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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Invisible Actors

The Invisible Actors

Suzanne Smiley

English 151
Dr. Cubbage
October 8, 1998

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The Invisible Actors

Thesis: Voice acting offers little recognition in the area that we would commonly refer to as fame and is a challenging, often frustrating business to get into, but in the end, the benefits in many ways are actually better than those of on-screen actors.

I. What is Voice Acting?
A. Definition
B. Many voice acting mediums
C. How I became interested in voice acting

II. The job
A. The fun
B. The hard work

III. Voice acting versatility
A. Voice actors vs. on-screen actors
B. The voice director
C. Music in cartoons

IV. A voice actor's blessing and curse
A. Maurice LaMarche's example
B. Jess Harnell's example

V. The fan/actor relationship
A. Jess Harnell's example
B. Maurice LaMarche's example
C. Rob Paulsen's example

VI. Other voice actor's work
A. Jess Harnell's example
1. Song in movie

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2. Album
3. Stage work
B. Maurice LaMarche's example
1. Dubbed voice in movie
2. Off-screen announcer
C. Rob Paulsen's example
1. Commercials
2. Re-voicing a movie
3. Promotional spots

VII. Conclusion

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The Invisible Actors

Voice-over actor, voice actor, voice talent, and voice artist. These are all words that describe an actor who uses only his or her voice as a performance tool. I would tell people that the topic of my research paper was "cartoon voice acting", and the typical response was, "What's that?" I would then say, "You know, the actors who put the voices to cartoon characters." They would respond with an, "Oh," and nod their head.

Cartoons are only one voice-over medium. Some others are radio and television commercials, audio books, documentary narration, training films, corporate videos, point of purchase displays, CD-ROM programs and games, telephone voice prompt systems, and many others (Shaughnessy 1). Voice acting offers little recognition in the area that we would commonly refer to as fame and is a challenging, often frustrating business to get into, but in the end, the benefits in many ways are actually better than those of on-screen actors.

My interest in voice acting stems from my love of the Warner Bros. cartoon, Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs. I have been a fan of the show off and on since 1993, but it wasn't until 1997 that I became very interested in what went on behind the scenes of my favorite cartoon show. With the help of the internet, I started learning about the extremely talented voice actors of Animaniacs. Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille supply, among many others, the voices for the show's main characters, a trio of cute, zany species-less creatures named Yakko and Wakko, the Warner Brothers, and their sister, Dot.

Animaniacs is not your typical kid's cartoon. Its humor and style is right up there with the classic Warner Bros. characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. After all, today's voice artists are the next generation of the infamous Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc. When I started searching the internet for information on Animaniacs, I
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learned that there was a whole online Animaniacs community of fans just like me. People of all ages, ranging from the low teens up through their thirties and even forties were all crazy for Animaniacs!

Jess Harnell provides the voice of Wakko Warner, my all time favorite cartoon character, whose accent was inspired by the Beatles' Ringo Starr. Harnell has always loved doing voices, but he never dreamed that he could make any money at it. He feels that the people who thrive in life are those who take something they really enjoy and turn it into their career. Says Harnell, "If you love what you do, you are so far ahead of the game, man, 'cause everybody hates their job" ("Interview of Jess Harnell" 6). An sense of humor seems to come with the occupation. When Rob Paulsen, the voice of Yakko Warner, was once asked how it feels to hear himself on TV, he replied, "It feels like hearing yourself on radio, but with pictures" ("Animaniacs Voice Artists Live Kids' WB!" 5).

Simply providing voices for cartoon characters may sound like fun, and it is, but that doesn't mean the job is an easy one. The business is very fast paced. Voice actors need to be available from 10am to 6pm everyday because unlike on-camera auditions, casting calls are often last minute, and the actors may have to be there within the hour ("Fast-Paced Business" 1). Which means that voice actors must be willing to live where the jobs are. In North America, Los Angeles is where the majority of cartoon voice work is cast and recorded. No matter how talented, a cartoon voice actor will never get hired if they live somewhere such as New Jersey or Texas (Bevilacqua 2). "Voice-over is much more than reading words off a page. It is really an aspect of acting, with all the techniques, subtleties, and more" (Alburger 1). It takes true talent to act with only your voice ("Fast-Paced Business" 1). True talent is indeed what these actors have.

