“You’ve probably had questions you’ve wanted to ask for 20 years,” Linda Ballantyne said to a room full of Sailor Moon fans last weekend at Toronto ComiCon. Yes, it has been that long since the Japanese manga turned anime series about a group of female warriors, their talking cats and their friend in the penguin suit came to North American shores, and from the look of the crowd, most of the room remembered watching it first run at lunch hour on YTV. So when Ballantyne said that many in the room had questions brewing for over two decades, they did.
Five members of the original voice cast – Linda Ballantyne (Sailor Moon), Toby Proctor (Tuxedo Mask), Susan Roman (Sailor Jupiter), Ron Rubin (Artemis) and Jill Frappier (Luna) – took part in the Sailor Moon panel, and two decades seems to have not dulled their chemistry, nor those familiar voices. Without much prompting, they rattled off familiar catchphrases, Proctor said “meatball head” before tossing a rose into the crowd, Rubin told Luna to get off his back, and Roman referred back to Sailor Jupiter’s flashbacks to old boyfriends. “I got around,” she joked.
While they can joke about it now, when these five actor assembled to give voice to their characters 20 years ago, it required some adjustment. “It’s quite different, [from typical voice acting],” said Roman. “Normally you lay down the voice track first and the animators draw from that, but we did this 20 something years ago, late at night and we had no idea what we were doing or what this would escalate to.”
“Doing anime is a lot like karaoke that way, you get the words and follow the bouncing ball,” added Balantyne, who explained that cast were rarely given full scripts, and they always performed their lines while watching the clip in question. “That could be problematic for me at points. We were doing what we saw right in front of us. I kind of watched it as you guys watched it.”
Another unusual thing that the actors saw was more roles for women, than roles for men. “This show was so groundbreaking, so unbelievably amazing for us as actors and they [the Sailor Scouts] were all so different too and we just didn’t get that as women,” said Ballentyne.
“If I can give you aspiring writers a piece of advice, it’s write for women in their prime,” added Frappier, who was cast as Luna after she was told she was too old to voice a teacher. “Its amazing how little roles there are for women my age,” she said explaining that getting to play Luna was like a combination of Queen Victoria, Yoda and C-3PO.
Rubin said that for the male actors, the shoe was on the other foot in terms of auditioning. “There were only two male leads and I never read for Tux,” he said, “but they had me read for Artemis. They wanted me to be like more like Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. Less hyper, more chill.”
Of course, Sailor Moon was hardly about the guys, and the actors think the message of female empowerment and how young women with different personalities can work together, is one of the reasons the show still resonates.
“I like the ones about having your friend’s back,” said Roman. “Sometimes, in that time period [the 90s], girls would sacrifice their friendships if it meant they got the guy. The message here always was you have your friends back, and I think that’s really positive and I hope everyone that grew up with that message and took it heart.”
“So often the girls are just ‘pullees,’ they get pulled into action,” explained Frappier. “Here the girls were leaders. They weren’t perfect, but they could be heroes, not super women. Real heroes are people who are afraid and they can still do something. It makes you feel an empathy with them and you think ‘I can do that too.’ You don’t have to be a pullee.”
“We get to hear a lot of peoples stories and some of them touch you so much and there a lot of stories that are very, very tragic,” said Ballantyne. “Some people come up and say, ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon had so much strength, the whole show, and I hope girls see that there’s so much strength in the various personalities and there’s something for everyone to agree with.”
“You want to see yourself represented in a medium your relate to,” added Roman. [Sailor Moon] contains all these women that personify all these many personalities. We have met people that have had very, very sad childhoods and to think they could find solace and a safe space where they could watch this show… We were the voice actors and what a gift we were given.”