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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – How Jim Sturgess always wanted to be the voice of a cartoon character

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Jim Sturgess
Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess, pictured) © 2010 Gog Productions

Since he was a little boy, actor Jim Sturgess wanted to do a voice in an animated movie – that time has finally come. In the new movie Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga’Hoole he voices the character of Soren, an owl who dreams of someday joining his heroes, the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones.

When he and his brother Kludd are captured by the Pure Ones, Soren manages to escape, but Kludd, jealous of his sibling, decides to stay on and join the evil band. Soren’s only hope to save the other owls, and hopefully his brother, is to fly across the sea to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians.

I read you really wanted to do a voice for animation. What animation did you grow up with?

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Voiced by Jim Sturgess
Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) © 2010 Gog Productions

Just like any kid, I always wanted to be the voice of a cartoon character. It would just be a cool thing to do. There’s been loads of animation I’ve watched. I was in love with a film called Watership Down.

That was a huge part of my life as a kid growing up. And, as a kid, it’s mainly cartoons and animation that you watch.

How do you feel animation has changed since your childhood?

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Voiced by Jim Sturgess
SSoren and Gylfie (voiced by Emily Barclay) © 2010 Gog Productions

The animation has just been getting more and more exciting.

I’ve nearly had the chance to do a few animated characters so when this came up it was just ticking every single box that I’d ever dreamed about. The story was epic in every way.

They sent me this book of how the animation was going to look and the character’s back stories and different designs for the claws, the weaponry, the shields and the masks.

I was just taken in by this whole world that they’d already created before I ever got anywhere near to being involved.

It’s just fun to hear your voice in this beautifully-designed character. It was such an exciting film to watch. It’s different than watching a film that you’re acting in. It’s this whole fantasy world and it’s a real buzz and a thrill. That’s your voice behind that little owl’s face.

How did you go about finding the balance in voicing Soren?

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Voiced by Jim Sturgess
Soren © 2010 Gog Productions

When I first found out that I’d got the part, I went onto my computer and started to practice with the voice. I did it with a program called “Garage Band” which is on my laptop. I tried out different sorts of things on how the voice was going to work.

Without the use of your eyes and your face, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m really going to have to amp up my voice and really try and make it as expressive as possible.’ So, I kind of overdid it. I was over-keen. I was really shooting high.

I remember when we came for the first day to do our first recording session, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got the character down. I’m going to overplay it.’

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Voiced by Jim Sturgess
Gylfie (voiced by Emily Barclay) and Soren © 2010 Gog Productions

I was forgetting that these incredible animators would put in the eyes and all these expressions. So I had to draw myself back and remember that there would be an acting performance that these incredible animators would do for me.

Once I understood that, I could play it as you would if you were just making a film. It wasn’t a radio play; you didn’t have to just use your voice. That wasn’t the only tool that you had.

I saw the film last night for the first time and I couldn’t believe the expressions they were able to put on these owls’ faces, to put the comedy in them just by a look; the intensity in the eyes. It just blew my mind.

Do you have brothers and is there a rivalry for your dad’s attention?

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - Voiced by Jim Sturgess
Eglantine (voiced by Adrienne deFaria) and Soren © 2010 Gog Productions

I do. I have an older brother and a younger sister so I’m the middle child. Like Kludd and Soren, I’m far more courageous than my siblings. I’m better looking, a better flier. (he laughs) No, me and my brother get along really well so we don’t have that kind of rivalry.

Big name actors are doing voices for animation now. Do you feel that voice work for animation is equally as legitimate as any acting job?

What’s exciting about animation is as an actor, you want to play characters, and it’s not often in film that you get to play a baby owl. It requires animation to get to play a variety of really extreme kinds of things you wouldn’t get to play on film or in the theatre.

So that, for me, is the reason why animation would be exciting; why actors are interested in that platform of acting.

It’s a different way of acting. It’s exciting to take on different platforms to play different characters. I can see why a lot of people are drawn in by that.