A star is born

Mary Donovan Turner has many talents and many voices. She’s a preacher and a teacher as well as PSR’s dean of faculty—and now she’s in the movies. Pixar’s new live-action short film, Calendar Confloption, includes a brief narration at the beginning and ending— the first voice and the last word—which are spoken by Dean Turner.

It was an odd confluence of events that led to Turner’s new career. In fact, it was a solemn moment that introduced her voice to Andrew Jimenez, a Pixar director who earned an Academy Award nomination for co-directing the 2006 animated film, One Man Band. As a friend of the family, Jimenez attended the funeral of Mary Donovan Turner’s mother in May of 2007. A few months later, he contacted the dean and said: “I listened to your voice that day, and I kept thinking about it—your voice is perfect for a project I’m working on.”

That project was Calendar Confloption, one of Pixar’s first live-action short films (“confloption” means an abnormal commotion or disturbance). The story is about a 12-year-old girl who does not want to turn 13; she doesn’t want to leave the wonders of childhood behind. Turner’s voice represents the child as an older woman, looking back and saying, essentially: Don’t be afraid, you’re going to have a wonderful life.

Turner was both terrified and excited when she went to Pixar Studios in nearby Emeryville last June. She read her lines in front of sound engineers, directors, and other movie folk, and was told after the first “take”: “Mary, that was perfect! Now the next time, this is what I want....” She returned in August, after the movie had been revised and rewritten, to read her lines again—“over and over and over again,” she says, “as if I were reading a poem, a journal, a bedtime story....”

Turner is preaching at a new church start, Tapestry Ministries (Disciples of Christ) across the street from PSR, teaches preaching at the seminary, and has written a book about women’s voice in preaching. In October she announced that she will leave the dean’s position next June and return to teaching full time next fall. About which her movie pals will say: Break a leg!