BEST BETS: Dover Comic Con-bound Cathcart lends voice to Pokémon

An accomplished musician, James Carter Cathcart voices 100 characters in the Pokemon universe. He’ll appear at Saturday’s Dover Comic Con at 3 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Although many may not know his face, legions have grown up listening to James Carter Cathcart.

Mr. Cathcart has been one of the main voices behind the wildly successful “Pokémon” cartoon series and its many offshoots.

Throughout the 20-year run of the show, he estimates he’s done about 100 different characters. Currently, he’s most known for the voices of James and Meowth, part of Team Rocket, a criminal organization out to steal other people’s Pokémon.

Mr. Cathcart, along with Michele Knotz, who voices Jessie, another member of Team Rocket, will be at Dover Public Library’s Comic Con on Saturday. They’ll participate in a question and answer session from 3 to 4 p.m. in the library’s Capitol Room, which will become the Pokémon room for the day.

Getting out from behind the microphone and attending an event like Dover Comic Con gives Mr. Cathcart a sense of what effect he’s had on folks over the past 20 years.

“My favorite part is sitting at the table and being able to see the reactions and talk to them,” said the 63-year-old Mr. Cathcart this week from his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

“They just start crying and thanking me for their childhood. It’s really wonderful.”

A musician since he started taking piano lessons at 5 years old, Mr. Cathcart got into the voiceover business by chance.

In the 1980s, he was producing music for television and radio. One of the programs he was working on was the “ABC Weekend Specials” series, a weekly 30-minute anthology show for children that aired Saturday mornings.

In 1991, they were looking for a new voice for the animated host O.G. Readmore, a cat dressed in a nautical outfit who encouraged kids to read.

“If I recall correctly, the person who was doing it made him sound like he was illiterate with this dopey voice and they quickly realized their mistake,” Mr. Cathcart said.

“They asked if I knew anyone who can do voices and I said ‘Sure, me.’ I had never done any professional voiceover work but I grew up with Bugs Bunny and would sit in front of the TV acting out voices.”

He got the job and went on to work on various Project Literacy campaigns as O.G. Readmore became the organization’s “spokescat.”

“It was a lovely thing. I voiced him for three or four years.”

Various commercial jobs followed and then some anime projects came his way including a little-known show to the U.S. called “Pokémon” that was looking to be dubbed into English and aired in the U.S.

“Nobody knew anything about it over here except there were some poor kids in Japan who had an epileptic fit because of the strobe sequences,” Mr. Cathcart said.

“Nobody had any idea it would be so successful. It aired at 6:30 in the morning in New York and within four months, it went bananas.”

The show follows the hero Ash as he travels to different worlds, closely following the popular video game series. One of the initial voices Mr. Cathcart portrayed was Gary Oak, Ash’s first rival.

“He is this snot-nosed kid with pointy hair,” said Mr. Cathcart, who also voices Gary’s grandfather, Professor Oak and as appeared on other anime projects including “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” ‘Sonic X” and “Slayers”.

Along with providing voices for the series, Mr. Cathcart has also been in charge of writing the English scripts for “Pokémon.”

He doesn’t know Japanese and relies on two people who give him the literal translation of the scripts.

“The humor gets lost in the translation so I have to rewrite it to have it make sense in English and also have it match the lips coming from the animation,” he said.

“Many times I have to have it explained to me why they are laughing on screen and it’s because they are using two words that rhyme in Japanese that won’t work here. So I have to write a different gag. Writing gags is the true joy of it.

“Michael Haigney set the tone for the humor of the show and by Season 5 it already had a flavor. My goal was to keep that flavor.”

It’s a grueling pace to keep up with all of the episodes. He estimates he’s had four days off in the last seven years.

“I can do it anywhere on my laptop. I was even writing on my honeymoon,” he said.

Mr. Cathcart said the American version often looks better than the Japanese version because the animators will draw the cartoon first to fit what they think it will sound like.

“Most of the time, it’s completely off. We try to make everything fit. Many times it’s just the mouth opening and closing like a duck quacking,” he said.

The voices are then performed in a studio in New York City by actors at separate times so they are essentially just talking to themselves.

“You develop the knack of hearing other parts. Sometimes I go in and Michelle has already done her parts so I can play off of a recording of her. It’s funny. They only real time I get to see everyone now is at comic cons,” he said.

Doing 100 voices for the show is a tall order and sometimes he has to revisit a voice he hasn’t done in some time. The Pokémon universe has now built up to 770 characters.

