One of the most high-paying niches in the voice over industry is cartoon voice acting. While mastering this art may not be easy, it can be extremely rewarding.
Whether it’s Looney Tunes, Disney Flicks, or any of your favorite shows as a kid, animation can capture the kid at heart inside every person. The life of these characters on screen is due to cartoon voice acting. If you can manage to do a spot on Bugs Bunny or Puss in Boots impersonation, it may be time to earn money from it.
With most big-name celebrities joining the cartoon voice acting bandwagon, it’s time to try your luck. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about cartoon voice acting and this interesting niche.
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What Cartoon Voice Acting Entails
If you think cartoon voice acting only takes a voice who can laugh maniacally and do goofy lines, you’re gravely mistaken. Voice acting takes a lot of effort and dedication. When you audition, expect directors to look for talents who can bring something unique to the table. Whether you are a newbie or an experienced veteran in cartoon voice acting, keep these tips in mind.
If you want to be successful at cartoon voice acting, you have to be a good listener. Common sense is one of the most underrated teachers. Not everyone can afford to hire a voice coach, so the skill of observation becomes even handier.
Listen to characters you want to do closely then record yourself imitating them. Be critical about your voice– is it too high pitched? How’s your pacing? Do you need to sound more bubbly? List down areas you can improve on and try to eliminate them on the next recording. If you practice hard, you’ll improve faster.
Drink room temperature water
Before you do cartoon voice acting, do not drink any cold beverages. It is best to have room temperature water near you since cold water can be detrimental to your voice. You may also use the water to swish around your mouth to encourage your salivary glands to produce more spit. Through this, your throat will be less irritated when you make raspy sounds.
Beverages like coffee and tea aren’t ideal since they can make your mouth dry, which then turns your sound quite pasty.
Listen to directions
In every audition, you’ll meet the casting director and/or the director. When doing cartoon voice acting, it is your job to play a character and commit to it fully. However, that does not mean you should not listen to any instructions. Directors already have a clear picture of how the character’s voice should be. Since you will be paid to do the job, you must follow their vision. Most directors also ask those who audition to try a different approach to a character’s voice just to see if they can take instruction well. For instance, you might do a combination of Jessica Rabbit and Lola Bunny’s voices. It’s up to you to interpret the instructions.
The secret to being a good voice actor is understanding what you are trying to achieve. If you care about your job, making an effort to research your voice character is essential. Reading the script before the audition will help you figure out how you should interpret the character. This step includes choosing the tone and pacing of the character’s lines. You should also think about the audience since your character interpretation for a crowd of 15-year-old boys will be different from your choice for five-year-old girls.
Your creative spirit needs to come alive if you are serious about your career. Just like any industry, you need to get trained to improve your craft. If you are not short on resources, try considering getting trained by a professional cartoon voice acting coach. No matter what your skill level, there’s always something new you can learn.
Your coach may require you to do different voices and evaluate them. Because you have enough microphone time, the coach can focus on correcting your mistakes more so you can improve your skills quicker.
A cartoon voice acting coach will also teach you how to fully embody a character and bring life to the script. This part will not be easy since you will record the character’s voice at least three hours a day. This task can be stressful on your vocal cords if you don’t do it right.
You can’t expect to get hired for multiple jobs if you can only do one voice. Try your best to diversify the characters you can do. Do not simply interpret the script verbatim. Use your skills to add a different weight to your lines. In every audition, prepare a signature voice that does not rely on typically cartoon voice acting norms. You should still be able to play around with various speaking styles.
Iconic Cartoon Voice Acting Characters
Here are some of the most famous character voices that most people grew up with. You may start practicing these voices if you want to improve your vocal range.
Mickey Mouse is one of the most recognizable cartoon characters in the world. This character, created by Walt Disney in 1928, started his career in Steamboat Willie, the first cartoon with sound and picture. At that point, the character was non-verbal and only relied on squeaks and whistling. His voice came in his later appearances.
Mickey Mouse’s first voice was his creator himself. In the last nine decades, more than 15 people have lent their voice to the character. Despite this huge number, everyone relied on Disney’s initial falsetto voice. Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey Mouse from the 1980s until the 2000s, said that Jimmy MacDonald, the character’s former voice, shared to him that they are only filling in for their boss (i.e., Walt Disney). Until now, Disney remains as everyone’s guiding principle for Mickey Mouse’s voice.
There’s no denying that Stewie Griffin has become one of the most well-loved cartoon characters since Family Guy debuted in 1999. The evil genius has an unmistakable British-accent that gives him an arrogant and eloquent vibe.
