Siliconera Sounds Off: Voicing FFXIII’s Bubbly Anime Girl

By Ishaan . March 14, 2010 . 6:04pm


While you may not have heard of her before, Georgia Van Cuylenburg’s bubbly voice is something you’ll be hearing a lot of, come this March. The young Aussie comedian-cum-writer-cum-producer provides the English voice of Oerba Dia Vanille — character and narrator in Final Fantasy XIII — and we caught up with her to talk about how she landed the role.


As always, the conversation will be posted in installments over the coming weeks. To commenters, we’d like to issue a quick reminder to be polite as this column is regularly read by participants.



Creative director, I Am Spartacus Entertainment – Georgia Van Cuylenburg

Siliconera – Jenni Lada

Siliconera – Ishaan Sahdev

Siliconera – Spencer Yip Ishaan: To begin with, could you tell us how you got started in the entertainment business? How did you decide what it was that you wanted to do? Georgia: Well, there was never really an option for me; I never wanted to do anything else! When I was 12 years old, I decided I was going to move to LA in 10 years and be an actress etc. and I arrived 10 years and a month to that day.


I have always loved entertaining and creating, and all things that are the industry I am in whether it was theatre, film, TV, voiceovers, directing, producing, acting, stand up, singing…everything. I started working professionally when I was 16. As I got a little older and was more heavily involved in it all, I realized the power that we have in the industry to really affect people and to make a change in people. So as well as doing the work I started focusing on being a positive role model for kids — no smoking, drinking drugs and believing in yourself. Slowly, that grew into my main focus so everything I do is really about that in the end.


When I arrived in LA, I knew one person and now I have created a home a family and a life here — I just love it!! It is so amazing to be in a place where everything I want to do can be done.


Ishaan: Los Angeles is sort of seen as the mecca of the entertainment and technology industries. What was it like when you first got there? You said you only knew one person there; how’d you get your foot in the door?


Georgia: You are right; LA is an amazing town and it can be quite daunting. For me it was an exciting challenge. I knew I was in it for the long haul, so I just started from the bottom and got ready to work my way on up. It took a lot of meeting people — the right people and sometimes people who you thought were right but soon learned were very wrong! You really have to put yourself out there, try lots of things, learn lessons the hard way.


I feel that if you have talent, are a good person and put the right foot forward into enough doors, one will eventually let you in. I think that is something that is wonderful about being an Aussie here — there is something about the aussie spirit which is really attractive to people. Maybe our easy-going-ness (great word) or the fact that we are pretty honest and upfront. People trust us faster — it is really nice!!


The journey is by no means an easy one but it really is a numbers game — if you hang in there, stick it out and keep smiling, eventually, people start to notice. And I am very glad they did! It helps if you love living here, too. For me LA was the greatest place in the world to be unemployed; for others it isn’t, and that can make the time hard — but I love it here.


Ishaan: What was your first gig? Was it something that you saw yourself doing before you actually moved to LA or did it just…come out of the blue?


Georgia: My first gig was a touring educational theatre company. We went to schools all over the place and I played little PET, the recycling bottle — she was one cool character. My first voice-over gig was voicing Angelina Ballerina. I was totally obsessed with her when I was little so that was such a special experience!!


All the gigs I had before moving were really helpful for my move and lots of fun. So, although I knew I was moving over soon, I still loved every second of work in Oz. Jenni: I remember reading the Angelina Ballerina books when I was a kid. So Georgia, how did you get cast as Oerba Dia Vanille? And how would you describe the recording experience for that character? Did you receive any special guidance from Square Enix or get to record with any of the other Final Fantasy XIII voice actors like Vincent Martella (Hope) or Ali Hillis (Lightning)?


Georgia: I auditioned for her. My agent handed me the script and said if there was anyone else that could play this girl better he would eat his hat. (he is more a beanie guy but…) This was the character description: Aussie accent, young, bubbly, sunshine and rainbows, etc… I so wanted to be her! But I didn’t know what it was actually for. And two weeks later, I got the call from my agent to say I had booked it but I didn’t know really how big it was.


He said I would probably have five or six recording sessions. Cut to 6 months later, I was still recording. I loved every second of recording — she is such a fun character to and some of her lines are so hilariously typical of something I would say that it was funny to all of us. I had really great guidance from the director and the Square Enix rep, but they also just let me do my thing a lot, too. The team were so great and we spent most of our time laughing if we weren’t recording.


I didn’t actually get to meet any of the others until we had finished. You always recorded on your own. It was so weird when some of us met at the end because you felt like you already knew them really well. I still haven’t met Hope or Sazh — which is even funnier as they are the two I am with the most in the game. But I became instant friends with Ali (Lightning) and Rebecca (Fang) afterwards, and Troy (Snow) and I are now really close, too.


Spencer: Can you tell us some of the funny lines from the game? Did you get a chance to see the Japanese version first to get a feel for the other voice actress?


