Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Voicing pony magic; Calgary Sun Interview with Andrea Libman, the voice of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy


Andrea Libman doesn't need a spell, she just needs to say the words.

The 27-year-old Vancouver voice actress found herself trotted out to fans for her work on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic during Otafest at the University of Calgary.

On the show, Libman lends her voice to timid Pegasus Fluttershy and the vivacious and energetic Earth pony Pinkie Pie.

"I think it works because they are so polar opposite, it's easier to separate them from each other," she says, adding the characters give her the chance to be someone completely different.

"I mean if it was me, I'd be a nerdy bookworm character." (And on cue, an Otafest volunteer suggests, "Twilight Sparkle!")

The Flash animated revamp of Hasbro's toy line follows the adventures of bookish unicorn Twilight Sparkle, whose mentor sends her to Ponyville to learn how to make friends. What follows is an often witty, at times silly and highly stylized journey about friendship and the growing pains that come with it.

Tales from the studio

After working some 20 years on series ranging from Reboot to Dragon Tales to Strawberry Shortcake, Libman knows the ins and outs of voice acting.

But My Little Pony: FIM kicks it up a notch.

The work is prelay, meaning the actors read the scripts first and then the animators draw the characters to match the voices.

"What's unique about My Little Pony is the animators are actually in the room when we're doing the recording," she explains.

"It adds a lot to the animation for them to be there and have the picture in their heads. They can also help direct the voice work and that's really not the norm in prelay."

This style gives the cast free rein to really bring a character to life — something Pinkie Pie fans in particular know Libman does with aplomb.

"I learned that I can go as over the top as I want and they rarely pull me back. I take it as far as I can and then if they need me to pull back it's mostly because of clarity," she says. "(Pinkie Pie) gets really fast."

So what happens when a character doesn't actually speak, such as Fluttershy's pet bunny Angel?

"That's something that really shows the brilliance of the animators. We'll maybe read what's happening in the script, but there's no vocal aspect to (Angel) and the animators just bring him alive completely, they're so amazing."

The show's style is one of the factors that brought it acclaim with critics and a point of pride for Libman is the crew. While the writing and production comes mostly out of L.A. the main voice cast and animation house DHX Media are Canadian talent.

"The voice acting community in Vancouver is just full of kind, intelligent, awesome people — you can't go wrong. The My Little Pony cast is no exception."

The brony phenomenon

And somewhere along the line, a different kind of magic surfaced. My Little Pony: FIM galloped full speed ahead — Nielsen pegged the season two finale alone around 500,000 people — shattering records for U.S. cable network The Hub.

With the target demographic hovering around kids aged two to 11, “bronies” now make up a perplexing fanbase. These older fans — guys typically ranging in age from 13 to 30 — tout the show’s writing and humour.

And as strange as it might seem, this city is no exception, says Libman.

"There's a lot more bronies in Calgary than there are in Vancouver," she says, noting she gets the occasional tweet there asking her to meet up at the library. "That's a lil' sketchy," she says with a laugh.

"But I've had really great experiences meeting people who are just so happy to be meeting you. It's just so
weird. People want my autograph."

The attention has put Libman in a tough spot though. With more and more people wanting details she says it’s tricky to recall in-studio moments because the voice work is done well before the show airs.

“People ask, ‘what was it like when you recorded this episode?’ and that was so long ago. We're the first step after the writing, so were so delayed,” she explains, adding while working on the episodes is a weekly process, it usually takes a year before the episodes are broadcast.

And don’t ask about season 3 just yet pony fans. While it’s in production Libman’s tightlipped about content.
“I like my job, I want to keep it,” she says with a smile.

But the show is an exception for Libman, who squirms a little in her seat at the thought of hearing of own voice.

“I do like to watch My Little Pony because the animation is so gorgeous and now I kind of have to watch so I know what people are talking about,” she says.

“But I don't really like listening to myself. I always say it's like hearing yourself on an answering machine, nobody likes that. And imagine being as high and squeaky as me.”

Lucky for Libman, fans are more than eager to listen and the message at My Little Pony’s core is something everyone can embrace.

"I think what people are relating to so much is it's OK to be yourself and no matter who you are, you can connect to other people and have friends," says Libman.

"And friendship is one of the most important things in life and it's accessible to everyone no matter who you

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