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By: Alison On: August 17, 2016 In: Voice Overs & Subtitling Comments: 0

Much like being a good actor or actress requires more than just a pretty face, recording good voice overs requires more than just a unique voice.

Great voice overs require a unique talent, and when a voice over is done right, the results can create a performance that’s an instant classic.

Robin Williams’s stint as the Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” is one fantastic example of what can be created when you combine great voice over acting with skillful animation and a well-written character. Read on to find out what makes other voice over talents so good at what they do.

Doing a Voice Over Requires Acting Skills…

One of the major misconceptions when it comes to doing voice overs is the assumption that just because you can make a funny voice, you can make it in the industry as a cartoon voice over actor. This is definitely not true. The process of doing voice overs is often referred to as voice over acting, and for good reason: voice overs require some serious acting skills.

When recording a voice over, it’s common to be sitting in a recording studio, speaking your lines into a microphone, without the benefit of other actors to play off of. It’s totally up to the person doing the voice over to convey emotions through his or her voice. This ability to convey emotion through the voice is a characteristic possessed by many great actors, and anyone doing voice overs must take this skill to the next level. Even with great animation, a flat, emotionless voice over will make for a pretty dull character.

…But a Voice Over Is Very Different from Acting

Williams’s portrayal of the Genie is a great example of how a good actor can take his talents and amplify them when doing voice overs — with great results. Just because Robin Williams had a knack for voice overs, however, doesn’t mean every actor in Hollywood does. A second misconception about doing voice overs is that any actor can do good voice overs.

While a funny voice can contribute to a good cartoon voice over, cartoons are only one application for voice overs. Everything from dubbing foreign language versions of films to the Ewokese language in Star Wars takes advantage of voice talent. No matter the project, voice overs require a certain style of speaking, whether it’s a narrator’s authoritative enunciation or a cartoon’s signature squeak.

Even good actors are not necessarily going to excel at doing voice overs if they can’t muster up the proper tone and style to portray a character’s voice. The important thing is that the voice is distinct. Actress Kristen Bell’s evil-sounding voice over as the anonymous narrator in “Gossip Girl” is a great example of a distinct voice over that’s immediately recognizable.

Famous Voice Overs You May Know

Taking a look at some well-known voice over roles is proof enough that voice over jobs are not for every A-list star. In fact, many voice-over actors are totally unknown to the public, although it is becoming increasingly popular for film studios to try to snag big-name celebrities to star as the voices in their cartoon movies.

Some well-known voice over actors include:

  • Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy as Shrek and Donkey in “Shrek”
  • Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story”
  • Steve Carell as Gru in “Despicable Me”
  • James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in “Star Wars”
  • Matthew Broderick as Simba in “The Lion King”

Other well-known voice-over talents include Seth McFarlane, Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria. McFarlane is the creator of “Family Guy” and voices four of the major characters on the television show (Peter, Brian, Stewie and Quagmire). Castellaneta and Azaria are both fixtures on “The Simpsons,” providing dozens of iconic voices apiece. The former’s repertoire includes Homer, Krusty the Clown and Mayor Quimby, while the latter brings us the voices of bartender Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, among many others.

Doing the voice over for one cartoon character seems difficult enough, but performing multiple major characters in a single show really takes talent!

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