Trends in Children’s Voice Casting

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Have you ever stopped to think about the ages of voice actors who perform child voice acting roles?

Sometimes the voices you hear in commercials and animation aren’t the same age as they sound! A number of voice acting roles are voiced by grownups who either sound like children or who can manipulate their voices to sound younger.

In today’s VOX Daily, we’re going to take a look at some trends in voice acting where casting is concerned for child roles in animation.

Trends in Children’s Voice Casting

While youth can often be mimicked, sometimes it takes a real child to bring the right blend of innocence and authenticity to a voice over role.
In North America, the trend has been to hire child voice actors to perform in animated films and cartoons. We even have a heritage of casting children to voice significant roles in animation including the casting in 1939 of the then 12 year old Dick Jones as the voice of Walt Disney‘s Pinocchio. The film was released on February 7, 1940.

Some current examples within the last two decades are Jonathan Taylor Thomas at the age of 13 as Simba in The Lion King (1994), the child cast of voices heard on The Backyardigans, a number of characters in Dora the Explorer and a number of roles on Arthur.
Many of these characters are often recast with younger voices to keep with the child theme, however, in rare cases, a voice actor can still maintain the voice age of their character. The voice actress who plays Muffy on Arthur, Melissa Altro, has been the voice of Muffy for 16 years having first booked the role when she was 12.

In the UK, the trend is to have adults voice child voice roles, for example the series Little Princess featuring Jane Horrocks as the princess. Many of the cartoons I’ve seen that come out of the UK do feature adult voice overs frequently, whether as narrators or playing the roles of children’s voices.

All this being said, there are many voice actors in North America who are capable of sounding like children and teenagers, often booking more challenging roles in commercial, animation and so on. One very popular example of an adult being cast to voice a child character role was when June Foray was the voice of Cindy Lou Who in Dr. Seuss’ book How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Resources For Child Voice Actors

There’s a book written by animation voice actress and children’s voice acting teacher, Sunday Muse that you might find of interest for pint-sized aspiring talent. Sunday’s book “You Can Do Cartoon Voices, Too!” is available for sale online. The book comes with a companion training and practice CD.

Additionally, there are some free podcasts via Voice Over Experts that are suitable and enjoyable for children that you can find in Sunday’s archives:

What Do You Think?

If you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of children’s voice casting or would like to write in about your favourite child voice acting roles, I’d love to hear from you!
Looking forward to your comment,

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  • Bob Jordan
    December 15, 2010, 11:33 am

    Hello Stephanie,
    My child acting moment happened earlier this year. My agent sent me an audition that simply read Toy Company looking for a ‘Child – laughing & giggling.’ So I entered my recording studio and began laughing, snickering & giggling. Not really a hard task for me since I was the kid that always sat in the back of your fourth grade classroom making all kinds of weird noises as I stared out the window.
    Three weeks later I received a call from my agent saying I got booked for the project. One week after that I was in a recording studio in Burbank having a three way conversation with two directors in New York City as I giggled, laughed and snickered myself silly.
    I kept thinking to myself ” I wonder if they would have hired me for this gig if they knew I was a baby boomer,” but I guess that’s the beauty of being a voice actor. I signed a nondisclosure contract so I can’t tell you the name of the company or the toy, all I can say is I have a sign hanging up in my studio that says “I never grew up, I just got taller! ”
    Continued Success,
    Bob Jordan

  • Carolann
    December 16, 2010, 4:46 am

    Lovely comment Bob, I also am one of those baby boomers who never grew up, just got taller!, but not much taller, yes I also voice children. Which I love doing the most, stay young guys.

  • Stephen Bray
    December 17, 2010, 10:11 am

    Changing one’s voice is easy, if you can not do it naturally. Use simple things like cotton balls on each side of your mouth. Throw out your bottom lip and your voice will sound different again.

  • Heather Farrar
    December 17, 2010, 10:12 am

    Being a 4′ 10″ and a Somewhat petite woman helps! …love doing the character and children’s voices!

  • Christine Ivy
    December 17, 2010, 10:12 am

    I love doing children’s voices, after doing 150 puppet voices over 10 years, it is a niche I am pursuing
    Christine Ivy

  • Julie Anne
    December 17, 2010, 2:08 pm

    My son Thomas(age 11) recently completed a voice over for a new iPhone app and auditions regularly for children voice over roles. Just yesterday he auditioned for the role of a bear in a new children’s audio book series. Lots of opportunities out there for kids and adults alike.

  • amanda wilson
    May 5, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Some people say i sound like boo from monsters inc. it kinda freaky considering i am a 21 year old women but also kinda cool im thinking of exploring my voice now 🙂

  • Aoife
    April 8, 2019, 5:41 am

    I am based in the UK but for my upcoming animated series, I managed to get some fantastic American child actors to play the main characters as well as other supporting characters. However, a few other characters in the show are voiced by adults from the US. I’ve noticed that a lot of American shows with American actors have been redubbed over here with British voice actors, such as PAW Patrol, Nella the Princess Knight and Bubble Guppies for instance, and the characters are still voiced by real kids.

    • Tanya
      April 10, 2019, 7:47 am

      Congrats on finding some amazing voice actors for your animated series! Thank you for adding your insight on trends in casting for ‘child voices.’ It’s fascinating to learn more about how the UK and the US differ in their approach. Much appreciated!
      – Tanya