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Seth Green moves, but doesn't speak, in 'Mars Needs Moms'

March 8, 2011 |  6:30 pm

SethgreenimagemoversdigitalIf you've caught any of the promotion for "Mars Needs Moms," you're probably under the impression that Seth Green has a major role in the Robert Zemeckis-produced science-fiction movie that opens Friday.

After all, Green's name and cartoon visage are featured on the poster for the 3-D performance-capture film, and the actor has made appearances on behalf of the animated movie, posing on the red carpet at the film's premiere and sitting for an interview on "Conan." Casual fans could be forgiven for thinking he voiced his character, the 9-year-old Milo.

But while Green's movement is represented in the movie, his voice never is.

During production, the star acted as he would in any performance-capture movie, which requires actors to move in special sensor-equipped suits. Green spent six weeks outfitted in a uniform to play the child protagonist whose mother is kidnapped by Martians (you can see a shot of the get-up above), while also simultaneously performing his lines. 

But during the post-production process, in which animators used computer imaging to shape the character, filmmakers noticed an issue. Green was able to physically embody a 9-year-old -- imitating the movements and behaviors of a child -- but his voice sounded too mature for the character. So they decided to hire an unknown child actor, Seth Dusky, 11, to come in and record all of Milo's lines over Green's initial recording. (Dusky's name is not featured on the poster.)

In an interview on Tuesday, Green said he was always aware of the possibility that his voice might not end up in the final cut. “There was always a consideration that the character would be redubbed by an actual kid,” he said.

Green added that the filmmakers explored other solutions. "There was a thought to doing some kind of vocal modulation digitally, but the truth is that this is about creating an illusion," he said. "These characters, while animated, are very real, and you don't want any distraction from the audience thinking that this is an adult whose voice has been modified."

The actor maintained he was proud of the project, going to great lengths to convey that he harbored no ill will toward the filmmakers over the vocal switch.

"I don’t feel like I’ve been replaced or like my performance is invisible. It wasn’t like I did anything wrong and someone was saying my performance wasn’t good," said Green, adding that he met Dusky for the first time at the film’s premiere last weekend.

Director and co-writer Simon Wells told my colleague John Horn that the filmmaker and his wife (co-writer Wendy Wells) decided to swap out the voice for reasons of authenticity. Even if "Seth's performance made us cry" -- particularly in the scene where Milo's mother saves him -- Simon Wells said that he and Wendy were aware they were listening to the voice of "a 37-year-old man."

While Disney may not be touting the vocal change-up, the studio isn't trying to hide it either. The film's press notes mention that Dusky lent his voice to the film, and Simon Wells emphasized the importance of Green's performance-capture role. "Dusky faithfully followed every nuance of Seth Green's performance," Wells says in the notes, adding that the character was "all guided by Seth Green's sincere and brilliantly convincing performance."

Still, Green's altered role highlights the murkiness surrounding effects-enhanced movies, where an actor's role is often less defined than in a traditional live-action film.

“It’s all difficult to explain to people because the process is so unfamiliar to people in the audience,” Green acknowledged. “But I’m just so proud of the movie that I don’t want anything to get in the way of people receiving it, you know?”

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Seth Green films a scene from "Mars Needs Moms" using motion capture technology. Credit: Image Movers Digital.

Comments () | Archives (14)

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well i just want to say seth green is not funny i really dont like him. Everytime he comes on a show or anything. It makes me want to change the channel. You want to talk about real funny guys take a look at larry the cable gut. Katt williams, jack black, george lopez now those guys are funny. Everytime i see seth green on television it makes me want to throw up. Not to be meen or anything but wow he sucks.

Just want to point out that Will Leitch of Yahoo -Movie Talk On Movies pretty much copied this article. Originally his blog had all kinds of snarky remarks about Green, which readers, including yours truly, blasted him for. Now he's taken those out and now if you click on the comments link you see nothing.

My mistake, he did credit the L.A. Times, but all the rest still stands.

