Ahh Animation. The Golden Child of the Voiceover world. Everyone wants to do it, because let's face it...IT'S FUN!!! But! As fun as it may be, there are definitely some hurdles to conquer when doing character work, and today I wanna share some of the knowledge I've learned along the way! Sit back, relax, and let's voice some characters!
Use Your Voice.
Ok, this one may sound totes obvious, but let me explain. Your voice is much MUCH more capable than your typical speaking voice. We have chambers in our bodies that our voices can resonate from, that can drastically alter your sound! You may be used to be speaking from your head, or mouth. But try putting your voice in your nose, give yourself that gritty nasally sound and boom! You're on your way to making a new character! How about your chest voice? If you place your voice deep DEEP in your abdomen, you're suddenly the next Batman! And if you move it up to the crown of your head, you're a 5 year old! Talk about range! Play with the different areas of your body that sound resonates from, mix and match sound chambers, and see what comes up! You may surprise yourself!
2. Use Your Body!
Ah, are you sensing a theme? Your posture and how you implement your body into your Voice work can really help bring a character to life. I know you may be thinking "But it's voiceover! Don't I just stand in front of the mic and talk?" WRONG! Sure, good Mic technique is important to keep in mind, but if you really wanna make your characters dynamic, you gotta put your whole body into it! Playing a zombie? Cock your head, hunch over, and jut out your jaw, see how that changes the sound. Maybe add a snarl or two in there. A mischievous villain? Rub your hands together, twirl that evil mustache, do whatever you have to do to actually BECOME that character. One piece of advice I received from the amazing AMAZING Tish Hicks in one of her classes was that if you are lucky enough to get art of the character you're voicing before hand, position yourself exactly how they're drawn. You'd be surprised how much body language can change a performance!
3. Play With Emotions!
I know what you're thinking "Duh!" And yes you're right, Duh. But it must be said! You want your performance to be dynamic, having hills and valleys. Try to break up your lines into specific individual moments to prevent the performance from becoming stagnant. The more specific the better, stay away from vagueness! If someone asks you what you're character is doing on a certain line you wanna have a better answer than just "being sad". Let me give you an example, say you're given this line:
"I'll never be good enough. Maybe I should just quit. I'm a complete fraud!"
Now your first instinct (and mine!) is to play the whole line with self pity. Maybe he's sitting there head in hands. Kinda boring right? But what if you played with it like this:
"I'll never be good enough"-Frustration, maybe visualize your character kicking something, maybe he's yelling! then transition to;
"Maybe I should just quit" -Introspection, take a moment, don't be afraid to use pauses! Feel that internal self doubt raising inside you as this character realizes he's nothing! Then....
"I'm a complete fraud!" -Breakdown, maybe he starts crying, or getting teary eyed. Maybe he shouts the loudest he can, maybe he punches a wall, I don' know!
Point is, you can see how breaking down every line into moments, paints a much more dynamic picture then just playing the same emotion throughout. Obviously above was just an example, follow what makes sense script wise, etc. But you get the gist.
4. Look like an idiot!
I'm personally a pro at this, I really think if I was born in the 1600's my job title would be "Village Idiot". Look, the reality is animation is over the top, it's loud, it's...well it's silly! And you gotta have fun with it! Do NOT let your fear of looking or sounding stupid get in the way of a stellar performance. TRUST ME, when you're first starting out you will be like "God! That was too much, that take was so extra." but when you listen back you'll see how good it sounds! So flail your arms around! Quack like a duck! Do whatever is needed for you to bring that character to life and have fun doing so! And stop caring what you look like! If people laugh, then GOOD! That means you're doing your job! Embrace looking like an idiot!
Improv! Improv! Improv! and once more for good measure, IMPROV! Improv is suuuuch an important skill to have in the world of Voiceover, ESPECIALLY in animation. You should be able to look at a random cartoon character and come up with a voice, a backstory, and a few lines in a matter of seconds. I know this sounds like crazy hard, but trust me it's not that bad at all! So, enroll in an improv class or 12, and get those creative juices flowing. Also, it's totally not uncommon to see "Feel free to Improv" on an audition, and that translates to "We're giving you an opportunity to show you can improv...TAKE IT" So do yourself a favor, and get good with the Improv Gods. One exercise I love to do is have my friends send me random cartoon characters and I give them voices and a few lines. Here's a video of me doing just that maybe like...8 months ago? It's so much fun, a great way to build improv skills, and if you're lucky you may find a new character voice inside ya!
In conclusion, have fun! Work hard, and make some characters! Animation jobs have easily been my favorite in this world of Voiceover! Hopefully my 2 cents on the matter will help you get some too!