Elaine Marley’s Voice

Today I’m once again talking about Monkey Island and about one character specifically. Elaine Marley, former governor of Mêlée Island, is the immortal post-modern damsel-in-distress. Even though she needs rescuing from time to time, she can usually escape on her own or used the positioned of being kidnapped to her advantage. At any rate, Elaine might have started off as a generic love interest to the main character in The Secret of Monkey Island but in her further appearances (particularly from Escape from Monkey Island onward) she gained more character and became more involved with the storyline of the game.

In all but one of her voiced appearances she is voiced by Alexandra Boyd. Boyd originally provided her voice in the 1997 game, The Curse of Monkey Island, but the role was rather abruptly recast for Escape from Monkey Island. However, when the first two games’ Special Editions and the new game, Tales of Monkey Island, were released Boyd was asked to come back and revise her role. But in Escape she was voiced instead by Charity James.

The contrast was rather stark namely because Alexandra Boyd is a British actress and played the role of Elaine in her own native accent. Charity James however performed the role with her American accent which was rather drastic change for a character from one game to the other. I noticed early on how many fans actually preferred Boyd’s depiction of the character even though she technically doesn’t have a huge role in Curse of Monkey Island, as she spends most of the game being a solid gold statue. In fact Elaine only speaks in the first and fourth parts of the game and in the latter only has one line (“Guybrush? Where… where are we?”).

So Boyd was the obvious choise for doing the voice of Elaine again when Monkey Island had its big comeback, almost a decade since the last game in the series was released. However, I should point out that there wasn’t anything horribly wrong with Charity James’s performance of the character. James is a very underutilized voice-actress in my view and I personally find her to have a very likeable wise-ass type of voice which made Elaine sound just a tad more stronger. In addition I also had new-found respect for her when I realised that she was also the voice of Grace Nakimura in Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned – and thus had serious adventure-game cred to her name (appearing in two notable adventure game franchises by competing companies).

However it’s surprised me how oblivious people are about the voice-casts of Monkey Island games. Why? The voice-cast is usually the first thing you see in the game’s credits. I was also a little amused to have heard some Monkey Island fans who thought that Boyd was doing an Australian accent in Curse. Which is quite bizarre since there actually is an Australian character in the Monkey Island series (Ozzy Mandrill in Escape) which means that even someone with a particularly bad ear for accents should be able to tell the two apart – nevermind yours truly who used to watch Round the Twist as a kid and has actually met a flesh and blood Aussie.

However, my favorite example must have been fairly recently. As I recall Secret of Monkey Island‘s Special Edition had been released and Tales had almost fully come out at the time. A fan was complaining how he felt Elaine’s voice in SMI:SE was appaulingly bad and that LucasArts should have brought the actress from CMI back to do the role. I couldn’t help myself but point out the obvious – to which this person without losing a beat (though on a forum/comment box it’s kinda hard to tell) then insisted that they should have instead had Jennifer Hale do Elaine’s voice.

At this point I felt like popping this guy one in the jaw. Now coincidentally Jennifer Hale is a voice-actress I’m very familiar with. Why? Because she voices practically every other cartoon and video-game out there! A while back I actually listed all the games I owned that had her as a voice-actress. It’s fair to say that if you picked any cartoon or video-game made in the last ten years there’s about a 50% chance Jennifer Hale has voiced a major, supporting or a one-of character in that game or cartoon.

And I don’t really have a problem with Jennifer Hale as a voice-actress. I even think she could (and has) pull off a convincing British accent – but I’m so utterly tired of hearing her voice in practically every video-game I play. And as a matter of principal I’m against hiring actors to do Anglophone accents other than their own if there already happens to be an actress – trued and tried – available for the role who already speaks that accent as her native one. And that actress is Alexandra Boyd. Yes, she sounds considerably older than she did in Curse – but that game was back in 1997, twelve years before SMI:SE came out. It’s an absolute miracle that Dominic Armato (Guybrush), Earl Boen (LeChuck) and even Pat Pinney (Stan) have all managed to keep their voices from changing all that dramatically – never mind Emmy Award winner Rob Paulsen (Lookout, Bob the Skeleton).

So I hope Boyd continues to voice Elaine in any future Monkey Island titles but I’m not entirely against a new actress taking over if she is unavailable or gets sick of the part. Rather I’m still stunned that TellTale got Boen to come back from retirement to do LeChuck for Tales and even redo his lines for Chapter 1 where he was voiced by another actor (though I thought it was a slightly unfair move considering the guy who originally had the role).

Finally I’d like to close off with my favorite line from Elaine from The Curse of Monkey Island: “Let’s face it LeChuck. You’re an evil, foul-smelling, vile, codependant villain and that’s not what I’m looking for in a romantic relationship right now.”