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Voicing Toys: Make It Fun ...
While You Work Hard 


By Elaine Clark
Voice Actor / Owner & Founder, Voice One

Over the past 20 years, I've voiced, cast, recorded and/or directed one hundred toys.

I've sung in funny voices, barked like a dog, burped like a baby, and directed an actor to sound like an Australian robot.

If this creative area of the voice over  business interests you, here are some tips to help your toy voices be successful:


1. MAKE IT FUN

Your audience is kids. It is imperative that you make it a positive and uplifting experience.

Toys are a form of entertainment. If the child doesn't have fun listening to you, there's no point in buying the product.

Smile, laugh, and let the kid inside you come out and play.

This will take waaaaaay more energy then you ever imagined. Put your whole body into it.

2. DICTION & CLARITY

Most toys are down-sampled to an 8k chip. That requires amazingly precise diction and clarity.

Talent is often directed to over-articulate, using lip and tongue muscles they never knew existed while still keeping it believable.

Additionally, some chips alter sounds so the talent may be asked to say a word differently. For example, a "th" sound may need to be read as a "d."

Don't forget the educational component, too. Your voice is setting an example and teaching children.

And, it needs to cut through music and effects in 8k!

3. STAMINA

You must maintain your energy and character. Sounds simple enough, right?

What if you have to read letters and numbers in a goofy high pitched voice for four hours?

And, you're required to read each word three ways so it can be parsed in at the beginning, middle and end of sentences.

You have to KEEP IT UP from the beginning of the session until the end! If you do that, you earned a well deserved nap or walk on the beach.

4. GO FOR IT!

Let it go. Let your freak flag fly! Don't be afraid to be wacky and over the top. Rarely is it too much in a toy recording.

Many lines require multiple readings with different attitudes or actions. That gives the editor/programmer choices.

You're only limited by your imagination. So, test your limits of creativity. You know you do good voice over when you want to wash your mouth out with soap.

GETTING STARTED ...

So what do you do if you want to break into this business?

Practice and develop your stable of voices.

Go to toy stores and listen to talking products. Imitate. Create. Develop.

There's work out there. Be prepared for it.

ABOUT ELAINE ...

Elaine Clark is an award-winning actor, voice talent, director, producer, certified teacher and author of the book, There's Money Where Your Mouth Is. She is also the founder and owner of the Voice One in San Francisco, a major voice over training company offering a wide range of voice over classes, including the Summer Fast Track this month and early August.
 
 
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Comments (3)
JackFrasierVO
10/11/2016 at 12:15 AM
Hi, Elaine!

I am being asked to do some lines for a toy.
But I'm not sure what to charge.
I hear people get royalties.
I'll bet they want a buyout, though.
What is fair? What is too much? What won't make me look/feel like a chump?

Thanks!
Roy Wells
7/6/2011 at 9:38 AM
You're absolutely right about the energy level, Elaine. Way back when I went to the HS of Performing Arts (NYC FAME school) our acting teacher told us the highest energy level we could work at, would be the lowest level acceptable for Broadway. Energy levels are one of the most important factors for an actor of any kind.
Bettye Zoller
7/6/2011 at 2:07 AM
Wonderful info, Elaine. I'll share with my seminar enrollees and private voice students.

I also have voiced zillions of toys including TX Instruments Speak and Spell, Teddy Bears, Lionel Trains, dolls and more. One time, my "j" sound was inadequate and I had to do redo sessions to fix. Repeated the "j" consonant for about one hour. It has a voiced vocal fold sound before the audible sound. Voice it and listen carefully everybody. Say a "j." Hear the sound before the "j" sound starts? WOW. Cause the chip needed more front on it.

I also teach corporations specializing in speech recognition software and do closed captioning. That's interesting work and these workers also must do what we VO folks do as far as articulation, precise diction required when you are working with chips and VO recognition software.

You are a pioneer and still hope to meet you sometime. Have to do plug here: I'm starting accent dialect minimization workshop Aug 22 sponsored by VoiceOverXtra and if students out there in cyberland are into voice recognition and toys, etc., best get that speech clear.

Hey Elaine, all the best. Bettye
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