Finding A Voice
Pictures and voices—as a long-time TV veteran, it’s probably no surprise that the visuals drive my thinking. But voices are the power that brings images to life. As far back as I can remember, certain voices stood out and still stand out. And they helped me to craft my spirit of communication. You may not know their names, but their voices could stop a truck.
If you’ve ever been to Disney World, then you know the ghoulish voice that welcomes you into the Haunted Mansion. Perhaps appropriately, Paul Frees has been dead for over 30 years.
But his terrifying tones live on as the host of the houses’ ghosts. But Paul Frees had an amazing range and an incredible vocal inventory. His voice is heard on dozens of movies and he brought some unforgettable characters to life. It’s a long list, but the most prominent name has to be Boris Badenov, that lunatic Pottsylvanin spy who unsuccessfully chases after Rocky and Bullwinkle
You can’t talk about Rocky and Bullwinkle without talking about June Foray.
She’s behind Rocky’s frustrated anguish as Bullwinkle promises to pull a rabbit out of a hat (“Again?? That trick never works!”} And she voiced Natasha, Boris Badonov’s lean and lanky partner in Pottsillvanian corruption.
June Foray inspired my imagination and creative spirit. It’s no wonder. She’s called the “Queen of Voice Acting.” Sadly, June Foray just passed away at the age of 99.
For years, movie trailers featured a powerful, booming voice whose promotions always started with his signature phrase, “In a world…”
Don Lafontaine’s voice inspired a whole long list of copycats. But nobody did it like La Fontaine. The big difference is that whenever you heard his voice, it was clear that he wasn’t forcing it. He tried to sound natural. Communication works best when your voice is natural and not forced. That is the key to voice acting. You can tell when the voice is forced. La Fontaine was a master.
No voice projected dignity, intelligence, and credibility like Alexander Scourby. Whether you’re a believer, a skeptic, or an atheist, Scourby’s masterful reading of the Bible is mesmerizing.
It’s not just his voice. His intonation, enunciation, pacing, and flow breathe life into every single word. I wanted so much to be an Alexander Scourby, but you can’t copy his sort of genius. Whether it’s voice acting or documentary narration, it’s like the old saying—“be your self.”
Here’s a guy who was born with a really good set of pipes. He had a deep, gravelly, and spirited way of expressing what he needed to say. And he was most often heard on science fiction or horror movies.
John Carradine had that signature kind of voice which could wake the dead. And in his movies, he very often did just that. It wasn’t just that he had a deep and gravelly voice. He spoke with style. I learned a lot from him and frankly, I still do. He’s been dead for many years, But John Caradine will live on in Hollywood forever.
Okay, there must be a point here. Just about everybody has a voice. It may not be the deep, resonant voice of a John Carradine or the booming power of a Paul Frees. But everybody has character and personality. Read your self into voiceover copy. To borrow from what they teach in acting class. Think about what’s supposed to be happening in your immediate area at the time that you are about to speak. The proper emotion and the proper enunciation are different for different circumstances. That is so critically important in doing voiceovers.
The voice over artists I featured here was a huge influence on me as I grew up. I never tried to copy them. But in following their careers and listening to how they spoke, I became more adept at capturing the spirit of voiceover artistry and the voiceover acting. In voice overs today, it’s like I said before.
“Be your self.”