No matter the popularity, no anime or manga is eternal. They have a dawn and will eventually have a dusk. After nearly 300 episodes and 2 feature films, by the end of 2018 fans will be saying goodbye to Fairy Tail, the anime adaptation of the popular fantasy comedy managa series by Hiro Mashima which has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. The weekend before Thanksgiving during Anime NYC, I was unfortunate enough to take part in a press roundtable with actress Cherami Leigh (Lucy Heartfilia) and ADR director Tyler Walker to discuss their work on the English adaption for Funimation and coming to the journey’s end of the series.
Due to unforeseen weather conditions, actors Todd Haberkorn (Natsu Dragneel) and Tia Ballard (Happy) were unable to take part in the interview as originally schedule, but luckily Leigh and Walker were more than up to the task of representing the Fairy Tail guild on their own.
Q: Can you describe the the journey you’ve had working on the Fairy Tail anime?
Cherami Leigh: I got brought in for an audition and actually was not planning to audition for Lucy. I think I auditioned for Happy and Erza. [Tyler] said I should audition for Lucy. I didn’t believe that I was going to play Lucy until we came to New York seven years ago to premiere it and I said to myself, “Well they can’t recast me now!” [Laughs]. I’ve never played the same character this long and the things that have happened to her have paralleled things that have happened to me in my life. There has been a lot of profound impact that she has had on my life as far as confidence, independence, taking risks and believing in myself. That’s been really cool to have therapy from a cartoon character.
Tyler Walker: I had only done 20-episode shows before. This one I started out on the writing team from episode 3 and directed 277 episodes and 2 movies. I’ve learned a lot and it has all been very impactful. Last year we were at a restaurant and someone told me, “When my parents passed away, Fairy Tail got me through it.” That it meant something, you put a little more care into it. And I made a promise to Hiro Mashima I was going to do the best job possible when I met him.
Leigh: It was nice when we met him at the beginning of the journey to get his blessing and stamp of approval meant a lot.
Q: Any standout moments from the series for you?
Leigh: There are so many. A couple that always stand out are the meeting of Lucy and the Celestial Spirit King with the whole Loke saga. I loved the scene with her and her dad. I call it the emancipation scene where she says, “I don’t care if you don’t want me to be a celestial wizard. I’m doing it anyway. I’m going to be a part of Fairy Tail and this is what I want and who I am.” Working on that scene is one of the reasons I took a chance and moved out to L.A.. I’m playing a character that believes so much in herself and what she’s capable of that I’m a hypocrite if I don’t explore that opportunity.
I loved the Michelle Lobster arc. It’s one of my absolute favorites. I loved the journey of the NaLu ship. [Laughs]. Seeing the fans get so passionate about their NaLu ship.
Walker: For me, there are all kinds of funny and meaningful moments- working on the songs with David Wald. Last time, me and him would trade off David Lee Roth impressions. That’s been fun.
Seeing the whole thing grow and be a part of it. My responsibilities have changed. I was an episode writer and director. Then I did a couple of voices. Then I wanted to be every monster. Me and my wife are pretty much every monster in the show. These days I’m writing and consulting. [I’m] doing casting and talking with Kyle Phillips who’s directing the last couple of episodes.
Q: How often are these recordings done in-house at Funimation in Texas versus in Los Angeles?
Leigh: When I first moved, I was probably flying back once every 2-3 weeks and record for a couple of days. When we were working on Fairy Tail before simuldubs, I would fly back for a couple of days or a week and we would crank through and get as many episodes as we could get done. When they started working on simuldubs, there was no time. We had a week to get things done. There was no way that those of us that lived out of the DFW area could fly in every week. I think for some people who lived in Houston or Austin it was hard for them to come. That kind of limited how much we were able to work on Funimation titles which I totally understand. It was sad for awhile since I started at Funimation and they very much feel like family to me. Not being able to work on as many titles was kind of sad. But now with the magic of Source-Connect we record in a studio in Los Angeles. For Fairy Tail, we’ve been able to do simuldubs for this last season. If I’m in Texas I will go in and record. My family still lives in Texas. I’m actually going to record next week so I’m seeing my family for Thanksgiving and then going to record and see my anime family!
Walker: Todd is actually able to record from his house since he has Source-Connect.
Q: Any funny or memorable stories in the recording booth that you can share?
Leigh: Way too many! [Laughs]. We’ve recorded for so long that there have been hundreds of hours. I remember at one point there was a blanket in the booth. I’m somebody who’s always very cold and I wore a snuggie I think for the entire time recording. In one of the episodes where Lucy says, “It’s so hot, I’m dying,” I’m wrapped up in a snuggie [thinking] this is ironic.
Todd and Jamie and the rest of the team will always leave me some great jokes and bombs to try to trip me up while I’m recording so that’s always fun.
Walker: One of my favorite times was working with Todd. There’s this episode where they’re in the Tower of Heaven and [Natsu] gets this giant cat head. At the time at the Funimation studios we had this mascot Vegeta head. This big, fluffy mascot head and I said, “Ok Todd! We’re recording in the Vegeta head!” [Laughs]. He did the whole episode in this giant super hot head. There was no room for the headphones. It sounded like somebody wearing a big head! And of course, we had to record it again without the big head but we ended up using the recording with Todd wearing the head!
Leigh: We have way too much recording especially that show. I’m like Lucy. I always forget how much vocal acrobatics she has until we do a session. She’s all over the place. She has her sentimental moments. She’s screaming at Happy. She’s screaming at Natsu. She’s crying. After I finish a session I’m always emotionally exhausted.
Natsu, Lucy, and Happy return in the final season of Fairy Tail! They’ve faced some seriously tough challenges but there’s still more to do. Between reforming Fairy Tail and looking for their missing guild master, Makarov, they’ll also have to face the enemy kingdom of Alvarez. Up against new wizards and formidable new powers, are they ready for their greatest adventure yet?