Syncro-Vox (sometimes spelled Synchro-Vox) is a filming method which combines static images with moving images, the most common use of which is to superimpose talking lips on a photograph of a celebrity or a cartoon drawing. It is one of the most extreme examples of the cost-cutting strategy of limited animation. The method was developed by cameraman Edwin "Ted" Gillette in the 1950s in order to simulate talking animals in television commercials. Gillette filed the technique on February 4, 1952, and obtained patent #2,739,505 on March 27, 1956.
Because animating a mouth in synchronization with sound was difficult, Syncro-Vox was soon used as a cheap animation technique, most famously in the cartoons produced by Cambria Studios: Clutch Cargo, Space Angel, and Captain Fathom, in which actors' lips voicing the scripted dialogue were laid over the animated figures.
Although Syncro-Vox has long since fallen into disuse as a serious animation method (other than the short-lived, and ultimately controversial, Mrs. Munger's Class shorts of the 1990s), it survives in comedic forms, particularly on late-night talk shows, such as Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which used the technique from the mid-1990s onward. In these contexts it is often superimposed onto existing live video, rather than onto animation.
A spoof of Cambria Studios' Syncro-Vox cartoons called Mr. Incredible and Pals was also included as a special feature on the 2005 DVD release of The Incredibles (2004). The technique was also used in the Barenaked Ladies music video "Thanks, That Was Fun", which combined clips from previous videos with new mouth movements. The talking pirate painting that asks "Are you ready, kids?" in the introduction to SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons imitates the Syncro-Vox technique with modern animation technology. Also it was featured in the episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture". Other uses of Syncro-Vox were in a pair of episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog which featured a talking tree and a talking "spirit of the harvest moon", and in some That '70s Show episodes imitating Farrah Fawcett and Richard Nixon. Syncro-Vox was again used in the December 20, 2010 episode of WWE Raw. during a promo in which The Miz spoofed Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It was also used in the Looney Tunes short "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers" when a Daffy Duck doppelgänger tells Bugs Bunny he accepted duck season. Syncro-Vox is used for most of the characters in The Annoying Orange (2009–), Têtes à claques, and is common on Auto-tune the News. A variation of the technique, animated mouths on actual toy action figures, is used on Robot Chicken.
- http://freepatentsonline.com/2739505.pdf Method and Means for Producing Composite Talking Picture
- "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip", TV Guide, December 24, 1960, pp. 28-29.
- http://2xzone.com/archive/publish/results/WWE_Monday_Night_Raw_-_December_20_2010.shtml WWE Monday Night RAW results, December 20, 2010
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQiEZ5nRffQ The Miz meets the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future (now removed)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nLvttWXLLWk#t=406s a YouTube video showcasing the short