Last week we had Rowen Wagner from Moose Toys as a guest in our Professional Invitational. Not only was it illuminating and exciting, but there was also a surprise that we discovered while taking the class. Something simple and obvious, but key to voicing toys, is to play. Here are three tips to bring some play into your booth when you're voicing toys, or when you're doing any voice acting for that matter.
Don’t Try to do it Right
We've seen a lot of actors go into the booth and get into their heads, thinking about how the voice should sound, or how to do it “right.” If you think back to when you were a kid, you didn't try to get your play “right,” you just gave yourself over to it. You were free to run around the park, swing on the swings, make up scenes in the sandbox with your favorite action figures. You did that spontaneously, without worrying that someone would tell you that you were doing it wrong. The same goes when voicing toys. Go with your gut, let yourself feel free to play in the booth, and trust that your training will be your guide to what’s “right”.
Have a sense of wonder
Great acting instructors will lead you to make “discoveries” in your acting choices, which creates a character who doesn't know the future, who lives in the moment, and who doesn't reveal the end of the script. We do the same thing when we play because play is inherently unplanned, which means kids are doing the same thing with toys. They are interacting in a way they haven’t before and discovering new things as they play. Bringing a sense of wonder to our acting puts us in a state of discovery and creativity, that translates to the child. Our openness, joy and wonder can then be a shared experience.
Play with the Kid
The kid is playing with the toy, and you are the voice of the toy, so imagine that you are playing with the kid! Chuck Wedge, senior writer and producer at Leapfrog Toys, would often voice the scratch tracks for toys that were in development, only to have those scratch tracks be used for the final product. "The scratch was good because I was having fun. Being playful totally [changed my] performance," he said. To the child, the toy is their friend, companion, and collaborator, and if you actively imagine playing with the kid, you become those things to them.
Play boosts your creativity, energy, relieves stress, and it adds to the wide-eyed excitement and joy that toys can bring children. At Moose toys, their office is full of bright colors, there are pictures and toys everywhere, they have an indoor treehouse (!!!), and the space is open and collaborative. They play every day! When they hand the toy off to us, the voice actor, we are the link that continues to bring that exuberance, freedom and joy to the child. Remembering to bring play into our own performance will not only complete the toy developers cycle of creation, it will be engaging, inspiring, and a forever-memory for the child.
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