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Voice Acting For Animation!!!

10 December

Getting Work In Animation

This has to be about the best fun a performer or voice actor can have.  We all love cartoons.  They’re entertaining, insightful, funny, and no one ever dies.  Well, if they do, they always manage to be alive in the next scene.  That’s the power of the cartoon.  Anything goes!!!

If you do want to work in animation, you first need to prove to casting people that you know your way around a script first and foremost.  Once this is established, you’ll have more of a chance of being suggested for animation series, when they are casting for them.

I often tell people who are passionate about animation to concentrate on building a fine voice demo mostly weighted with straight stuff, because if you listen to mainstream radio and television, that’s what you’ll hear that…and that’s where all the work is.  Once you have that demo and are booking work, you can build your profile as a character voice actor.

Of course, those who are talented at character work, are always encouraged to include a small amount of character work on a demo, it on a demo or if they’re very versatile, to make a separate character demo

Let’s talk about the difference between voice acting for advertising, and animation.

When we perform in animation, we’re being observed, just as we are when we’re performing on stage or screen.  When we do a voice over, our job is to convince the listening audience to do what we want them to do; buy that product, go to that event etc.

So when it comes to creating character voices for a demo, you need to be really canny about how you choose the script.  I sometimes get a demo that has some good voice over reads on it and then some samples of character voices towards the end of the demo, that are just a random selection of cartoony type voices using scripts that don’t have an advertising message.

The problem with doing this is that the cartoon voice isn’t accompanied by a visual, and without that, we don’t really know whether you’re talented at voicing for animation because we can’t attach it to any particular character.

That’s why I encourage people to find ‘advertising’ scripts that require a character voice and include those on the demo.  However, there are ways to get your talent for character voices in front of those producers who are casting.

Getting The Audition

First, you have to get the job.  So just how do you get cast for animation jobs, animation shorts, films or series?

Usually you’re invited to audition because you are either a known performer with a good track record or you’re a voice over professional with a great deal of experience and a solid repertoire of character voices.  Or, you may have an unusual or quirky sounding voice, or you may just happen to have exactly the right natural voice for one of the characters.

More often than not, Producers use mainstream sound recording studios (often the studio they’re planning to use for the recording) to audition prospective voices for their cast, although it can occasionally be done at a casting studio, where you perform the voice to camera, with the producers or directors in the room.

When you’re invited to audition, you’ll be sent a character breakdown, an image of the character and a script, either a monologue or a few scenes from the script.  Auditions like these are seldom paid.

Just as an aside, you could also be asked to audition for an animated character for a television commercial.  In that case you would be booked to do what is called a submission.  That is, you go to a studio and record the complete script.  Then your voice will be submitted to Advertising Agency creative’s and the client for approval.

Preparing the Audition

In the ‘brief’ that you’ll be sent, you’ll be given the important information about the character’s emotional states and personality as well as the character’s role or journey in the story.

Unless you’re playing a lead role, you may only be sent a few scenes or pages from the script.  Hopefully this will give you enough information about the character’s role in the story or scene and its emotional journey or attitudes.

And, of course you’ll always be sent an image of the character, which will give you all the clues you’ll need to make choices about how that character sounds.

In cartoon animation, often the attributes are extreme, a really huge nose, really big eyes, impossible buck teeth or strange body shape.  You need to make really strong choices around the character’s physical traits.  You need to find the character’s charm, even if it’s a wicked or evil character.

Let’s have a look at this image.






There are a couple of great clues here.  The first thing you notice is the eyes.  This character is definitely mischievous, wicked, up to no good.  That’s the emotional state or attitude and understanding this will colour the choices you make, the words that become important, the way the character bends words.

Then there are those extra-ordinary teeth!  Now you do need to speak clearly, but you can’t ignore such a strong physical attribute and need to find a way for him to speak, making something of those teeth that’s humorous and engaging, as well as capturing the attitude behind the look in his eyes.

