Sound Design for Cartoon Animations

The purpose of this blog is to cross-reference some basic principals behind designing audio for cartoon/animations with the sonic design of Rocket Dog.

In a lot of ways, designing audio for media across the post-production spectrum seems to follow similar basic principles from project to project; Compositions, Foley, ADR & Sound effects. That being said, the philosophy behind the design varies significantly when working on animation based projects. Cartoon animations tend to be of a comedic/humor based genre where the sound design plays a supportive role in providing non-diegetic cues to enhance the comedic value of the piece.

The term “sound effect” is commonly overlooked, this isn’t just an empty space where the music and dialog don’t fit or just a sample to fill the space. A sound effect, is when sound design is used to communicate and better-translate the visual meaning. Where music can convey emotions behind a scene, the sound effect sonically describes actions and movements.

“In animation especially, sound effects play an important role in conveying action. Music helps express emotion. Now that last statement may seem obvious to a lot of people, but sometimes everyone needs to be reminded. If a character is moving quickly, slamming doors, zipping and zooming around and knocking things over, then one probably has enough sound effects to carry the action. Music could help convey speed but not hit all the hits. However if the character is sitting or walking or doing a repetitive action, there’s only so much sound effects can do. That’s the time for a great musical melody to convey the emotion of a scene.” – Michael Geisler 

Like most post-productions, balancing the level of diegetic to non-diegetic assets is crucial in setting the vibe in a film and in terms of enhancing the comedic value of a film means utilizing the power of over-the-top type sound effects. Unfortunately like everything else, over using these effects tend to lose their value and can make a film seem less dynamic. As an alternative, the music can also play an important role in cueing actions and therefore work as sound effect too.

The Rocket Dog Sound

To make this a little easier, I’ve done a rough edit and cut some key examples of the Rocket Dog design.

Beginning with the first cut, Rocket Dog delivers a letter to Bob via his butthole. This is a great example how over-exaggerated the sound effects are; no-one’s butthole sounds like a stretching balloon followed by a synthetic pop and fart layered together, then again, I’m yet to hear some one deliver a letter via their butt haha. In the next cut Rocket Dog slams the door open, and subtly layered underneath the “realistic” sounding diegetic effects are some completely unrealistic non-diegetic effects; a laser followed by what seems to be the beginning of an alarm tone (might need a few listens to recognize).

WHAM! ZIP! BOING! The next two cuts are short examples of non-diegetic effects similar to earlier examples of crazy Looney Tunes cartoons that we all know and love. As unrealistic as they may be, these types of effects have become a producers’ staple in post-production. They help convey a sense of craziness and madness.

“Claire, she’s special” and “I Killed Her!” are examples of how music can be used as an effect and perhaps also convey emotive meanings. In the first example, Bob turns around with glee, thinking of Claire meanwhile their is  a fast arp trill progressing higher musically. Obviously, this isn’t anything new but in reference to the full episode, this section provides musical transition in the mood of the scene. The use of bright and sparkly bells emits a cute and soft feeling which can be seen on Bob’s face.

In contrast to this, the music behind Rocket Dog’s “I Killed Her!” is quite the opposite. It is low and rumbly in texture, dark sounding and disjointed in structure. This musical effect puts Rocket Dog in an evil/horrific/dark light.

 

 

 

 

REF~

Geisler, M. (April 1999). Whap! Zing! And a Holler: Animation Sound Design. Animation World Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.awn.com/mag/issue4.01/4.01pages/geislersound.php3.
Ricard, D. (January 2009). Cartoon Composing: Scoring an Animated Series. Sound On Sound, Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan09/articles/supernormalscoring.htm.

 

Anderson, A. (2015, April, 23). The key to outstanding animation sound design. Sound Design Guides, Retrieved from http://www.asoundeffect.com/animation-sound-design/.
Isaza, M. (2009, December, 8). Treg Brown and the sound of Looney Tunes. Retrieved April 25, 2016, from http://designingsound.org/2009/12/treg-brown-and-the-sound-of-looney-tunes/

 

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