There are cartoons that mark generations, either because they were funny, ingenious or perfectly captured the spirit of an era. In the case of The Simpsons it seems that it is a fusion of all these elements.
They aired for the first time in Mexico and dubbed into Spanish in the world on December 25, 1990, through the signal of Channel 5 of Televisa, in Mexico. Since then, it became obvious that there were characters that shone brighter than the rest and became endearing to the public, such as Homer Simpson. His erratic personality made him a favorite with viewers. In fact, in 2002 Homer was ranked second among the 50 best cartoon characters of all time in a list compiled by the American publication TV Guide, behind Bugs Bunny. Much of that success, at least in Latin America, was due to his particular voice.
Dubbing actor Humberto Vélez was responsible for bringing to the Hispanic-American world the adventures, successes and failures of the least exemplary family man from Springfield. A career spanning more than 35 years is the best guarantee for understanding the work dynamics of this voice specialist. According to him, in order to give a character a sound identity, you have to understand it from the root. “We have to find out, actingly, what he’s like,” he says.
And that is precisely what he did when he had the opportunity to approach Homer Simpson, a thorough review of his life, its weaknesses, strengths and oddities. “Homer Simpson is a 36-year-old guy who is very vicious: he smokes a lot, drinks alcohol and doesn’t take care of himself, so he’s supposed to have a very worn voice, not a pure voice. So he’s hoarse all the time, but his voice is very placed in the chest”, he summarized what his analysis of the character had been when he approached him.
“One thing is that it resonates in the chest, but Homer Simpson is not only that, because it would sound very silly. Then we must discover, actingly, what he is like. Homer is a fool, he is a desperate man who screams and cries, but he is also a libidinous. So you put all that together to create it, “says the voice actor of what his process was to assign him the correct color and shade of voice as a safety inspector for sector 7-G of the Springfield nuclear power plant.
Although the work of Vélez and the rest of the dubbing team had received recognition and applause from many, they were all fired from their jobs in 2005. The reason? Conflicts between the International Recordings and Dubbing company and the Mexican union of the National Association of Actors (ANDA).
This was a notorious change in the show that did not go unnoticed by the audience at the beginning of the 16th season of the animated series or in the film for the cinema of the famous yellow family. Vélez’s work was replaced by that of his colleague Víctor Manuel Espinoza (also known as Otto Balbuena).
Curiously, these labor problems also affected the dubbing of other American series such as ‘Futurama’, ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and ‘Family Guy’, which also underwent changes in the team of dubbing actors for their characters.
The change of voices in Spanish of The Simpsons coincided with the rise of an internal creative crisis of the show that generated a lot of criticism among fans and that means that certain seasons, today, are not considered as the “classics” or the best time of this popular cartoon.
To the surprise of many, Humberto Vélez returned as the voice of Homer Simpson in 2021 thanks to the special Marvel short for Disney Plus called ‘The good one, the Bart and the Loki’. Over there. He read his name in the credits along with other dubbing partners in the series such as Patricia Acevedo and Claudia Motta. What no one suspected is that this would be just the beginning of the team’s return to the series as such, because by season 32 they were already an official part of the voices in Spanish of the Springfield scene. It may have taken him 15 years to come back, but Homer Simpson already talks the way he talked.