By Ani Bundel

Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina is quite possibly one of the most fascinating series coming to Amazon in 2022. Almost a decade ago, eight friends, who all happen to be professionals in the voice acting industry, got together to play Dungeons and Dragons and had so much fun they kept the campaign going for nearly two years. Around that time, Felicia Day heard about the game and asked if they might be interested in live streaming it for an audience as part of Geek & Sundry. The live stream spent two years there and then moved YouTube and Twitch before looking to crowdfund an animated short via Kickstarter. That fundraiser was so successful, the short became a ten-episode animated serial, which was then picked up by Amazon, making it the first living room D&D campaign to become a high-profile streaming series.

Throughout it all, the group who started it haven’t lost sight of what made the game fun in the first place or why it became such a fan-favorite cult hit to watch. (The recent Twitch hack revealed Critical Role is among the highest earners on the Twitch platform.) Speaking at NYCC 2021’s mainstage panel, the cast said recording the voice parts for the first episode was just like any other D&D session: “All we did was take away the table.”

That was helped in part by the eight original members of the campaign – Laura Bailey, Taliesin Jaffe, Ashley Johnson, Liam O’Brien, Matthew Mercer, Marisha Ray, Sam Riegel, and Travis Willingham – recording as a group in one booth. It was a departure from the usual method of recording animated series, where each actor does their parts solo and then is weaved together in post. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last – the pandemic hit in the middle of production, forcing the group to go remote.

But the group’s chemistry is the key to the project, and it was part of why the panel was so fun. The conversation was derailed a few times by the actors making jokes, randomly going off on tangents, and generally having the time of their lives. Everyone agreed they don’t take any of this stunning success for granted – but their business savvy in getting to this point is also apparent. (The group functions as an LLC, and all eight have executive producer credits on the new series.)

But the real bonus of the Critical Role panel was the reveal of the first footage from the series. (The show was initially slated to come out in 2020 but will now launch in February 2022.) Fans were treated to two first looks. One was the series trailer, giving fans a look at the show’s gorgeous 1980 Japanese animation-inspired art.

The other, which was more of a surprise, turned out to be a clip from the show’s opening episode – except without dialogue. Instead, the panel whipped out their scripts and read their parts along with the visuals.

It was a tour de force performance that reminded everyone present that these aren’t just fans but voice professionals, for who this combines the job they love with the games they play.

Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina Season 1 will debut with 12 episodes on February 4, 2022. Season 2 is already greenlit and expected to follow in 2023. A new Critical Role campaign also debuts later this month.

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