I had the chance to step inside the Zootopia recording studio at one of Disney’s animation studios last month while I was in Los Angeles for the #ZootopiaBluray and #ThroughTheLookingGlassEvent press trip. Travel, accommodations and activities were covered by Disney, but all thoughts are my own. Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.
I have always been the type of person who is more comfortable behind the camera or the computer. I like to watch and learn…and not be the one others are watching and learning from (I’m totally fine in a classroom or speaking in front of a group but the camera makes me uncomfortable).
Before my first recording studio experience, I figured that doing voice over for an animated character would be the same. Imagine my surprise when I found that I actually love it! I was excited to be in the recording studio again to voice a scene from Zootopia. And, if I do say so myself, I make a pretty good Fru Fru the shrew bride in this scene:
Being in a recording studio is NOT what I envisioned animated voice over work to be. I used to imagine the actors recording scenes in a big room together…not alone, on-by-one, in a recording studio. The semblance of privacy when you’re in a small room staring at a script and a screen is actually kind of nice. It was hilarious to be on the other side of the recording booth window while everyone else in our group recorded their lines. Let’s just say…it’s not always easy to get the timing just right to sync with finished animation.
Luckily, we had some help (both technical help and helpful advice) from Paul McGrath, Dialogue Mixer on Zootopia. He explained to us that even though everything on the animation side has been digitized and often computer generated, the voice-over portion of making an animated film is still done in largely the same way that it was done back when they made Snow White. Typically, they start with the script and actors record their lines. Most of the time, animation comes afterwards. However, Paul McGrath said, “The thing about the recording room is that we’re involved from the very beginning of the film through the very end.”
We were curious about how many times an actor has to read the lines to get it right. Paul said that it’s not uncommon for them to read the line 50 to 60 times. (I guess I should feel extra happy that it took me 2 times, right?)
Paul mentioned that, “…the Directors (Rich Moore and Byron Howard) will always say, especially with Mr. Big, ‘Make the line your own. Say it how you want, (how it) will feel comfortable to you.'” They make changes, they make tweaks, they do several different versions of the same line.”
We were also curious if any of the outtakes that happen in the studio end up being written into the movie. Paul answered, “Yes, yes. I think the accidental mistakes they do– that everyone just cuts up in the room and it wasn’t on the page (are great). Maurice LaMarche (Mr. Big), a lot of things that he did were not on the script and then wound up in the film, as well as Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (Nick Wilde). They were always adlibbing.”
My short scene as Fru Fru the Shrew may not be the beginning of any professional voice over work, but I sure did have fun!
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