Ever wondered who are the voices behind your favorite characters?
Voice actors possess a particularly impressive skill.
They have the ability to camouflage their voices and become totally different characters making it look very easy and natural, just like Hank Azaria does with the more than 15 character voices he plays in The Simpsons [which has been running for 32 years already!]
Sit tight, because we will surprise you with faces and voices that you will never have imagined match together! We will also explain how a person can manage to make completely different character voices by, aside from the skill aspect, also implementing a few tricks.
The force is strong with this one
Take someone like Mark Hamill, for example. Most well-known for portraying the young lead Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movies, Mark is someone who has had an extensive side career as a voice artist.
The character he is most associated with playing is ironically a villain as Mark Hamill has voiced The Joker from the Batman Universe in both animated series and movies as well as the popular Arkham computer games.
Besides that, he holds credits for a few hundred different voice gigs including appearances in Transformers, The Lego Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Ben 10. Talk about diversity.
Another example would be to picture the voice you think of when you see Master Shifu, the Kung Fu Master from the popular Jack Black animated movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’. If you’re a gamer, picture Saren Arterius from the hit Mass Effect series of video games. You would never put the two of them together and yet both characters – and a whole lot more you might know – are played by the talented Fred Tatasciore. The same voice you can stumble across as animated Hulk, Ghost Rider, various characters from ‘Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ and even Star Trek characters James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy in ‘Robot Chicken’.
Take a look at this entertaining short video exposing the many voices this voice actor has done.
Is that really…?
Moreover, I find the following two character voices quite hilarious and would’ve never imagined that they fit the same voice actress:
Elmyra Duff‘s eclectic voice from the all-time-favorite Warner Bros. animated series ‘Looney Toons’ with Numbuh 5‘s boy’s voice from ‘The Kids Next Door’. Both of these voices and many more are played by the talented voice actress Cree Summer. Here’s a cool compilation of her voices on YouTube:
In case you’ve never seen how video games are now made with motion graphics and voices, take a look at the following video of the amazing Jen Taylor while acting/doing the voice of Cortana from the Halo video game series. Try picturing her doing the voice of Zoey from Left 4 Dead, they don’t sound alike, do they?
Jen Taylor actually did the part of Cortana without having time to prepare for the character. It was all out of the blew and she said it felt like a greek drama to be able to get to those highs and lows (this, since she did the voice of a man and a woman in the video game). She enjoyed doing the parts, saying it was like being on stage or in a film because you’re using your entire body at the same time as your voice. Though, challenging because the voice had to brighten the scene since it’s the most important part of it all.
Keeping it Strong
One of my favorite voice artists with a lengthy and impressive repertoire has to be Tara Strong. She might not be a name you recognize but in the voice-over world she is legendary and I can guarantee you will know a number of the voices she has done.
Probably best known for providing the voice of Harley Quinn in many of the animated Batman shows, some of Tara Strong’s other impressive voices include Twilight Sparkle [My Little Pony], Ben Tennyson[Ben 10], Raven [Teen Titans], Penny [Inspector Gadget] and even little Sunny [A Series of Unfortunate Events]. And literally hundreds more.
An interesting fact is that many popular animated boy voices are provided by women with Nancy Cartwright as the voice of Bart Simpson probably the most famous.
Master of the voices
Let’s now listen to the fabulous voice actor Hank Azaria.
Hank Azaria did more than 15 different character voices in The Simpsons. The video below shows him doing the voice-overs of each of his characters almost at the same time:
So, my question is:
How can these voice actors do such different character voices?
Every voice actor has their own tips and tricks that help them to impersonate a range of different characters and fulfill the perfect voice over.
There are so many tricks that each one has… but to help you get started I put together a small compilation of some tricks most voice actors use. Before you get started with trying these out though, the number one lesson is about research and listening.
Find examples of the kinds of voices you want to present. And watch them over and over again. If the character has a specific accent you are trying to master, there are tons of videos on YouTube that will help you to discover the nuances of that particular accent. Watch and learn and then practice. Practicing your voices into the mirror or a recording device over and over again will help them to become second nature for you and be there ready to access when you need them.
But here are a few practical tips to help you refine the voices you are working on:
Trick 1: Place the voice of the character you’re going to create somewhere in your mouth and find out exactly where it sits. As soon as you can find out where it sits, you will be able to manage your vocals perfectly every time you’re going to do the voice over. You should try different positions and postures since bizarre character voices could sit right in the back of your head, top of your throat, underneath your throat muscles, side of your head, etc. As soon as you find the exact place in your head and throat where the voice is going to sit, try practicing lots of times to be able to do it smoothly and easily. Place the voice and see how to play with it.
Trick 2: Try playing around with different shapes with your mouth since this makes a huge difference in how nasal the voice sounds. Try this with your mouth wide open, closed, half-way closed, corners opened, and so on.
Trick 3: If you want to reach a deep sound, then open the back of your throat all the way forward to the teeth. If you want to sound older, do it really nasally by closing your throat so the amount of air that comes and goes is reduced.
Trick 4: Try playing with your falsetto and play it at different times of the day since this influences the type of voice you’re doing.
Trick 5: Some find it useful to try modeling your character into people you know. It doesn’t have to match one exact person, but you can combine aspects from different people you know to try to imagine how your character will look like and act like. This also helps you to retrieve the voice immediately when you need to as you can start with the image of the person who inspired that voice for you.
You can find some more help for improving your voicing technique over here.
And now over to you
I would love to know what you think of the voices shown here, which ones surprised you, and which ones didn’t. Also, feel free to post your comments on who do you think is the best voice actor of all times doing completely different character voices!
An article on character voices should not end without paying at least a moment’s homage to Robin Williams who combined incredible improv to many of his characters, including a huge percentage of the genie’s ramblings in the original animated Aladdin movie. He definitely showed us how doing voice-over work can truly be an art.
Maybe you will be the next name on this list? All the best as you venture forth and speak your way into the world of voice over.