What does true talent look like? Voice artists, unlike on-screen actors, can be in many, many, programs and projects at once. Yes, occasionally a popular television star
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will do commercials for telephone services or credit cards or star in a movie. Voice actors can do commercials and lend their voices to movies as well, but how many TV series is the "10-10-321" man, John Lithgow, currently in other than Third Rock From the Sun? In addition, John Lithgow, as many on-screen actors, is always John Lithgow. As far as the voices he can do, he is basically limited to one: his own. However, at any given time, a voice actor may be on as many as five or six cartoon series, doing twice as many different voices in addition to commercials and other projects. Rob Paulsen pointed out that "there are a million average-looking white guys in Los Angeles" like him and with one faltering audition after another, he realized that he could do things with his voice that he would never be considered for on-camera ("I Could Do That" 34). For example just on Animaniacs alone Paulsen voices Yakko Warner, a wisecracking Groucho Marx type character, Dr. Scratchansniff, a slightly neurotic German "p-sychiatrist", and Pinky, an absolutely goofy white lab mouse with a British accent. All three are major characters with three very distinct voices. Many of the minor roles in a cartoon are divided up among the actors who are playing the major characters. However, often these minor roles go un-credited and only someone with a good ear for the actor's many different character voices will be able to pick them out.

Recording voices for a show such as Animaniacs takes around three hours for each half hour episode. The actors gather in a recording studio and the voice director guides them through the script ("Animaniacs Voice Artists Live Kids' WB!" 3) . However, keep in mind that since many voice actors are involved in more than one series at a time, they may have to do three or four recording sessions like this each day, all for different shows. Then add the fact that a voice actor may be dealing with several different voice directors in one day. "The style of every director is completely unique and it's a real challenge to understand and fulfill each approach as closely as possible"
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(Soucie 2). For a more humorous yet crude description of how voice directors work, I think the Warners put it best during the end credits of Animaniacs, episode #84:

"Voice director?" asks Wakko, "Who's that?"
"Oh, you know," Yakko explains, "She's the person that tells you to redo every line, like, fifty times."
"Yeah," Dot adds, "and faster!"
"Her?" yells Wakko with sudden realization, "I hate her!"

One key element to cartoons today, especially Animaniacs, is the music. "You'll find that everybody in animation can sing because it's become a musical industry" ("Interview of Jess Harnell" 6). Voice-over agent Allen Duncan believes that actors with talents in music often do better in voice-over because there is more of an awareness of time, tempo, and timbre. In that case, music study gives voice acting talent an advantage (McBride 1). With that in mind, it's not a surprise that Jess Harnell and Rob Paulsen both originally trained as singers ("Animaniacs Voice Artists Live Kids' WB!" 2).

Since a voice actor's primary performance tool is his or her voice, it is quite obvious that fans of their work are more likely to recognize the actor for their voice rather than their face. Therefore, unlike on-camera actors, voice actors often enjoy a simple low-profile lifestyle (Fischer 1) which can be a blessing for those in the profession. However, the non-recognition from the fans can also be a voice actor's "curse". Maurice LaMarche of Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain likes the fact that he can sit in any Los Angeles restaurant and eat in peace, but there are other times when he just wants to say to people, "Oh by the way, I'm the Brain" ("Voices on the Road" 2).

Jess Harnell knows the frustration of non-recognition first hand. Harnell and his mother were once at Disney World where they saw an eight year old boy with an Animaniacs shirt on. In the hopes of getting a positive response, Harnell told the boy that he did the voice of Wakko Warner. The boy only replied, "So? I do it too." Harnell clarified that he actually did the voice for the show, but the boy was not convinced, explaining that Animaniacs was taped in California. Harnell then took out his driver's
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license to prove that he was from California. The boy only remarked sarcastically, "Oh yeah, if you live California then you must do his voice." Harnell was eventually forced to do his Wakko impression for the boy and at that the eight year old merely laughed and said, "You don't even sound like him" (O'Dell 1).

The fan/actor relationship regarding voice actors is on a far more personal level than it is with movie or television actors and their fans. In a live Animaniacs voice actor chat hosted on America Online, Jess Harnell even remarked that for him, one of the best things he had done in relation to Animaniacs, was going out on tour and meeting all of the fans in person (6).

