Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Recognising Voice Talent

Tomorrow is Youth Day, and a rather welcome public holiday. What better way to spend it than to head out to watch Kung-Fu Panda 2. Animated films have come a long way since the first full length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The visuals are 3-D, the dialogue witty, and they boast top-class voice talent. How come there's no industry recognition for this? Sure, they've come up with an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but the voices behind it?

Think for a minute about the success of Aladdin without Robin Williams? Would it have been anywhere near as hysterical, as manic, as downright mesmerising? Characters are one thing to be drawn, but their life and soul are breathed into them by the actors and actresses who voice them. Would Po the Bear be as lovable if it were Will Ferrell providing the words? Ferrell voiced Megamind, and was by turns both sardonic and melancholic, but as an overweight Panda who discovers he's a kung-fu master? Perhaps not.

Of course it's not just animated characters. Think of Andy Serkis's Gollum. Or Frank Oz's Yoda. These characters form part of our pop culture rhetoric, yet those voices are as much part of them as their words, and their actions. What about the voice of the enigmatic Charlie in Charlie's Angels? You never see him. You only hear him, yet such is the nature of John Forsythe's voice, you know exactly what type of man Charlie is. Ditto the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That cold disembodied voice potrays one of the great villains of the screen.

Acting uses the body and the voice to convey meaning. Where there is no voice we've watched as actors use their bodies to express. Isn't it time that the use of voice alone got the same recognition?

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