'Big Hero 6' voice actor T.J. Miller on the sounds behind the scenes

Actor T.J. Miller and directors Don Hall and Chris Williams explain how voice actors fully inhabit animated characters. Hint: Facial expressions and body movements are part of the game -- even when voice is the only factor involved.

To the uninitiated, voice acting might seem like a pretty cushy gig: You step into a booth, sip some bottled water, read a few lines and then call it a day. In practice, however, it's no small feat to convey a fully realized performance with just words and sounds, as the cast and filmmakers of Disney's new animated adventure "Big Hero 6" will tell you.

In the above clip from the Envelope Screening Series, actor T.J. Miller and co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams talked to The Times' John Corrigan about conveying action and emotion through voice.


"I still do all the faces in the booth," Miller said, clutching a soda and a tub of popcorn. He added, "You have to think about, 'Well how can I verbally be funny, and how do I make sure to express everything with just my voice?' You sort of inhabit the character as much as you would if it was a live-action film, because that's what it requires."

Miller also noted that the actors' performances were videotaped so the animators could use them as reference material.

"The animators do look at what these guys do," Hall said. "And often times they'll go to the tape and get the expressions that they were doing in there, and maybe exaggerating them a little bit, but they always look at what they did in the recording session."

Williams added, "One of the challenges with acting in animation is often times our scenes and our acting are very physical, and so we'll be telling these guys, 'OK, now you're running, you're jumping, you're being thrown against a wall, you're riding on the back of a robot — but don't get more than 4 inches away from that microphone."

Miller said he found it particularly challenging to record walla (background vocals) and efforts (physical motions and reactions).

"You just have to sit there and be like, 'Ah, ooh, hah, ugh, argh, waa, uuhhh!'" Miller said. "It's a lesson in humility."

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