by Joe Bevilacqua
from Animation World Magazine

Mel Blanc

Daws Butler and Joe Bevilacqua

Bob Bergen


Real Acting  

Most of the actors quoted in this article also trained with Daws Butler, and they all learned from him first and foremost that voice acting is real acting, not just "doing funny voices." This is very important to keep in mind. Characters should be real, no matter how cartoony the style is. In my radio cartoon series, for example, Willoughby and the Professor, I played all the roles, sometimes a dozen or more per show--from a one year-old baby named Bub and a 12 year-old boy named Willoughby, to the 60 year old Professor. None of these characters were just "voices"; they were flesh and blood people, fully realized in the script, in my head, and in the final performance.

Bob Bergen, the present day voice of Porky Pig, comments that, "The call that I get most often is, 'I want to work in cartoons but I'm not an actor,' or 'I don't want to be an actor.' A person with this perspective will never work. In this business, they could care less if you can do great voices. It's the acting that gets the job, it is definitely a skill and a craft that takes time to cultivate." he adds.

David Kaye with his characters.

David Kaye, the voice of Megatron, has similar sentiments. He says, "The first thing you've got to do if you want to get into cartoons or animation or voice work is take some acting classes.' Study the classics, because that is where everything comes from." Kaye recalls that, "I didn't start getting a lot of animation [work] until I started doing theater. I went to the four-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. It wasn't until then that I could really go into an audition and create a character."

Getting Started  

Nancy Cartwright

Nancy Cartwright is one of Daws Butler's most talented and successful students . She plays Bart Simpson on The Simpsons, and many other roles in cartoons, as well as on stage and on camera; these range from The Snorks and Cheers in the 1980s to recent TV movies and a one-woman stage show, In Search of Fellini. "My training," says Nancy, "started when I was a kid and I performed in theater. I got my confidence, and recognized an ability I had to make people laugh. I was learning by doing it." Anyone who thinks cartoon voice actors can't act, should see Nancy in her superb one-woman show.

Phil Proctor

Practice Makes Perfect  

Veteran actor, writer and producer, Phil Proctor recalls the transition from stage to voice overs, in his case from Firesign Theater to Rugrats. "I had to learn how to accommodate my own eccentric skills to the rather restricted demand of a particular vision, or often lack of vision, in order to create whatever it was that the client ultimately wanted to hear."

Joe Alaskey

Joe Alaskey, one of several actors who now voices many of the Warner Bros. characters, recalls one of his early lessons, when "Friz Freleng scouted me from my stand-up act in the late 70s. He critiqued my work over the phone, telling me to keep working at it, and to prepare for the future. I started saturating myself in Warner Bros. cartoons, listening like never before, practicing every day to improve their unique sounds and the myriad of nuances in personality. I'm still at it today."


Agents & Demos  


Joe Bevilacqua is a Los Angeles-based voice actor, writer, producer, and director.