Creating a Voice Demo for Animation
First, I want to talk a bit about animation!
Animation is very different from other forms of voice acting.
For instance, when you’re voicing an ad, you’re almost always talking to a half-listening audience.
Animation is more like other forms of screen acting, where you’re asked to jump into another characters shoes, to tell a story..and, you’re being observed by a captive audience.
So, how can you prepare a demo that will get you listened to by animation producers?
If you believe you have the skills to work in animation, here’s the best ways to create an animation demo and submit the demo ‘cold’.
First let’s talk about who gets cast for animation series and films.
Okay let’s start with films and get that out of the way.
Big budget animated films love ‘famous people’ – that’s just the way it is!
Sometimes a well-established voice actor will get a gig on a big production, but its ‘trend’ to get a ‘name’.
So, if you’re a talented character voice actor, where can you get work in animation?
Think ‘animated Television Series’.
Picture a long-running family style animation series. Yes, there have been many of them. Mostly, they’ve cast voice actors, who have then become famous.
The biggest consumers of animation are children.
If you look at any Kids Channel, there it will be, in all its fun-loving, comical glory – tons and tons of animation!
Yup – the made-for-television animation series is really where the work is for the jobbing voice actor with the skills.
Worldwide, there are well over 100 productions in any given year.
Many of those are sold to and broadcast in different countries with some even dubbed into another language.
Over 60% of those will be Anime, either made in Japan and re-voiced for the English speaking market, or created in English speaking countries because Anime is soooo huge!
(In fact my 22 year-old daughter is watching one of her favourite series as I write this blog).
In Australia, the market is quite small for animation, and at any given time, we may only be producing 6-10 series every year.
We often co-produce, as many countries do, mostly with Canada and the USA. Often the casts are pulled from the countries who have invited in the production. The casts work in isolation, with a director.
In Australia (as elsewhere) there are also opportunities for animation in:
- short films,
- television commercials, and
- increasingly in Explainer Videos for business or online where animation is being used more and more.
In Australia (unlike overseas) you can’t build a career on being a voice actor for animation alone. There just isn’t the work. Most animation voices are pulled from the .
If you’re in the UK, US or Canada there are many more productions, but in any of those markets, there are many more lining up to get the work!
So how can you break in to animation?
I’ll give you the heads-up.
It’s not easy, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you’re dead keen and talented, find a coach who’s an animation expert in your area – it’s well worth the investment!
I have a lot of voice demos sent to me from people who want to work in animation.
They’ll often have a talent for:
- changing the tone and age of their voice,
- mimicking famous people,
- doing accents, or
- creating character (cartoon) voices.
However, almost always there’s a problem with the way these demos are presented.
Often it’s just a selection of random voices – and while I might be hearing some different sounds, I really don’t know how they arrived at the choices they’ve made.
I also don’t know where the script or story has come from:
- are they reading this from an actual script, or
- is it coming straight out of their head?
The problem with that kind of demo is that it’s audio only – and animation is a visual medium.
If you just submit an audio demo with no idea of what the character looks like, what their character traits are, or, what the story is…the producer will have no idea of whether you have the ability to look at a character description and a visual of the character and then find a voice for it and work with the script to tell the story.
And this is what you need to be able to clearly demonstrate.
Don’t forget, a demo is really ‘bait’.
If you’re someone who goes fishing, you’ll know that if the bait is right, chances are you’ll catch the right fish.
Conversely, you put the wrong bait on the hook. This is what it looks like – you’re sitting there for hours… and nothing…is happening!
So let’s get to creating kind of content that producers of animation might be interested in hearing and seeing.
There are two kinds of animation demos: audio and video.
In the absence of a real script and a real character, you need to find one.
Be creative! You can find great material to use anywhere. You can go to the children’s classics for inspiration.
What you’re looking for are three different parts of the text, that each have a different dynamic or emotional position.
Your character needs to reveal how versatile they are at delivering different emotional states, believably.
- in one you may be trying to manipulate someone,
- in the next, you may be showing anger or frustration,
- in another, you may be presenting your character as having a bad day.
It all depends on the story of the text and who your character is in the story.
If you can keep each section at no more than 40 words, that’s ideal.
If you’re putting together an audio file of the demo, and emailing to your list of animation producers, attach a PDF or Word document of a visual of the character, along with the character breakdown, script or monologue you’re working with.
For a video demo, you’ll just need to attach the character breakdown and script.
Finding characters to work with is so easy these days.
If you Google ‘cartoon characters’, and images you’ll find plenty.
Some of the better drawings you’ll have to pay for. Some sites are expensive, but I’ve found characters to use with my animation students that have only cost a few dollars.
And sometimes you can get several different versions of the same character.
You’ll get the famous one’s, like Homer, but for an animation demo, it’s going to take you much further if you create a voice for a character that’s not known.
You may do a good Homer, but they already have someone voicing him!
Impersonation demos are different from animation demos.
Impersonations are mostly used in radio.
Remember this – your impersonation needs to be absolutely flawless and the script you’re working with for the demo needs to be an ad.
I’ll leave you with one thought about the difference between animation and voice over.
*Animation is the same as acting, where you’re asked to jump into another characters shoes and tell a story. And, you have an audience who is there to observe you.
*In voice over, your job is to deliver the advertisers message to a half-listening radio or television audience. Yes, there’s quite a difference in the way you work.
Over the few weeks I’ll be bringing you more about working with advertising scripts, so stay tuned!
Find Your Voice As a Voice Over Actor And Artist With The Voice Over Coach. For over 30 years I've had a successful voiceover career. I work in mainstream voice over for radio and television, narration for the corporate sector, website content and documentaries, as well as characters for animation, IVR, ADR, on-hold and foreign film dubbing.