The Beaver's Characterisation
I've been thinking a bit across a few of the other threads about the common tropes that are employed when voice-casting animal characters. Typically humans tend to personify animals in certain ways (so Foxes are cunning, Owls are wise, Snakes are devious, etc. etc) and this then tends to inform the sorts of human voices we expect these animals to have in film.
Therefore when it comes to the Beavers, I was trying then to think about the ways in which we tend to characterise these types of animals in film and literature, and more often than not I keep coming back to the central idea of Beavers as Builders, and Beavers as Home-makers. Sure other animals build nests, but no other animal seems to be as uniquely associated with Construction and Home-making as the Beaver is.
And perhaps that's why I feel the casting of the two Beavers in the Walden LWW is so strong. You've got Ray Winstone with this quintessential East-End working class accent which leans heavily into the idea of the "Beaver as a Construction Worker", and then you've got national treasure Dawn French with this warm and inviting motherly voice which leans into the idea of the "Beaver as a Homemaker".
I'm sure one could argue that this is framing it into traditional gender roles a tad too much, but i don't think it really comes across that way in the movie, that's just more me trying to retroactively deconstruct it. Either way, I think this is one of the most spot-on castings from the Walden films.
Anyway, i guess my questions for the forum would therefore be twofold:
- if sticking with this traditional personification or Beavers as working class builders and homemakers, is there actually a better combo than Ray Winstone and Dawn French?
- if going for a completely different take, what would be the fundamental characterisation of Beavers as an animal that would be used to personify them?
Well, I think you're right that you'd be hard pressed to find a better duo than the originals... I'm not sure that this is a better alternative, but what about the real-life couple Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter? I know Jim Carter has already been suggested for Aslan on a different thread but I think he might also have a Mr. Beaver in him - his voice has a very warm, earthy quality that might work.
PM me to join the Search for the Seven Swords!
Co-founder of the newly restored Edmund Club!
Did I mention I have a YouTube Channel?: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeuUaOTFts5BQV3c-CPlo_g
Check out my site: https://madpoetscave.weebly.com
signature by aileth
The Beavers in the BBC television series had very clumsy looking costumes, but I think the actors portraying them were quite good. It would have been hard at that time to have real looking animal costumes, but ridiculous as they looked I think the actors in them did give the animals some credibility. The Beavers in the Walden films were pretty good although their dialogue wasn’t always completely accurate to the book. I found them very likable and their characters were fairly close to the way Lewis portrayed them. I think Lewis’ talking animals were among the best ever created in literature since they are so much like the real thing. 🙂
@narnian78 Dodgy costumes aside, it's interesting that in the BBC version, the Beavers both seem to have some sort of Somerset / West Country sort of accent. Again it seems to be going with the general concept that Beavers are the working class animals of the woodland world.
Even in American media, Beavers tend to end up with rural accents that sound to me like some sort of old "1860s Prospector" (i.e. like the Beaver in Lady & The Tramp) which is perhaps designed to evoke the idea of a Sawmill worker, or a Lumberjack working in the Frontier woodlands.
On the one hand I feel like Beavers as a species are hard done by with their media portrayal, on the other hand it's clearly a useful audio-short-hand to use working class and rural accents to sell the concept and meaning of a Beaver as a Tree Cutting, Dam Building worker.
Still, I can't help but wonder if there is a different trope that could be found there.
A production of LWW I saw in Canada a few years ago had a very suitably Canadian beaver! His accent, clothing, and gear were all suitable for the country we most associate with beavers!
BBC's Mr Beaver was actually a Canadian, and it's a shame the production didn't allow him to use his own accent, instead of a West-Country one. The 1960s black & white one had a very west country Mrs Beaver in one of the remaining excerpts. (Mrs Beaver was played by Lesley Nicol, who Downton Abbey fans will know as the cook Mrs Patmore)
There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."
The Beavers were very well done in the BBC production with the speaking parts even if the costumes were awkward and ridiculous. This was also true of the other talking animals. I don’t think the other animals had outfits that were terrible although they might have worked better for a stage play, which is what the 1967 version looked like. But people will accept something that looks artificial in plays more easily because they are expecting the background to be artificial and more theatrical than a movie or television series. The Aslan puppet used by the BBC was actually kind of nice. I really liked it except for the mechanical mouth movement. The Beavers had human mouths which looked rather artificial, but that was probably the only way they could have had people in costumes. I think the acting made up for a lot of what could not be achieved technically and especially with having realistic talking animals. It greatly helped to show their characterization.