Interview With Matt Hill, Run For One Planet

By Ruth on May 11, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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As a teacher and as an individual who enjoys connecting with people who inspire others in authentic, creative ways, I absolutely adore the interview I am about to share with you. While you may not know Matt Hill by name, I sincerely suspect that you are familiar with his animated works (check out his IMDB at the end of this article). But Matt is oh so much more than quirky cartoon voices. He has chosen to pursue his passion and give back to the community of this world who has showered such incredibly good fortune and kindness upon him over the years that he is able to make a living doing what he loves!

RH: It’s so good to chat with you today, Matt. 

MH: Thank you for having me here, Ruth!

I noticed your extensive voice work, and with your current projects, you have and are doing quite a bit. And as a side note, you were born the same year as my brother.

This is the first year that when I had my birthday in January, I was like, “Wow! Forty-nine times around the sun!” And yet I still feel like I just got out of high school. I think in some respects what I get to do most of every day makes me feel like I never did grow up. I feel like one of the most fortunate, blessed human beings on the planet.

So, Matt, how did you get started in voice acting?

You know, they sometimes say that you reach for your highest dreams and boom! You end up hitting a star. When I was in eighth grade, I got on the bus to downtown Vancouver to have what I call my first professional development day. I heard on the radio that Vancouver was looking for actors. It was becoming quite a hub for film and TV recording at the time, and I had wanted to be an actor for so long. My whole life. So I took my first acting class.

If you remember a guy named Michael J. Fox, he’s a fellow Canadian and Vancouverite. He had just left for LA, and I’ll never forget who turned out to be my agent. She said, “You remind me of my former client, Mike Fox. You’ve got this energy about you.” He impressed upon her and made her think differently about people of small stature. I may not be the tallest guy in the world, but I’ve got this energy.

After taking a couple of courses to start, my agent sent me out for a radio play. It was a live radio show. I cut my teeth on that really quickly ’cause it was a live seven-minute show that was broadcast live without any type of delay all across the country. So I quickly learned to act on my feet and to do voiceover.

Then right around that time, Nintendo was doing it first foray into video games. So my first big American show was Captain N: The Game Master.  It was on NBC. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons like Super Friends and shows like that. Then all  of a sudden, it was like, “Oh, I’m gonna be on Saturday morning cartoons!” It was a cathartic moment. The first time I ever heard my voice on a cartoon on TV. This was so cool!

It sounds like you got into voice acting at the right time. I hear from a lot of actors, especially younger ones, who say that it is very hard to break into voice acting. 

Yes, I agree with you. But I am also a firm believer that it’s always the right timing for all of us as long as we keep stoking the fire and always going towards that dream. Because of my thirty years of having a film and television career, I don’t have to be afraid of not getting the gig time after time. Because of that experience, I don’t have to recreate myself because I’ve been around for so long. I have that more established reputation. So it’s been a cool ride in that respect. I think it’s pertinent today. You’ve got to have the same tools, and you gotta believe in yourself. Now I get calls from people who are just starting out, and they want to know how I did it. And I just share those types of stories. The nice thing is there is no barrier. It’s kind of limitless how you can create your own stamp on the industry. It’s not about how you look, your race, or anything else. It’s what characters you can create with your voice.

At some point, you started doing inspirational talks for kids. So how did all that come about?

As I continued to grow in my career, I was in one of the installments of the Ninja Turtle films. Turtles #3 I played Raphael. That was one of those milestone moments in my career when I was like, “Wow! I just got invited to a really cool part of the party!” But as I had gotten older in the industry, I wondered how I could give back in some way because I was so grateful for the life I got to live every day and all the things I got to do.

But I also had been a runner all my life. When I was two and the door opened, I hit the ground running. I was gone. And that was how my life in running started. Quite early on, I was inspired by one of our great people in Canada. His name is Terry Fox, and he was a one-legged cancer survivor. He attempted to run all the way across Canada, and he raised over 330 million dollars. That really set me on my course when I was old enough to start asking, “Just like Terry Fox, how could I give back in ways that are unique for me?” So unique for me was always running combined with my life in cartoons and films.