Now this is cute, with all the attributes of cute, cock-eared playfulness.






The image says curious and innocent and that certainly is a good sniffing nose.  I would use the open mouthed aspect to do something, whether it be doggy style panting or small quizzical noises that aren’t in the script to add to this character’s believability.

While it’s definitely not okay to change the script, unless it comes from the Producer or Writer, it is definitely okay to add colour to the character that help to further physicalise, such as breath or sudden intake or exhale of air and small physical reactions that there are not really any words for.  Think about it?  There are heaps of those that we use every day to add colour to our own expression and meaning in conversation, huh, mmmmmm? pffft, tsk, tsk, tsk, aaaahhhh!  You with me?

How about this one?  It’s neither human nor animal but has some interesting human features, specifically the fact that the character is almost all arms and chest.






The shape reminds me of a Genie, the one’s that come out of a bottle, so you could make a choice to go with a Genie style voice or attitude to bring this one to life.

Voice over for anything is about the art of creating a strong visual for a disembodied voice.  Every disembodied voice has a persona.  When we meet someone face-to-face, we get the whole picture and we accept what we get.  With a disembodied voice, what we get is something in the tone of the voice that gives us a strong visual.

For instance, how often have you met someone over the phone, (the disembodied voice) and because of clues the voice gives, created a visual for that person.  Then, when you meet them, you’re completely blown away because that female with the bright, energetic 20-something sounding voice, who you’ve visualized as a petite, slim brunette with a big smile, turns out to be a tall, 50-something woman with pock-marked skin.  That male with the deep, authorative, even sensual voice is actually a pale-skinned, reedy guy with thin lips.  Voice doesn’t fit the visual.

What animation or character creation is asking you to do is to find a voice that absolutely fits that visual, whether it’s a ‘character’ style voice or your own voice, the one that just happens to have the right persona for that character.

Doing The Job

Sometimes in animation, the record sessions are booked as scenes, rather than episodes and, much like film, can be recorded out of sequence.  Sometimes, you may even find yourself alone in the studio, with the director taking you through your character work line by line.  In this case, you really need to trust the director and hope that he or she has an absolutely spot-on vision for the work.  Don’t worry.  They usually do.

Of course, it’s much more fun to work with the other performers and I believe there is more opportunity for spontaneity and ideas.  Once the work is recorded, the audio is taken away and then the animation is done.  This can be a really long process, often taking months.  Then, when the animation is complete, you are often asked to come back into the studio to embellish what you’ve done.  Your character may be in the background and the animators have created a response from your that there was no dialogue for.  Occasionally the director feels that a line needs to be delivered differently. Sometimes, you’ll also be asked to add your voice to crowd scenes, such as people gasping in horror, or an audience laughing or random people in a crowd yelling something.  These sessions are called Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR), and are always great fun.

Animation is great fun.  No wonder so many people who call me about voiceover say that have a real interest in it.  And remember, not all animated characters are like the old Looney Tunes; Sylvester, Tweety and Elmer Fudd although it can be incredibly rewarding to create a completely original, unusual voice for a character.  Just think of animation series like Toy Story, where the casting is more often about the ‘right natural voice’ for the character.  And then it’s up to the performer to bring all the character’s physical attributes to life.

For details of my new Animation Mastery, in February 2013, just take a look here and get in touch.

Happy voiceovering!


Abbe Holmes About Abbe Holmes
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.

39 Responses to “Voice Acting For Animation!!!”

  1. Mark D December 14, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    Love this article.
    While not an experienced voice over artist, I’ve always had an interest in puppetry and animation and dream of one day being the voice of a famous puppet or animated character.
    I love performing for my kids and really need to start putting together a show reel of sorts.
    Now…to get in the interests of Pixar producers/directors….hmmmmm

    • abbe-holmes December 14, 2012 at 6:44 am #

      Hi Mark
      It’s amazing how animation strikes such a chord with so many. I think it’s the freedom! That, and the feeling that no matter what happens, it’s all going to be alright in the end. Glad you loved the article. Creating a demo and getting your face (voice rather) in front of the right people can take grit and determination. If you’re in Melbourne (or Sydney early in 2013) I can help. If you’re somewhere else in the world, and you have the latent for this kind of work, be like a dog with a bone….go for it!

