Yesterday I got to see the first animated film I’ve voiced in a movie theatre. Usually I watch the voiceover work I’ve done on my computer, whether it’s a series I’ve dubbed or hearing a commercial on the radio. I auditioned for a role in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish over eight months ago. I won the role of the governor’s assistant. Two lines and I was thrilled. The day of the session I got to DreamWorks in Burbank early. There was a parking spot with my name on it. I felt like I was on a carpet ride. “You’re Pilar,” a young women came out of nowhere, smiling.
“Yes,” I said.
“Welcome, follow me.” Down the stairs and through several corridors. I shook hands with Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado, the directors and was ushered into a recording booth the size of my apartment. We got to work on the role. I said the lines and they coached me, encouraging me to give a different read each time. I heard laughter on the other side of the glass several times and relaxed. Whew, good. They'll be able to use something. Then I auditioned for a one-liner, and we went through the same process. This is what makes voiceover so much fun, I thought, creating something together. Suddenly the session was over. The directors were kind and funny and I took pictures with them.
I got an email a few months later to sign the contract for the work. Another sigh of relief. I realized my part would be used in the film.
I chose the day after Christmas to see the movie. I got there early and settled myself in the last row. The film was adorable: funny, heartwarming, with many wonderful messages. I heard my voice at the beginning and the very end. Then I saw my name in the credits. I started out dubbing in Miami and moved to Los Angeles for more voiceover work but the secret I rarely talked about was my dream to do animation. And here it was, 12 years later, materialized in front of me. My eyes stung.
I leave the theatre, pick up lunch at a veggie place and on my way home, decide to drop off a library book.
An old man is sitting on the bench by the entrance as I drive up to the building. It’s Boxing Day and there’s not much traffic so I figure I can get home before my writing class starts in 15 minutes. I have a soy burger in the passenger seat, the scent beckoning to me to eat. I look over. No Pilar, not yet. I open the car door, walk to the front and throw the book that’s due tomorrow through the slot. I turn to look at the man: blue ski hat, mask pulled down to his chin, and ruddy cheeks, surrounded by all his possessions. I smile quickly as if to say “here, I’m acknowledging your existence, the smile should be enough” so I can get in the car and scurry out of there as fast as possible. I drive to the light and stop. I want to go home, but it’s like there’s a force slowing me down. Suddenly I see Puss in Boots in front of me with his 'look,' his manipulating eyes daring me to keep driving. Are you kidding me? A freaking animated figure? I curse, then turn around in the middle of the street to go back to the library, inciting honks and hand gestures.
“Would you like something to eat?” I call out to the old man.
“Sure,” he says, smiling.
I grab a sandwich and water at a Starbucks up the street and bring it back to the man whose smile now envelops his entire face. He takes the food, giving me the namaste sign. I back out of the parking lot as the waterworks discharge and I can barely see the road.
How the hell is it that an animated film can change my behavior? But it did and I almost didn’t turn around. Then I realized, the most important part of the day was not hearing my voice in the film but the feeling I received from that man smiling at me with ruddy cheeks.
P.S. There were two golden doodles on my street when I arrived and the owner gave me treats so I could feed them. They ended up licking my face. I would have missed that if I hadn't turned around. Thanks, Puss in Boots.
You can see 'the look' at 2:04. The whole movie is awesome 😽