When I watched An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, that movie really struck a chord. My partner at the time, Steph, we both were really affected by it and wanted to do something about the environment. We wanted to do something that would in turn inspire all the men and women of the world. Little did I know that watching this movie would be the first step towards eventually running eleven thousand miles across Canada and around the perimeter of America. It was called Run For One Planet. That was literally kicking the metaphor of one step at a time. Not only with the marathon, but what we were asking people to do was to take one small action for the health of the planet. We had ten tips, and we asked people to choose just one of them. Instead of getting overwhelmed and carbon neutralizing your life, just pick one thing and do that one thing really well.

Little did I know that this arsenal of super hero voices that I’d been playing so long would literally come in and save us. It was the kids that ended up being our greatest inspiration. That was our target market right there. Middle school is where it began. You know those middle school kids are so excited. But then they don’t know if you’re so cool after all because they might be more interested in what is going on over there. We were doing a middle school, and there were about fifteen hundred kids. We had been doing this awhile, and we had these kids’ interest because they thought we were cool ’cause we ran there. I hadn’t used any of my cartoon character voices because I didn’t want to buy my way in. So it all started out one day with, “Hey, do you know who I get to run with every day?” And someone shouted out, “I don’t know. Big Bird?” And the answer was, “No, I get to run with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!”

I was like, “Okay, this is the moment. I have to do this.”  And so I said, “Yo, yo middle school students, you want to save the planet with Raph and Steph?” I kid you not, we literally had fifteen hundred kids going from too cool for school and us to “Oh my gosh! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!” And sometimes they would hear from the Care Bears. “Okay, buddy, hello. Who wants to save the planet with us?” In that moment… you know how they call it a sports moment? That was literally our moment where we found our audience. We ended up being able to do over two hundred school presentations all around the continent. I was running a marathon each day, but it was meeting those kids and the inspiration and the fire they lit inside our feet and our hearts to get our message out–that’s what fueled us forward. It was such a magically authentic moment. It came out of desperation on one hand, but it helped us share the message one million percent authentically. And you know middle schoolers–they can smell the in-authenticity or “BS” a mile away. If you’re trying to be cool with them, you are so not! {laughs}

Another amazing thing is watching the teachers act like teenagers again. I remember this one teacher at a high school we went to. The teacher was a former NBA player. He was seven foot four and a massive tank of a man. You could tell that he ran the score, and the kids would kinda look to him for etiquette. It was a charter school, so ninety percent of the kids are low income. They had to run this school like a military school and teach respect for themselves and for others. Going into this thing, we thought this was going to be a really fast presentation. It was like, “Let’s do the tips and then get the heck out of here.” So again, out of desperation, I took a chance with, “Hey, yo yo yo!” and so on. And I saw the kids go, “Huh?” And then I went into my voices, and the teacher was a huge fan. There were probably two thousand kids at this presentation. They went from being sedate and just listening to a frenzy of energy. We thought it was going to be forty-five minutes, but were there for probably an hour and a half. We extended the presentation, and afterwards, they came up and everybody wanted autographs and pictures with us. Our message was always one hundred percent true, and we never had to make fun of that message. But we were able to have so much fun putting that message out there.

The NBA teacher came up to me afterwards–I’ll never forget this–with a tear in his eye. I thought it was because he had been laughing.  But he said, “I really want to thank you because you really confirmed in me watching that presentation of why I chose to be a teacher. The Ninja Turtles really helped me get through a tough childhood. And they always taught me it was okay if you felt like an outsider. You didn’t have to live the life of crime. You could choose to be a good human being. You could be like Raphael, who helped an old lady cross the street. Or you could be like Mikey who made people laugh and feel better.” It gives me goosebumps sharing it again because it was so true for him. It was like a big gratitude fest because he was so grateful getting to share that with me.Yet I was going, “Dude, thank you for giving me this great life. Thanks for sharing that with me.”

It is so neat to see entertainers giving back to the community. I think a lot of them do, but it seems to be such a driving force with you. It’s such a passion of yours, and that’s great to see.

Thanks. I appreciate you recognizing that ’cause I really do feel that it is. I try to always let people know it really was a three-stage journey. I truly was grateful for the life I was getting to live. I got to do cartoons mostly every day and laugh with some of my best friends. But it wasn’t until I took that next step and really wanted to make my running about something in service of something larger. The kids and teachers thanking me for choosing to do that, work in cartoons, as well as do the tour just made the experience so unbelievably exciting and fulfilling. Until we went out on the Run For One Planet tour, I knew cartoons were popular, but I didn’t really realize the deep inspiration cartoons were to others. They have become such a big part of people’s lives.

When we came home off the tour, every time I get to do a new cartoon series, I know it’s another generation of kids that I get to do exactly that. Even if I don’t get to meet them, I get to know that I am somehow impacting them in a positive way. I am inspiring the next generation on this planet–our future leaders!

Now, did you know that the Run for One Planet tour has just received an award? It would be the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Yes, I did happen to see that! I’m glad you brought it up. Please share about that experience if you’d like to.

Oh, I’d love to! This brought the whole journey full circle. I believe you should never do something with the intent of winning an award. If you’re doing something only for the end result of an award or recognition, that’s the wrong motivation. I wanted to impact people and bring change. That’s why I had the tour going.

I was on my way to an animation session, and I got a call from the Governor General’s office. I thought he was phoning because maybe his grandkids wanted an autograph. I get lots of requests for that sort of thing like all the voice actors do. I called them back wondering what cartoon his grandkids liked. So I asked, and he was like, “What? What are you talking about?” And I was like, “Well, isn’t that why you called?” He said, “No, you guys have been awarded the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal. It was for your Run For One Planet Tour and the impact you had on North America.” I couldn’t believe it! I had tears pouring down my face, and I was like, “What?” I think it’s so cool that they never tell you who it was or when or where you were nominated.

It is so clear why you did it, Matt. You had the right motivation, and I say congratulations on that.

Thank you very, very much. I had a lot of life-shaping moments, and that was one of them. I was really honored and proud to be recognized by my country, and at the same time, I felt like a ten-year-old again because it took me back to that moment when I was inspired by my hero, Terry Fox, many years ago. I remember pledging to my dad saying, “One day I want to do something like Terry did.” Little did I know it was going to take me thirty years of growing up and doing cartoons for it to come full circle and be standing on that stage with so many other people being recognized. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, that’s for sure.

So how did you set up the Run For One Planet tour originally?

We took two years to build that thing. Mostly, we needed to get our bodies ready. We also built a twenty-foot motor home as eco-friendly as we could. We built our team. We had a couple of fundraisers. And then it just started to snowball after the one moment a couple months into the tour with the school kids. Before we knew it, we had five dedicated people just organizing school events. Facebook had just started doing stuff, and Twitter launched about six months after we left. So we were doing the old school outreach thing. It was really word of mouth. But people we did events for would pass on the recommendations. Our schedule was so booked! We ran, spoke, ran, spoke, ran, spoke, etc.

That is amazing! You did this all before Twitter!

Yeah, and to be honest, I once mocked Twitter. I thought it sounded funny. But now, it’s hilarious just how much I use it!

I hear ya. I was very resistant to Twitter. I only joined because my blogging friends said I needed to. 

Another interesting thing is the timing. We did this tour right when the economy had crashed. The day we hit America, most of the East Coast was in foreclosure. And we started the American part of our tour in Maine! And we happened to be in New York for election night when Obama was elected president.  Talk about being a part of history! It really forced us to go one small step at a time. We knew our ability to raise massive amounts of money wasn’t going to happen. So we decided to make each kid worth a million dollars in our eyes. As long as we connected face to face and kid to kid, we succeeded. And that is our legacy. We made people feel like a million dollars. I had people email me later and say how truly touched they were by our authenticity as well as the fun and unique way we shared an important message. Especially in this time of suffering. It was like 1929 all over again, and times were hard. But we brought positivity everywhere we went.

I loved how you were talking about not making major changes and getting overwhelmed. Everyone can make a difference, and a small change makes a big difference. We often forget that. Sometimes you think your little effort means nothing, but if you can get everyone on board and they all make a little change, it adds up to something big.

Al Gore said do one thing, and that is exactly what we did. Me deciding to compost that day and someone else deciding to stop using plastic bags was literally our catalyst for the top ten things for the tour. We can do one thing really well, and that is like the pebble-in-the water, ripple effect.

And we saw this even in a state where I thought we might just blast through–Texas. We thought it might be a really tough state. But I tell you, it was one of our best-received states. I don’t believe that people didn’t want to take in new messages. I believe it was the way those messages were presented.  Or maybe ’cause we were Canadian, who knows? We decided we wanted to meet people where they were.

