For Roger Craig Smith, “landing” the role as Ripslinger, the villain in Disney’s upcoming animated movie Planes was almost too perfect to be real.
“It was a happy accident all the way around,” Smith said in a recent interview with Disney Dads.
Airplanes, it turns out, have long been a passion of Smith’s, and a particular connecting point for him and his father, Roger Smith Sr. “I grew up in Orange County and have been a huge plane buff and plane geek since I can remember.”
Smith says his childhood home was situated between Disneyland and the Tustin military air base. The skies of his youth were either filled with Disney fireworks or airplanes.
“We were close enough to Disneyland where we could set our clocks by the 9pm fireworks every night. And from the time I was about 5, Dad and I would ride our bikes around 45 minutes to see the Tustin Marine Corps airshow. I had posters of every type of aircraft, and one of my all time favorite Christmas presents was a set of dye-cast airplanes.”
Aviation has been a theme in Smith’s family since he can remember. It was a hoot when he was first asked to voice Ripslinger in very early “scratch” recordings for the animators. This is something voice actors often get hired for, knowing they’ll likely be replaced with more well-known actors later in final recordings. Smith, though he has had a prolific career as a voice actor, assumed all along that his early performance of Ripslinger would be re-recorded later by a celebrity.
As time went on, he realized that his voice performance endured, and he persisted as the official voice of Ripslinger in the final version of the movie. “I couldn’t believe my performance had really gone the distance. To have my voice in a big Disney movie, and about aviation! I had kept telling my family not to celebrate. Now we’re all beside ourselves excited.”
When asked if he was ready to “take-off” as a recognizable name, or at least a recognizable voice, Smith was modest. “What I do is small as compared to everyone who works on bringing a character like Ripslinger to life including all the animators and talented people on the filmmaking team.”
However, he did already have his first small glimpse at fame. He recently made a call to the customer service department of a major retailer, and says the woman on the other end recognized his voice. “She said she was a mom and recognized my voice from television commercials for the movie. It was hard to believe, but was really cool.”
photo credit: Richard Wright Photography