Voice Acting for Animation

Yesterday I did a test run with friends recording the dialogue of the older brother, Michael Parker. It was a very informative session as I discussed with my sound designer (who will be helping out with sound effects, sound tracks and in this session voice recording), the effects of diction, emphasis on certain words to bring across different impacts and connotations. We had mutual friend to do the voice acting, although not experienced, was helpful in the process.

I realized the importance of voice acting and its relation to animation. That both should compliment each other in order for it to be convincing. Thus I decided to research and read articles and books on voice acting for animation to observe how standard collaboration is done.

A helpful book I came across is Acting and Performance for Animation by Derek Hayes and Chris Webster. It describes that good performance must consider a number of elements. The actor must absorb the cinematography, editing, environment, backgrounds, sound, character design and so on. It is also important to understand which creative approach is taken to aid in determining one’s practical approach to animation, performance and having a clear aim to achieve. Hayes and Webster breaks it down into three distinct categories: simulation, representation and interpretation.

Simulation animation is used when a high degree of realism is required. For instance the film The Perfect Storm directed by Wolfgang Petersen (USA, Warner Bros. 2000) contains realistic sound effects that can only be convincing if well replicated.

Representations demands for less accurate movement that can be observed by the behaviour of the subject, making it as believable as possible. In the BBC TV documentary series Walking with Dinosaurs, the sounds created were of something similar in size, shape and action and made believable even though the audience does not have a real reference.

Interpretation is a more creative expression and neither depends on naturalistic or believable movements. An example is Clive Walley’s Dark Matter (one of six three-minute films in Divertimenti 1983).


The fact that they have mentioned about sound design in this manner reminded me of an article I had read by Kate Finan on The History of Animation Sound that is linked below. It details how the two main animation studios Disney and Warner Bros. had their two different techniques of sound design.


Back to Hayes and Webster, they mention the book is not intended to be a manual for writing the animated film, but suggests that directors and animators must understand something about story and script before they can begin to produce a vital and interesting character performance. Researching may help in understanding the script better to create empathy for the story and characters. Finding links between one’s life and aspirations to that of the characters would be better in breaking down the personalities of the character to see the needs and desires behind their actions.

From that segment of reading, I made another search on the relation of voice acting to animation and found an article that discusses the success of Hayao Miyazaki’s films in America voiced by star voice actors. One successful example is Spirited Away’s Oscar. There appears to be two broad categories to ‘quality’ animation star voice, that is it invokes the physical star persona and secondly that quality can be carried in the voice itself. An example is Hamill’s roles as villain Muska in Castle in the Wind and as the Mayor of Pejite in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Hamill drastically shifts his normal vocal qualities in both roles by the level of pitch, accent and pacing.

This mini research has brought to my attention to further detail of the animation process and the groups of people, skills and technical aspects that need to be dealt with. Further reading and research into this area of animation would be useful in creative approaches, influence and application.


Denison, R., 2008. Star-Spangled Ghibli: Star Voices in the American Versions of Hayao Miyazaki’s Films. animation: an interdisciplinary journal, 3(2), pp. 129-146.

Finan, K., 2015. The History of Animation Sound – Boom Box Post. [Online]
Available at: https://www.boomboxpost.com/blog/2015/11/8/the-history-of-animation-sound
[Accessed 17 May 2017].

Hayes, D. & Webster, C., 2013. Acting and Performance for Animation. 1 ed. s.l.:Focal Press.




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