Voice Acting With Wreck-It Ralph

Movies People

One of the most important parts of an animated cartoon is the voices. The way the characters sound can go a long way toward establishing their personalities, and studios take a lot of care in choosing the actors for each role. In Wreck-It Ralph, the main cast includes John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer, all of whom play characters whose personalities are not far removed from their popular images. While touring the Disney Animation building, I had the opportunity to see how cartoon voices are recorded, and even got to try it myself.

Recording technician Gabe Guy and storyboard artist Raymond Persi met with us in the recording studio to tell us about the process. One interesting thing that we learned is that before the actors are brought in to record (often before they are even cast), the studio will create a “scratch” track using the voices of studio employees as a temporary recording for the animators to work with. Occasionally, one of these scratch voices will make it through to the final film, when the director decides that the temporary voice is exactly what they were looking for; at Pixar, the late Joe Ranft (a story editor/writer) was Heimlich in A Bug’s Life, and Director Brad Bird played Edna Mode in The Incredibles. The same is true of Wreck-It Ralph; Persi plays Gene (the mayor of Niceland) and a zombie at the Bad-Anon villains’ support group meeting. Persi explained how he created his zombie voice, saying “he sounds like somebody who just had extensive dental work done, so his face is still numb.”

Guy and Persi showed us the recording console and sound booth and explained how the process works; usually the actors record their parts separately, but on Wreck-It Ralph some scenes were recorded with performers together in the booth so they could play off each other and improvise; Reilly and Silverman in particular preferred to work this way.

When it came time for us to take our turn in the booth, Guy asked for volunteers; my colleagues decided that since I had “won” the drawing session, I was instantly nominated to go first. We were given the option to do either Ralph or Vanellope in the scene, and I left it up to the group to vote on it; naturally they chose Vanellope. The scene as it appears in the film is at the top of the page, but let’s see how I ruin it.

Here I am in the recording booth doing my part:

And here’s the clip with my voice inserted in place of Sarah Silverman’s. She does not need to lose any sleep worrying about me stealing her gig.

Wreck-It Ralph opens on November 2 in the US, without my performance.

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