Beginning. Middle. End

The following narrative is my description of recording my first ever commercial voice over gig for a Boston area radio commercial. 

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Deafening. The silence is absolutely deafening. 

Thick padded walls, subwoofers that supersede my body weight, dual monitors with custom built transparent towers, and a motherboard sound system with dials and EQ’s that I’ve never heard of. 

Wait the script. You’ve got a commercial to do, focus…

“I’m just gonna set up the mic, and we can get started. Just need five minutes!” 

I mutter a response, in this acoustic space, even the faintest whisper can be a scream. I had dreamed for quite some time what recording in a professional environment would be like. But I wasn’t quite expecting such an overwhelming atmosphere. 

No you idiot, focus, look back at the script. Highlight, look for articulation points…wait, why is my heart racing so fast? 

“Everything is all set up!”

“Okay!” 

I sound a bit hurried, too unsure of myself. In my haste to answer, my voice had cracked slightly. You can’t do that. It’s time to record, I push any thoughts on unease out of my mind. 

“Check. Check…testing 1, 2, 3…” 

The recording room itself is even more deadened than the the audio space. There’s no electrical hum, no ambience. Nothing but the feedback from my own voice, and about 12 inches of meticulously placed acoustic foam and tiles. My director is too busy setting up the software. My mouth is cotton, but the high sensitivity ribbon microphone picks up every lip smack, every swallow, every breath. I’m not usually this nervous before any recording…

I look back to the script…

“Don’t be nervous!” 

My director’s voice cuts through the silence. She is Chinese, an exchange student only a couple years older than me. English is obviously her second language, but beneath her thick accent I can hear she is as just as nervous and excited as I am. Somehow, for some reason, that makes me feel better. I take a small breath, and readjust my headphones. 

She’s poured her heart and soul into this radio advertisement, and she reached out to me to help make this project a reality. I can’t let the butterflies in my stomach delay this pivotal moment in my budding career, and hers. In a flash, anxiety and trepidation are replaced with a sense of energy and excitement I’ve never felt before. 

“Not anymore, roll tape!” 

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The Iconic Cameos of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

1988 was an incredibly significant year for American animation.

In this historic year, Walt Disney subsidiary Touchstone Picture released “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, a live-action/animation drama adventure film adaptation of the novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”. The film stars Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleisher, Christopher Lloyd, and Joanna Cassidy. In the universe of the film, cartoon characters co-exist with real life people and live in their own fictional “Toon Town” in Hollywood. A-list toon, Roger Rabbit (Voice and Body Stand by Fleisher), is framed for a crime he did not commit. Detective Eddie Valiant (Hoskins) is hired to look into the case, and the two find themselves uncovering a large conspiracy that threatens the existence of “Toon Town.”

While the plot of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is heavily focused on the adventure of its two protagonists, Valiant and Roger, the film is most famous for its iconic cameos. In order to convey a sense of realism, Walt Disney acquired the licenses to have several well known cartoon character cameo in the film. Executive Producer Steven Spielberg held extensive creative control of the project, and had several well standing relationships with different film studios.  Warner Bros., Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures all loaned there well known character to have appearances in the film. The following is a shortlist from the films more significant and iconic appearances. 

Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse First Official On Screen Appearances Together: 

This above scene marks the first time in animation history that Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse have appeared on screen together. Warner Bros. lent the use of Bugs Bunny to Disney under strict provisions. He must share the exact amount of screen time and dialogue as Walt Disney’s mascot, Mickey Mouse. Warner Bros. wouldn’t accept more or less, they wanted the two icons to stand as equals. Disney agreed to these demands, and took it a step further by having the characters appear together, and sharing the exact same amount of screen time down to the frame. Mickey Mouse appears as the innocent one of the two, while Bugs is the mischievous stinker. 

An interesting aspect of this scene is that this is last time Bugs Bunny’s original voice actor, Mel Blanc, would provided the voice for the wascaway rabbit. Blanc died a year after the film was released. 

Daffy and Donald Duck’s Piano Duel 

In addition to having the two giants appear on screen together, the films also features a hilarious piano duel between the rival studios dastardly duck characters. Similarly to Bugs and Mickey, both characters appear on screen together and share the same amount of dialogue. 

Response to “Why Rafiki?”

The following is a pingback response to Nick Anthony’s blog post “Why Rafiki?.

Anthony’s blog post is as much fascinating, as it is insightful into the philosophy of everyones favorite mandrill from The Lion King. For those potentially unfamiliar, Rafiki is a character the 1994 Walt Disney Film “The Lion King”, portrayed by Robert Guillome. Rafiki is the wise shaman of the pride lands, and serves as an adviser to the Lion King and is in charge of ceremonies. In the movie, Rafiki plays a critical role in the redemption of protagonist Simba’s character. It’s through Rafiki’s gentle, eccentric and philosophical guidance that forces Simba to confront the guilt and pain from his past, and return to Pride Rock where he is to reclaim his birthright as king.

