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San Jose Mercury News
Weird Wally's act is paying off

by Larry Slonaker (October 31, 1994)
He still calls himself weird, so you have lunch with him at your own risk.

He makes faces. Talks in loud voices. (Loud, weird voices.) Goes in and out of character over a bowl of noodles as though it's a microphone.

One senses he'd be this way even if he were homeless and destitute, but Wally Fields of Fremont is feeling up these days, having found some success with his freelance work recording character voices.

Most recently he supplied the ominous intonations of a villain called Dragon King in a CD-ROM game called Dark Sun. He calls the voice "a combination of Darth Vadar and Linda Blair."

"I really like the idea of being paid to sit in front of a microphone and make grunting noices," he said.

Fields, 33, hasn't given up his day job--as a clerk at NUMMI--but his level of success has improved markedly from the days when he was doing customized answering machine messages.

He credits a newspaper feature about that enterprise with getting the attention of an Atari executive. The executive invited him to record for a video game called Pitfighter.

That work led to other computer work, including a recent session for a game call Awesome Possum. A compuer game magazine that rated it said, "The voice simply makes this game."

Fields, who was born and raised in Palo Alto and attended Cubberly High School, says he's a perfect match for the computer work: "I always have been kind of an oddball type, and this is a way to celebrate the fact. As a kid, I was always running around the house doing weird sound effects, and my parents would be saying, 'Shut up already!'"

"Now I'm getting paid for it."

The work pays up to $200 an hour, he said.

"The guy's a weirdo. We call him Weird Wally," said Ralph Thomas, director of audio at Strategic Systems Inc., which made Dark Sun.

"He's also a heavy hitter," Thomas said. "He came in and did Dragon King, which is a very rough voice, for many hours. And he was fine all the way up until the last take. On the last take, he was fried.

"It's not the kind of voice one would want to do for an hour, much less four. He's a highly skilled voice performer."

Fields thinks the work can only get better as CD-ROM games catch on.

"People are coming up from L.A." to take advantage of the voice work that's suddenly becoming available, he said.

He is not a huge video game fan. But he loves the jobs.

"For me, it's the joy of doing the voice work itself," he said. "When I was a kid...I was one of those picked-on types, until I discovered this magical thing--if you make fun of yourself and things around you, all of a sudden everyone likes you.

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