In 1995, I was a student at a local university. It had been eleven years since Transformers had been the bright spot in my after school afternoons and seven years since the series had aired its final episode. I was now an adult; I had adult responsibilities.
Or so I thought.
The university I attended had a library, which was a good spot to relax between classes or get some studying done. Which was what I was doing on a hot day in September. I was still living in North Carolina; we hit nineties even in October. Thanksgiving could be in the seventies some years. We were fairly subtropic in that regard.
On this day, I was avoiding the heat and trying to get some classwork done. I had picked an empty desk along a wall that was somewhat hidden from view. It was hidden enough to feature some rather creative “graffiti” on the wall; someone had scrawled “Beavis and Bunghole” in pencil. It stayed there for about two years before being scrubbed away.
While I was trying to work, I took a quick look at the books on the shelf nearby. I noticed one that was titled “World Encyclopedia of Cartooning” so I took a look inside. It didn’t hold my interest, as it dealt with drawing. But the book next to it caught my eye and I picked it up.
“The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons” was its title. I peered inside. This book dealt with animation and it had voiceover cast listings–some woefully incomplete, I would find–and episode listings. It had cast and crew for animated films. The listings were in alphabetical order. I discovered that while looking through the movie listings. On a hunch, I headed deeper in, and went straight to the Ts.
I found the listing for 1986’s Transformers: the Movie. I glanced at it, then dove to the television shows. Again, I went to the Ts. I found the listing for Transformers. My palms began to sweat as I looked through the listing; after a few minutes, I had found the one thing I had been looking for since childhood. It was one simple listing.
Bumblebee: Dan Gilvezan.
I sat, staring at the page. Time seemed to stop around me. I stared at those letters, at that name, until I was certain it was burned into my brain. This was a name I couldn’t forget.
Congratulations, said a voice in the back of my mind. You have the voice. You have the name. You just need the face to tie it all together.
That became my mission. I needed to actually see him, in a commercial, at a convention, it didn’t matter. I wanted to know what he looked like. I knew his voice but that was all.
That book was invaluable. I copied the listing for both the Transformers series and the movie in a notepad in my binder. I had names; I started looking for early roles for names like Frank Welker and Peter Cullen. I started paying attention to voiceovers in commercials; during the ’90s, McDonald’s happened to be airing radio commercials that featured Dan Gilvezan. I lost count of how many times I froze and listened in attention. I grabbed my ex and showed him the tome. He took to perusing it regularly.
That book had been relatively new when I found it. By the time I had left the university, the edges of the pages had been dulled by oil and dirt. From the tips of my fingers.
I had read through it enough that my hands had stained the pages.
But that book was my start in raw voice chasing; I paid as much attention as possible to who might be narrating a cereal ad or talking about the next movie on a basic cable station. I paid attention in the car, listening to the advertisements in order to figure out just who might be talking. As the years passed and the internet became a thing, it got easier. That’s when I learned that the Encyclopedia was sadly lacking; it didn’t have the entire cast of the Transformers series. But it had been a good stepping stone for me; without it, it might have been several more years before I found the one name that I had been searching for since I was nine. Because of that book, I knew who voiced Bumblebee.
As for finally getting to see his face? Well, that happened in 2004, almost twenty years after the premiere of the show. But that’s a tale for another time…