Stating that acting is nothing to do with the words in a dialogue only means that there a lot of elements that play a more important role in acting and in animation than just words and the reason for this is that human’s sense of sight is more powerful than hearing. What we see is more important than what we hear and there are often contradictory messages sent from what we detect in body language by sight than what we are actually hearing a person say.
It is what is underneath the words what is important. People often make connections and associations (conscious or unconscious) from what they have learned through previous experiences. There is a different reaction to each situation depending on a persons memory that is highly tight with his/her emotions. After that association is made, there is an intellectual response and then finally the words come out.
Body language may be the most important part of human communication. This is why animators can sell a story and even achieve emphathy in non-human characters that also do not say any words. The best example of this might be Luxo, Pixar Animation Studios character logo:
Other substantial elements to take into consideration are:
– Timing and Pacing (tone and pacing in words and in between them may change the meaning of the whole scene)
– Psycological Gesture: The method invented by Michael Chekhov which add a personal touch to each character. It is the movement that expresses the psychology of a character, the physical expression of the thoughts. It indicates if a person is angry, resentful, happy, cheerful, sad, scared… by a unique gesture.
In animation, the eye movement plays an important part to let the acting read especial messages.
– Character analysis and scene analysis: This plays a huge part on the action, since is the starting point to the acting and the reactions each character is going to perform
– Power Center: Best explained by Keith Lango: http://www.keithlango.com/tutorials/old/powerCenter/powerCenter.htm
– Status Negotiation: People are constantly debating on who has the major power in a two/more person dialogue, and also, the relationship between those characters has a big influence on the way they may act (If they are enemies or lovers). The example I used for the presentation was a scene from Looper:
– Atmosphere: A person will not act the same at his/her home than in a park or a classroom, or a dungeon. The atmosphere around them makes them act differently, either by morals, education or simply because of emotions and comfort.
Two very interesting articles about eye movement and animation: