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Brendan O’Brien, Original Voice Behind Crash Bandicoot, Dies at 60

Brendan O’Brien, the voice actor behind the original Crash Bandicoot and several other characters featured in the classic Naughty Dog trilogy of games on PlayStation, died on March 23. He was 60.

While his death happened a few months ago, the news of his passing began circulating online over the past weekend. His obituary was published on May 9. O’Brien voiced the former PlayStation mascot in the original Crash Bandicoot released in September 1996 along with almost the entire cast of the first blockbuster game. He continued the role as Crash and other characters in the Naughty Dog-developed games on the original PlayStation with Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997), Crash Bandicoot: Warped (1998) and Crash Team Racing (1999), although he didn’t voice the hero in the racer spin-off.

He was involved with Eurocom Entertainment Software’s party game Crash Bash (2000) by adding Papu Papu to his resume, the last game released for the original PlayStation. He continued as Crash up to Traveller’s Tales’ The Wrath of Cortex in 2001 for the next generation consoles as the franchise moved to multiplatform under publisher Universal Interactive. In the next few years his prior voice work for Crash was also used in the releases from Vicarious Visions on Game Boy Advance like Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure (2002), Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced (2003) and Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto’s Rampage (2004).

O’Brien voiced the iconic “Woah!” line, one of Crash’s famous catchphrases that became synonymous with the character and games.

O’Brien was also the voice behind Crash’s nemesis Dr. Neo Cortex in the first game. In a 2020 interview with The BAM! Box, O’Brien said he based Cortex’s voice and delivery style on his father, actor Edmond O’Brien. The role of Dr. Cortex went to Clancy Brown in the games after. O’Brien also voiced Dr. N. Gin, Dr. Nitrus Brio (through Crash Bash), Tiny Tiger (up to Wrath of Cortex), Pinstripe Potoroo in Team Racing and Komodo Moe (Crash 2, Bash).

Future Crash games featured different voice actors for all these characters. O’Brien never returned to the series after 2004, even when the remakes of the first three games released as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy in June 2017. Jess Harnell, who voiced Wakko Warner in Animaniacs, became the new voice of Crash with that release. Scott Whyte is now the current voice of Crash.

On the suggestion from Joe Pearson, an artist who helped create the Crash character and the first game’s lore, O’Brien reached out to Jason Rubin while doing voice work for the animated Spawn show to voice Crash. He ended up getting several roles for the original Crash Bandicoot. Rubin was the co-founder of Naughty Dog and co-creator of the game. The lines were recorded at Universal Studios in Hollywood, the same place that both O’Brien’s parents worked as actors. Universal also owned the rights to Crash Bandicoot at the time. O’Brien based the voices in the original game on just drawings of the characters he was shown, which didn’t even include any color at the time. His own personality and interpretations were interjected into the characters and the final game.

The Crash role stuck with him throughout his career. O’Brien told The BAM! Box how special it was that fans would contact him on his personal website about the games. “People started finding that all those years later and writing me, and it was enough to make me cry man, because I remember how I felt about that kind of entertainment when I was growing up.”

O’Brien also had roles in movies and television shows like Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997), 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998) and P.U.N.K.S. (1999). He most recently appeared in an episode of Riverdale in 2020 and on The Slowest Show in 2021.

Tony Grayson, an independent game developer at Summitsphere, said on Twitter that he had been working with O’Brien to potentially appear in his upcoming game Antonblast.

The official Crash Bandicoot Twitter account and its other social platforms acknowledged O’Brien’s passing on Monday, saying, “He was an incredible talent who brought Crash Bandicoot and other Crash characters to life. He will forever live on in the hearts of Crash fans.”

The early Crash Bandicoot games are still deeply iconic and hold a special nostalgia for millions of people. Crash Bandicoot helped establish Sony as a force in video games when the first PlayStation went up against Nintendo and their Mario mascot in the ’90s. The four games O’Brien worked on with Naughty Dog have sold over 25 million copies to date.

O’Brien seemed to have a great sense of humor. During an interview with “The Mark and Nina Show” many years ago, he talked about his experience on Crash and also playing the games that included his work. “I love it! The only drag is that some of my characters, I’m not good enough at Crash Bandicoot to get to the levels to where they appear! That’s what’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s like man, it took me a year to hear N-Gin or one of those guys…I’m like calling up Naughty Dog, do you just have a tape of my voices? ‘No, you have to play the game. That’s part of the deal.'”

O’Brien was born on May, 9, 1962 in Hollywood, California. His father Edmond O’Brien and mother Olga San Juan were both famous actors in their time between the 1940s-60s, starring in numerous roles. His father won an Oscar and two Golden Globes for best supporting actor in 1955 and 1965. Brendan started his career at just 10 years old, when he was in a scene with his father in the September 1972 debut episode of The Streets of San Francisco. He was also heavily into music and played guitar in bands, with Jethro Tull being one of his favorite groups.

He’s survived by his wife Ingrid K. Behrens of over 22 years and his two sisters. O’Brien and Behrens had a child together. His wife is also in the entertainment industry, an assistant director who has worked on many shows in her career like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Dallas and Prison Break.

“He encouraged nostalgic Crash fans in their own pursuits and loved signing their memorabilia,” his obituary states. “Like music, designing character voices for animation, radio and video games came naturally to him.”

Crash Bandicoot is now owned by Activision, with over 20 games in the franchise across many console and mobile platforms. The last game in the series originally released in October 2020 called Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time from Toys for Bob. It was the first new mainline platformer in the franchise since 2008. An upcoming online multiplayer game called Crash Team Rumble will release on June 20.

Watch gameplay of the first Crash Bandicoot, where O’Brien voices Crash, Dr. Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio during the opening scene:

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