Georgia: Yes, most of the time we had the Japanese as a reference. I know that the directors were trying to steer away from the stereotypical anime for most of the English characters, but they specifically stayed true to it for Vanille. But by the time we were near the end I didn’t listen to ‘shocked reaction’, ‘happy reaction’, ‘scared reaction’ — we already knew what they were after. I was very glad to have that version to work off, though, because the style is very different to anything I would do naturally, so it was a big help.


The most enjoyable lines were always the reactions — her sound effects were so fun and stylized. I now have a number of friends who get me to just make those sounds for them at random occasions. Watching them trying to imitate them is almost just as fun!


But I did write one line down that struck me as so perfectly Vanille. It isn’t really funny but so great: "You said it made you happy when I smiles didn’t you? But really I was afraid, I was always afraid."


My favourite line from the whole recording session was actually a stage direction: "Fang and Vanille enjoy their reunion while the others discuss their plans to overthrow the government" — love it!!


Spencer: How would you describe Vanille as a character? And when you were doing your own thing, what did you add?


Georgia: Vanille to me is a sad girl caught up in her belief that everything must be good and righteous and fair. She so very much wants the world to be all sunshine and love and flowers and happiness, but deep down inside, she knows it isn’t. The truth of her past roots her in a very deep sadness that she does not trust to share with anyone. For this reason, she can understand others more than they would ever know but she cannot share with anyone. The scene when she and Fang return home with everyone else is a huge telling scene for me.


Adding my own touch really came when the directors allowed me to stray away from the anime delivery. I have a lot in common with Vanille as I am all sunshine and smiles to most people but have been through a lot of sadness and I refuse to allow it to bring me down. So when I was allowed to play, I just used what I knew.


Ishaan: You’ve performed both in person and behind an animated character. What do you think one needs to keep in mind while doing voice-over work for animated media to put on a convincing performance? Especially in the case of anime and Japanese videogames, one tends to come across a lot of…unconvincing performances. How do you overcome that?


Georgia: I think the most important thing when recording voiceovers is to really perform as if you are in front of the camera. It’s not about just having the right voice. If you really consider yourself to be the character, there is so much more depth to the performance then. In sessions I will find myself standing like her, gesturing the way she does…even if I was sitting I would find myself swinging my legs just like Vanille would.


To avoid unconvincing performances in any medium, not just anime, you really have to take the time to think behind the lines, not to just say them how you think they should sound. You should understand your character and why they are saying what they are saying…but that’s just my opinion.

  • Here’s to a long and prosperous career.

    Also you are super cute.

  • Aoshi00

    I just started the US ver, I so want to play it but I’d go finish the prologue novel first (it’s going to take me a while..). I can’t wait to hear more of your portrayal as Vanille, the narration from the trailer is quite well done, you do sound like the Jpn counterpart to a certain extent, expressing her cheerfulness and vulnerability at the same time. I hope you get more roles in other video games.

    BTW, it’s funny S-E decided to use Australian accent for both Vanille and Fang, I thought it was an odd choice at first before knowing the game’s story. I’ve only seen the beginning of the US ver, but I can’t alrdy tell it’s a very good localization.

    • thebanditking

      +1 to this.

  • moominsean

    I think her voice fits well with the character. Bubbly but kind of mellow and sad at the same time. Job well done…

  • Ereek

    She started off a bit weak, but, really, Vanille probably has the best voice in the game. I feel like Georgia really spent a lot of time learning her role. What’s very impressive is her knowledge of the character. When compared with Dissidia, one actor went on to state that he “didn’t know anything” about the character he voiced (Kuja).

    Georgia is adorable, I love these interviews with her.

    • Aoshi00

      Provided a lot of voice actors just do this gig to make ends meet (in addition to the 2nd job), it’s understandable some might not take their time to actually care about the game or anime they’re voicing. Most VAs have never really watched or played their works afterwards.

      • Ereek

        Of course. That’s why it’s so impressive that Georgia spent the time learning about her.

    • Vanilla

      To be fair, Dissidia had terrible VA direction for the localization. Undoubtedly SE would’ve spent more money and effort on FFXIII’s localization.

      But I agree with you that Georgia really took her role to heart and understands her better than most voice actors would bother to. Besides, I’m sure she recognizes how lucky she was to land this role as well.

  • Vanilla

    I feel like parts of this interview have been re-used…Maybe she just answered some of the questions the same way she did in a past interview?

    Oh Georgia. She has such a way with words. He description of Vanille really just makes a lot of my irritation with Vanille completely melt away–I’m a sucker for stepford smilers, even if they’re horrendously cliche and overused. And I’m happy for Georgia; being an Aussie and landing a role like hers in FFXIII must be monumental for her.

    • Yea, this is parts 1 and 2 combined. We’d put part 1 up earlier, but Square requested we hold off until the game was out. :P

  • Can’t say I really care for any of the voices in the English release, but I guess it’s better than nothing at all? I just wish they would stop steering away from putting in dual-audio for our localized J-RPGs. I mean, come on.

    It’s the year 2010 and we’re using Blu-Ray discs on the PS3 and they still don’t want to give us the option for dual-audio in a lot of our J-RPGs? Pretty lame if you ask me.

