Following is a transcript of the video.
DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON: Boat, a boat! The gods have given me a–
NARRATOR: In recent years, big actors like Chris Pratt The Rock, and Margot Robbie, are taking on roles in animated movies more and more.
ANNOUNCER: Actors and actresses perform for unseen audiences.
NARRATOR: You can see they appeal, roll up to work in your pajamas, and say a few lines into a microphone seems like a sweet gig, right?
JOAN: It actually takes months of training, and sometimes years and when I’ve worked with people that are on Broadway and celebrities, almost always, and these are actors and almost always, they’ll say to me, I had no idea.
NARRATOR: So, how exactly do actors prepare for animated roles? We went straight to the experts to find out.
RUDY: Hi, I’m Rudy Gaskins, CEO of the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences here with my partner, Joan, to talk about all things voice acting.
NARRATOR: Joan and Rudy have been teaching their craft for over 25 years.
RUDY: We’ve worked with Phil LaMarr, who’s one of the voices of Family Guy and Nancy Cartwright who’s the voice of Bart Simpson.
NANCY CRATWRIGHT: Your attention please, your attention please. I have an announcement to make.
RUDY: You wouldn’t believe a 60 year old woman is that adolescent’s voice, but she is and she’s extraordinary.
NARRATOR: But talent is only part of the equation. When it’s just your voice doing all the work you have to make sure that instrument is in tip top shape. Voice coaches lead actors through a variety of exercises to optimize their vocal chords and condition their mouth muscles. Some of these are things you might expect like controlling your breathing and learning to speak on the breath.
JOAN: Hi, how are you?
NARRATOR: Some of them are less expected like the jaw, throat, and tongue warmups that actors do before they get in the booth.
JOAN: Most people, their tension is in their jaw. So, I’m using these fingers to hold the jaw not clench the jaw, but hold it and I’m gonna take a diaphragmatic breath in. So if I go… Now I’m gonna do it on sound. It’s key to have a relaxed open back of the throat, as opposed to a tense and fixed back of the throat, which means that sometimes the breath can’t go out the mouth so it has to go shoot out the nose. And that’s when you get things like nasality.
NARRATOR: Nasal might actually work for certain characters.
OWEN WILSON: Of course I wanna keep racing.
BOB BERGEN: Th-this is my backyard.
NARRATOR: But in most roles, actors wanna speak more deeply and roundly so their voices can capture a fuller range of emotional expression.
WILL ARNETT: Outta curiosity, why wouldn’t you wanna marry me? Just, you know, again, purely for curiosity.
JOAN: The little dingy thing in the back is called the uvula. Most people’s are frozen and they are kinda stuck. So there’s exercises like… You’ll hear voiceover people do that in abundance. And it’s to exercise the uvula in the back, so that it’s almost like a punching bag the way it moves.
NARRATOR: Clever tongue twisters are another key part of actor’s warmup routines.
JOAN: What everyone knows is Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. But there is a lot of tongue twisters that aren’t necessarily long, but they really help nip in the bud certain pronunciations. Abominable abdominals, abominable abdominals, abominable abdominals, abominable abdominals. Kinky cookie, kinky cookie, kinky cookie. Lemon lime liniment, lemon lime liniment. Eleven benevolent elephants, try it.
CAMERAMAN: Eleven benevel… I don’t even think I can say that word normally.
RUDY: Yeah, that’s why it’s in there.
NARRATOR: These exercises help to relieve tension. But even some seasoned actors will still get nervous once they hop in front of the mic.
JOAN: Their throat gets dry, their tongue gets dry. When you talking there’s a lot of lip smacking. What I’ll do is I will eat a green apple.
NARRATOR: The acids that give green apples their sour taste also can stimulate saliva production. This helps clean and moisten the mouth, reducing problems like lip smacking and mic clicks. Some people have the opposite problem. They produce too much saliva when they’re worked up.
JOAN: So they sound like they’re a little drunk, but they’re nervous.
NARRATOR: Luckily there’s a quick fix for actors who hyper-salivate in front of the mic.
JOAN: What I tell them to do is take coffee grinds, just a pinch and put it underneath their tongue, and let it absorb.
NARRATOR: The coffee grinds aren’t tasty.
RUDY: That is not good.
NARRATOR: But they do dry up excess saliva, minimizing the sound of a wet mouth. A unique problem arises in the booth when actors are pronouncing words beginning with P, B, D, G, or T.
JENNY SLATE: You’re welcome Batman.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Besides, I knew the cops would let you go.
ALISON BRIE: Blast!
NARRATOR: These sounds are called plosives.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: And that’s up!
NARRATOR: It’s these air vibrations that are the foundation of beatboxing. But not so much in voice acting.
RUDY: hat burst of air is very loud and dramatic. One of the simplest ways to get rid of that, so if you have a pencil in front of your microphone, and you’re speaking, when you say something like, P is gets stopped by the pencil.
NARRATOR: Contrary to what people might think, voice acting can actually be very physical.
RUDY: You can conduct yourself much the way a symphony conductor works with an orchestra, when he wants something legato and easy and when he wants big motions. You can do that with your hands and your body. If I wanted to say many moaning men, I want that to be legato and smooth and loving, so I can use my hands like a conductor and go, many moaning men. If I wanted to be sharper, I’d say many moaning men.
JOAN: So your voice follows your body.
RUDY: If I said take a Superman pose and now say many moaning men making money, it changes. If I say put your hands on a lectern and become the president then it’s going to change the way you speak. If I say put your hands on your hip and start moving your head–
JOAN: Then all of a sudden–
RUDY: Then now, yeah.
JOAN: You’re gettin’ down. And this often comes up in voice acting where the script is saying that you’re at a baseball game, let’s say, and then there’s atmosphere, you know, the fans are going crazy, but there’s still dialogue happening, right? One of the things that we have to do is we have to talk over, as if there’s a crowd there, but that’s not yelling, it is talking over the crowd or the noise, right? So I was working with someone and they just kept yelling into the microphone so I finally said to ’em, use your hands as if a wave was coming up and over so that while you’re saying the line, you’re gonna say the line as if you’re talking up and over. So when he finally did that, he was stunned.
NARRATOR: In live action films, the actors have sets, costumes, makeup, and practical effects to help them get into character. In animated films, actors have their imaginations.
WILL ARNETT: I’m becoming, I’m becoming I am Batman.
RUDY: When you’re working on a particular script, it may call for a certain mood. Maybe it starts with, brr, it’s cold in here. And so okay, this gonna be a cold experience, but you’re in the booth, you don’t have people with you, you don’t have props, you don’t have a real environment, and you have to create a lot.