“For the life of me, sometimes I can’t remember what a character sounds like and they’ll have to find tape and let me hear what I did in order to find it,” he said.

Mr. Cathcart said he doesn’t listen to the Japanese characters and tries to lend his own voice to their American counterparts.

“My Gary sounds nothing like the Japanese Gary. I knew if I tried to imitate them, something was going to suffer — either the voice or the acting,” he said.

After 20 years, Mr. Catchart says the show is as popular as ever, in part to the popularity of the Pokémon Go app game. That gives him the opportunity to have some fun.

“It’ll see groups of kids and I’ll come up and behind them and do the voice of Meowth and I’ll ask ‘Did you catch me yet?’” he said with a laugh.

“They’ll turn around and I’ll be doing the voice and most won’t realize it’s really me. Some of the older kids will though.”

Along with his voiceover work, Mr. Cathcart still keeps a busy music schedule.

A graduate of Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy in 1971, Mr. Cathcart won a Young Artist award as well as the concerto competition at the school; he also studied at Roosevelt University in Chicago from 1969 to 1970.

Mr. Cathcart plays piano, bass, guitar and drums. He was in the prestigious Cliburn amateur piano competition last year and has worked with musicians such as Ace Frehley, Gerry Mulligan, John Tesh and Dave Brubeck.

“That’s the advantage to writing scripts at home. I can make my own schedule and can make time for music. I’ve played all types of music over the years. I love it,” he said.

The fourth annual Dover Comic Con runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday with exhibits, discussion, merchants, costume contests and more. The event is free.

Loockerman Way Plaza will kick off the event tonight with entertainment at 5:30.

For more information, see the program here.

Eclipse party Monday

The limited SunSeeker Wheat Whiskey will be released to coincide with the total solar eclipse on Monday.

Painted Stave and Fordham Brewing will launch the whiskey made from Fordham’s Sunseeker Wheat Beer at the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation’s Environmental Outpost in Smyrna during their eclipse watching party starting at 1 p.m.

In January 2016, Painted Stave Distilling partnered with Fordham on what would be become the third release in Painted Stave’s “Beers To Whiskey!” series.

Painted Stave picked up over 3,000 bottles of Fordham’s Sunseeker Wheat Beer from the brewery and with the help of a dozen volunteers managed to pour all the beer into a holding tank in about 45 minutes.

The unfiltered wheat ale was then distilled into 10 gallons of 124 proof whiskey in Painted Stave’s copper pot still. The whiskey was aged for 18 months in a Bourbon barrel before being harvested and bottled at 84 proof /42 percent alcohol by volume.

The party is open to the public and family friendly. DASEF will have their observatory open as well as telescopes and eclipse watching glasses available to enjoy the celestial event. There will be food trucks and activities for sky watchers of all ages. Whiskey, Painted Stave cocktails and Fordham and Dominion beer will be available for eclipse watchers over 21.

SunSeeker Wheat Whiskey is the third release from Painted Stave made from a local craft beer.

The outpost is at 585 Big Oak Road, Smyrna.

For more information about the DASEF Eclipse Party, contact Dr. Stephanie Wright at 302-834-1369 or swright@udel.edu.

Folk Heroes contest

Delaware Friends of Folk will present the second preliminary event in their 11th annual Delmarva Folk Heroes contest Saturday. The open mic show will be held in conjunction with the coffee house.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, Division and Bradford streets in Dover. Sign-up will start at 6:45 and each performer will get 15-20 minutes on the Friends of Folk stage.

Ballots will be distributed for the audience to vote for their favorite performer and three finalists from each evening will be selected by those present.

The finalists will each get a performance slot on Friday night, Sept. 22 at the Delmarva Folk Festival. Again that evening, the audience will vote for their favorite, and the winner will be named the 11th Delmarva Folk Hero.

Prizes include $100 cash, the opening performance spot the next day for the 26th annual Delmarva Folk Festival, an invitation to appear live with Mark Rogers on WSTW’s Hometown Heroes show, and more.

Performers should present a genre similar to the ones typically presented by Delaware Friends of Folk — folk (traditional, new, or “singer songwriter”), bluegrass, blues, Celtic, jazz, New Age, World, old-time, roots, and story-telling, preferably using acoustic instruments.

To simplify changeovers, acts should be no more than five performers, with a strong preference toward fewer members in any act. No drum kits and no pre-recorded accompaniment please.

Admission is $5 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk and $7 for nonmembers. Performers and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

Now showing

New in theaters is the heist film “Logan Lucky” and the action-adventure comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

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