How do you make magic happen at Pixar – and is it true that you’ve casted the voices in every Pixar movie since Finding Nemo?
I think the magic comes from the alchemy of a group of people who love animation; being a part of a creative team that crafts these films and a company culture that values us individually and collectively. I have worked with the Directors, Writers and Producers and my small team to help cast the voice actors in all of the films since Finding Nemo.
How important is it to you that the actors you cast look like the animated characters?
Not a bit – though we do film the recording sessions so our animators can be inspired by the vocal performances of the actors. Best example is Holly Hunter who ofter talks out of the side of her mouth which the animators incorporated into Helen Parr in The Incredibles.
I know that many actors (myself included) have pipe dreams of voicing dynamic Pixar characters (i.e. Crush, Edna Mode, Ken). What do you look for in a voice and what does it actually take?
We see the film’s story reels regularly and when appropriate, meet with the Director and Producer of a film to talk about the film and their hopes and cast ideas they may have for the film. My associate Natalie Lyon and I then make up lists of actors who we think fit their vision for the cast. We then pull vocal selects from the net and films to be made into a sort of a “nonsensical” performance individually or often paired up with other actors to see if the Director/Producer responds to our choices. We look for actors who have textured voices; that cut through vocally and often bring humor through just their voices. A good example is Richard Kind who is brilliant as Bing Bong in Inside Out.
After casting the actors in any given film, does your relationship end there?
Once you are in a Pixar film, you are in the fold. We often use actors in multiple films like Bonnie Hunt and Richard Kind. We also send Pixar holiday gifts to all of the casts of all the films.
As a kid, I would always leave the theaters repeating iconic lines from Pixar films, still enamored with the voices. How do you measure the worldwide audience reaction to your casting?
As to worldwide – there is an amazing group called Disney Character Voices whose job it is to work with various territories to cast the films in something like 43 different languages. They see the films and our English language casting and try to find similar actors in each region.
If you were to go home and say, “Today was a perfect day at work,” what would that look like?
Probably the days where there are little victories and wins that contribute to either the casting a film or helping a Director in support of his or her film.
Looking for more behind-the-magic-curtain-that-guards-the-impenetrable-industry-action? Stay tuned for additional “From Joy to Pixar” stories here on the blog, and check out my story on ‘Piper’ and the Silent Secrets of Pixar!