The following are the exact notes I used for my speech on voice acting that I did for my public speaking class on November 5, 1998.

Suzanne Smiley's Informative Speech

Topic: voice acting

Specific Purpose: To inform the audience a little about the lives of voice actors.

Thesis: Since voice-over offers little recognition for the actor, not many people even realize that voice actors are a large part of our lives. I want to help change that.


[show clip from Animaniacs episode: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"]

Now nobody here can say that they have never seen Animaniacs. I am here today to breifly talk about one important behind-the-scenes aspect of cartoons that we often forget: voice acting.

Whenever I mention "voice acting", to someone, the response often-times is, "What's that?" Voice-over actor, voice actor, voice talent, and voice artist are all words that describe an actor who uses only his or her voice as a performance tool. Since voice-over offers little recognition for the actor, not many people even realize that voice actors are a large part of our lives. I want to help change that.

After all, WHO do you think does all those clever radio and televsion commercials where you can't see the actor who's telling you to buy Buy BUY?

WHO do you think records all those audiobooks?

WHO do you think narrates those documentaries for PBS?

You may have guessed it, those are just a few of the many, MANY jobs of voice actors. Yes, and they are responsible for cartoon character's voices too!

My interest in voice acting stems from my love of the Warner Bros. cartoon, Animaniacs. Over the past year, I've learned a lot about the show's extremely talented actors. Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille supply the voices for the show's main characters - as you just saw - a trio of cute, zany, creatures: Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner.

My love for one of today's fastest growing industries continues. Just last week I became a staff member for an online non-profit site called Voice Chasers at Voice Chasers is an ever-growing database with a lot of information concerning the world of voice acting. My first assignment is to make a voice credits page for Animaniacs. What a surprise.

Also... A month before my English 151 research paper was due, I emailed Animaniacs voice actor, Rob Paulsen. He had agreed to grant me an email interview on voice acting that I could use as a great source for my paper. BUT I got the email the day AFTER I had turned in the report. That's okay, I'm making use of it now! You can find a link to the full transcription of the interview on my Voice Acting Pages at

Yes, Rob Paulsen is the voice of YAKKO WARNER, but he is also credited as the voices of...

[show Rob Paulsen voice credits poster]

DR. SCRATCHANSNIFF also of "Animaniacs"
PINKY from "Pinky and the Brain"
THE MASK from the cartoon series
RAPHAEL from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon
and many others

When I asked Rob via email what it was like for him getting into voice acting, he replied, [quote] "It's a long, sometimes frustrating process, but ultimately, it's been worth it, and I wouldn't change a thing. Plus, the people I work with are the most talented actors I've ever met." [/quote]

So how about we meet a few of those actors?

Jess Harnell not only provides the voice of WAKKO WARNER, my all-time favorite cartoon character, whose accent was inspired by the Beatles' Ringo Starr, but he's also...

[show Jess Harnell voice credits poster]

WALTER WOLF also of Animaniacs
SECRET SQUIRREL featured in "2 Stupid Dogs"
HUNTER from "Road Rovers"
The current voice of ROGER RABBIT since 1991
And much more

Tress Macneille who plays DOT WARNER in Animaniacs is in addition, the voices of...

[show Tress MacNeille voice credits poster]

HELLO NURSE also from "Animaniacs"
COLLEEN from "Road Rovers"
CHIP from "Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers"
BABS BUNNY from "Tiny Toon Adventures"
And many more, past and present

Providing voices for cartoon characters may sound like fun, and it is, but that doesn't mean the job is an easy one. Voice actors must be willing to live where the jobs are and that's Los Angeles, where the majority of cartoon voice work is cast and recorded, notes voice actor, Joe Beh-vil-ah-cqua. Furthermore, voice-over is much more than reading words off a page. It is really an aspect of acting and it takes true talent to act with only your voice. Recording voices for a show such as Animaniacs takes around three hours for each half hour episode. And at any given time, a voice actor may be on as many as five or six cartoon series, doing twice as many different voices in addition to commercials and other projects.

Since a voice actor's primary performance tool is his or her voice, it is quite obvious that fans are more likely to recognize the actor for their voice rather than their face. This can be a blessing but also very frustrating.

Jess Harnell knows the frustration of non-recognition first hand. Jess and his mother were once at Disney World where they saw an eight year old boy with an Animaniacs shirt on. In the hopes of getting a positive response, Jess told the boy that he did the voice of Wakko Warner. The boy only replied, "So? I do it too." Jess clarified that he actually did the voice for the show, but the boy was not convinced, explaining that Animaniacs was taped in California. Jess then took out his drivers license to prove that he was from California. The boy only remarked sarcastically, "Oh yeah, if you live California then you must do his voice." Jess was eventually forced to do his Wakko impression for the boy and at that the eight year old merely laughed and said, "You don't even sound like him".

Animated character voices are not the only thing that cartoon voice actors do.

In the 1996 comedy film Mother, you can hear Jess Harnell singing in a rendition of the Simon and Garfunkle tune, Mrs. Robinson.

Also in 1996, under a small record label, Jess released his very own album called, The Sound of Your Voice.

And most recently, on the new funniest home videos-type program on the FOX Family Channel called "Show Me the Funny", Jess is the announcer. Here's a weird twist of fate: Jess was also the announcer on "America's Funniest Home Videos"!

Rob Paulsen can heard as the voice of a goldfish and a hyperactive paint roller in most recent television commercials. As stated in the October 1997 issue of the British FHM Magazine, when the Jim Carrey film Liar, Liar goes on network television and Carrey's character uses a naughty word, it will be Rob Paulsen's voice that is dubbed in with a nicer, kid-friendly word. Rob got the job after Carrey and his manager watched Rob's work in the cartoon version of Jim Carrey's The Mask, and they liked what they heard.

Rob also did at least one promotional spot this season for the NBC comedy, Friends. Promotional spots are simply the commercials that tell people about upcoming shows. Here's where some of the big money comes in: Rob told FHM Magazine that he can get about $200 per promo and can do ten to twenty of them in an hour and a half. But he notes that although it pays well, [quote] "it's not very creative stuff". [/quote]

Those who make a career out of voice acting believe that it is the greatest job in the world and in many ways, less restricted than an on-screen actor. Rob Paulsen remarked to me, that he's not limited by physical features... he's only limited by his imagination.

Jess Harnell could add to that, in the June 1998 issue of Toon Talk newsletter, [quote] "What we do isn't brain surgery and we're not saving the world, but on the other hand, if in the course of what we do we make somebody smile, it's been a worthwhile day at the 'office', even if you were playing a dog". [/quote]

Hopefully you are now all a little more aware of how interesting the lives of voice actors can be. I trust that the next time you turn on the television or listen to the radio, you will think twice about all of the talented "invisible actors" who are so much a part of our lives... and we didn't even know it.

Works Cited

Animaniacs episode #25: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Dir. Rusty Mills. Perf. Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, and Jess Harnell. 1993.

Bevilacqua, Joe. "Voice Acting 101." Animation World Magazine April 1997: 1-6.

"I Could Do That." FHM Magazine October 1997: 34.

O'Dell, Ron. "Jess Harnell Meets Young Wakko Fan." Radio interview transcription. Online. Available . Accessed 19 Jan. 1998.

Paulsen, Rob. Email interview. 7 Oct. 1998.

Tindall, Linda. "Interview of Jess Harnell." Toon Talk 11 June 1998 5-7. Online. Available Accessed 14 Sept. 1998.

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