How to Become a Voice Actor for Cartoons and Animation
Getting started in any new career can be daunting, but launching a new beginning as a cartoon voice actor can feel even more intimidating than more run-of-the-mill career paths.
The good news is that breaking into the field of cartoon voice acting is a lot easier than you may have first imagined. With some hard work and persistence, the following insights will help you make your entrance into the world of character work.
If you’re aspiring to break into cartoon and animation voice over work, these tips and tricks can lead the way.
Performing Cartoon Voice Over Work Remotely
The state of the entertainment industry changed significantly over the course of the past year, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing most film shoots to grind to a halt.
However, one branch of the movie business that was prepared to keep producing at full capacity was the animation industry. While live-action film productions often call for large crews and on-location shooting, animators have the unique ability to continue working from home. One of the reasons for this is the ease with which cartoon voice actors can now record high-quality voice over performances and take part in live-directed sessions remotely.
Owning Your Niche Without Pigeonholing Yourself
In today’s voice acting industry, specializing in one kind of voice over doesn’t mean only knowing one thing. According to voice actor and coach Shelly Shenoy, in order to succeed in the area of voice over that you’re most drawn to—in this case, animation—you need to expose yourself to the 3 main ‘buckets’ of voice over:
- Long-form narration that hones the skill of stamina reading and clean character splits
- Commercial reads that hone the art of the sale
- Animation projects that hone the development of special character work
Think of each of the above as the posts of a three-legged stool. Only when you’ve exposed yourself to all three and dedicated time to developing skills from each, will you find exactly what you enjoy and where you flourish as an animation voice actor.
Our Beginner’s Guide to Voice Acting provides a great primer on taking the plunge and developing your career in the voice over business.
Uncovering Your Niche With Sample Scripts
In their “Day in the Life” webinars, voice actors Anatol Silotch and Katie Harrington explained how important practicing with sample scripts was to their early success. Learning to understand a script, rather than simply reading it, is something that requires constant practice. Using sample scripts, like these video game voice over scripts, is a great way to build up strength in this area.
Getting Into Character and Finding Success
Getting into character requires more than a great voice. It also requires creativity.
According to Silotch, his start in voice over began when someone told him to get into voice acting—not because he had a great voice, but because he had a creative mind. Having a creative mind is essential for plucking out the voice that’s perfectly suited to the scripted character. Successful animation voice actors consider the elements of a character and filter through a thousand different voices in their heads until they settle on the one that embodies the character.
When character voice actors share their advice about getting into character, another point they touch on is doing research. That research can consist of product or company research, script pronunciation, or research into what a unique character, like an ‘apathetic mother,’ might sound like.
To create a fully-realized character, acting coach Dee Cannon recommends asking yourself questions like:
1. Who am I?
2. Where am I?
3. When is it?
4. Where have I just come from?
5. What do I want?
Answering these questions as the character will help you do that important script interpretation, which is just as important as how to pronounce tricky words in the script.
Dealing with Rejection
Every job you don’t land offers an opportunity for reflection. For Harrington, that meant paying attention to the types of jobs she was and wasn’t landing, and then identifying a trend.
The trend she noticed was that she wasn’t landing mother roles. With that realization, Katie now ‘works smarter’ by trying to select jobs that are 100% suited to her skillset and character work. Yes, that decreases the amount of jobs she auditions for in a day, but her win rate has skyrocketed since she now identifies jobs that are perfect for herself.
Sometimes, voice actors don’t win a job simply because they didn’t happen to fit the character. In moments like this, it’s important to remember that, above all, it’s never personal. Sometimes, something else got in the way of the client being able to fully digest the audition demo.
Take your reflection beyond the job description and role by circling back to your audition. Is there any ambient noise in the background? Can you hear rush hour traffic in the background? Is the audio too quiet? Did you follow the specified file naming convention? Did you slate? Anything short of perfection will hinder the client’s ability to fully grasp your awesome animation character capabilities.
Casting Voice Talent in Animation
For the casting directors and animation producers, you already know that everyone loves animation. It’s fun and youthful. It can instantly make even the most mundane subjects interesting.
It’s a good platform for businesses to send their messages, to promote a product or service, and to educate children with fun cartoon shows.
Do you have an animated project you’re casting for? There are a number of things to consider when casting a voice actor in an animated production, whether it’s a TV commercial, cartoon show, film, video game, or an animated explainer video.
No matter what form of media your animation will be appearing on, there are three things that can make the audition process much smoother for both you and the voice talent.
What is the age range of your character?
Much like the gender of abstract characters, specifying the age makes a difference too. A monster voiced in a gravely senior voice will sound much different than a younger voice trying to sound dark and menacing. So make sure that you have a clear picture in your mind about how your character should sound. Doing a search and listening to demos on talent profiles before posting your job is a good way to get a clearer picture of how you want your character to sound.
Do you have a visual representation of the character?
Visual cues go a long way for the voice actors auditioning for your projects. If you’re at a point where you’re casting the voice for the role, then you likely have an illustration of the character or at least have it conceptualized already. If that’s the case, it is extremely helpful to upload a script that contains an image of your character along with the dialogue so the voice talent can look at the image while reading the copy.
Take a look at how this voice actor became the voice for the iconic character of Bugs Bunny:
Visual characteristics help define the persona you are looking for, and by outlining them in your job posting or script, you will help the voice actor accurately perform the character and give their best in the audition.
After these items are nailed down, the only thing that’s left to do is match the perfect voice to your character.
Recap on Getting Into Animation
If you know the job is perfect for you, and you’ve researched and practiced the script to fully realize the character, finish it off with a high-quality audition.
Always keep practicing with sample scripts that showcase your unique talents. Never take rejection personally and always reflect back objectively to learn from the audition.
Subscribe to a Voices talent membership to launch your cartoon voice over career today.