The Evolution of Animation Voiceover
I remember the day I went to have my animation voiceover reels recorded. The session director was phenomenal, and as a Northern voiceover artist, she had great fun with my voice. The session started with her asking me a question that I distinctly remember: ’’what cartoons did you grow up with?’’. This invited a flow of happy memories as I began listing; Dexter’s Laboratory, Recess, Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, The Power Puff Girls, All Grown Up, Rugrats, Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Simpsons, and many more. She went on to say ‘’forget them”. I was like, what! Why? And her response changed my perspective of the industry because “the style, the art, the humour, and the content has all changed since you were a kid’’.
As a 25-year-old, I thought to myself; surely it has not changed that much in the last 10-15 years? The director went on to show me that it had changed dramatically! So, what does this mean from a voiceover artist’s perspective? It simply means we must stay hot with the trends, keep an eye on which actor is booking what, train regularly, and give different takes in auditions. As the weeks and months went on, I learned that what I was used to was not dead, it still cropped up, and some of these programs have a great legacy and are still aired today. The only difference was it now has more diversity. The new stuff did not make sense to me all that much but HEY! Seemingly the kids today love it.
Today’s Animation for the Typical Voice Talent
My daughter enjoys all sorts of content, from Moana to Micky Mouse Club House to Peppa Pig. There is a vast diversity in these programs. First, Peppa Pig is mainly voiced by kids, not adults. Moana is a hardcore Disney story about survival. Then we have Micky Mouse! The ever-iconic voice of him and his friends holds a legacy. So just in my daughter’s daily viewing, I am impressed by the massive variety of content.
As a kid, I remember the characters being either heightened, annoying, or given an accent. The Powerpuff Girls were all a heightened performance with squeaky voices. Characters like DeeDee from Dexter’s Laboratory were annoying beyond comprehension. Finally, characters like Dexter from the same show were given an accent. So, what is the theme amid these unique styles? Well, they all tell a story, entertain, and offer a slightly different performance style to the viewer. Does that mean animation appeals to different age ranges? I do not imagine a 14-year-old watching Pepper Pig or a 2-year-old watching The Simpsons to fully understand what’s happening.
Past and Present Voice Actors
But with that said, what I can say is as a thirty-something male voiceover artist, I find elements of my daughter’s viewing very amusing. They have been strategically written, comedically drawn, and wonderfully performed in an entertaining way for their primary target audience (kids) whilst giving the parent something of a comedy. I undoubtedly praised these phenomenal voiceover artists who do an excellent job ticking both boxes. Finally, on animations standing the test of time, we only need to look at Pokémon to see how something from one era lasts for decades. Perhaps Pokémon isn’t the best example as it crosses the thin line between animation and anime. However, dozens of others, such as Looney Tunes and the Simpsons, fit the bill.
Animation Voiceover Gigs
I have had the honour of working on a few projects, some of which have a regularly growing series on YouTube. Others are on streaming platforms, and some have entered a film festival. Being a Northern voiceover artist working in animation, I was pleased that a casting director invited me in to read for the role of a villain and the role of a soldier in the same production. Both characters valued my slightly less polished accent to complement their slightly less polished persona. I love animation because it is fun – it’s as simple as that! I have no deep insight into my love of it, just that it makes me happy. In another project, I had the privilege of playing the character on a journey from being sad to trying new things and ultimately becoming an absolute rockstar!
In that one character, I had to portray three different things considering tone, pitch, tempo, and many other elements of my character development process. Concerning the auditions, I always found the process to be swift, but I guess, like everything else, it’s subjective. I remember speaking with Jamie Sparer Roberts, the casting director for Frozen. She told me it once took her 18 months of searching before finding the perfect actor for one particular role. In other instances, she’s known from the first second of seeing a performer act.