Canto-pop star Jason Chan on why voice acting for The Lego Ninjago Movie is different from regular acting and singing

Canto-pop star Jason Chan on why voice acting for The Lego Ninjago Movie is different from regular acting and singing

Multitalented singer and actor says timing is even more important when voice acting because the words must match the animation perfectly


Chan says the Green Ninja's family background is similar to his own, which helped him find the right voice.
Joshua Lee/SCMP

If you asked Jason Chan Pak-yu what he thought about having voiced a character in the Cantonese version of the new animated The Lego Ninjago Movie, he’d tell you he had the time of his life.

“It’s so fun,” the Canto-pop star and actor laughed. “I had the opportunity to dub a movie into Cantonese once, but I ended up not doing it. So [I’m very happy] to have a chance to actually do it.”

The film is based on the Lego Ninjago toy line and television series, and is produced by the makers of The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie.

It is set in the fictional world of Ninjago, where Lloyd (voiced by Chan in the Cantonese version, and Dave Franco in the original) and five of his friends are trained by a wise kung fu master called Wu. Their goal? To beat Garmadon, an evil warlord intent on taking over Ninjago. To make matters worse, Garmadon also happens to be Lloyd’s father.

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The ninjas, who don’t get on at first, are forced to work together as they try their best to reach their full potential and protect Ninjago from Garmadon, the “Worst Guy Ever”. “The character I voice, by day is an unpopular teenager,” Chan, 34, said of Lloyd. “But, when needed, he turns into the Green Ninja, and teams up with other ninjas to fight Garmadon.”

Chan found, over the course of recording, that he could easily identify with the young hero whose voice he was providing.

“My father and I aren’t enemies, but my parents separated when I was very young. So I was raised by my mum. Lloyd’s family – his background – is pretty similar. Ultimately, because my voice becomes his voice, the way he talks and the patterns in his speech are mine. It’s the way I speak.”

Chan started out as, and still is, a singer, but his talents don’t stop there. He has dabbled in acting, too, and has several film and television series roles under his belt.

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But for all of his success, Chan’s foray into the entertainment industry was one he didn’t even know about – a friend had decided to send in some of his singing demos to a few record companies without telling him. It turned out well though – so far, the Canto-pop star has released six albums and one EP.

Chan said lending his voice to The Lego Ninjago Movie was a completely different experience to acting or singing.

“In acting – when you’re not just voice dubbing – you have to make sure you appear natural, and not like you’re deliberately ‘acting’ out a scene,” said Chan. “You have make-up, a costume, physicality – these things help improve your performance ... the difficulty is mainly how to become the character, not how you think the character should come across as.

“When dubbing over an existing film, though, you have to make a lot of changes to fit the timing that’s already there. When there’s a pause, you have to pause, too. [To make it sound natural], the dialogue has to be very well written, and the new words have to perfectly match the animation and make sense, too.”

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It was tough, but Chan added he found voice acting really fun.

“I think, in this industry, there are always difficulties, and there are always hurdles. My attitude is not to worry too much about how I can overcome them,” Chan said. “[When dubbing], someone has already animated your face, someone’s already done all the physical acting for you, so you don’t need to worry about if this or that facial expression is right for your character.”

Though he’s currently busy promoting the film, Chan said he’s already looking ahead to focusing on singing again: “I have a concert near the end of the year which I need to prepare for!”

However, we are sure that, now Chan’s had a taste of how fun voice acting is, we’ll be hearing a lot more of his voice on the big screen in the future.

Edited by Ginny Wong


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