      • Jenny June 16, 2013 at 10:47 am #

        I really loved this article!!! I’ve always been interested in voice overs but got swept away in everyday life and have never pursued my interest! I’m from Melbourne and am currently investigating my options, I’ve realized that experience is required, however I am willing to do unpaid work if that’s going to help me with a portfolio and experience.
        I’ve been a sales rep for ten years so speaking in public and sales pitches is my forte! I believe that my success in sales is that I always delivered my sale s pitches “in different character voices” to keep it interesting! Lol hope to hear from you soon.

        • abbe-holmes June 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

          Hi Jenny
          I’ll email you privately to see how I can help you

    • David Fattore June 20, 2016 at 10:39 am #

      Hi Abbe,

      Thanks for that, I really enjoyed reading that article, it was exactly what I was looking for.
      I’m a Melbourne Musician who has recorded a Demo EP back in 2012 (so no stranger to a recording studio) and I aspires to be a vocal artist / actor as I’ve always found more tranquility at the notion of being behind the camera so to speak as opposed to live action (if that makes any sense). Films like Zootopia, and Rio are real inspirations….

      I was just wondering if you could provide any pointers at how to get started, as I’m basically new to the voice acting world and wouldn’t have the first clue about where and how to start…

      Thanks again

      • Abbe Holmes June 20, 2016 at 11:41 am #

        Hi David
        If you email me through abbe@voiceovercoach.com.au and leave your number I’ll give you a call.

        • David Fattore June 20, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

          Thanks for the reply, much appreciated… I’ll be sure to email you sometime tomorrow to discuss

          Thanks again

  2. Ingrid Elkner January 15, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Fantastic article, Abbe! I’ve done voices for a couple animations and games and this article gave me some stuff to think about. I tried creating voices for each of the illustrated samples, and it was hard! I guess I’ve only done human and human-like characters before.
    I’ll have to look into this Animation Mastery on offer. Straight is great to do, but I much prefer character (but then that sounds like my life!)

    • abbe-holmes January 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

      Hi Ingrid
      Happy to help. It’s true that adding character to a performance and creating a voice for a specific character can be tricky. Give me a call if you want to talk about the Animation mastery.

  3. Lisa Hocking June 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    Hi Abbe
    Just wondering if you ever run Animation Workshops for children in the School Holidays? I have an 11 year old daughter who is very keen to get into this area and we come from country Victoria. Thanks – Lisa

    • abbe-holmes June 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      Hi Lisa

      I’ll reply to your privately.

  4. Simon Mulholland July 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Hi Abbe.
    I’ve grown up watching cartoons, japanese anime and listening to audio cds by the likes of Billy Birmingham. And ever since I’ve been obsessed with being just as creative as the VO artists and actors.

    While I never received formal training, my experience lies primarily in singing, mainly as a baritone for years. But as the years went by I actually managed to get a bit of experience in. At a pop culture expo in 2011 I took part in a dubbing competition hosted by actor Michael McConnohie and won an award for my dub of an anime character. At uni I also continued my singing, got involved in uni radio and also got a part in a flash based zelda/sonic crossover, until the project got cancelled.

    Basically I’d give anything to improve my voice skills and become a more professional voice actor. Your article has really opened my mind to a lot of lessons to take to heart and is really insightful.

    Thank you and kind regards
    – Simon.

    • abbe-holmes July 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Thanks for your post Simon and I’m really happy the article gave you some insights. That’s what I’m here for.
      Animation is such a fabulous genre. I love working in it, when the opportunity arises. If only there was more here in Australia!

