Have you always dreamed of making thousands of people laugh or cry using only your voice after falling in love with Pixar or DreamWorks movies? Launching a career in voice acting for animation can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know where to start. Little do you know that a career in voice acting opens you up to several possibilities because of the many media genres that need it. If you’re planning to pursue voice acting for animation as either a career or a freelance job, here’s how you start.
How to Launch a Career in Voice Acting for Animation
Voice acting has an interesting history. Dating back to ancient Asia, voice acting began when storytellers used puppets behind an illuminated screen and operated them to music. Centuries later, after the first talkie premiered, cartoons gained popularity by replacing slapstick silent films. Cartoons like Looney Tunes were inspired by decades of vaudeville, characterized by crazy big expressions and weirdly exaggerated voices.
As you study the history of voice acting, you’ll come across the names of legends in the field such as Mel Blanc and Don Messick, and later on, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong. Getting familiar with their timeless works will ignite a fire inside you somewhere.
Find your niche.
Specializing in one kind of voice over doesn’t mean only knowing one thing. In order to succeed in the area of voice over that you’re most drawn to—in this case, animation—expose yourself to the 3 main pillars of voice acting: commercial, narration, and animation. When you’ve exposed yourself to all three and dedicated time to developing skills from each, you will figure out exactly how you flourish as a voice actor.
Find role models.
If you want to be successful in this industry, it is important to study the techniques of those who have already become so. A great website to use when learning about voice actors is BehindTheVoiceActors. You can alphabetically search for the voices behind your favorite characters in your favorite shows.
Look up sample scripts and record yourself reading them. Note that learning to understand a script, rather than simply reading it, is something that requires practice. In animation, getting into character also requires more than a great voice. It requires creativity. Having a creative mind essentially brings out the voice of unique characters.
When voice actors share advice about getting into character, another point they touch on is doing research as well. When voice actors get to work in the studio, they are not spoon-fed.
Attend trainings and workshops.
If you actually invest in proper training, you’ll have a better shot. There is so much you need to know about yourself, your voice, the industry, and how to work. Once you hear of a workshop coming up, jump right in! If you can’t at the moment, ask around when the next ones happen. The ones that get training in all sides of the industry are the ones that work the most. If you want to involve yourself, learn all your basics in the commercial industry. The commercial and animation industries are totally different, but you’ve got to have some technique before you move onto animation. You’ll be glad you did.
List down your voices.
The key skill with animation is being able to perform many different types of character voices. You might find that you are hired for just one cartoon voice but almost always asked to provide several others. For this reason, it’s important to have a range of voices and be able to adapt. Improvisation is often needed to secure additional cartoon voice-over jobs. Begin a big mental collection of voices that you could pull out and use on the spot. These especially come in handy during auditions. A director could look at you and say “Now do it like you’re from the ’40s” or “Now sound like you’re underwater,” and you have to do it immediately.
Create a demo.
Just like acting for film, a demo acts as your business card and résumé all wrapped into one. In order to get more voice-over work, you need a demo—a short audio recording that demonstrates the types of voices you can perform at present to promote yourself to potential agents. The demo also needs to be something you feel comfortable assigning your name to and marketing to the public. Before you actually create your demo, remember that this is often your first and only shot at getting the attention of an agent. That means it must be well produced and of good quality, not homemade or amateur-sounding. A poor demo can make a lasting bad impression and set you back professionally.
Casting for animation happens in big cities like London and Los Angeles almost exclusively. If you take voice acting seriously, you’ll eventually move to these metropolitan cities to work. If you plan to be freelancing, there may be online auditions and a few opportunities here and there. Take note that one huge advantage of attending workshops and trainings is the benefit of connections and a greater chance of getting wind of upcoming projects.
When you’ve just officially begun voice acting, don’t expect to immediately land a cartoon voice-over job with studios like Pixar or Disney. Like most careers in show business, the road to success in voice acting is also long and uncertain. You’ll perhaps start out with relatively low-paying jobs, but it’s experience and exposure nonetheless! Even the smallest gig can provide you with the chances to not just learn about the equipment in the recording studios but also to network with higher-ups that may be able to offer you a job sometime in the future. Grab every opportunity to show your skill. Eventually someone important will begin to notice.