Anthony analyzes and presents musings on the methods that Rafiki employs to help Simba come to epiphany, specifically the buddhist overtones and subtexts of Rafiki’s actions. Rafiki councils Simba, an emotionally repressive young lion who’s guilt ridden over the supposed role he played in the death of his father, Mufasa. While Rafiki is unaware of Simba’s exact role in the death of Mufasa (it was actually a set up by Simba’s villainous Uncle Scar), he knows the young lion is struggling with his identity and his past. Anthony writes about Rafiki’s philosophy as “A lot of it is about the illusions of self and the folly of dwelling on the past”, which is true. Simba had constructed himself a carefree personality that didn’t take responsibilities seriously, a defense mechanism brought on by the trauma of the death of his father. Rafiki shatters this illusion by smacking Simba on the head, and telling Simba “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it!

If you want to look more into specifically what Anthony writes about, check out his post! It’s incredibly insightful and worth the read.

Celebrating John Williams

Star Wars, Harry Potter, Super Man, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Jaws…you’ve heard of all those movies. The famous images, actors and stories that what make those films stand out. Possibly though, above all else, you recognize there music. Those memorable melodies and themes that we can hum and whistle along to without a second thought. Who could have possibly created such genius? Did you know, that all those songs, from “Welcome to Jurassic Park” to the simple alternating notes of “Jaws: Main Theme” were all written by one man? 

84 year old John Williams, classically trained American composer and conductor, is a humble and respectable man. He is methodical, modest, and deceptively complex in his orchestral arrangements. Largely brass filled, and percussive, William’s scores have their own unique way to enthrall the human spirit. You’ll be hard pressed to find a single negative comment on any work he’s ever composed. Simply put, John Williams is the greatest film composer alive, and arguably the greatest of all time. 

Williams has been writing, composing, and conducting music for the movies since the early 70’s. His biggest hits of the time, Jaws, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones are preserved in the American Film Institutes musical library. His 1977 theme for Star Wars was selected by the AFI as the greatest film score of all time. He would continue to dominate the 80s and 90s, writing the themes for Super Man, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. He returned to Star Wars for the prequel and sequel trilogy, and introduced himself to a new generation of fans with Harry Potter, and several critically acclaimed Steve Spielberg films. 

He currently has the highest amount of Academy Award nominations, and has one of the highest film earnings of any artist alive. 

About “Silver Screen Studies”

Welcome to the blog! My name is Kevin Urban, and welcome to “Silver Screen Studies”! Film is a global medium, and has been a cornerstone of American culture since the advent of motion picture. From Charlie Chaplin’s persona “The Tramp” to Disney’s “Queen Elsa”, movie characters are embedded in our thoughts and memories. They’re enduring characters that have stowed the test of time. In this blog where we will dive into the incredibly rich world of cinema, and study the individual impact and cultural status of such film characters.

“Cartoon Network’s Cartoon Theatre”, beautifully announced by Don Lafontaine (famed “In a World” Movie Trailer Voice Over Artist) was what first sparked my interest in the movies. From fantastic animated films such as “Balto”, “Cat’s Don’t Dance”, and “Batman vs. Superman” to mini theatrical shorts featuring the Looney Tunes, I was hooked. There was just something about these movies that differed from just small cartoons to me. Was it the grander stories they were telling? The Superb animation? The stellar acting? Perhaps a little bit of all. These characters just struck a chord with, and my brothers and I would quote them, debate about them, and even come up with ideas of our own about what they were going to do in the sequel.

This blog is going to be very fun to write about because I’ll be able to discuss an individual character from a favorite film of mine. I won’t have to limit it to just a little personal journal, no one would care about that! A discussion on Bugs Bunny, however! His place in American culture, his charismatic personality, his rise to fame, now that is something people want to read about!

I do believe “Silver Screen Studies” has the potential to appeal all types of audiences. Anyone with a love of movies, film or even cultural study will reach a lot of people!

See you at the movies!

The Savior from Sundance

Brooks Barnes writes for the New York Times a summary of the winners of the top awards at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

“The Birth of a Nation”, the film with everyone’s attention, absolutely dominated the awards ceremony. The film won the grand jury award for best narrative film, the top award at Sundance, and was voted by audiences as the best film of the 11 day festival. Nate Parker stars in the leading role of the slave revolt drama, he also wrote and directed the film. The film is strongly expected to make a case for the 2017 Oscar ceremony, and could unexpectedly benefit from the recent “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy.

The Academy has come under fire recently for the lack of diversity included in the the nominees for the 2015 ceremony, as all of the leading actors and actresses were Caucasian.  “The Birth of a Nation” is the perfect film to take the Academy into a newer, much more progressive and ideal direction. It’s an undeniably well acted, well shot and well scripted historical, biographical drama with a diverse cast and crew. It certainly isn’t a quick save-all for America’s main stream Academy Award ceremony, but so far, its a small step in the right direction.