Finding His Voice

Jobe Allen

You may not recognize his face, but once he opens his mouth and you hear that deep, resonant voice, you'll know you've heard Jobe Allen before. Here's the man behind the voice we're hearing more and more. Amanda C. Gregg photo

Jobe Allen’s deep, resonating voice can be heard on Kaua’i radio, on TV and in ‘Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii!’

It’s not uncommon for people who meet Jobe Allen for the first time to get the sense that they’ve met him before. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s something familiar about him.

The local voice actor resonates with others in more ways than one. Perhaps that’s in part because he’s done everything from public service announcements and commercials to film, including the recently released Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii!

The movie, still debuting throughout the Islands, recently won the Best Family Film category for the 2012 Honolulu Film Awards.

with his mobile sound equipment

It’s long been a childhood dream of Allen’s to use his deep voice for anything that inspires children, just like the way he felt when watching cartoons as a kid.

“I always wanted to be a superhero, and always was loving the most maniacal characters – anything with Vincent Price, Peter Cullen or Orson Welles,” he says.

Price, Cullen and Welles used their trademark deep voices for the characters in everything from Dungeons and Dragons and Transformers to the Winnie-the-Pooh and Scooby-Doo franchises.

It’s perhaps fitting, therefore, that Allen became Malama Pono’s “Superhero Voice Guy,” as Faith Harding, its director of Women and Youth Prevention Services, jokingly dubs him. The character who came to be known as BVD Boy during the nonprofit’s Condom Sense campaign was none other than Allen himself.

“He definitely has a voice for radio, and you just know it’s Jobe when you hear it,” Harding says, adding that on a small island like Kaua’i, having a brand-worthy voice isn’t a talent to overlook. “Radio has a life here,” she says. “While it may be a medium that’s dying on the Mainland, it’s very much valued on Kaua’i.”

with sister Joy at Nounou trailhead with dog Bronze. Amanda C. Gregg photos

For Allen, getting into voice acting was an inspiration that came from his father Jack, who died in 2011 from cancer. Though his father was a painter by trade, Allen says throughout his childhood he longed to have a voice that boomed like his dad’s.

“My dad was definitely my inspiration in life,” he says. “His voice was just so deep. We had this recorder and would play together and talk into it when I was a kid. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, my dad’s so creative, his voice is so cool. When is mine going to be like that?'”

Allen says finally getting to see his dream come to fruition when the film Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii! debuted was bittersweet, especially as his father had already died when the film hit theaters. But, Allen adds, his voice work is also a way for his father’s memory to live on.

Recalling a childhood chock-full of imitating famous lines from TV shows and movies, Allen says it became a longstanding household pastime.

Allen’s voices can be heard in films such as ‘Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii,’ directed by Dane Neves, featured earlier this month at the Turtle Bay Hawaii Filmmakers Showcase. Image courtesy of Dane Neves

“I remember the ‘I am your father’ line from The Empire Strikes Back, which was the first movie we went to as a family,” he says. “That quickly became a household mantra.”

In his opinion, his dad’s voice had James Earl Jones’ voice beat.

Because his family didn’t have a VCR (and because reruns didn’t yet exist) Allen, his sister Joy and friends would re-enact their favorite TV episodes the day after they debuted.

“VCRs and that kind of thing were so expensive at the time, and we didn’t have access to that,” he says. “So the next day after we’d watch something we’d play it out on the playground with our own voices, remembering the episode in our heads. It was like our way of a rerun.”

Allen’s voice finally deepened at the age of 10, allowing him to sound much older than his age. Having moved around frequently as a child – Colorado, Las Vegas, California – playing voices helped keep things consistent, as there weren’t dialects or boundaries. It was around that age as well that Allen and his sister had to deal with a different type of loss, involving their mother Donna.

“She went to work one day and never came home,” Allen says. “My sister, five years younger, didn’t have a mother figure growing up as a result.”

Amanda C. Gregg photo

The loss was hard on Allen’s father, too, and when Allen was 19 he took custody of his sister and decided to bring her to Hawaii. Twelve years later their father joined them here.

“I just remember it was such a relief because I finally had my sister and my dad with me,” he says. “From that point I got to share my life here with him.”

Now, at age 37, Allen has lived here longer than any other place.

“I’ve never wanted to go back (to the Mainland) because I never felt at home there,” he says.

Feeling at home on Kaua’i makes sense, especially as hearing Allen’s voice has become commonplace here. Whether you recognize it from the radio, film or TV stints on Hawaii Five-0, he’s become part of the island’s soundscape

“I’m just so excited, I feel like the ball is rolling now,” Allen says of the momentum his career has been taking since the film’s release.

Jobe as a boy with his family. Photo courtesy Jobe Allen

The movie, a comical, keiki-friendly adaptation of the old-school genre that hails from movies like King Kong and Godzilla, features a slew of less-than-capable monsters who attempt a rampage in Waikiki. In it, Allen is the voice of Abercrumble, a dragon-esque monster whose motivation is seeking revenge on the human race for destroying his island home. Abercrumble must learn the hard way that “finding inner peace comes from fighting inner demons,” Allen says.

The only Kaua’i resident with a role in the film, its producer and director Dane Neves says Allen was exactly what the part needed.

“We needed something like James Earl Jones, really low, super strong,” Neves says. “I don’t know anyone who has a voice like Jobe’s. It was perfect: the commanding, fatherly type.”

In addition to its recent showing at the Waimea Film Festival on Kaua’i and the Turtle Bay showcase on O’ahu, next up for Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii! will be the Big Island Film Festival in May and California International Animation Festival in June.

In the meantime, Allen says he plans to continue to keep his career momentum going and to spend his free time with his family: sister Joy, and their dogs Bronze and Nala.