I recall a certain post on the Animaniacs internet newsgroup, Two fans had made Pinky and the Brain stars Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen really nice Pinky and the Brain t-shirts. LaMarche had lost the fans' return mailing addresses and was trying desperately to get in contact with the talented artists simply because he wanted to send the fans personal, handwritten thank you notes ("A Message From Maurice LaMarche" 1) .

There are also times, however, when things do not run quite so smoothly. I sent an email to Rob Paulsen asking if he would answer a few questions about voice acting that I could use in my paper. Exactly one week later, I received a reply from Rob who said, "Sure, I'll help you!" Voice actors recognize the importance of their fans who play a big part in helping the actors become as well known as they are. By treating the fans on a personal level, the voice actors can perhaps give a little back as a way of saying "thank you". After that final email from Rob Paulsen, I never got another email that answered my questions. Nor did I receive any kind of message explaining why. I sent another email two weeks later re-submitting a revised list of questions, asking what had happened. Still nothing. Why? Had I done something wrong? I suppose Paulsen himself puts it best in a July 1997 interview where he says that he is very flattered by the attention that anyone pays him and he appreciates the support that fans give him. He wants people to know that if he
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doesn't get back to them when they email or write, it isn't out of arrogance or that he doesn't want to. It is because he is lucky enough to have the work that keeps him busy these days. Often, he is just too busy to respond ("Rob Paulsen Interview" 7). That may be true Mr. Paulsen, but it still does not mean that it doesn't hurt. (author's note: The day after I turned in this report, I found a reply from Rob when I checked my email! It was too late to include here, but I will be using the information for a speech in another class about V/As on 11/5/98. I put up a page with the interview here! Thanks Rob!)

Animated character voices are not the only thing that cartoon voice actors do. The 1996 comedy film Mother, starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds, featured Jess Harnell singing in a rendition of the Simon and Garfunkel tune, Mrs. Robinson, that was written just for that movie (Fink 37). In 1996, under a small record label, Harnell even released his very own album called, The Sound of Your Voice. Also, just this past summer, Harnell played the part of the Cowardly Lion in a small live Californian stage production of The Wizard of Oz ("Interview of Jess Harnell" 5).

Maurice LaMarche's Orson Welles impression was made famous in recent times through his character the Brain, a white lab mouse bent on world domination, in Pinky and the Brain. That same voice was also used to dub over the actor who played Welles in the 1994 movie Ed Wood (Ranbom, Cremeans, and Leung 4). LaMarche can also be heard as the off-screen announcer on the syndicated talk show, The Howie Mandel Show ("Message From Moe (PATB V/A)" 1).

Rob Paulsen, LaMarche and Harnell's co-star from Pinky and the Brain and Animaniacs, can heard as the voice of a goldfish and a hyperactive paint roller in most recent television commercials. When the Jim Carrey film Liar, Liar goes on network television and Carrey's character uses a naughty word, it will be Rob Paulsen's voice that is dubbed in with a nicer, kid-friendly word. Paulsen re-voiced some twenty to thirty lines for the film. Since Paulsen wonderfully voiced the cartoon version of Jim Carrey's The Mask, Carrey and his manager could think of no better person qualified for the job ("I Could Do That" 34). Paulsen also did at least one promotional spot this season for the NBC comedy, Friends. Promotional spots are simply the commercials that tell people
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about upcoming shows. Paulsen, says he can get about $200 per promo and can do ten to twenty of them in an hour and a half. He also notes that although it pays well, "it's not very creative stuff" ("I Could Do That" 34).

Voice Acting is one of today's fastest growing industries so the business has never been more open to new performers. It's not the "closed circle" that it was twenty years ago when only a select few actors could be heard in every cartoon. Agents are always looking for the "next great voice" for they would be bored if they weren't able to search for something new. Voice acting today is an "ever increasing circle", always looking for new people ("Know Your Limitations" 2).

Voice acting may have its ups and downs, but those who make a career out of it do indeed believe that voice acting is the greatest job in the world. Jess Harnell notes, "What we do isn't brain surgery and we're not saving the world, but on the other hand, if in the course of what we do we make somebody smile, it's been a worthwhile day at the 'office', even if you were playing a dog" ("Interview of Jess Harnell" 7) . The profession, as all acting careers, may be difficult to break into, but the benefits from such a job are deeply rewarding, satisfying and well worth the struggle. I hope that the next time you turn on the television or listen to the radio, you will think twice about all of the talented "invisible actors" who are so much a part of our lives... and we didn't even know it.
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Works Cited

Animaniacs Episode #84. Perf. Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNielle, 1996.

"Animaniacs Voice Artists Live Kids' WB!" 17 May 1996. Online. Available Accessed Mar. 1997.

Alburger, James R. "The Art of Voice Acting: The Craft and the Business of Performing Voice-Over" Review. 30 August 1998. Online. Available Accessed 16 Sept. 1998.

Bevilacqua, Joe. "Voice Acting 101." Animation World Magazine April 1997: 1-6. Available Accessed 16 Sept. 1998.

David, Amelia. "Fast-Paced Business." Back Stage. 17 July 1998: 28. Available Accessed 15 Sept. 1998.

David, Amelia. "Know Your Limitations." Back Stage. 17 July 1998: 32. Available Accessed 15 Sept. 1998.

Fink, Mitchell. "Hey, Hey, Mrs. Robinson." People Weekly. 23 Dec. 1996: 37. Available Accessed 12 Sept. 1998.

Fischer, Rachel. "Off-Camera Oasis." Back Stage West. 23 July 1998: 10. Available Accessed 15 Sept. 1998.

"I Could Do That." FHM Magazine October 1997: 34. "[ARTICLE] Rob Paulsen interview in FHM (text) (fwd)" Online posting. 7 Oct 1997. Deja News.

LaMarche, Maurice. "A Message From Maurice LaMarche." Online posting. 08 Aug. 1996. Deja News.

LaMarche, Maurice. "Message From Moe (PATB V/A)." Online posting. 10 July 1998. Deja News.

McBride, Murdoch. "Taking the Action a Step Further." Back Stage. 17 July 1998: 30. Available Accessed 15 Sept. 1998.
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O'Dell, Ron. "Jess Harnell Meets Young Wakko Fan." Radio interview transcription. Online. Available Accessed 19 Jan. 1998.

Ranbom, Larissa, and Lee Cremeans, and Kane Leung. The Nifty Animaniacs Reference File. 11 Aug. 1998: 4. Online. Available Accessed 6 October 1998.

Shaughnessy, Peter. "Non-Union? No Problem!" Back Stage. 17 July 1998: 36. Available Accessed 15 Sept. 1998.

Soucie, Kath. "And I Get Paid!?!: The Life of a Voice Actor." Animation World Magazine March 1998: 1-5. Online. Available Accessed 23 Sept. 1998.

Tindall, Linda. "Rob Paulsen Interview." Toon Talk. 9 May 1998 5-7. Online. Available Accessed 14 Sept. 1998.

Tindall, Linda. "Interview of Jess Harnell." Toon Talk. 11 June 1998 5-7. Online. Available Accessed 14 Sept. 1998.

Tindall, Linda. "Voices on the Road." Toon Talk. 15 July 1998 2-5. Online. Available Accessed 14 Sept. 1998.

Voice Acting 101

Voice Acting 101

Joe Bevilacqua (right), with mentor Daws Butler.Joe Bevilacqua (right), with mentor Daws Butler.

So you want to be a voice actor? Looks easy, right? Getting paid to act silly is actually very serious and difficult work. I've been a voice actor since the age of 12, worked in New York radio theater from age 22, studied voice acting with the great Daws Butler for 12 years, and I'm here to tell you some of what you need to know. To assist me, I have solicited the comments of some of my talented colleagues: Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Greg Burson, Corey Burton, Nancy Cartwright, June Foray, Lee Richard Harris, David Kaye, Stephanie Morganstern, and Phil Proctor.

Real Acting
Most of the actors quoted in this article also trained with Daws Butler, and they all learned from him first and foremost that voice acting is real acting, not just "doing funny voices." This is very important to keep in mind. Characters should be real, no matter how cartoony the style is. In my radio cartoon series, for example, Willoughby and the Professor, I played all the roles, sometimes a dozen or more per show--from a one year-old baby named Bub and a 12 year-old boy named Willoughby, to the 60 year old Professor. None of these characters were just "voices"; they were flesh and blood people, fully realized in the script, in my head, and in the final performance.

Bob Bergen, the present day voice of Porky Pig, comments that, "The call that I get most often is, 'I want to work in cartoons but I'm not an actor,' or 'I don't want to be an actor.' A person with this perspective will never work. In this business, they could care less if you can do great voices. It's the acting that gets the job, it is definitely a skill and a craft that takes time to cultivate." he adds.

David Kaye with the characters he voices. David Kaye with the characters he voices.

David Kaye, the voice of Megatron, has similar sentiments. He says, "The first thing you've got to do if you want to get into cartoons or animation or voice work is take some acting classes.' Study the classics, because that is where everything comes from." Kaye recalls that, "I didn't start getting a lot of animation [work] until I started doing theater. I went to the four-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. It wasn't until then that I could really go into an audition and create a character."

Getting Started
Recalling his start in voice-overs, Bob Bergen states that, "I wanted to be Porky Pig since I was about five years old. That's what I told my parents I wanted to be when I grew up. I called Hanna-Barbera and I said, 'How do I do it?' At that time, they didn't hire kids, like they do now. Hanna-Barbera sent me to Bob Lloyd, who's got a company called The Voice Casters, one of the biggest voice casting companies in Los Angeles. Bob referred me to teachers, and I studied with everyone."

Nancy Cartwright is one of Daws Butler's most talented and successful students . She plays Bart Simpson on The Simpsons, and many other roles in cartoons, as well as on stage and on camera; these range from The Snorks and Cheers in the 1980s to recent TV movies and a one-woman stage show, In Search of Fellini. "My training," says Nancy, "started when I was a kid and I performed in theater. I got my confidence, and recognized an ability I had to make people laugh. I was learning by doing it." Anyone who thinks cartoon voice actors can't act, should see Nancy in her superb one-woman show.

Practice Makes Perfect
Veteran actor, writer and producer, Phil Proctor recalls the transition from stage to voice overs, in his case from Firesign Theater to Rugrats. "I had to learn how to accommodate my own eccentric skills to the rather restricted demand of a particular vision, or often lack of vision, in order to create whatever it was that the client ultimately wanted to hear."

Joe Alaskey, one of several actors who now voices many of the Warner Bros. characters, recalls one of his early lessons, when "Friz Freleng scouted me from my stand-up act in the late 70s. He critiqued my work over the phone, telling me to keep working at it, and to prepare for the future. I started saturating myself in Warner Bros. cartoons, listening like never before, practicing every day to improve their unique sounds and the myriad of nuances in personality. I'm still at it today."

Agents & Demos
To get work as a voice actor, you must have an agent. Casting directors will not even consider you if you are not represented. (In the US, you can get a list of agent from AFTRA and SAG, the two actors' unions.) Equally important is that you really should live where the jobs are; in North America, this means Los Angeles, where most of the cartoon voice work is cast and recorded. Some actors such as David Kaye and Stephanie Morganstern are based in Canada, but they are exceptions. No one will hire you if you live in New Jersey or Texas, no matter how talented you are. When a casting call comes, you need to be there, sometimes within the hour.

In order to get a good agent, you need a great demo tape. Bob Bergen feels, "As far as the demo tape process goes, I don't believe in telling a story. Each segment should sound like it's a clip from a cartoon, where your character is involved and doing some kind of action. You should never repeat a voice on your demo tape. Each clip should have a totally different scene; perhaps one is jet fighter pilot, another a nerdy kid trying to ask a girl out, but scenes that contrast. You want to leave the listener asking for more. The average length of a demo tape is two-and-a-half minutes. I recommend one-and-a-half, because you are asking someone to take one-and-a-half minutes of their life for your life. And chances are you are one of 20 or 30 tapes they have to listen to that day."

Nancy Cartwright.Nancy Cartwright.

How To Audition
Auditioning is perhaps the most difficult part of an actor's life. You will be rejected most of the time, and will need to get used to this. You should learn to enjoy the process, because you will be auditioning much more than you will be working. There are a few ways to make this experience a fruitful one.