I remember there was this one rancher. We were at his son’s school earlier in the day, and his kid was so excited. He went home and made his dad go to the computer to choose one thing to help the earth. And at first, this rancher thought, “What crazy Canadian is telling my kid that he needs to take environmental action?” But a good man who loves his kid has to be inspired by what his kid gets excited about. Before this father told his son to stop talking about it, he went to the computer and looked up the site. What this guy told us is that he was so inspired watching his son get so excited that he decided to turn off all the running water because there was a water shortage. He was so inspired because his son was inspired and felt good. He thought these Canadians were going to make his son feel bad.  And at the end, the boy asked his dad, “I got mine, so which one are you gonna take?” So this rancher said he was going to turn off his car while waiting for his son at the school. This guy was being so truthful in his message to me, and it was cool.

So what is the next program you have coming up?

The new endeavor is called Fit Kids on a Fit Planet. I’ve got a message of action. Primarily it will be geared towards school kids. I will take the kids for a run and chat with them.

Interesting point. As a parent, I find that sometimes my daughter won’t listen to me, but she’ll listen to someone else. I ask her to exercise, she doesn’t. Her doctor or her teacher tells her to exercise? She does right away. So the parents could be telling their kids all day long to go out and exercise and they won’t, but someone like you comes in, and they’re willing to do it.

Absolutely. It goes back to the way we share things. I’m so blessed to be using my cartoon voices. And I will bring the latest cartoon characters in because there’s already that connection. People feel like they already know you because they’ve been watching. And with kids, their BS meter is so finely tuned. If they’re not having fun, they’re not going to listen.

Recently with Dinotrux on Netflix, I had a perfect moment with my gal’s nephews. They were watching it, and I crept up behind them and I waited for my character to come on. I play the blue truck, Ton-Ton. I waited till he said a line. He kind of sounds like me. Then I said, “Hey dudes. What are you guys watching? Is that Dinotrux?”  And literally, they both looked at the screen then they looked at me. Then they looked back at the screen. And I was like, “Hey Dudes.” And they gasped. And there’s the confirmation again. That’s what gets me excited.

My friend’s a public speaker, and he described middle school kids very well. “Imagine being in an alligator pit. That’s middle school kids ’cause they will eat ya alive!” {laughs}

I know this is what I want to do, and you are helping me to share this message by talking with me and getting this message out to many more people. I can speak in Canada, but I can also speak in the States ’cause I have my work visa. If anyone in your zone is looking for a guy named Matt Hill, let them know where to find me!

I cannot tell you how much fun I had chatting with Matt. Unfortunately for all of you, I could not replicate his delightful cartoon voices to which I was privy during our interview, but thankfully through the beauty of multimedia, you can hear his voices which are featured in a wide variety of works available online, streaming services, and more. There is no doubt that Matt is skilled beyond belief, and he cannot imagine doing anything else in this world. It is truly his destiny and calling.

Notwithstanding, Matt chose to invest even more of himself in this world of ours. He saw a need many years ago, and he chose to be the one to not only meet that need, but to invite others on his journey to change this world, one person at a time. He took another passion of his, combined it with what he does for a living, and boom! This man impacted our world forever! The messages he shared in his own entertaining, indomitable style still ring true all these years later. So much so that he is preparing yet another tour with a slightly different focus. But rest assured–his message will essentially be the same. One person doing one small thing can change this world. And as Matt has so tirelessly demonstrated–don’t you want to be that one? If not you, then who?

Be certain that you follow Matt at all his links below. It would be tremendous if you took the time to look up his works, share them with others, and support this man in his career. However, it would mean even more to Matt if you took his message to heart. Whether environmentalism, healthy living, or whatever your heart’s desire may be, never forget. You’re worth a million bucks! I believe that about every single person on this planet, and I am glad to know that I have at least one ally in this view. How about you? Will you be the one to make a difference in this world? 

FOLLOW MATT

Websites: matt-hill.comrunforoneplanet.org
Twitter: @MattHillinspire
Facebook: facebook.com/MattHillspage
Instagram: @matthill_inspire
IMDb: imdb.com/name/nm0384503/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
YouTube: Run for One PlanetYou: the hero on a journey | Matt Hill | TEDxBrentwoodCollegeSchool

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

1 Comment

  1. Sherry Fram May 12, 2017 Reply

    Great interview! Enjoyed reading it.

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