This is the third in my ongoing series of posts about my behind-the-scenes visit to Disney Studios last month to learn about their latest hits (Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks) and an upcoming video too (Pirate Fairy). In the first, I talked about interviewing the directors and producer of Frozen. Last time, I covered my experience with the rigging technology the artists used on Frozen.
We had one other stop on our whirlwind Frozen extravaganza that morning. We stopped in the recording studio on the first floor of Disney Animation Studios, and we chatted for a bit with Gabriel Guy, the man who recorded the voices for the film. He escorted us into the studio and showed us his setup, which featured two large monitors and an eight-track mixing board, plus a view into the soundproofed recording booth.
Gabe and his crew recorded most of the voices for Frozen in that studio, from the princesses (voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel) all the way down to the lowliest rock trolls. The recordings are often the first part of making the film, once the script has been finalized. The animators don’t start work on the actual scenes in the film until the voices are all done, so they can match up the recordings to the characters they represent on the screen.
It doesn’t take all that long to record a voice performance for a film. Even the stars with the biggest parts can usually cover everything in a day or two. Sometimes they’ll get called back to read a revised part of the script, but that’s often just another day or two. Disney prefers to record all the voices in the same studio, but in a pinch they can make the recordings in other studios, especially if an actor can’t make it back into the studio because they’re off on another gig.
Once the film is done, teams start recording the voices all over again, dubbing them into different languages with new actors. This is often done quickly in several studios at once to get it completed fast.
In many films—not just animated ones—the actors sometimes have to go back into the studio to re-record their voices for one reason or another. This is called automated dialog replacement (ADR). The actor reads the dialog—either off a script or as subtitles superimposed over a rough cut of the film on a nearby screen. The engineer then removes the old dialog and replaces it with the new recording, and the audience never knows.
For fun, Gabe had each of us bloggers enter the recording booth to do some ADR for Olaf, the talking snowman from Frozen. We had the choice between the scene in which Olaf first meets Anna and Kristoff or the bit in which Olaf breaks into song.
I went with the first meeting, and I had a ball. At some point soon, Gabe’s going to send me the clip with my voice in place of Olaf’s, speaking with Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). I may have it looping in the background of my office for days.