Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Animation Voice Acting Basics

You remember those days right? Saturday mornings with a big bowl of sugary cereal ready to immerse yourself into a world of cartoons? Do you want to know how to get your voice into there? Here we go.

For more instant tips on how to get into voice acting, make sure you hit the subscribe button below and hit the bell icon so you get notified when I post a new video on this series every single week. My name is Joe Zieja, I’m a former air force captain turned voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. My voice has been in thousands of corporate videos, commercials, video games, anime and cartoons and today I am here to tell you three tips on how to get your voice into traditional television animation.



Tip number one, finding the opportunities. I don’t want to sound bleak here and I made a similar comment in my video game video, but if you’re looking for the big animation opportunities, you probably have to get to Los Angeles, but if that’s something that’s super important to you like it was to me, I had a very strong corporate and commercial career not in Los Angeles and I decided that what I really was passionate about was character-driven voice acting, games, anime and animation. So my manager at the time said, “Get to LA,” and here I am.

Los Angeles is pretty much the only place where you can get really good, solid, union network TV animation stuff. So if you’re looking for those opportunities, most of them are going to be here and unlike video games, which has a strong independent industry that you can do remotely from anywhere in the country, animation is just not quite the same, it’s still kind of in the same place it was 25, 30, 40, 50 years ago, that is Los Angeles.

There’s a lot of reasons for that. One of the primary ones is that bigger budget animation, cartoons, movies, they record in what’s called an ensemble cast. All the cast is in the same room at the same time, which is wildly fun because you get to play off of each other, you get to see other people work, which doesn’t necessarily happen in some of the other genres of voice over, like video games and commercial. You’re typically alone in those cases. With an ensemble cast, you get a much richer performance, I think, where everyone’s kind of bouncing off everybody else’s energy but unfortunately you all have to be in the same place and that place is Los Angeles.

The second thing that I wanted to mention is that the community for animation, you’ll notice if you’ve ever noticed who’d been voicing your favorite cartoons for the past 50 years, is it’s very small. The community for animation is small, voiceover itself is small, animation is extremely small. The same people tend to get work over and over again because they’re excellent at what they do. Getting into animation, breaking into animation takes a very long time. People have told me it’s taken them five to 10 years to get their first animation so expect a long haul when you’re out here in Los Angeles looking for the animation work.

I don’t say that to discourage you, I say that because I’m here to give you the realistic perspective on what it takes to get into animation. That being said, you need to make sure you take every audition opportunity seriously. Casting directors have long memories. I can tell you stories about a casting director looking at me to be like, “Oh yeah, you did that audition for me two years ago and I really loved it and I put a little mark next to your name and now I’ve hired you for this.” So even though it may take a long time, you’ve always got to make sure you’re giving it everything you’ve got. What is your favorite memory of Saturday morning cartoons? Post it in the comments below.

Tip number two, understanding the medium. Are you noticing a pattern in these genre videos so far? Everything I’m saying, it starts with getting to know your medium. If you had never in your life seen a Spanish telenovela and then auditioned for one, would you expect to do it right? It has a particular style, it has a particular script, you need to make sure that you know the medium before you go out to audition. I know that sounds like a really difficult assignment, “Hey, I want you to go watch cartoons,” but if you’re not familiar with the very particular style that animation has, you may end up throwing a Doc McStuffins read into a batman cartoon and that is just going to make you look super silly, although it might make for a really interesting cartoon.

If you can’t figure out what show you’re auditioning for, dig something up. Look for the characters, look for the show title, even look for if you have a chance, who is casting it and see what they’ve worked on in the past. Check out what their style is because they tend … each casting director has their own particular style on what they’re looking for. So you have the internet at your disposal, make sure you’re using it to know your medium.

Tip three, nailing the read. Animation in particular has a lot of pitfalls that people are just read to dive face first into. The first thing being that everyone calls them cartoons. Not every cartoon is going to sound like Bugs Bunny and have something wacky and loony that goes with it. Cartoons run a wide gamut of emotional ranges from deeply serious and somber to completely zany and weird and you have to understand what you’re looking at and what you’re going to do and usually they’re going to give you some ideas in the specs on whether or not it’s going to be grounded and real, or zany and cartoony and my favorite direction, over the top. When you hear over the top, you can just go crazy and get silly and that can be really fun but it’s important that you know the difference when you’re looking at it. Don’t just go for something crazy and cartoony.

When you’re auditioning, it’s important that you show variety, even within the copy. Even if your character is a mad scientist who screams all the time, you’re going to have to find some way to show that yes, you can show the mad scientist screamy stuff, but you can also show that he has underlying motives, maybe he has insecurities, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Find some place in the script to introduce variety, even if the script itself doesn’t necessarily lend it to that.

Lastly, understand the context of the scene that you are auditioning. Animation copies typically comes in film script format so that you can see what’s happening with other characters in the scene. Read them and understand them, even if it’s not a line you’re going to say, understand what’s going on in the scene, otherwise it sounds like all of these lines are just plucked out of the air and plopped into your microphone and believe me, casting directors can tell the difference when you understand the context of a scene and when you’re just reading line, line, line, line.

So, that’s it for animation basics and I do mean basics. Animation is extremely complex, it’s been around for a long time and you need to make sure that you understand your medium and that you have some patience to be proficient in the craft. Keep working on it, get your butt to LA if this is something that you’re super passionate about and just keep going. Eventually something’s going to land for you.

Hey, what’s a cartoon that you really want to be an actor in? What’s the show that you could see your voice popping out of? Post it in the comments below. All right everyone, that is a wrap for today. If this video helped you, let me know by putting it in the comments below. Leave me a like, give me a subscribe and make sure you’re checking out on Twitter and Facebook when I’m posting links to new videos, different behind the scenes stuff and all kinds of other fun stuff on my social channels. Thanks again for stopping by and I will see you in the booth.

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