  5. Kurt August 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Abbe,

    I really enjoyed reading this post of yours. I have absolutely no experience whatsoever in voice acting or any kind of performing for that matter, but I really just enjoy making up voices and conversations when nobody is around. It’s heaps of fun!
    I love animation and I studied an animation course at RMIT a few years ago but found that the design aspect wasn’t for me. Then I began to think maybe it’s doing voice overs that sounds the most fun!
    I was wondering, without any experience or qualifications in voice acting and also having a quiet and introverted personality, do you think that I could still succeed in the industry?
    Also, are there many opportunities in Melbourne or in Australia?


    • abbe-holmes August 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

      Hi Kurt
      Thanks for the feedback on this article on animation. The question of whether you have what it takes to succeed is hard for me to know. Simple answer tho; if you’re good enough, you’ll get work. You do need to know what goes on in the industry, what kind of work is there, either voiceover for ads or in animation (where there is much less work) and you need coaching to discover all these things, where you’d fit in and how to make a great demo that gives examples of your work. If you feel you have real skills in voicing, then you might like to come to one of my Discover Voiceover Technique Workshops. They’re always on a Saturday and run every two months or so, next one October 12th in Melbourne. You can just look on my COACHING page for details.
      Hope to hear from you

  6. Dammeon December 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    hello hello! i love voice acting! i have many voices like disney male prince and baby characters i wanted to know if you can email me about what sites to go to for auditions for like disney and other companies thank you so much!!

    • abbe-holmes January 3, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      Hi Dammeon
      Thanks for your post. I’m in Australia, so I’m a bit lost when it comes to US producers.
      The skills for voice acting are the same the world over, so keep in touch and reading my blogs to help you get informed and skilled up.
      Best wishes in the pursuits of your dream

  7. Oliver April 3, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Jenny,

    I stumbled upon this article while looking up voice acting. I am an aspiring voice actor and have been told by alot of friends, family and work colleagues that I have a talent for the work. Over the past year I have been building up a bit of an online portfolio and recently created a website for myself. I recently moved to Melbourne for work, I would be interested in partaking in some classes and lessons etc if they are available to further develop and accumulate more experience required to get into the industry. I would love to discuss this further with you if possible!

    kind regards,

    • abbe-holmes April 3, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

      Hi Oliver
      Thanks for the contact and your interest in voiceover.
      If you email me at abbe@voiceovercoach.com.au and leave your mobile number, I’ll give you a call to talk about the options.

  8. John April 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Hi Abbe
    I have always had an interest in voice acting, but have had no idea how to get into this field.
    I don’t have any formal training, but have enjoyed making up voices for assorted characters that my friend likes to draw.
    Great article, it had some awesome pointers.
    Have a good day!

    • abbe-holmes April 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      Hi John and thanks for the post.
      I love working in animation and although, here in Australia, it’s not a huge part of doing voiceover, it sure is the most fun.
      Good luck in your pursuit of voiceover knowledge.

  9. Sidd Gaur January 31, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

    Hi Abbe,

    I’ve been mimicking the voices of several characters for many years, and have also made up some of my own voices along the way.
    I really enjoyed this post, and was wondering if 17 year old students can try to apply for getting a job in voice acting for animations. I am very eager to know about this and would like to hear from you.
    Thanks and Regards,

    • Abbe Holmes February 1, 2015 at 7:07 am #

      Hi Sidd
      The most important skill you need to be excellent at, before you even think about working in animation, is that your sight reading skills are excellent. Many people can mimic or do great character voices, and what you have is a wonderful and important skills, but you are always working from a script to voice your character.
      Practice with children’s books that have a lot of different characters.
      Good luck

  10. Tayla May 4, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi there Ab. This has really helped me out a lot, although this was ( in a sense) not a huge load of information but it has helped me find ways to create a character if you get me haha. I LOVE animation, I love drawing and all that lot and would love to get into voice acting. People say I would be great for this because I am just a loud, chirpy and confident person. I think by nearly the end of last year I bought a ” Voice Acting For Dummies” book but I’d like to get face to face lessons in the future because I would really love seeing myself doing this line of work in the future. Do you have any tips on getting teachers and what would be the right one to get? Also do they cover more of the acting side of it because I know voice acting isn’t just about being able to do a good voice. Thanks if you read this, haha.

