The Most Procrastinating Title You’ll Ever See in Your Human Lifespan. Yeah, Comically Long Titles are Very Funny and Even Count to Your Word Count. See, This Title is Already Fifty Words Long and I Haven’t Written a Single Paragraph. And Since This Essay Breaks My Record at 1,158 Words, it Qualifies as a Short Story. So Stop Reading the Irrelevant Title Already!
“Hi, kids! It’s Mickey Mouse!” Now, did a little voice register in your head when you read the first two sentences or was it just a string of letters with no special meaning? Chances are, the familiar, well-known voice of Mickey Mouse played when you read the first two sentences. That’s called voice acting; the form of acting that gives animated characters spoken dialogue and represents the age, gender, nationality, and personality of the character(s). Voice acting requires auditioning, flexibility, recording, and modification.
“First, what does a professional voice actor do, and how do you become one?” you may ask. See, directors look for voice actors with a flexible and manageable voice, so the same voice actor can portray multiple characters, and the directors can save money by hiring as few voice actors as possible. Beginner voice actors need to produce a demo reel showcasing every voice they can act out. After sending this to the directors, they’ll look/hear over it to see if one or more characters match their voices. If successful, they’re hired! Directors might hold auditions where hundreds of people go through the studio, while only a select few are hired. Getting hired is hard, but rewarding.
Sometimes celebrities may get called in to voice act, so they can advertise their name to grab the viewer’s attention. This can go out to a certain extent, like in Fantastic Mr. Fox, Owen Wilson was advertised as a role on almost all of the posters, even though he only played one character in one scene. Misleading advertising usually doesn’t end well. Sometimes the casting will be an “all-star cast,” where all of the main characters are played by celebrities. Megamind is one example, where every main role was played by experienced actors, but not voice actors. Celebrity casting is usually a gimmick, and should be handled with caution.
Then, if one voice actor is really flexible on a television show, they can be casted for more than one character. If there’s a background character that has one line and will probably never speak again, an existing voice actor will be casted instead of hiring a new one, because it’s cheaper. Some are so flexible that they can portray dozens of characters, maybe even on the same show! Even if they aren’t flexible, a computer can remix their voice to give a unique computer-generated voice, but still played by the same voice actor. One extensive example is YouTube series Battle for Dream Island, where the entire cast is done by two twin brothers with the exception of four characters. Michael Huang currently does 21 voices, while Cary Huang does 7 of them. Some voice actors, like Tara Strong, Steven Blum, and Mel Blanc can do as much as a hundred characters, even if some are never seen again for years. Roy Dotrice holds the record for the most distinct voices in an audio book, with 224 for his recording of A Game of Thrones. Flexibility is a must-have, but difficult to pull of exponentially.
Incidentally, what does a day in the life of a voice actor look like? Recording is done several months before publication, falling right between the writing and animation stages of production. If they have a job for you to do, the studio calls you up, and you drive over when they tell you to. The studio is usually away from the noise of a highway or a city, has a desk where all the computers and remixing equipment are, and a room with a few microphones and soundproofing materials for minimal background noise. Sometimes a more natural setting is chosen, where everybody drives to the same setting that the scene is in and records their lines over there. A script with everybody’s line is given to you, along with a grid of everybody’s role(s). You should highlight your lines and practice them repeatedly. When it is your turn, they call you up along with anybody else with anybody else that has a line in that conversation. After that, put on whatever accent you need and start recording! A glass of water should be beside you in the studio, since liquids in clear up your throat if it feels scratchy. If the writers already have a storyboard for you, you will see it as you are recording. If everybody is finished with their lines, give each other a high-five and drive home. There isn’t much else after that, just the studio reviewing the lines one final time to see if they’re done right. Recording is a long, but very accomplishing.
Unfortunately, most people have only one regular pitch, accent, and vocabulary on a day-to-day basis. All voice actors have to modify their certain character, unless they use their normal voice.
Additionally, different accents pronounce letters differently, so it’s best to learn which ones are different from your accent. In an interview with Tara Strong, she says she’ll call up someone from the country with that accent, and then they’ll recite her lines so she’ll know what her lines would sound like in that accent. Accents can be tricky to learn and requires some effort.
To make your voice sound deeper, Gareth Jameson says to make your voice richer, fuller, and resonant. This won’t change your pitch, but will imitate it close enough so you don’t have a sore throat. Deep voices are hard to pull off easily, but there are some shortcuts along the way.
On the other hand, whispering will naturally make your voice higher, since a deep whisper will make it inaudible. Not many people know this, but a whisper can be loud, if attempted. Even though it won’t serve its purpose as a quiet whisper, it will create a windy effect like a normal whisper. Whispering can make your voice seem higher.
Generally, experimenting with your voice is the best way to find new ones. Listening to a character for only a few lines will make it etched in your brain, ready for imitation. Build on these to create entirely new voices. If your voice isn’t perfect, don’t worry. Bad voices can be used for a comedic touch in parodies. If a voice isn’t perfect, that’s okay, since they can be used for parody.
All things considered, voice acting requires auditioning, flexibility, recording, and modification. Auditioning is a competitive but rewarding process. Flexibility is a must-have trick that is very useful in the voice acting business. Recording is a long and tedious process, but can be made easier with modification. “This has been Bugs Bunny, so that’s all, folks!”