Actors share their experiences working on Chinese animation
Three actors relate how their voices do the acting in Legend Of A Rabbit.
AFTER so many years of watching Hollywood animations, we now have a Chinese competitor in the form of Legend Of A Rabbit (which is quite apt since this is the Year of the Rabbit).
The action comedy is helmed by Chinese director Sun Lijun, also the dean of the Animation College of the Beijing Film Academy.
Screening in Malaysia is the Hong Kong version featuring a Cantonese voice cast: Singapore-born, Hong Kong-based Tan Han Jin (as the chef rabbit, Tu Er) and Hong Kong stars Ekin Cheng (panda villain, Slash), Kay Tse (cat kung fu expert, Peony) and Teddy Robin (monkey kung fu master, Sifu).
n order to properly showcase traditional Chinese martial arts with visual animation, Legend Of A Rabbit features seven fight scenes choreographed by leading tai chi master Jing Jianjun.
The story follows Tu Er, who agrees to help the dying Sifu return a Kungfu Academy Tablet to his daughter Peony. When Tu Er makes it to town, despite an encounter with bandits, he discovers that the academy has been taken over by the power-hungry Slash.
Having promised Sifu, he stays on as a kitchen helper to find Peony despite being continually bullied by the kitchen crew. In order to take on Slash, Tu Er has to learn the true meaning of Sifu’s martial art.
In separate phone interviews from Hong Kong, Tan, Tse and Robin, who all have experience doing voice-overs, shared their experiences working on the Chinese animation.
“Before Legend Of A Rabbit I’d only done the voice-over for Rio and it was for a supporting role. So, when I was asked to do this, I thought it was also for a supporting character. But, no, I was working with Ekin Cheng, Teddy Robin and Kay Tse,” shared Tan, who was last seen as one of the protagonist’s buddies in Bruce Lee, My Brother (2010), for which he was nominated as Best Performer at the 2011 Hong Kong Film Awards.
Tan also spoke of other challenges doing the voice-over.
“The script was written in Mandarin and not properly translated into Cantonese so I had to work with the voice-over coach to make it sound more Cantonese. The whole process was just so much fun. I believe Ekin, Kay and Teddy had to do the same, to make it all sound more natural.”
When teased about his resemblance to the titular character, Tan laughed, “Ah, yes! We’re both on the plump side, love to eat good food and say silly things.”
t may not be Tse’s first time doing a voice-over for a cartoon, but she has always played humans so she let her imagination soar when asked to voice the heroine Peony.
“The character’s a cat, so I initially imagined that I had to add some feline sounds at appropriate moments,” meowed Tse who gave a little demonstration, much to the media’s amusement.
“But, that was before I watched the film. I discovered that I didn’t have to do that as she was really a very cool character and spoke just like a hero would,” offered Tse, who is better known as one of Hong Kong’s current top four female Cantopop singers (alongside Joey Yung, Miriam Yeung and Denise Ho).
As for her biggest challenge, Tse admitted that they came in the form of combat sounds. “Since Peony was a martial arts expert and had several fight scenes, a national-level kung fu expert was invited to choreograph the combat scenes, which were really fun to watch. But, with me not being a fighter, it was quite a challenge using my voice to portray the fight sequences,” the bubbly singer-actress explained, complete with another round of fight scene demonstrations.
Doing voice-overs is a piece of cake for Robin. “I’ve been recording for Rediffusion (equivalent to cable radio) since I was about eight. I also did many children’s programmes.
“But, I haven’t done too many cartoon voice-overs because my voice is too easily recognisable. Hence, I only take on roles that are deemed suitable for me,” continued the China-born, Hong Kong-based Robin, 66, whose role in Gallants (2010) won him Best Actor kudos at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards as well as Best Supporting Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards, where he also won for Best Original Score.
Completing his voice-overs in less than half a day, the veteran actor-singer said things are much easier these days with the advent of technology. “I’d just have to record my part, and if the mouth or lip movements didn’t quite match up, all they had to do was tweak it a bit using some image manipulation software. It was all done very quickly, without any fuss. Hence, it was such an easy and relaxing job for me.”
As China’s first 3D animated feature, the 90-minute film was the result of a team of 500 animators working over 1,000 days and nights. With a small investment of RMB120mil (RM56mil), and a production time of three years, Legend Of A Rabbit is set to rival Hollywood animations as the makers look forward to a US release.
Currently, the film has been snapped up by distributors in over 62 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Holland, Turkey, Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Disney’s animation channel.
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