Watching your favorite superhero or other character come to life in an animated television show, film or video game brings a vivid picture of that character to mind. It makes the cartoon or animated character uniquely human.
This is perhaps the biggest gift that animation voice actors provide: the ability to bring drawings and artwork to life, giving them a way to share information, bring humor to life or to entertain, educate or create comfort.
Most people assume that the job of animation voice actors is all fun and games. While it is true that those of us that choose this career have a passion and enthusiasm for using our voice to create a connection with the audience, this line of work deserves as much professionalism and due diligence as any other job.
Study and Practice
I’ve found that great animation voice actors are people who make a point to study their craft. Most of the time, this becomes an unconscious way of moving about the world, with a heightened sensitivity and perceptivity that any actor carries while exploring new characters. Noticing the sounds and voices of the world around us, capturing the explicit and implicit emotional content, watching how these sounds relate to physical movement and expression, and finally storing them in an internal catalog. This collection of studied human behavior becomes a library to call on whenever it’s needed, and oftentimes becomes a spontaneous recall. When a new role or character is taken on, we can visualize the form we are shifting into, and then explore where the voices go.
Learning how to consistently bring emotion, connection and content into the words we speak for our characters is hard work and requires patience and a large dose of humility. We have to research accents and dialects and learn how to use our voices to create a mental image that matches the visual image on the screen. Sometimes I’ll spend hours in my studio space working on a voice until it feels like it’s “locked in”. And even then, I always rely on client or director feedback to make final adjustments.
Working as a voice actor means operating as an entrepreneur and small business owner. Most of us are also our own managers, which means having an eye on what’s happening in the market, building and maintaining client relationships, and negotiating contracts. I enjoy spending part of my time keeping up on what my past clients are up to, so that I can have a vested interest in their success as well as my own.
Of course, the real focus of top voice actors is to fully embody the character and script. This requires imagination, creativity and a real desire to connect with the audience and make the animation truly come to life.
For myself, I find this comes through most naturally when I am at my most playful – relaxed, curious, and fully expressive. I spend a lot of time each day through meditation, yoga, dance and other physical activity to get out of my head and explore life with a sense of ease and excitement that I think translates into my work.