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3ultram always added xtra dimension to the acters he portrayed. i writer, gagman, and \c. he helped build such onalities as Napoleon, arm dog in Arislocats; Sheriff of Nottingham obin Hood; Luke, the less muskrat in The tiers.
labor gave elegance harm to Duchess in >cats and deter mi-i and compassion to a in The Rescuers. anted more comedy-roles but we needed irmth and sincerity ojected with her dis-e voice.
our first model drawings were influenced by his appearance. But. after nearly 100 feet of experimental animation had been done, it became apparent that the hidden nuances that should have given the warmth were not as evident here as they might have been in live action. The character seemed abrasive and too strong in his manner. We had made a serious mistake.
With just one sequence in work and only the experimental animation involved, it was still possible to back up and start over. The search now was for a mellower man, more gullible, and with an old-world charm. These qualities were found in Christian Rub. The character was redesigned, the dialogue changed to fit this new attitude, the sequence rebuilt around a different personality; eventually there emerged a lovable old woodcarvcr who was both memorable and believable.
For a long time Walt considered recording the voices as part of the storyman's responsibilities, since he had been deeply involved in writing the dialogue and knew so well what the lines were supposed to do for the sequence. In the fifties, this idea was gradually abandoned as more value was found in having the director and the animators on the recording stage. It is very important that the animators be able to "see" the attitudes and expressions when they close their eyes and listen to the voice. Too often great voices or great actors prove disappointing in this regard; it is not a matter of talent or experience. The quality of the voice
itself either brings pictures to the animator's mind a docs not. The animators were also found to be moK alert to the little sounds, the grunts, the sighs, the vocal mannerisms that gave the specific touches they needed to make the cartoon drawings live. Personality is revealed not so much in speeches as in mannerisms, and more entertaining characters are created with the little sounds rather than the actual dialogue.
It was also discovered that many times the person who had brought the sequence up to this point was now drained of ideas; a fresh talent taking over and! working with the actors could adjust more readily to 1 the problems of the recording. If the voice everyoneI liked reflected a slightly different personality from the I one planned, there had to be a shift in our thinking. It was important that this new interpretation be evaluated for what it offered. There often would be unexpected entertainment potential in a voice or characterization I that a person with a preconception might miss. Whenl Peter Behn tested for the bunny that was later to become I Thumper, the reaction of the casting director was.l "Get that kid out of there—he can't act!" This is the danger of one man trying to do it all himself. It is easy I to become so determined to get what you think you want that you lose sight of what you actually are being offered.
The difficulty of making this kind of judgment is compounded by the "tin car" that everyone gets as he listens to lines being said over and over. Soon the
a climax of feeling. Other actors became overstimulated and neglected subtleties of the character they were trying to portray. Usually nothing was lost in having actors record their lines separately, because a good coach could bring out refinements in a performance possibly missed in a group recording. Another advantage to separate recordings surfaced when cither the animator or the director later decided to alter the amount of time between two lines—perhaps to change a character's facial expression. If both voices had been recorded on one track, with natural overlapping, it would have been impossible to open up the sound track.
We always tried to record only a portion of our dialogue in the first session. On the shorts it did not matter too greatly, since there was never much dialogue in them anyway. However, on the features, our contracts usually called for five sessions over a period of at least two years, and occasionally we had problems in finding the actors when needed again. (Phone calls to Europe. Japan, and New York were required
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Phil Harris Crothers stu storyboardso they will reo production ui gestions and (Woolie Reith to the board. / is behind Sea Alguire stanc Ollie Johnsto performances all sound alike and no one can judge if they are what is wanted. Once again, the team effort of sharing the responsibilities offered the best solution. So the director of the sequence was asked to direct the recording session, with most of his unit around him making suggestions, listening, discussing, considering. The recording that was approved on that day would be around to haunt them all for years to come—it was important that it be the best everyone could do.
Very seldom did the actors record all the lines without stopping; they took a page or two of the script at a time. This gave them a chance to listen to what they had done and the director a chance to make suggestions. Separate bits of recording of the same lines were "takes," and they were numbered and referred to as "Take One" or "Take Two" (or occasionally even "Take Fourteen") when selections were made later of the best lines done. This sometimes led to rather confusing instructions to the assistant director: "There's a better take in Take 3, so take Take 2 and cut off the end. then take that third take and take it clear to the end."
Some actors worked well together, giving a natural, conversational quality and building the whole piece to
Sandy Duncan, voice of Vixie in The Fox and the Hound, with directors Art Stevens (left) and Ted Bertnan.
one day to locate Peter Ustinov, who was working only a half-mile away at the NBC Studios in Burbank.) We needed time to develop our characters and build stories through their personalities. Jim Jordan, once famed as Fibber McGee, was hired to do the voice of our albatross in The Rescuers. He became alarmed when we outlined our extended timetable and snorted, "Huh! You better get me all at once! I'm seventy-six, y'know." Years later he was still recording voices for us on other pictures.
We learned to be very careful about choosing the voice of a fine performer if it did not sound entirely natural and casual. An outstanding stage voice, or even a straight voice, gave the animator very little visual help. Similarly, the phony voice or fabricated voice of the imitator proved to be a problem because it never had sincerity. In a parody or a satire the "put-on" voice works well, but it fails to convince an audience where believability is required. The straight voice will keep the character dull, and the phony voice will lose the audience.
A difficult moment comes when a top talent does not give a performance with either life or entertainment in the first session. Is this an off day? Is the material at fault? Should we look for someone else? We asked the very talented Sandy Duncan to do the voice for our lady fox in The Fox and the Hound because of her fresh, disarming manner and her ability to give any line an unexpected charm. But though her performance was exceptional, the reading was disappointing, lacking the crispness and definition we had anticipated. Experience told us the trouble had to be in our script, and more work would be needed to give Miss Duncan a clear character and a stronger situation. We realized that we really did not know our little fox as well as we thought we did.
Back at our desks, we looked for business that gave changes of attitude, something to bring out real concern, a situation that would show Sandy's cute, zany side, and make use of the wonderful warmth she could give to almost any material. We wrote and talked and rewrote, and when she came in again the script gave her the opportunities she needed. Her performance surpassed our original hopes, giving the integrity, the surprises, the textures, the appeal that we needed.
This kind of building and adapting naturally made extensive changes in the storyboards, and the storyman was either enthusiastic about the great new possibilities. that were now opening up, or he was slightly jaded about all his careful work being aborted. Since the new suggestions had come under the director's control, it was only natural that he keep the boards and incorporate the new ideas. However, the changes were not always successful or easily made, leading one storyman to pin a large sign over his door that read,- ] "It was funny when it left here!"
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