Ultimate Animal Dub:
works of Andrew Grantham
Just about anyone can talk. But it takes special skill to get folks to listen. Even talking puppies and kittens get stale after a while — unless their voices belong to Andrew Grantham. His "Ultimate Dog Tease" was YouTube's #1 Video, and he has produced a steady stream of animal dubs that are hilarious, touching, and addictive.
What has made his work so special?
It's all in the personality
It's not just a matter of dubbing. It starts with the personality, the acting. Although he has six cats and a dog of his own, Grantham begins his process by reviewing a thousand or so videos of other people's pets. Pet owners have sent him innumerable candidates, not all of which meet his production criteria, and it can take more than a week to review a couple thousand. He tries to find one that "speaks" to him. Says Grantham: "When you sit down and really pay attention, especially with the sound off, to the expressions of an animal in a video, it's almost like a story emerges without even trying. If not, it's the wrong video."
In Grantham's world, dogs tend to be simple and eager to please. Cats are smart and manipulative. Guinea pigs are hyper.
And then there was there was the beaver welcoming people to Canada in a very laid-back way ... amid speeding traffic.
(The beaver was rescued unhurt. Grantham won't use videos where animals are mistreated,
nor do his made-up scenarios suggest they are. Maybe a bit frustrated, but not sad.)
Although Grantham says he doesn't effect any particularly crazy, cartoony voices, he does have a collection of effective voice types, and for animals that have become regulars in his pieces,
their voices are consistent. Another key to his animals' appeal is that the animal is the star of the video; Grantham is more the straight man.
The importance of being genuine
How does he go about turning the raw content into such viral gems?
Once the "story" emerges — generally while sorting through videos at Starbucks with the sound off — he heads to his Sudbury, Ontario, studio and starts ad-libbing,
building the script in a random, non-chronological fashion.
He performs very much in character. For a jowly dog, he'll hang his lip out. If a cat opens his mouth real wide, he gets that sound by widely opening his.
And if the animal goes way off-mic, so does he. "If they're running around in a circle, I will stand back from the mic and run around in a circle while doing the line," he said. But there are limits — when a dog sticks his head in the toilet, Grantham sticks his in a garbage can.
The time required is unpredictable, but once he starts working, he says he keeps at it till done. He clearly takes great care in aligning the audio with the animals' mouth movements, but he doesn't edit the video. "The only way that you can have something that looks genuine, is if it actually is genuine," he says.
By the time he's done, it all seems perfectly natural. In fact, so much drama has been added by Grantham's imagination, it's almost disappointing to remember that the animals don't actually speak.