Study the Masters
I learn a lot from the great actors that voice TV shows, movies and games. They inspire and instruct and give me ideas to save for later.
Begin by “studying” Mel Blanc- go watch a bunch of Loony Tunes. That’s where it starts for me. If you want to go back further to where Bugs & Co. came from, check out some vaudeville on youtube!
A student of voice acting should also know who’s working now and what they do. Check out the amazing modern day performers of T.V. animation: John Dimaggio, Grey Delisle, Jim Cummings, Corey Burton, Nika Futterman, Tom Kenny, Tara Strong, Kari Wahlgren, Eric Bauza, I could go on… The voice ensembles in “Sponge Bob,” or “Fairly Odd Parents,” or “Phineas and Ferb.” The documentary, “I Know That Voice” is a good place to meet many of the top working voice actors in animation.
On-camera performers can also offer a lot of great insight into acting, character creation and use of the voice: Watch through the Harry Potter films and see what Alan Rickman does vocally with Snape! It is exquisite how he maximizes meaning with silence and adds so much with so little apparent effort (he’s one of my favorite actors for range, technique and sheer fun– seen him in “Die Hard?”). Gary Oldman is a marvelous chameleon of character who can do about anything (compare his performances in “Dracula” and “Fifth Element!”). For more fun, watch “The Wishmaster,” yes, a cheesey horror movie (and not for the younglings), but a terrific voice acting job by the main villain played by Andrew Divoff. Go back and watch “Dr. Strangelove!” See what Peter Sellers does in that– just astounding! Jeremy Irons’ Skar in “The Lion King” or Tony Jay as Frollo in “Hunchback.”
Go back to Disney’s “Jungle Book” and listen to that ensemble! Hans Conried as Captain Hook in Disney’s “Peter Pan’s!” is genius (for that matter, Jason Issacs as Hook in the live action version a few years ago was terrific as well!) The melodious voice of the original Cinderella or her step mother! Chris Lloyd as Judge Doom in “Rodger Rabbit.” The ensemble of “Raising Arizona.” The George Miller and Joe Dante segments of “The Twilight Zone” movie. Recently, the over-the-top cinematography of “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” are great examples of how specific camera and acting choices can bring character and story to life visually– which is what animation excels at. As you train your mind to “see” your character you must also “see” the scene that is playing out. The more specific you are with this vision, the better your acting will be!
These are some of my all-time favorite acting performances, VO or not! They are my sources of charged acting inspiration– references for how I want to attack a role and fully inhabit a character.
Find your own inspiration, steal character ideas with love and make it all part of your own personal internal database to have at the ready for use in your work.
Here’s a full list of content I recommend you be familiar with: Fantastical Fundamentals