    Tayla :))

    • Abbe Holmes May 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Tayla
      Thanks for your comments. So glad to see this has helped . As far as furhter coaching. You must make sure you find a coach in your area who is working in the profession or produces voices. It’s really important that you get the right technique training. And yes, voice acting is about a lot more than your voice. Once again, find a coach with enough experience to teach you the techniques. Good luck on your journey. 🙂

  11. Phillip June 28, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    I have a question… How do you know if you have a voice for acting?

    I understand that most actors manipulate their voice to sound higher, deeper, or to display a form of emotion. But How do you figure out or not if you have a good voice? I’m not too sure if asking friends/family would be a reliable source.

    • Abbe Holmes June 28, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

      Hi there Phillip
      Mmmmm, short answer. Find a good voiceover coach, someone in your area who is ‘actually’ working in voiceover, to assess your abilities. Asking friends/family is definitely unreliable. If you are able to sight read brilliantly, then you have the foundation for voiceover. Being able to then understand what the script is asking of you and create a voice or voices to delivery the story or message is the next most important thing.
      I hope this helps.

  12. John hughes January 4, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

    Hi abbe!!

    I’ve been interested in voice acting for years now, in fact since I was a teenager to be honest. I have always impersonated people and can do almost any persons mannerisms or accents if I listen to them. I have always made my friends and family laugh by making up fake conversations/characters of people that we see talking in the distance lol. I haven’t had any formal training but I learn fast and have almost no inhibitions with doing my characters! I have succumbed to a mundane job and want to branch out to do something that I really love, I watch a lot of anime and play video games and I always find myself giving the characters more “appropriate” voices haha! Are you still actively giving advice at the moment? I’m in Melbourne in the south Eastern suburbs and any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Abbe Holmes January 7, 2017 at 9:03 am #

      Hi John
      Thanks for your email and your interest in voiceover for anime/animation. The thing is…in Australian, we don’t have an animation or games industry that’s big enough to support more than a handful of people well, and mostly those who work in it, do it occasionally. I’ve worked in animation since the 1980’s and every years there’s ‘something’, which is fabulous, but the area that makes the most money and regularly is voiceover for the commercial are (that’s TV, radio and online) and thee corporate sector (for business). Your skills (if they’re brilliant) would fit into the commercial area, where they’re always looking for new voices that bring something fresh and different. If you want to find out whether you do have the skills to pursue this, I run a course called Discover VoiceOver Technique. It’s a one day workshop, always on a Saturday, 10-5. Just go to my voiceover coach site, coaching section from the menu bar and have a look at that course to see if it would work for you.
      Thanks again

  13. SkyArcher September 13, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

    Hey, although I’ve never done any voice overs, nor am I a famous person, but I would really like the opportunity to try out voice acting for any character. I have a type of voice that can suit any character, good or evil..
    If there is anyway that I can voice act for something, I would really like to know

    • Abbe Holmes September 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm #

      Hi there
      Thanks for your comment and interest in voice acting. To get into voiceover acting, you need to be skilled up. It’s not an easy area to get work in and to do so, you need to know what you’re doing. Find a coach in your local area (I’m in Melbourne) and work with them to discover what skills you have that suit and what you need to do to get heard.

  14. Jon Saunderson December 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    Hi Abbe

    I’ve been interested in doing different voices since I was 10, I only realised that this is something I really want to do for a living a couple of years ago. Since that moment I have been searching everywhere for voice coaching and Voice Acting in Brisbane, but I haven’t found anything. Would you happen to know of anything in Brisbane that I could look up? Or any other way I could do this while staying at the same time stay in Brisbane e.g. online coaching? This is something I am truly passionate about and I’d really appreciate your help in finding a way to do this in Brisbane

    Thank You for taking the time in reading my poorly written message.

