Have you ever watched a Disney movie and wondered with fascination about the voice breathing life into your favorite character? Or perhaps you can recall the number of times annoying toothpaste commercials popped on your TV screen and drove you nuts. You quickly reached for the remote to change the channel only to find yourself stuck with “THAT VOICE” in your head. But what is it about that voice that makes it unforgettable?
Let’s start first with shedding some light on voice acting and how this widely-spread phenomenon emerged. Whilst common belief attributes the first voiceover to Walt Disney for Mickey Mouse in “Steamboat Willie”, facts attest Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden to be the very first voice heard on the radio in 1900.
Voice acting is an art providing a voice for use in a professional piece of audio work. It encompasses a multitude of genres and background and includes animation work, feature films, commercials, comedy, audiobooks, documentaries and so much more. As captivating as it may be to explore the entire spectrum, today we’re going to take a closer look at animated characters and the voices behind them.
Many of us grew up watching Tom and Jerry, but few know the original voice behind media-called character “Mammy Two Shoes” is prolific black actress Lillian Randolph. Randolph’s talent made her employable by the entertainment business despite her Tom and Jerry’s character receiving criticism from the NAACP for the negative stereotyping of black people in cartoons.
Other beloved animated characters are The Simpsons. The man voicing Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy and Carl Carlson is Emmy-award winner Hank Azaria. He joined the show aged 25, having previously performed only one voice over as an animated dog in the Fox pilot Hollywood Dog. In an interview given to GQ on his iconic Simpson voices and movie roles, Azaria indirectly says that the inspiration behind his work comes from familiar sources: “Anytime I’m doing a voice, which is often for me, is based on someone I know.”
What do Moana’s Maui and Dwayne Johnson’s grandfather have in common? They look awfully similar. In fact, Johnson tweeted that his grandfather, High Chief Mavia of Samoa was a partial inspiration for Maui, a demigod of the South Pacific. Although American actor Dwayne Johnson is best known for starring in action films and comedies, by lending his voice to character Maui in 2016-movie Moana, “The Rock” proved he can do just as well as a voice-over actor. Johnson had to display emotions, practice singing “You’re Welcome” for months and employ body movements to deliver the witty demigod Maui. “Using your voice was exercising a different muscle. It was a great challenge. As you’re saying these lines, how you say them and how your facial expressions are delivering the lines, all that is infused into the animation.”
Voice actors are becoming more in demand with the rise of animation, and the truth is, like anything else, it’s a skill that can be learned. Daily practice to mimic sounds and nuances of different types of speech, recording your voice while reading books aloud and speaking with your entire body during reading are great tips suggested by Pen and the Pad to get you started.
Imitate an Animation Character
Watching and imitating voice actors can benefit many areas of your life, including your professional career. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of body language, but we do so at a cost.
Here’s where the study of voice over can help you increase awareness of body language. You are challenged to reflect on your tone of voice and the messages your body conveys when doing business. The way your contacts respond to it is directly proportional with your matching efforts.
I hope this article inspires you to give voice acting a try and don’t forget to have lots of fun while doing it!