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.[1]

Because animating a mouth in synchronization with sound was difficult, Syncro-Vox was soon used as a cheap animation technique, such as 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.[2]

Comedic uses

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". Syncro-Vox was used in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes "The Magic Tree of Nowhere" and "The House of Discontent". It was also featured 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. [3][4] during a promo in which The Miz spoofed Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In 2011, Syncro-Vox was used in the Family Guy episode Seahorse Seashell Party. 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.[5] 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. In the first Star Wars special of the aforementioned show, the segment Mid-Nite with Zuckuss (a parody of the aforementioned Late Night with Conan O'Brien, whose host voiced the titular character) featured an actual use of the Synchro-Vox technique on an "interview" with Emperor Palpatine as a means to mock the latter.

See also


  1. Method and Means for Producing Composite Talking Picture
  2. "Don't believe your eyes! How 'Clutch Cargo' cuts corners as a television comic strip", TV Guide, December 24, 1960, pp. 28-29.
  3. WWE Monday Night RAW results, December 20, 2010
  4. The Miz meets the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future (now removed)
  5. a YouTube video showcasing the short
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