David Kaye points out the importance of showing your unique skills. "When I went in to audition for the Megatron voice," he notes, "I had just finished a Shakespeare workshop, and I pulled from some of what I had been studying. I learned the Laban method, and used it a lot when I auditioned for cartoons. It is based on different 'weights' you give a line reading. For example, instead of screaming, 'Don't ever do that to me again!', you can use a light weight, and softly, but powerfully say the line, which is more menacing than just outright shouting."

"I do full-bodied performances," Joe Alaskey says, "with expressions to match, just like Mel [Blanc]. I'm not just concentrating on my voice, though that's where the performance is concentrated; I try to become a cartoon--body, soul, mind and voice (not always in that order)--and then make my selections for the readings, of which there is usually only one 'right' one."

June Foray, best known as the voices of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Granny in the Sylvester & Tweety cartoons, feels that you must always observe your surroundings, and draw from what you see and hear in your life when auditioning. "When I as working for Chuck [Jones] on The Curiosity Shop, I was the aardvark, and that was easy. For the giraffe, I did a very haughty type woman, and then came the elephant; I thought, 'What can I do for the elephant that would be almost incongruous and yet acceptable?' Well, my husband and I were at a party, and there was a very heavyset lady chatting, and her voice was just a tiny, sweet little voice with very high tones. I listened to her and thought, 'That is the elephant!' It was a contradiction in terms, but the voice was just perfect."

"When I landed the part of Bart Simpson," explains Nancy Cartwright, "I wasn't even called in for that part. I was originally called in for Lisa, but I couldn't get a hook on her. 'I can't do her,' I said. But I had taken the time out in the lobby to look at Bart's audition and I said, 'Aha, I can do that!' I only gave them one voice, one concept, and I was hired on the spot."

Phil Proctor.Phil Proctor.

Developing A Voice
Voice actors today are faced with a number of stumbling blocks to creating truly original character voices. The studios want the familiar, not the new. Most of the great voices actors, such as Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, and Paul Frees are gone now, and the studios need sound-alikes to keep their cartoon franchises going.

Joe Alaskey explains that, "Revivifying the classic Warner Bros. voices is tremendous fun, but it isn't easy. The responsibility of doing all the voices for Marvin The Martian in the Third Dimension was a white-knuckler, the sessions were ongoing for over a year (but worth it!). But doing a more or less original voice such as Stinkie on Casper is no less intense an experience."

Greg Burson, who voices many classic characters such as Yogi the Bear and Bugs Bunny, studies those who did the original voices and how they spoke normally. "People leave road maps," he says. "It depends on the configuration in the voice box. Yogi came pretty quickly to me. I do the early Yogi, because that' s the one I grew up with and love. Bugs is much harder. To get Bugs right took me a year. I do the Bugs of the 1950s, as the people at Warner Bros. felt that that was when Mel was in his prime."

Not Just a Voice
When creating original character voices, it is important to put yourself into it entirely. The physical aspects of a character are as important as the voice. When I perform my characters for my Willoughby and the Professor radio cartoon show, I don't just stand still in front of the microphone and speak. I put my full body into the perfomance just as I would on stage. People who watch me perform find it as enjoyable as hearing the finished recording. For example, I flail my arms a lot when speaking since I find that this movement gives my performance an extra "hmmph". For naïve 12-year old Willoughby, I raise my eyebrows up, open my eye as wide as I can and stand very straight. This gives me a brighter young alert sound for Willoughby. My Professor character has very large jowls but I have a thin face with no jowls, so to get a "hollow" jowl sound for him I hold the sides of my face with my thumb and forefinger and pull my cheeks out as far as I can and hold them there everytime I speak as the Professor. All good voice actors work from the physical.

"I found that when I did the voice of Witch Hazel," says June Foray, "that I would come home with a crick in my neck, because I was bending over to play the character."

"I had an innate talent and I practiced it," explains Nancy Cartwright. "I found ways to become different characters with just the subtle change of a lift of an eyebrow or the curl of your lip; those nuances can affect your voice and help mold and shape a character."

June Foray notes that, "We all have greed; we have anger; we have charity; we love; we have all sorts of emotions. Being an actor, you have to capture your own feelings, and with your proclivities for voice-changing, you can insert that wonderful human quality that you have into that character with that particular voice that you're using."

Joe Alaskey.Joe Alaskey.

