If Bugs Sounded Like Dora

September 01, 2023 08:30 AM By Paul Boucher

    What if BB sounded like D the E, if the Thunderbirds spoke like Sponge Bob and Patrick, or if Homer had Foghorn Leghorn's voice? Wait a minute… THAT one might work.


    Damn, but we have fun as voice actors!!


    Have you ever seen an animated movie and been surprised that a character's voice in the film was one of your favourite actors? 

    • Charlize Theron as the monkey in Kubo & The Two Strings
    • Mark Hammill as Batman
    • Mila Kunis as Meg in Family Guy (since the second season), and
    • Samuel L. Jackson as Lucious Best in The Incredibles. 


    That doesn't count the thousands of standout performances from non-celebrity voice actors.


    I'm a huge fan of animation's unbridled possibilities for voice actors. I've actually had those days where I'm playing so much in an animation studio that the day honestly lives up to the old cliché "living the dream!". 😁


    Telling stories... no... inhabiting stories... and then telling them from inside the looking glass, that's part of the magic of voice acting in animation.


    Animation, like improv, can take you out of your comfort zone. And that's GOOD!


    If your daily default is corporate narration and eLearning, and for many voice actors outside the major markets, it is, then an animation session is a GIFT.


    Walking out to the edges of your capabilities and inventing a characterization from whole cloth or synthesizing something fresh from old influences feels like walking on a high wire with no net. The adrenaline that flows, the FLOW that results when you find the zone (often guided by very skilled and VERY patient directors), will spill into everything else you do for weeks.


    I was in a networking seminar this week, and we briefly touched on how, as adults, we've largely lost our ability to PLAY. I'm here to tell you that as voice actors, we have more chances than the average bear to play in our work, and we are allowed to break more than a few plates in our carefully constructed China-shop lives by being animated characters. OPA! 


    A good guy. OK, thanks. A villain. YEAH! Playing a kid when you're past middle age? Again, yeah! Playing a person older than your parents (and getting to make fun of your parents as you do it), BONUS!


    If the topic of this post didn't make me vibrate with so much joy, it would be about gratitude.


    I'm grateful for the high school counselor who told me I was best suited to becoming a priest (um, no, on several counts) because I imitated his voice playing a well-intentioned pompous buffoon many years later.


    I'm grateful for every instructor/director/mentor who WASN'T satisfied and pushed harder, made me go deeper, made me get out of my head, made me stop thinking, and just made me feel, from second to second, what it was I was trying to do, not what I was trying to say.


    The rewards of animation voice acting are remarkable. It's the joy of seeing a character you've brought to life on screen, hearing the audience's laughter or gasps of surprise, and knowing that your voice has played an integral role in their experience. It's the opportunity to work with incredibly talented animators, directors, and fellow voice actors who share the same passion for storytelling. From a freedom-in-your-art perspective, it's the equivalent of jumping off a cliff in a wingsuit at work and pushing the boundaries of what your voice can achieve. I'm a baritone? I ain't no stinking baritone TODAY!


    Voice acting in animation is a journey filled with endless possibilities, where the only limits are the extent of what you're willing to risk and explore. 


    So, risk, explore, and play.