How Zach Galifianakis’ dubbing gave up his best roles


When he debuted as a major big-screen presence in The hangover playing the character of Alan Garner, it became clear that Zach Galifianakis would be a big deal as a performer. His low-key delivery of truly bizarre bits of dialogue in this Todd phillips the comedy, not to mention the sight of him wearing those sunglasses while lugging around a baby, made him instantly distinctive to audiences. From there it was clear where his career would go; Galifianakis wouldn’t be the sidekick for long. In the years to come, he would headlining several other R-rated comedies, including Due date and The countryside.

All of this fits well in the mold The hangover established for Galifianakis. What one would expect less, however, is that a region in which Galifianakis would unexpectedly become important long after the Hangover trilogy had finished its course. Throughout his post-Hangover career, Galifianakis has become a fixture in the world of dubbing. Not only is he prominent in this field, but he has also proven to be gifted in this art form, which helps to understand why so many TV shows and movies keep coming back to him.

Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover

Image via Warner Bros.

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Now, it’s pretty common for live-action comedy actors to engage in the voiceover work process, especially when it comes to theater films. Robin williams popularized this standard with his work as a Genie in Aladdin. Since then, it’s almost become a rite of passage for fun actors in live-action feature films to boost their popularity by scoring big roles in the latest Illumination Project or DreamWorks Animation. Everyone from Jim carrey To Adam sandler To Tiffany haddish has taken this route and it will surely continue as long as attracting celebrities to animated films is seen as a viable marketing tool.

What makes Galifianakis different, however, is that he adapts to his individual roles so well that he doesn’t come across as a cast for a movie’s marketing campaign. Part of this is due to his ability to shed his live-action movie character to create something different for each of his characters. For example, his Joker in The LEGO Batman Movie is an extremely pronounced guy with a penchant for speaking his mind and his emotional vulnerability. It is miles from the unconscious male child that he portrays in The hangover and other titles directly after the success of this film.

When you listen to his Joker, you don’t hear a rehearsal of his live performances, you hear a whole new personality. His ability to conjure up entirely new people with his voice is particularly evident in his work on Bob’s burgers, where he played two separate characters, Chet and Felix. While it’s common for professional voice actors to play multiple roles on a TV show, it’s much rarer to hear of a guest star taking on multiple different roles. For Galifianakis, however, this is just further proof of how successful he has been to polish his work as a voice actor over the past decade.

Joker in the Lego Batman movie

Image via Warner Bros.

Better yet, her willingness to inject endearing imperfections into her voiceover roles that make cartoon characters feel like real people. Of course, this is something one can expect from his work on Bob’s burgers, a show that regularly sees characters tripping over other people’s phrases or throwing filler phrases like “uh.” The LEGO Batman Movie or the LAIKA project Missing link. This last title, where Galifianakis plays the sasquatch Susan, is a particularly interesting use of that vocal quality as it offers a big contrast to the suffocating protagonist of the movie explorer.

In addition, as part of Missing link, imbuing Susan with these authentic vocal flaws provides a fitting accompaniment to the film’s style of stop-motion animation. Although LAIKA titles like Missing link are all about developing stylish new forms of this animation medium, they are still handmade movies, which are meant to look a bit more rustic and flawed compared to computer animation projects. Galifianakis reinforces this quality by making sure that Susan doesn’t make it seem like he’s rigidly enumerating repeated lines, but rather feels as warm and imbued with realism as the hands that crafted the animation.

Susan of the missing link

Image via Annapurna Pictures

With these talents, it turned out to be delightful to see Galifianakis emerge as a staple of animation works in the years that followed. The hangover propelled him to stardom. It was also very enjoyable, as Galifianakis managed to secure a surprisingly wide range of characters to inhabit, even limiting his gaze to animated kid-friendly dishes. For DreamWorks 2011 feature Puss in Boots, for example, Galifianakis gives credibility to the different shades of key character Humpty Dumpty (although that phrase might sound like something an AI could generate, it’s really the truth). Since the film spans a current setting in the past when Puss and Dumpty first became friends, Galifiankis inhabits different forms of this egg throughout the duration of the film. Dumpty is an idyllic teenager in flashbacks, a remorseful adult friend for Puss’s past, and, once act three arrives, a villain. All of these different facets of this character are handled with surprising authenticity by Galifianakis, who is able to make all the layers feel like they belong to a fairytale character.

The prospect of seeing famous comedians turn to voiceover work is nothing special. At this point, it would be weirder if a famous big-screen comedian didn’t step into this area. But Zach Galifianakis turned out to be a particularly interesting example of this phenomenon thanks to a variety of factors, namely his willingness to embrace characters of all stripes rather than just rehash his The hangover performance. A welcome versatility permeates her television and film voiceover work, with few overlapping traits in her guest roles on shows like The simpsons and Big mouth. One cannot help but be excited about what Galifianakis will do in the future in this area given all he has achieved so far.

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