Behind the Mic
The recording studio challenges writers, directors and actors to unite emotion, comedy and authenticity. By Mark J. Lerner.
It’s painstaking: the lines we write have to be the same number of syllables as in the finished animation shots — and we need to make sure these lines have the right mouth shapes at the right point in the word. You can’t convincingly dub the word “cool” over an original word such as “kale” — that “oo” in cool is small and round, but the “a” in kale is big and wide.
Next step: The actors need to be re-recorded with the new dialogue, which requires a voice director, sound engineers, production coordinators and, of course, the voice actors.
I got a chance to speak to some of the actors behind the scenes about the voice-recording process. One such actor is Erica Schroeder, from such legendary shows as Pokemon, Yu- Gi- Oh!, One Piece, Winx Club and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She’s currently the voice of Grace and Pan- chum on Pokemon XY; she also played Nurse Joy in seasons 6-8, and has voiced 50 other characters over the show’s span. She also voices Melissa Trail on Yu- Gi- Oh!
The full interview with video will be posted online, so keep an eye out. Meanwhile, here are some takeaways from our conversation:
Keep it real: Animation has the capability to bring fantastical worlds to life, and it’s easy to get lost in the whimsicality of it all — playing voices as too car- toony, stagey or affected. But Erica insisted on one key rule: stay true to real emotion. Erica said that as an actor you have to find — and believe in — the real emotion that your character would be feeling at that moment. Even though the situation might seem outlandish or absurd to those of us viewing it from the outside, it’s really happening from the point of view of the person you’re playing, so the key is to try to tune into those real emotions, rather than just playing them superficially or for laughs.
To her, comedy is just as “real” as straight dramatic acting. “The difference is not that it’s not real,” says Erica. “We see monsters every day, people who are larger than life.” So while the temptation may be to go wild and fantastical, it’s better if your performance comes from a wildness that’s ground- ed in real people. Animated characters may be fantastical, but we care about them because they’re still fundamentally human.
This rule applied particularly to Erica’s role in the film. “What’s really fun and interesting about playing this role in particular is that I get to play it with my actual son,” she says. “Playing a mother of children who are sometimes in trouble, or confused, or finding their way, it’s something I inherently understand as a mother myself.” Baboon Animation is a U.S.-based collective of Oscar-nominated, multi-Emmy winning animation writers with credits on dozens of the most iconic animated shows worldwide [
The Cannes Film Festival is the most prestigious event of its type in the world. Breathlessly covered by trades, film sites and paparazzi, the festival on the Croisette is the tastemaker for the industry. It sets an agenda of screening anticipation among cinephiles and professionals alike for the rest of the year — sometimes to great benefit, and other times not so much.
But one thing Cannes is not known for is embracing animated films. Instead, the glitzy nature of the festival puts much of its emphasis on appearances by movie stars, renowned directors and even on the craftspeople working in such well-regarded disciplines as cinematography, editing and screenwriting.
Despite animation’s growing stature in the movie world, both as a creative force and a commercial one, the festival rarely features animated features. This year, only The Red Turtle represents the medium of animation, screening in the Un Certain Regard section.
The Red Turtle is, to be sure, a worthy film. Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit and co-produced by Wild Bunch in France and Studio Ghibli in Japan, The Red Turtle is a dialogue-free movie about a man who battles a red turtle in his attempts to escape a deserted island.
But that really doesn’t excuse the Cannes Film Festival from reflecting the growth of animated features in the global market. Animated features earn more at the box office per film than non-animated features, representing an increasingly significant demand for animated films. And with the diversity in the subject matter and audiences that animation is reaching, it’s clearly time for animation to take a larger role at the Cannes Film Festival.
It’s encouraging that this year there is a new partnership with Annecy that will spotlight four projects at the film market. But failing to seek out and include more animation in the main festival is increasingly looking like a failure to recognize a medium producing state of the art filmmaking.
Regardless, the staff at Animation Magazine is dedicated to covering animation wherever it is made, shown and appreciated. We hope you enjoy our coverage of the Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Film Market on the pages that follow and throughout the festival itself at www.animationmagazine.net. As they say in Cannes, au revoir! [