When stepping into the role of an animated character, it is important to make sure you understand the character’s development and their motivations. This is especially important if you will be the voice of multiple characters within the same animation – so that you can voice each character in a unique and convincing way.
Voice coach and actor Rachel Alena shares how she gets into the mindset of the characters she plays – and gives the example of how she mastered multiple roles in an animated version of “The Three Little Pigs.”
Rachel Alena Describes How to Get Into Character
Narration for animation! It’s all about character development.
Let’s talk pigs.
As the voice of the interactive children’s app, “The Three Little Pigs,” by Irene Deev, I had to be four different people. Or, should I say three different pigs and one person?
To do this, I had to ask myself some questions. Things such as, “What makes each pig unique?” “How is squiggly tailed Nicky or super smart Ricky different from extra nerdy Mickey or the kid-friendly narrator?”
How does a voice talent bring each character in the story to life in their own unique way?
Character Development in Animation
To understand this, let’s first look at how the process of character development works in voicing animation.
Animated material is produced in many different ways for every client and project, depending on their style, budget, experience level, etc. Here is how it went down with the recording of The Three Little Pigs, so you can get an idea of one process.
Step 1: Audition. In this case, I was provided the distinct characteristics of each little pig. Information such as personality quirks, speaking style and personal interests were given. I was then asked to send back recordings of the voices I came up with.
Step 2: Develop the characters. For me, creating backstories for the piglets was key. I asked myself questions such as, “What is Ricky’s favorite thing to do?” “What makes Mickey happy?” “What makes him sad?” “What did Nicky do this morning?” “What SPECIFICALLY makes each of these piglets tick?”
This last question is my favorite because, as a voice actor, you need to be able to dive into the MOTIVATION of your character. This allows you to provide deeper nuances and personality.
Step 3: Develop your character’s unique sound. In animation, your ability to manipulate vocal sounds is very important! When working on character development of the Three Little Pigs, I asked myself things like, “Based on what I know about these characters, should Nicky’s voice be higher than Ricky’s?” “Does Mickey talk slower than the others?” “How old should the narrator be?” “What narration age resonates well with the target group of children who will be using this app?” As a voice talent who does animation work, use your vocal range, cadence, style, pitch, and tone to make your character who she is. Then: Practice. Practice. Practice. Next: Listen. Record yourself then play it back. Finally, tweak your character to make it exactly the way you think he or she should sound.
Step 4: Have fun. Narrating for animation is a ton of fun! It’s an opportunity to bring to life the direction provided by the writer and producer. Also, you can flex the muscles of your imagination. While doing all of this, you use your vocal technique to turn your voice into the very best little piggie you can be!
Rachel Alena’s Voice Over Performance in “The Three Little Pigs”
Taking Rachel’s tips into consideration can really help you become the voice of the character you have been hired to play. Ensuring that you set aside time to learn each character and their respective motivations can help you provide a unique voice to each character in the animation. Getting into the mind of the character (link to article in the animation series – how I get into character) will set you up for success and enable you to provide the perfect read for your characters every time.
About Rachel Alena
Expert voice talent and coach, Rachel Alena, is currently the on-going voice of internal recruiting trainings for Microsoft.
Her voice has been heard on thousands of narrations for clients such as Disney, Delta Dental, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Upworks, The Rockefeller Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Schnucks Grocery, Alliance Residential, Ashley Furniture and many more!
Rachel is a recommended voice acting coach of Big Fish Talent Agency. She provides training for voice acting students as well as business voice training for corporate communicators across the country.
She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two teenage boys.