    Jon S

    • Abbe Holmes December 23, 2017 at 6:04 am #

      Hi Jon
      Apologies for taking so long to reply. Busy time of year 🙂
      Thanks for your email and your interest in voiceover. I don’t believe there is a voice acting coach in Brisbane doing what I do, although if you google Sarah Kennedy, who is a working voiceover artist up there, she may be able to help you.
      Best wishes for your journey into voiceover.

  15. Poonam Shrivastav March 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm #

    Thank you so much for such a great article. This helps. I got a very childish voice though I am currently 29 yr old woman. I always get compliments and yes even from spam callers (energy and insurance) 😀
    Many people suggested me to work for cartoons voice-over job as I mimic Doremon, Shinchan a lot. haha. I would really like to know where can I send my voice recording as I am very new to this industry and definitely would need guidance and training in Melbourne. Thank you once again for this article.

    • Abbe Holmes March 8, 2018 at 5:19 pm #

      Hi Poonam
      Thanks for your email and I can hear that you love the idea of working in animation and for cartoons.
      I have to say that this is a very, very small industry in Australia and very difficult to get into.
      To do so your reading skills need to be excellent, because you are always working with a script.
      Your voice acting skills as a storyteller, being able to play different emotions also need to be brilliant.
      If you feel that you have these skills really solidly, then you may find your way in. I don’t want to feed you false hope, but on the other hand I don’t want to put you off from following your dreams,. Do as much research as you can and watch other voice actors working. Youtube can be a great source. I wish you well 🙂

  16. Matt March 6, 2019 at 9:59 am #

    Good read.
    I’ve mucked around a fair bit with different voices to the point I even at times tell my kids off in some character voice that they dont really know if they’re in trouble or not (they settle down while confused so it works one way or another) I’ve been interested in putting my voice to characters for a while now but living in Adelaide, my options dont go far. I’ve checked out some of the sites of local agencies and though they are a stepping stone I cant find anything on progressing from there. Another option could be to run a podcast and utilize different voices in it as that could create a bit of interest too. You wouldn’t know of anywhere in Adelaide that would be able to assist in progressing to my goal or would I need to shift interstate?


    • Abbe Holmes March 6, 2019 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Matt.
      Thanks for the post and your interest in pursuing voiceover. I think a conversation will be better, than trying to address your location and skills building regards voiceover on this post. If you send me an email via abbe@voiceovercoach.com.au and give me your mobile number, I can call and have a chat.

  17. Zahra May 28, 2019 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Abbe
    It’s such a bliss to see you replying comments after 7 years… on behalf of everyone living with a dream, I would like to thank you for your timeless attentiveness.
    I’m one of those people aiming for the stars, I’ve always had this deep-rooted passion for voice acting… I used to mute the TV when I was a kid and start speaking instead of the characters and everybody says I have a rather exclusive voice. problem is I’ve never had the chance to show it anywhere… is it possible to be able to go to auditions regardless of having no resume and only a good voice (and a so-called ability to act)?
    can I contact you personally for more help?
    p.s: I have an American accent… is that a problem in Australian voice acting careers?

    • Abbe Holmes May 28, 2019 at 5:18 pm #

      Hi Zahra
      Thanks for your lovely post. I’m chuffed that you are enjoying my blogs 🙂
      An American accent will mean that it won’t be easy to get work in Australia in mainstream voiceover. That is commercial advertising. Even in animation, which is quite small in Australia, it’s difficult to find a job, let alone create a career. Those who do get animation jobs, are usually doing other work within the industry, acting, writing, producing. Compared to countries like Japan, Canada and the US where you can make your living solely as an animation actor, Australia is hard to break into.
      I get that you are passionate. You can email me at abbe@voiceovercoach.com.au and leave your mobile number and I can contact you for a chat.

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