A general purpose computer, such as a personal computer, is programmed for sound-synchronized random access and display of synthesized actors ("synactors") on a frame-by-frame basis. The interface between a user and the animation system is defined as a stage or acting metaphor. The user interface provides the capability to create files defining individually accessible synactors representing real or imaginary persons, animated characters and objects or scenes which can be programmed to perform speech synchronized action. Synactor speech is provided by well-known speech synthesis techniques or, alternatively, by inputting speech samples and communication characteristics to define a digital model of the speech and related animation for a particular synactor. A synactor is defined as combination of sixteen predefined images; eight images to be synchronized with speech and eight images to provide additional animated expression. Once created, a synactor may be manipulated similarly to a file or document in any application. Once created, a synactor is controlled with scripts defined and edited by a user via the user interface.