The baby is voiced by the creator of the show, Seth MacFarlane, who was inspired by Rex Harrison’s performance in My Fair Lady. MacFarlane was so enamored by the voice’s comedic high to low tone transitions that he used to pick up girls in college using it.
Although Scooby-Doo is the star of the show and movies, it’s the voice of Shaggy that stands out among the cast. The skinny slacker’s famous antics are mirrored by his dog. The character was voiced by DJ Casey Kasem, who perfectly interprets Shaggy’s excited and scared feelings. The character’s high-pitched voice, which comes with a distinguishable quiver, can be detected more when he calls his canine buddy or says, “g-g-g-ghost.” Matthew Lillard, who does an accurate impersonation of Shaggy, brought life to the character when the original voice actor retired in 2009.
Just the mere thought of Spongebob Squarepants can make even the grumpiest person on Earth smile. Spongebob’s voice highlights his mania, which is most evident when he laughs or when he’s sad. The voice of the character was provided by Tom Kenny, who is not a stranger in the cartoon voice acting world, having been a part of The Clone Wars and Adventure Time. According to Kenny, Spongebob’s voice was inspired by Jerry Lewis, Pee-wee Herman, and Stan Laurel.
If you are a true film geek, you are probably a big fan of Mark Hammil, who voiced Joker in several animated series, including Batman in 1992. Hammil shared that when he auditioned, he felt as if he did not stand a chance since he is closely associated with the good guy character, Luke Skywalker.
Thinking he had nothing to lose, he went over the top during his performance. Hammil’s cartoon voice acting interpretation of Joker is the perfect combination of silliness and insanity. And you guessed it right; he proved himself worthy of doing a deranged villain’s voice.
Winnie the Pooh
One of the gentlest cartoon characters of all time, Winnie the Pooh’s popularity spans many generations. Pooh’s voice actor Sterling Holloway was a perfect choice. Having done the Cheshire Cat’s voice in Alice in Wonderland, and Kaa in The Jungle Book, he gave Pooh’s character a tender feel until 1997. He was so good he was hailed as the first voice actor who became an official Disney Legend.
The adorable honey-loving bear was later on voiced by Jim Cummings and Hal Smith, who remained faithful to Holloway’s style and tone.
Before the 1990s, voice artists were the only ones dedicated to giving life to cartoon characters. But after Robin Williams and Jeremy Irons’ splendid performances in animated movies, Hollywood became more open to hiring A-list actors to do the job. Most actors only change their voice a little, such as Mike Myers, whose Scottish take on Shrek’s voice became an icon in its own right.
Mike Myers was known for his British accent, thanks to his role in the Austin Powers franchise. But when the original Shrek voice actor Chris Farley died, Myers re-worked the entire role using his unique voice. He initially recorded the role with a different style but thought to make Shrek sound like his Scottish mom.
Rick and Morty
Whoever said cartoons are only for children has not watched Rick and Morty yet. The interest in this amazing series is due to its main characters – pessimistic and alcoholic scientist Rick, and his clueless grandkid, Morty. These characters are voiced by the show’s co-creator Justin Roiland, who will do everything to get his lines right. In one episode, he even downed tequila so he can portray Rick’s high-functioning alcoholic quality.
Pikachu only says his name, but it’s still one of the most brilliantly-done cartoon voice acting ever. The famous Pokemon voice is from Ikue Ohtani, a Japanese voice actress. Although Ryan Reynolds lent his voice to the adorable character in the film Pokemon Detective Pikachu, it doesn’t even come close to the appeal of the original voice.
Bugs Bunny’s “what’s up, Doc?” line is something everybody knows. The famous rabbit can outsmart you in every aspect. The character’s Brooklyn-accent came to be thanks to Mel Blanc, who voiced the character from 1940 until his death in 1989. The cartoon voice acting pillar also voiced Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and Daffy Duck, among many others.
Blanc’s amazing voice is what makes the character snarky but still adorable. It’s hard to imagine that the voice actor actually second-guessed his interpretation of Bugs Bunny at first, and even wanted to give him a Jimmy Stewart vibe. After Blanc’s death, Jeff Bergman took over the role and has voiced Bugs Bunny from 1990 until now.
Ready to Be a Cartoon Voice Actor?
It’s hard to imagine your life without cartoons. While many people think this genre is only for children, it has become a key part of the lives of adults. Starting your career in cartoon voice acting can be intimidating, but once you figure out how to maximize your skill and vocal prowess, you will be able to perform in front of a microphone with confidence and unparalleled talent.