“Up” Utilizes Creative Voiceover Direction Techniques

Recently a certain someone cajoled me into a late-night at-home double-feature1 animation festival that consisted of copious amounts of Jiffy Pop2 and a back to back showing of WALL-E and Ratatouille.  Don’t tell her but I kind of enjoyed it.  With the exception of two or three character voices I whip out for commercials I do not do animation work and rarely even throw my hat into the ring.  Unless Pixar wants to cast my “stoner guy” (who I ripped off of Tommy Chong) or my “creepy guy” (who I ripped off of Vincent Price), chances are we will not be working together any time soon.

Nonetheless, my recent experience has piqued my interest once again in feature length animation so I was happy to come across an article in Time Magazine this morning about “Up” slated for release May 29th, 2009.  No doubt I will be dragged into the theater anyway so I might as well try to look forward to the thing.  Aaanywho, along with the usual (although exhaustive) synopsis there was some great passages concerning the voice talent.  From Time:

Every Pixar production involves some 300 artists, but the actors come first; they have to, because the dialogue is recorded to guide the animators. Asner, 79, who used his slow burn brilliantly on the great Mary Tyler Moore ’70s sitcom, had the gruffness and deadpan comic timing to bring Carl to vocal life. As Docter recalls, “When we first met Ed and showed him a small sculpture we’d made of Carl, he said [growling], ‘I don’t look anything like that.’ And we thought, O.K., this is gonna be perfect.” Docter and Peterson then tailored the dialogue to the actor’s speech patterns. “We looked for words that had more consonants and shortened the sentences,” Docter says.

Interesting enough but this was the part I really wanted to share:

Nagai, the nonprofessional kid chosen for Russell, needed a bit of coaching. “When he had to be excited,” Docter says, “he would get maybe 50%. So I’d tell him, ‘Run around the room, run back here and say the line — ready, set, go!’ We’d do it one line at a time like that.” For a scene in which Russell is cradled and tickled by a giant South American bird, “I actually lifted him upside down and tickled him,” Docter says, “which you probably wouldn’t do with Ed.”

Cool huh?  The talent was just a kid but I still like the way they went above and beyond to push him and get a real and (presumably) believable performance.  How many of us have used similar tricks on ourselves to really nail a part?  A few years back I ate potato chips while auditioning for a part that required a heightened sense of nonchalance by a college kid.  I thought it was brilliant3 but I didn’t get the part and it scared me off from going out on a limb like that again.  Perhaps I should rethink things.  Any thoughts?  Leave them in the comments.

The full article can be found HERE. (Possible spoiler alert)

1. What?  I like dashes.
2. It’s as much fun to make as it is to eat!
3. I initially think all of my stupid ideas are brilliant.

3 Comments to ““Up” Utilizes Creative Voiceover Direction Techniques”

  1. I remember a session many years ago – a dialogue spot – where my partner (a DJ thrown into the session) was having a bit of a time “getting into” the who, what, where and why of the spot. It was a couple just waking up to the sound of Camelot playing on the radio which prompted them to think about a restaurant.

    He just didn’t sound like a groggy young husband in love. So I had the engineer lower the mic so that we were almost lying on the floor – sort of propped up against the wall. I snuggled up against him and we got a much better read.

    Geez that was a LONG time ago!

  2. Diane Havens says:

    Making you rethink those acting classes, eh, Erik?

    Good directors know how to get the best out of actors — as do skilled fellow actors. There’s a dynamic that’s missed if you work in isolation, as many VOAs do these days. Sometimes you need someone to look you in the eye, shake you by the arms — or, yes, sunggle up to you on the floor.

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