Getting Started in Animation

You’ve probably noticed that a lot web pages start with a rambling introduction and a few anecdotes. We’re going to start with the information people are most interested in instead! But there are some anecdotes and additional information at the bottom of this article 🙂

1. What are the QUICKEST ways to start…

1.1 Making money with animation voice talent skills?

Do fiction audiobooks on the ACX Marketplace. Main issues:
• While it uses animation skills, it’s not animation;
• Your first projects are likely to be low-paying.

1.2. Working in animation?

Start auditioning on the “Blue Butterfly” animation casting sites. Main issues:
• First projects are likely not be produced (they cast talent, but don’t finish the project);
• It takes hundreds of auditions typically before landing a paying project.

1.3. Building Skills that Will Impress Producers?

1.3.1 Train and join/create an Improv Troupe (or perform over 30 times as a stand-up comic);
1.3.2 Get in-person, on-mic recorded voiceover training. Why? So you learn how producers direct, how vocal range works with a voiceover mic, and get some feedback on your articulation, vocal transition skills (e.g. make a problem sound like a problem, make a solution sound like a solution, etc.), and acting approaches. Hint: The all-day Voice Acting is focused on providing you in-person on-mic recorded voiceover training.
1.3.3 Produce animation projects yourself.

2. What are the BEST ways to succeed long term?

Do these steps in this order:

2.1 Get voiceover training in-person on-mic, and get improv training.
2.2 Set up a home studio and start auditioning on the Blue Butterfly animation casting sites.
2.3 Start auditioning for fiction audiobooks on the ACX Marketplace.
2.4 If you are located near voiceover agents, get a voiceover agent.

3. How did people I know of succeed as animation voice actors?

Obviously we’re going to exclude the “become a famous celebrity actor” approach. But just below that “top tier” of celebrities are talent who also became working actors first, animation voice talent second. So: Become a working actor is the short answer.

4. What ways appear to work, but don’t?

4.1 Get help from someone working in the industry. Essentially, when someone in the industry says they will help you succeed, you will find that all the previous people they “helped” were already successful regional actors with an agent. Where this commonly happens: At expensive animation-specific voiceover training given by someone working in animation.
4.2 Get paying gigs via an animation voiceover agent. The problem is that this is harder than it appears. You usually have to start by becoming a successful regional non-animation actor with a regional agent, then move to LA or Vancouver, become a successful non-animation actor there, then get an agent there, then focus on animation work.

A Los Angeles Story…

There was a working actor in Los Angeles with an agent. He’d had an agent and been working for several years. He did an entire season of an animated show, and sought out an agent who represented voice talent, since his current agent didn’t.

He contacted agents and said “I’ve worked on an animated series for year, and it’s been picked up for a second season. All you have to do is represent me and you can collect 10% of my income on the second season of the animated show.” Yet no one would represent him.

What he finally did to get an agent who represents voice talent in Los Angeles, was have one of the other actors on the series who already had a voice agent go with him and walk him into her agent’s office. In Los Angeles, it’s often said this level of ‘who you know’ is more important than anything else in getting a good agent.

And that was somebody who by anyone’s measure is successful!

The good news is that people who set up a minimal home studio usually start getting projects in a week or two. Also: the sooner you start the better, because even getting cast on low-paying, or no-paying projects means that the producers of those projects, as they move forward to more significant projects, may keep using you.

It’s true that most of the people who are fairly successful were both working actors, and working voice talent, (most commonly in commercial work) before they became successful in animation voiceover. But nowadays, you can build your reputation with hundreds of producers a year on the Blue Butterfly casting sites, and as those producers become more successful, you can become successful with them!