Thursday, November 13, 2014

Talk To Me

When doing casting for an animated film, it is important to pick who you want to voice your characters.  Lately it seems as though there has been a huge push to cast stars to voice animated characters.  Though a possible way to sell a film, sometimes casting stars in animated features detracts from the overall value of the film.  When I watch an animated film, I enjoy not being able to recognize the voice of an actor, for then I can suspend disbelief entirely and really put myself into the world of the film.  Immersing yourself the world of a film is much harder to do in an animated film.  Characters do not completely resemble real people and the world does not look like our world as we know it.  Stories told in animated films often involve fantastical elements such as magic and talking animals.  It can be hard enough to enter the world of an animated film without a recognizable voice that drags you back to the real world.

One of the best examples of a wonderful choice for a voice actor is Jodi Benson.  Benson voiced Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  Her beautiful speaking and singing voice add a lot to her character.  Her voice sounds soft and young which fits the character perfectly.  The Little Mermaid  was Benson’s first time acting in an animated feature.  Her voice was fresh, new, and unrecognizable.  No face could be put to the voice, so it made the role of Ariel seem more realistic.

Lately, Disney has strayed away from using the voices of relatively unknown actors, which has decreased the quality of their films.  The most recent example of this is the use of Idina Menzel to voice Elsa in the film, Frozen.  Idina Menzel has an incredible voice.  She is a wonderful performer and actress on Broadway, but I don’t think that her voice fits the style of a Disney princess movie.  Her voice was too powerful for the role and definitely too recognizable.  Her voice didn’t match the timbre and styles of the other characters in the film which was fairly distracting.  Her voice was also very recognizable.  All I could think as I watched the film was that Elsa should be painted green and wearing a witch hat.  Her strong voice distracted me from the character Elsa, and ensured that all I could think about when Idina Menzel was singing was Wicked.

I’m not saying that studios shouldn’t cast stars as these characters because sometimes stars may have a voice that truly fits the role.  For example, Matthew Broderick voices adult Simba in The Lion King.  I cannot tell that it is Matthew Broderick, however, which allows me to suspend my disbelief and really get into the movie.  It is as if Simba has his own voice with its own tone quality and timbre.

I suggest that studios be very careful when they cast voices in animated movies, for though casting a star may help to sell a film, it can take the audience out of a movie and make it less effective.

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