Jarod and I saw How to Train Your Dragon this weekend, and it was so good.
It was cute, it was genuinely funny without resorting to raunchy innuendo, the animation was fantastic, and the dragon looked like Ivy. Nuff said.
It was also a funny way to end the discussion Jarod and I had been having about voice acting. It’s a discussion we revisit every time I am forced to watch dubbed anime. This time the culprit was Howl’s Moving Castle, which PSU’s anime club showed for anime movie night; I’ve seen it loads of times, but never dubbed. I like me some subtitles, and hearing Japanese. This viewing just hurt. I thought it couldn’t get more painful, and then Billy Crystal was Calcifer and I learned my lesson: it can always get worse. It was like watching an entirely different movie, which was quite surreal.
So the discussion usually starts with me bemoaning the talents, or lack thereof, of the voice acting cast. At some point I nostalgically remember the days when voice actors were voice actors, and big name stars weren’t. Or at least, when big name stars were at least able to read lines without sounding like they were illiterate or devoid of all emotion. Was that a question or a statement, Christian Bale?? Put some inflection into it!! I know you’re Batman but I don’t bloody care right now!
So then we saw How to Train Your Dragon, and while the majority of my mind was busy enjoying itself, a tiny portion purred in smug satisfaction, “This is what I’m talking about. This is how every animated movie should sound– like these are real people, who happen to be animated. I only recognize one voice, and I can’t even place it.” And then we sat through the credits*, and to my utter bemusement I recognized the names of a good portion of the major characters. The one I did recognize turned out to be Craig Ferguson, whose late night show is one of the few reasons I lament our lack of TV. In hindsight I can think of plenty of movies that have famous actors doing the voices quite well, so maybe it is like Murphy’s Law of dubbing or something. “If you dub it, it shall bite.”
So you should go see it.
*The art! ah! From what I’ve read online, it’s Nico Marlet, who did the character designs for Kung Fu Panda and some other movies. He’s my new illustration/concept art hero. Here’s a neat article about his work on Kung Fu Panda: ‘Panda’ designer breaks it down: How Nicolas Marlet mastered art of ‘Kung Fu’. There’s art books out for both movies which just might have to come live on my bookshelf.