Francis Lam Pou-chuen: The Voice of Doraemon
You may not recognize the face of Francis Lam Pou-chuen, but you’ll certainly know his voice: the senior TVB voice actor has voiced some of the network’s most famous roles, including the Japanese robotic cat, Doraemon. The 63-year-old talks to Yannie Chan about how the blue feline changed his life, and the downside of having a well-known voice.
I was born in Macau and came to Hong Kong for secondary school.
I got interested in voice acting after watching “Tarzan.” The actor conveyed emotions by just using phrases like “Oi, oi, oi, oi.”
I wrote a letter to TVB recommending myself for the job and that’s how I started.
In the beginning of our training, we were taken into recording studios to observe the experienced actors. After they were done, we would do the minor lines.
The first scene I voiced was for an FBI television series, and the sentence was: “FBI, don’t move!”
No matter how little dialogue you get, you have to do your best. Respect your job.
Doraemon is the most important character in my career. Voicing Doraemon has made me a more cheerful person. Watching more cartoons generally has that effect.
Doraemon is always there for Nobita [the show’s main character] when he gets into trouble. I wasn’t originally a very helpful person, but now I help others more.
The role has brought me fame and an income. I could not be more grateful.
Nearly everyone recognizes my voice on the streets, and they always make me say something in Doraemon’s voice.
I get a lot of requests from friends to record messages for alarm clocks, saying in Doraemon’s voice, “Wake up! Wake up!”
Being such a recognizable voice has its downsides. When I voiced other roles, viewers would write in and say, “Is this the voice of Doraemon again? We’re hearing too much of him.”
I tried to vary my voice, especially when I got another breakout role as Wo Shen in [TVB period comedy] “Word Twisters Adventures.” I completely changed the tone to convey his sense of humor and cunning personality. Some still recognized my voice, of course.
In the early days, we could record only one track and if you made a mistake, you had to redo the entire clip, which was usually 15 minutes long. It was especially stressful if you had the last lines because if you messed up, the entire team had to start over.
Having only one track also meant that we had to produce the everyday sounds at the same time. We would hit plastic chairs to mimic the sound of doors closing and clink iron bars to make the sounds of a supermarket shopping cart.
It used to be much more fun. It was more stressful, but I was driven to do better. Bloopers are now very common, and it does affect the quality of my work.
The industry was much more profitable. We dubbed movies too, and I was the exclusive voice for Sammo Hung and other artists. We had working hours from 9am to 3am.
The bulk of my work now is to dub Japanese, Korean, and English television dramas.
There are hardly any locally produced cartoons. There are hardly any job opportunities outside of TVB.
This industry is a sunset industry. There are no prospects—you stay in the same company and voice cartoons and television shows.
I’m not upset about it. But I feel like there’s nothing more ahead of me.
Actors are used to doing body gestures, and they cannot do the voice acting without moving.
One time when we were doing a kung fu scene, an actor hit the voice artist next to him. A staff member needed to come in and hold his hands in place the entire time.
My voice hasn’t really helped me in real life, except for getting me occasional discounts at the markets. I’m a naturally quiet person.
When I watch awards ceremonies for TVB artists, I do feel a little sad. There should be something to recognize the voice artists’ work as well.
There is no dark side to the voice dubbing industry, as far as I know. There are no scandals and you don’t need to shoeshine to get your role.
I have a fan club. It has several dozen members. There are fewer activities now, seeing as most of them have grown up.
Before my wife and I got married, we had dates in the recording studio, because my job took up so much time. During my free time, we would play cards or do something in TV City.
I have a collection of about 50 to 60 Doraemon dolls. I like Doraemon for what it has given me—a reasonably successful and very satisfying career.