In live action, casting means choosing which actors will play the roles in your film. The right cast can make the film hugely successful. Similarly, casting is key to an animated film’s success. Once you know who your team is, the next step is to assess their skill level and what they are best at. I like to spend some time in the beginning days of production looking very closely at portfolios, animation reels, paintings and any other past work of all my crew. It takes time, but knowing your crew’s skill sets is crucial in setting them up for success.
Just like live action actors, animators are cast based on the character types they have connected with best in the past. Some animators are better at comedy sidekicks, villains, the heroic male or some the heroine. You can call it type casting, but when it came to casting an animator to lead the role of Mulan (for Disney’s Mulan) for Barry Cook and me, there was really only one clear choice: Mark Henn – “Disney’s Ladies Man.” Now, I don’t know if Mark likes that nickname (although I think it’s probably better than Disney’s “Girlyman”) but it is his performance type for sure. He is responsible in large or small part for Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana. At Disney anyway, there is no better animator, male or female, at connecting to the elusive and sophisticated feminine mind than Mark Henn.
Casting is important in every facet of your creative team. If you need help in bringing more comedy to your script, it is a good time to look for a comedy writer that makes funny dialogue come to life on the page. If you know you will need a production designer that will bring a unique take on the visuals for your project that is dark and graphic, then look for someone that is the next Tim Burton for design. Every creative resource you will need is available out there somewhere. These days, you need not look past the Internet for your next big creative talent. I spend much of my week looking at blogs and websites by some of the top talent around the world. It helps me know what’s popular style-wise and think outside the box when looking for the next new design star for a project. If you are a young artist, it is mandatory that you have a blog or at least, a website showcasing your work. Links to your digital portfolio is what employers request the most these days. Hard portfolios that you have to lug around to studios and that could be damaged or lost by employers are a thing of the past for the most part.
Excerpt from Directing for Animation by Tony Bancroft © 2013 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.