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Janet’s Animation Corner: Listen Up

 
 
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Posted March 30, 2015 by

 
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Home debuted last week and for a while I had been intrigued by the squishy looking purple alien Oh and his bright-eyed, luscious haired accomplice, Tip. So much so that I had been prepared to shell out the standard thirty pounds plus for two tickets and the necessary supplies such as nachos, pic n mix and popcorn for the kid. That was until I cast a glance at the voice line-up for the film. Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez and so on. The sheer, absolute horror! Bleeding ears …the works.

Now I have nothing against Rihanna or the rest and I adore Jim Parsons with immense stalker-type affection but how on Earth am I supposed to get lost in the wonder of another world with the phrase Bazinga running through my head? The same thing happened when I cottoned on to Queen B (Beyonce’s) unique voice in the film Epic and there it was, the lyrics Love on Top cutting through the cinematic action.

Is it just me? Am I the only one who has to make a conscious effort to stay locked into the magical world of animation once I hear a celebrity voice? The same thing happened when I made the (probably obvious) discovery that Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera is the voice of Berk’s dragon riding, axe wielding Astrid in How to Train Your Dragon. Since then I can’t help but repeatedly conjure up her face throughout the movie.

When did this happen? When did celebrities claim ownership of the voices of the animation world? And what happened to all the traditional voice actors? The ones trained to manipulate their vocal cords so that their voices sound so convincingly unlike their own you have no choice but to wholeheartedly believe in this new being flashing across the screen? I’m talking about the likes of Elizabeth Daily (Tommy Pickles from the Rugrats), Bart Simpsons’ Nancy Cartwright and legendary Mel Blanc who brought to life some of our favourite characters. From Daffy Duck and Tweety bird in Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Barney Rubble and Dino in the Flintstones, he shaped them all.

Did I think Ferrera does a great job in Dragons? Of course. Did I enjoy Robin Williams’ distinctive tone as the Genie in Aladdin? Absolutely. But there’s something even more enthralling about being able to separate the person from the character.

Whereas these celebrity actors/singers offer us one voice, one range there are voice actors out there who hold multiple characters in their cords. Who know how to bend and shape their voice to fit the traits and personalities of the characters created. The ones that sound individually unique. It’s an art, a skill that is being wasted, slowly replaced by the one-dimension offerings of the ever changing A-list group.

It’s time animation stopped resting on gimmicky Hollywood stars to draw in audiences and began putting their trust back in trained voice actors.  A whole host of amazing talents could be out there and we’re missing them because we’re being suckered into the comical enchantments of actors like Eddie Murphy (Mulan’s Mushu). Enough. There’s a time and a place for the razzle dazzle of the celebrity voices in animation and it should be occasional. Let’s leave the hard work of voice acting to the multi-voiced experts of the field. After all you wouldn’t trust your GP to perform open-heart surgery just because they’re medically trained would you? Of course not, you’d leave it to the professionals


Janet Leigh

 


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