    • Ereek

      If you don’t like any of the English voices, you probably wouldn’t like the Japanese voices, either. They’re very close to the same.

    • Aoshi00

      Problem is S-E painstakingly did a language specific lip sync for both the US and Jpn ver, for all the real time and FMV cutscenes, very commendable. To sport dual-audio, that would mean the game would double in-size. From what I heard, FFXIII used over 30 gib, and a blu-ray is less than 60 gb right, so it would require 2 blu-rays if another set of Jpn cutscenes were included, just like it was impossible for Metal Gear Solid 4. It would be nice to have one version having both languages (like I got the Jpn Heavy Rain, though the lip sync was done perfectly), but I would prefer just one language w/ customized lip sync. Lost Odyssey’s dialgoue was made to sync w/ English only, that’s one reason the Jpn dub felt unnatural (other than the fact they used actors who weren’t too experienced in voice acting). Lip sync-ing really makes the game feels much more immersive (like FFX is sync to Jpn only but no to Eng.)

      • cowcow

        The only way would be DLC but even the concept of that is ridiculous

    • Hraesvelgr

      If you don’t like any of the English voices, I have to wonder if you’re just saying that because they’re in English… Not to be like that one guy who would cry “weeaboo!” for like every comment, but you know.

      • Ereek

        Absolutely seconded. I get that feeling, too.

  • 311

    A lot of people have been negative about Vanille (over here where I live and at work) and I tell them if you don’t like it don’t play it. I actually showed some of the Japanese cutscenes from my saves to some co-workers and after a while they noticed similarities in “why” Vanille is the type of cheerful character portrayed not only in the US version but also in the Jpn Version. I really have to say that it’s one of my favorite characters in the game, I finished the game once with here in my party and I’ll do it again in the US version. The localization surprised me, I wouldn’t think Square would get great Voice Actors unlike another game they released that I never played due to the bad English VO (*cough* Star Ocean). Thanks to all the siliconera staff for this opportunity for us as gamers to read about this and to Miss Georgia a special thanks for giving that “touch” of lively rainbows to Vanille.

    • No problem at all! Talking to Georgia was a real blast for us, too. She’s very frank and informative. :)

  • nyoron

    I didn’t read the interview because I’m trying to avoid anything that might be a spoiler (I’ll come back and read it later), but I’m about 5 chapters in at the moment and so far Vanille is the only voice that I’m really not linking. I know it’s supposed to be cute but it’s not doing it for me. It might be the accent…

    Maybe it will have grown on me by the end.

    • mach

      Vanille’s irritating cuteness all starts to make sense once you get farther into the game. You just need to understand that in the early parts of the story, she’s almost *supposed* to be annoying.

      • nyoron

        Thing is, I don’t have an issue with her irritating cuteness because I don’t find her cuteness irritating. I love Vanille as a character so far. I’m just not finding her voice very cute, which I think detracts from her overall cuteness. Like I said I think it might have something to do with her accent. From reading the comments it seems like I’m in the minority here, but that’s just my impression from about 10 hours in.

        • Ereek

          Actually, I don’t think “cute” is what they were going for with Vanille. Maybe in the beginning, but later on definitely not. I feel it’s more along the lines of “innocence.” I’d elaborate, but I feel like that would be spoiling.

          • mach

            Exactly. At first Vanille appears to be the standard Yuffie/Rikku type girl, but in the end, I’d say she’s a bit more like Tifa, Rinoa, and Yuna in terms of characterization.

          • nyoron

            Interesting… well I’ll save my final judgement until the end of course.

  • Why does this story look so familiar?

    • Ereek

      Siliconera did an interview previously and she gave some similar answers to those here.

  • JeremyR

    Sigh. I remember seeing the first few shots of FF13, and the first character, Lightning. I was actually excited. The first final fantasy I had any interest in since 7. I even contemplated buying a PS3 (before it was announced for the 360) for it.

    But basically every other character since made me go “Ugh”. From the racist stereotype to the surfer dude, to this.

    • Ereek

      If you think that, you probably haven’t even played the game. Vanille most definitely isn’t a “happy anime girl” other than on the outside. I’d actually compare her to Tifa, as mentioned by mechamerr above. Sazh is actually an interesting character, arguably the most so. He isn’t comib relief, though there are a few cute/amusing scenes with him and his Chicobo. Snow, well, I’m sure someone out there likes him, but there was one scene with him that just made me want to hit my head against a wall. I can’t defend Snow properly.

    • mach

      Yeah, dude, even the New York Times remarked that Sazh is “the most affecting and sympathetic character in the game.” If you actually play FFXIII for more than half an hour, you’ll realize is portrayal is anything but racist.

  • thebanditking

    I really like your voice work for this character, it fits her nature perfectly right down to the way she walks/runs about the games world. The main thing is that besides being able to pull off the “bubbly and sunshine” thing the voice work still feels genuine. Which is not so easy to do.

  • cowcow

    Recording on your own? Not sure I agree with that tactic. Is that how it is for all voice acting, including Hollywood CG/animation? Wouldn’t it be more real when you’re reacting off the other persons lines?

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