Sooo, these computer jocks couldn't digitally alter Green's voice to sound like a 9 year old?

Idk, it kinda sucks, Seth Green is hilarious. I think even having his voice over would still be awesome, and lol, Larry the Cable guy? Really?

What is the essentiel for an actor? is it the voice? or the appearance? or the performance? With performance capture, the actor's performance is king of the essential thing.

In Polar Express, Tom Hanks also played the hero boy, and the girl, and the lonely boy were played by adult too! And naturally dubbed by children comedian!

It remind me Darth Vader: David Prowse behind a mask, and the voice of james Earl Jones. The "only" difference is that now the mask is in CG.

Duuuhhhhh!!! I don't like this guy anyway. He's really not that entertaining.

Seth Green is funny for his show Robot Chicken and helping out with McFarlands show Family Guy. In Austin Powers he was freaking hilarious so miguel, your wrong. The reason you dont like him is cause you like Larry the Cable guy, the biggest tool of all comedians who probably doesnt write his own jokes. In fact he is so bad that by acting like a dumb redneck all he does is make fun of himself and his fellow rednecks. George Lopez, lame, he probably wrote his own jokes when he started out but I doubt he does now.

Time to grow up Seth. You have no original ideas. Your stewpid monkey label is stolen and your failure to do anything but play with barbie and ken dolls in you off time shows the progress of your charecter. no wonder your still trying to pretend your 9years old thats when you stopped developing your personality...

I think it is nice that a 11yrs old Seth Dusky is the star voice. Now, someone else is getting a chance to become something in life. He such a handsome little boy too I wouldn't mind seeing him on star films. Seth Green is a great actor and he's had all the time in the world to shine. Together the two of them will do just awesome in this new film "Mars needs Moms".

well he did voice in one game i know, Mass Effect2 was a great game, he actually voiced his character(joker) pretty well, and Green's voice fitted Character"Joker" even more.

really, of all the audio recording tech movie's already have: goldwave, audacity, etc and they couldnt just simply raise pitch and filter out distortion?

wether your partial to Seth Green or not, he is an accomplished actor. His humor may entertain every single person, but his fans care. When I first read the Yahoo blog I was thinking this is unreal and what was the real story. The person who wrote the blog should be non biased and tell the whole story. The fact that Seth is okay with the dirctors decision , shows alot of heart. So go ahead and bash him if you want. But as for me, he has gained alot of respect. Keep up the good work Seth I look forward to your next project.

Who wrote this story? Why are they acting like it's some super sonic feat of "digital trickery" that ONLY NOW lets movie makers replace someones voice?

How silly! There was no high tech "digital magic" involved in this. The audio part of most movies, especially cartoons is overdubbed in the recording studio, while the actor watches the movie, trying to match up his vocals with the mouth of the character on screen. It's a long and widely used practice and it's as old as movies with sound themselves.

The audio is NEVER recorded to the same medium that holds the video, so it's easy to replace. This is done in many, many non-animated films as well. Did you ever wonder why they have such clear and present audio between two characters talking at a table in say...a noisy diner? The dialog is re-recorded in a vocal booth and the back ground sound/noise of the diner is a separate recording that's mixed in underneath that. Haven't you ever seen a movie where the actors voice didn't seem to "line up" with their mouth at times? It's because many actors aren't so great at ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement).

In many old movies, where people used to break out into song, the singing parts of many of the leading stars were overdubbed using real singers. I can also guarantee you that Seth is far...from the first actor to have his voice work overdubbed by someone else in an animated picture.

Also, what's with the writers shock over "six weeks of work" down the drain?

Six weeks of work? Are you kidding me? They have actors who work on movies for months only to find that most or even ALL of their scenes have been cut out in the editing process.

Believe me. Even though they didn't end up using his voice, he was STILL paid quite handsomely for his recording time/work.

This is a complete NON-STORY Yahoo!

If Dusky was precocious enough to "faithfully follow every nuance" of an experienced actor's performance, he deserves to see his name on the poster and in the credits.


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