Friday, December 12, 2008

The Mice

I introduced the mice because I was getting tired of my own voice (already, by episode 3) and wanted ways to introduce characters with different flavors. Pitch-shifting algorithms have become pretty good these days, but I preferred the Chipmunks trick of just speeding up playback. It minimized audio artifacts, and anyway, I'd assume mice live their lives rapidly. Although it does mean I have to perform the mice's lines more slowly than normal, which is ... odd.

Perhaps it's also interesting that the mice's dialog has to be recorded separately, so I can speed it all up. Nowadays I've switched to reading scripts straight through instead of breaking them out by character - more on that in a different post, but the mice need special technical attention.

One thing I'd really like to work on is regional British accents. I doubt I'd ever get good enough to "pass," but I've got a good broad West Country, pirate-type one, a decent if overblown Liverpudlian, and a Cockney in my arsenal. I listen to James Herriott books on tape often and try to nail down a Yorkshire, with its gloriously gulped vowels, but I keep slipping into a Groundskeeper Willie brogue. I've got two flavors of Scottish, the ach me wee bairns Glaswegian and a more flutey Edinburgh, and one Leprechaun-style Irish. I haven't worked out a Northern Ireland one yet, though you can hear them on the BBC World News radio. And then there are accents I don't even know the locations for, like wherever Wallace and Gromit are from. There's a touch of those northern vowels that I find so appealing. One day, I shall perfect it. Until then, I have the mice as practice.

As for the mice's behavior: we have two rats. Don't recoil in horror - pet rats have been bred for a while until they've apparently lost all their hard-edged, gutter-living street smarts. Our more adventurous one stupidly begins walking off shoulders into the void unless you restrain her, and they keep themselves surprisingly clean, and go to great lengths to organize their immediate surroundings to their liking, like little homemakers. Their round bellies, fine and soft fur, and twitching noses are almost cute enough to completely offset the long brown chisel teeth and the nasty scaly tails, which admittedly they need for balance.

They are, however, raging kleptomaniacs, and are mysteriously compelled to do precisely what you most do not want them to do at any given time. I think of these charming traits when I think of the mice. I really should have made them rats; mice are so small and frantic that they don't strike me as having the right attitude. Our rats waddle unhurriedly around their cage, when they can be arsed to wake up that is. Most of their time is spent sleeping in a heap, piled on top of each other in an apparent display of affection. Introduce food into the equation, however, and you will see nature at her most selfish.

Rufus, the dumb mouse, is in the same boat as Jack: surely there must be more a dumb character can do than deliver lines demonstrating his dumbness. Dumbity? We were watching My Name is Earl earlier tonight (we only get one channel and sometimes simply accept whatever is shoveled onto us, unfortunately) and their dumb character, Randy, is a mess. His intelligence fluctuates, he delivers long laborious set-ups to lame and obvious jokes ... compare this to the Australian Kath & Kim. While Kath and Kim aren't really dumb, as in slow speech and drooling and such, their speech is sprinkled with malapropisms, in the same way Adele's coworker pastes other words into the suspect holes in her sentences. They fly by and aren't punctuated by a dopey bloop in the score or a face-twisting mugging by the actor - HEY LOOK AT ME I AM SAYING THE WRONG WORD BWA HA HA HOW RISIBLE.

I aspire to write better interactions for the three mice including Rufus; I think buying approval of characters by making them appealing and then letting their personalities react and conflict in response to new events is the best way to end up truly earning a recurring role.

1 comment:

Sydney MacLean said...

For a more softly lilting Scottish accent:

I like Rufus, but my favorite dumb character of all time is probably Coach from Cheers. He was so incredibly dead pan and sweetly charming.

(I find myself describing a lot of older male characters as "sweet" lately; Tony Soprano, the 40-Year-Old Virgin, Coach...)