The Recording Session
There are many types of recording sessions. Sometimes, every character is recorded separately, then edited and mixed together later by a sound engineer. This can be a very difficult way to perform, as the actor does not have the opportunity to hear how the other actors say their lines and respond naturally. Most of Mel Blanc's work on the Warner Bros. cartoons was done this way.

Another type of recording session is done by dubbing the voices during post-production, when the animation is already completed. This is perhaps the most difficult of all for an actor. Most cartoons imported from Japan are recorded this way for the English market. Stephanie Morganstern, who plays Sailor Venus on Sailor Moon, is an expert at this type of work.

"We use the rhythmo-band technique," she explains, "which allows for a lot of precision in dubbing, especially when you're doing live action and need to match realistic lip flaps. The words you have to speak are written by hand on a transparent strip (of something like acetate) which is rolled, fast-forwarded or rewound in synch with the playing, fast-forwarding or rewinding of the videotape, and projected on a long horizontal screen above the video monitor. When the videotape is played, you can watch the images on the monitor, but your focus is on the screen above it where the words are projected, flying across from right to left at precisely the speed at which they have to be spoken. You voice each sound, gasp, scream or breath as it hits the 'speak' line to the far left of the screen. This is why the words have to be handwritten: if the character speaks fast, they are written scrunched up so they take less time to say; and if you have to stretch a sound like 'Sco-o-o-out Po-o-o- w-e-e-r!,' it's written elongated so that it takes as much time to say it as it does to travel across the screen. It's very confining, as it takes one of the most important parts of expression, timing, out of your control altogether."

The best recording sessions usually are the ones in which all the actors are in the same room performing together as if it were a radio play. All of Jay Ward's cartoons, such as Rocky and Bullwinkle, were done this way. Mark Evanier, who wrote and voice-directed Garfield, also works this way. I remember sitting in on many recording sessions of The Jetsons, when Daws Butler, Penny Singleton, Mel Blanc, Howard Morris, and the whole cast sat in a circle and worked off each other. They encouraged, prodded, and provoked one another into great performances.

Phil Proctor remembers that, "When I did The Smurfs at Hanna-Barbera, it was so much fun. I went into my first session there, with Daws Butler, Alan Young, Paul Winchell, and Jack Riley; Gordon Hunt was directing. They would say, 'Oh, Phil does a wonderful English accent. Let's create a part for him.' And they would massage parts for you. It was wonderful, like the old movie studio days. It was like being part of a repertory company."

June Foray.June Foray.

Changing Trends
One of the current trends in the American animation industry is to cast major movie stars to voice animated characters. From Robin Williams in Aladdin, Tom Hanks in Toy Story, even Woody Allen in the upcoming DreamWorks feature Ants, these stars not only demand huge salaries, they take work away from the core group of voice actors.

"A lot had changed since I was last in it," Lee Harris states. "The casting of celebrities promotes the cartoon to adults more than it does kids. A kid watching a cartoon isn't going to jump up and down and say, 'Oh boy! It's Danny Devito doing the voice!' I read a quote from a casting person at one of the big companies that said that the days of the Mel Blancs and the Daws Butlers are gone, and that they cast well-known celebrities because they want 'real' actors as if Mel and Daws were not 'real' actors, which of course they were."

"The greatest actor I ever knew was Daws Butler," insists Greg Burson.

"They gravitate towards celebrities," said Corey Burton, "so that they have actors who have already developed a persona they can draw from to fill out the character, whereas a multi-voiced person is waiting for their idea to produce the particular voice. So they get somebody like Don Rickles coming in to Toy Story, and say, 'OK, Don, you're Mr. Potatohead,' and they are able to use his personality. Plus, they see it as a big marketing plus. That way they get little bits on Entertainment Tonight and other 'behind the scenes' TV shows. That's not bad, but it's just insulting when they completely ignore the regular voice people."

Phil Proctor talks about the difficulties of keeping up with the ever-changing business: "I've been doing it for about 25 years now, and I have gone through all the different kinds of fads of what is 'in' and what is 'out'. It's rather difficult sometimes when you just have found a niche for yourself, and then they say they don't want that anymore."

