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CARTOONS are part of the crucial building blocks for kids while growing up. Cocooned in a magical world where heroes such as the tooth fairy, Peter Pan and Father Christmas exist, it certainly leaves parents wishing they could bubble-wrap such moments.
While some of us – I’m so giving my age away here – still reflect on the brilliance of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, The Smurfs or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, now it’s the era of Ben 10.
Since Ben 10’s small-screen debut in 2005, the franchise has commanded a cult following with its five movie and seven video game spin-offs. That’s not forgetting the toys, clothing and memorabilia sales.
Cartoon Network now has Ben 10: Omniverse airing on the channel. And the fourth instalment once again has teenager Ben Tennyson (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal), who, in being the owner of the Omnitrix, is able to change into an alien-like form, and, with the help of a few friends, continues to battle numerous villains in a secret alien city.
Supervising producer Matt Youngberg explains the allure of this animated character.
He says: “I think that the most important thing with Ben is that he tries to do the right thing no matter what. He is always facing impossible odds, but he finds a way to overcome them by doing the right thing.
“He is not trying to be famous and he doesn’t try to use his abilities to hurt innocent people or gain power over others.”
As well as the superpower derived from the Omnitrix watch, Youngberg says: “What I like about Ben is that being a superhero is not a separate thing from who he is.
“He is actually a very normal, geeky kid… even when he’s a crazy alien.”
As for the new adventures that await Ben this season, the supervising producer says: “He has a new partner, a new Omnitrix, and a whole bunch of new alien transformations.
“And he’s going to need them because he’s up against a new group of the most dangerous villains in the universe.”
Los Angeles-based Lowenthal is the guy who is the voice of Ben – and it is a job he relishes.
”It’s an honour, although I try not to think about it that way, otherwise I would get nervous. But I have noticed a marked increase in friends from high school, who have young kids, getting in touch with me lately,” he says.
On prep work for each episode, he enlightens: “I’ve been playing Ben for so long now, there’s not a lot of prep that goes into each episode. Mostly it’s about reading the script in advance so I know what’s going to happen before we get in the studio, making sure my voice is warmed up. Sometimes we get to read through the script together as a cast, right before going in to record.
“But if not, I ask the writer or director a few questions beforehand.”
Given Ben’s numerous adventures, I ask Lowenthal for some of his most exciting moments doing the voice-over.
”It is getting to work with the other actors in the room,” he says.
“It’s a fun, talented family, and often we get to work with a guest star for an episode. By the time they are done, they have become part of the family.
“Speaking of adventures, I enjoy travelling the world to promote the show. Hopefully, I will see fans at a convention in South Africa sometime soon.”
By the way, in this season Ben is targeted by a mysterious hunter known as Khyber.
• Ben 10: Omniverse airs on Cartoon Network (DStv Channel 301) on Saturdays at 9am.
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