In Don's own words...
What do I know about dialogue? Well, I know that the five vowels, A,E,I,O,U are the strongest sounds; they are the open mouth sounds, and the ones you should pay the most attention to. The consonants are transitional positions of the mouth, going from vowel to vowel. I know that when a person talks, the eyes, the eyebrows, the cheeks and the chin are all involved, all being affected by the movement of the mouth, all the parts working together to form the expressions of the face. And then, there is body language. What can we say about that? The body speaks the emotions of the mind just as surely as the mouth. I hope you will broaden your concept of animation dialogue to include body movement and facial expressions.
To animate a character’s dialogue, someone will have to read the recorded dialogue track and note the frames on your x-sheet where the vowels will occur. Now, here’s an interesting tidbit. You would assume that by drawing the vowel sound on the character’s mouth on the exact frame as noted on the X-sheet would get you a perfect synchronization of picture and track. But no, the best picture track synchronization is achieved by making the picture lead the sound by 2 frames. In other words, you see the mouth position before you hear the mouth sound by 2 frames.
How important is the voice talent to the success of your character? Whoever is cast in the role will bring to the table, not just a voice that fits a character design, but his/her experience on stage and screen. For example: In the movie Anastasia, Meg Ryan’s skill for making scripted lines sound spontaneous, her gift for voice inflections that make her sound vulnerable, and above all her sense of timing for comedy made her as much the creator of the character of Anastasia as the artist who designed her. The voice talent will help you find fascinating personalities. There is something called serendipity that happens on the recording stage. It is for this reason that my bias is to let the actors help you development the character. If you nail the actor to the exact words on the page, you will narrow his/her creativity. The studios tend to play it safe by recording temp voices and building the animatic, then asking the actor to stay within the confines of the animatic timing. I believe this process is a big mistake.
I think a character should look like the voice that comes out of him or her. Here’s a bit of insight from the production of the Secret of Nimh, taken from Don Bluth’s Art of Animation:
“The mellifluous baritone voice of Paul Shenar pushed the design of the villainous rat, Jenner, in ways we could never have predicted. The first spin on the design was a much thinner creature with coarse wiry body hair and a balding head. We all liked it at the time. But when Paul arrived on the sound stage, he had his own take on Jenner's character, and I knew at once to give him some space. He began softly, savoring each word, holding back, applying restraint to the malevolence inherent in the lines, never growling, but purring. Paul’s face pinched tightly, and he grimaced as if in pain, but the words he uttered were soft. They tumbled gracefully through his teeth. “What a novel idea,” I thought. “How wonderfully deceptive he is. Such a fellow must also be very handsome; and so, the character design was altered.
Dear Don... your "English Major" is showing. I had to look these two up. What great words they are. Its fun just to say them.
mellifluous - Flowing with sweetness or honey, smooth and sweet, polite and cordial
malevolence - Ill will, malice, hatred
Last edited by Suzanne Robertson; 07-25-2011 at 03:59 PM.
I enjoy this post! Thank you for the insight on animation production!