Lee Harris states that, "My goal is to have an original character on a TV series. Our generation of TV babies are making the decisions in casting, writing and directing, and we seem to have a large case of nostalgia. I'd like to be known for an original character that people would remember. I've never lost sight of that, even though everything else in the industry has changed. The way that Daws used to describe things for animation or commercials, with somebody just picking up the phone and saying, 'Hey Daws, hey Frees, hey June Foray, come over, we're doin' a cartoon.' I don't expect things to be like that again, but the 'celebrity curse', combined with 'playing it safe' with just very few established voice actors--those are the battles to be fought and we just have to keep fighting."

Just Do It
Show business is a very tough business. Once you decide to join the ranks of unemployed actors, you must resign yourself to the possibility that you may never make it. Only those who stick it out for the long haul ever succeed. You should not set time limits on yourself. This is very stressful and restricting. I know plenty of actors who have said to me, "If I don't make it in five years I'm going back to Kansas." I say, "If that's the case, you should have stayed in Kansas to begin with." To me, acting is a life, not a career. You either live it or you don't. If you do live it, you will be willing to pursue it for the rest of your life and enjoy every minute of it. The process of learning, growing, improving, auditioning, creating--that should be your primary focus, not becoming rich and famous.

There you have it. Study long and hard, learn to act, make a short but stunning demo tape, get an agent, audition, audition, audition, study some more, audition some more, and somewhere along the line you may just find yourself the next Bart Simpson or Yogi Bear.

So now you know the real story, not a sugarcoated, Hollywood glamour version of life as a voice actor. Still want to be one? I have the number of a good therapist.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Creativoices announces it's breakthrough voiceover seminars.

Creativoices announces it’s breakthrough voiceover seminars.

Do you love voice acting? Can you do voices for a living or as an art? Or are you are actively involved in preparing materials for speaking, or your work requires you to meet people and carry conversations well? Then read along. Creativoices Productions, the creator of 7 seasons of the premier Voice Acting and Dubbing workshop in the Philippines - VoiceWorx!, announces their newest activities this summer.

Dubbed as “Summer VoiceOver Funtasy!” It involves participants exploring the potentials of their voice acting career with advance learning tools and techniques in Radio Commercials, Radio Drama, Script Reading, Mic handling, and Voice Over marketing. And now they will also be providing an exclusive Children’s Voice Acting Workshop this summer.

The classes will start as follows:


Radio Advertising Voice Over Workshop!!
March 2 and 3 CLASS A-RAV
March 4 and 5 CLASS B-RAV
March 6, 2009 GRADUATION

Advance Voice Acting and Radio Drama Workshop!!
March 9 and 10 CLASS A-RAD
March 11 and 12 CLASS B-RAD
March 13, 2009 GRADUATION

Children’s Voice Acting Workshop (10- 16 years old only)
March 16 and 17 CLASS A-CVA1
March 18 and 19 CLASS B-CVA1
March 20, 2009 GRADUATION

Children’s Voice Acting Workshop (10- 16 years old only)
March 23 and 24 CLASS A-CVA2
March 25 and 26 CLASS B-CVA2
March 27, 2009 GRADUATION

“The class will do more activities than ever, that involves working with the mic and less with the pen”, says Brian Ligsay VoiceWorx Director of CreatiVoices. Ligsay who is an accomplished performer, was hired recently by Rosetta Stone, Inc. as a Voice Director/Coach to work on their Filipino/Tagalog software program. CreatiVoices, he claims has successfully produced over a hundred voice over enthusiasts, bringing their total database of available on-call voice talents, close to a thousand.

“And that’s what producers are looking for nowadays in voice over production.. effeciency, diversity, creativity,” adds Pocholo Gonzales, Managing Director of the company. Gonzales is also known as the Voicemaster, who’s consummate performance is heard on TV, Radio and the Internet. He also recently starred in the animation movie DAYO Sa Mundo ng Elementalia Official entry to the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival. He was the only professional Voice Artist among the Cast of Actors.

With talks from the Veteran and Young Voice Actors.
The summer workshop features professional voice performers and directors working closely with students in a strict all recording facility and studio at the heart of Makati City. So get ready to explore your talents this summer. Join the workshop and excel your skills in voice acting. Don’t hesitate to call, because in the world of success… it’s always first come, first served.

For details contact them at:

729-7274 or 970-0971
Text us at: 09195731714/09272404886
Email us at:,
Visit our website: and
Our Studio address link online:
Official social network: