your ass off! My wife likes to say she’s married to “Leisure Suit Larry” (Laughs)

MG: What was your involvement with “Jaws: The Revenge”?
JR: I was in the only “Jaws” film that didn’t make more than $10 at the box office! (Laughs) That was a looping gig. I don’t really remember what I did on it but, you look at a film after you have finished and you can tell if it’s going to be good or not. You could tell that one was going to tank. (Laughs) Another one I did which was actually my last gig in front of the camera was on “Baywatch”. They had a fake shark in that and they had a fake shark on that and it didn’t work half the time. They would say “ah it’s no big deal it’s just Baywatch.” (Laughs)

MG: Can you tell us about any current projects you are working on?
JR: I still go down and do work for Pixar and DreamWorks here in Los Angeles. I do a lot of commercial stuff lately. I also do a lot of work in Vancouver where I just did “My Little Pony”.

3 Replies to “Interview with Jan Rabson”

  1. Hey, Mike!

    Great interview with Jan! Just had to say, he is one of the most naturally funny people I have ever met. I love his humor because it is so understated. His mind is so quick..he sees the absurdity in everything on the planet. He’s great in sketch and improv…which is why Pixar loves him. I am so glad you recognized him with this article! Thanks so much!

    Mickie McGowan

  2. Very cool insight into a very good voice actor with barely any interviews online. Good job! You were lucky to interview him, he’s passed now.

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