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Global Release of Harry Potter: Magic Awakened


This is part 1 of a 2-part blog series on our collaboration with Netease Games for Harry Potter: Magic Awakened.

On Tuesday, June 27, 2023, Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, was released globally!

Brightskull has been working on this game since 2018 and has seen it go through many iterations. We have grown alongside this project and to finally see it come to fruition is a real proud moment for us as a company and as creative people. We are delighted to introduce many new characters to the world as well as welcome some old favorites back. We hope players will love them as much as we do.

The Beginning

Let’s go back to 2018: the world before pandemics, quarantines, mask-ne, and a life lived on Zoom. Brightskull and gaming giant, NetEase, had been collaborating in initiatives in global gaming for a while. The collaboration began after a leader from the Netease audio team had sat in on some lectures at the Game Developers Conference given by Brightskull’s founder, Michael Csurics.

This collaboration went on to include Harry Potter: Magic Awakened. This was super early in the project’s development process, and it was still in the demo-phase. The game was very different back then – it featured Harry, Hermione, and He Who Shall Not Be Named and didn’t have any of the brand-new characters that have become the cornerstone of what the game is now.

Because we began working on this so early on, we were able to see it evolve and grow. We don’t always get the opportunity to grow with a project, it’s often handed off to us after being written and re-written multiple times. For Michael, it was great to get back in touch with the development phase. At the start of his career as an in-house director, Michael was used to full-concept development, so this was not only a familiar position for him, but it also made him and the entire Brightskull team feel extremely invested in the game.

NetEase came to Los Angeles for a few weeks for the initial principal recording sessions. Being in person with the development team was priceless. The collaborative process was in perfect rhythm and being able to tackle the script together and get answers in real time was indispensable. That real-time problem-solving stage really anchored us all together in the story we were telling.

Creating the Characters

After the demo phase, it was time to start casting some of the newer roles. One of our early steps was to find the voice for the Player characters. Since the players are the gamer’s persona in the game, it was vital to find and the right voice actors for the job. NetEase defined the vision for the player characters – cute, engaging, and adventurous. It was important for Brightskull to maintain that vision and to build voices that were also smart, capable, and curious to reflect the players themselves. We loved collaborating with NetEase and seeing this magic come to life.

For Brightskull, it’s important that all player characters approach their world with curiosity. This person is the vehicle the players uses to navigate the world – they need to feel seen as they play. Brightskull and Netease together cast Lexi Fontaine and Ry Chase as our main players. These were two actors that we had not worked with before, and this is where the Brightskull casting process really made a difference.

As a rule, Brightskull does not keep a roster of actors.We leverage our relationships with a wide network of talent agencies to audition every role. This allows us to constantly find new talent and be surprised by the voices we hear on the other end of each audition. This meritocracy really fosters an environment of discovery with each and every character. Yes, the casting process for this project was rigorous, and we tend to put in a bit more time and work into casting than other voiceover production companies, but we find that it’s worth it to put in the extra effort in pre-production so that we can all take off flying when it comes time to record.

Now, as we all know, Harry Potter is a globally recognizable IP. You have an image and a sound when someone asks you to think of Dumbledore, Hagrid, Hermione, etc. Going about the casting process for these characters was a very different animal from casting original characters.

When casting soundalikes, the Brightskull Casting Team always made sure the first one or two lines of the casting scripts (aka – sides) are iconic to the character. We provide audio and video references to that character so that actors know exactly what we’re looking for and can call back to the voice we are asking them to impersonate. That being said, it’s also vital that we include supplemental dialogue that is not in the films so that we can see if talent is able to carry that voice into completely original dialogue. We’ll start our sides out with a conversational tone, and continue on to projected spells at the end of the audition. This is for two reasons; one, so that we can listen to the consistency of the voice as it’s projected, and two, so that we can throw in some Harry Potter lingo and see how comfortable the actor is with the IP’s language.

In looking at how we cast our soundalikes, you can see how the Brightskull casting process really plays an essential role. Some soundalike talent, like Susanne Blakeslee (McGonagall) and JB Blanc (Hagrid), we have worked with dozens of times, for dozens of years, and others including Antonia Vivino (Hermione) and Jeff Bergman (Dumbledore) we hadn’t had the opportunity to work with yet.  It was a thrill to see the soundalike cast come to life. This process continued for years as characters from the original canon continued to be added through every phase of the project. Every actor was chosen for their ability to bring these beloved characters to life and we are super proud of the final product. We love to level the playing field – it helps us confidently get the right voices behind the microphone.

Soundalike casting versus original casting is like apples and oranges. We can’t put them side by side and say one is more difficult than the other. Soundalikes are an important part of the process and are so nuanced and difficult. For Brightskull, the importance is not only that the voiceprint of the character is identical, but also that the actor captures the spirit of the character. With such an iconic world as Harry Potter, this is especially important. Does the voice resonate with the way you remember the character in your head? You’re trying to grab onto that nostalgia that hits you in your childhood and makes you say “oh yeah, I know him.” With the casting of original characters, you need to find voices that work well in the world, but stand apart uniquely from the existing characters.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of our blog to learn more about the release.

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