Why do most animation demos suck?

Some thoughts on animation demos…

90% of animation/character demos are pretty much flat out terrible. There, I said it. Let’s take a minute to let that sink in.

I think my number one problem with a lot of character demos is most of the characters are totally out of context, if you can even recognize them as characters at all. A lot of these demos sound like someone just trying to make funny noises or voices in their bedroom. I don’t mean the quality of the audio recording as much as the difficulty for someone listening in terms of placing these “character voices” in anything that would resemble broadcast material. It’s like the demo clips are taken from some kind of animation workshop where participants were encouraged to explore potential voices/characters but the listener wasn’t present during those workshops so is at a total loss to understand what the voice talent is even trying to do.

Another issue is the temptation to include impersonations of famous people or even well-known animation characters. A little of this can work in a demo if the talent has already shown a nice range but if you were hoping to land regular character/animation work by just impersonating people, it’s likely not going to work. If you listen to commercials or cartoons, the character voices you hear are still rooted in reality. They are more likely to sound like everyday people, just exaggerated a bit for comedic or dramatic effect. I have probably heard 100 voice demos with Sean Connery impersonations but have only gotten the request once in 15 years of running the voice agency. Ditto for Simpsons or Family Guy characters.

Another problem with a lot of character demos-and maybe I’ve buried the lead here-the talents often just aren’t very good at voicing unique characters. There is this mistaken impression that in order to do character work, you must be a master of all trades: funny characters, accents, impressions, age ranges etc. In fact, some of the most successful character voice actors are one or two trick ponies. As long as the trick is really good, you can find work. The woman on my roster who sounds like a 12-year-old girl doesn’t work every week but whenever that’s the casting call, she has a good shot at landing it. Same with the guy with the deep booming voice who is really good for villains or powerful leaders of fictitious planets. He couldn’t do an accent or play a wacky, stoned out surfer dude if his life depended on it, nor does he attempt to do so.

The general rule for voice demos certainly applies to characters too: do what you do well and don’t bother with stuff that is not in your wheelhouse.

A character demo is not like a commercial or narration demo. It is simply meant to show that you can do a few things and that there is some kind of actor there. Almost all character-based voice projects will require auditions. It is rare that a character project is cast just off voice demos. So, there is no reason to stress about having 100 different voices on your demo or worrying because you can’t do a character type. What characters you do choose to put on your demo should be easily identified in terms of type and/or situation and also remember that comedic commercials qualify as character reads too. No reason to put on some really wacky voice when you can just add a clip of a well-written commercial script that shows character.

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4 Responses to “Why do most animation demos suck?”

  1. Rick Jonie Says:
    June 27th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Ha! I feel like a lot of demos come from people who feel they have an interesting voice and say, “I could voice animation!” Sure, animation often calls for an interesting voice, but these people don’t understand, like acting, voice overs require much more than simply an intriguing voice. Helpful info for those I’ve mentioned above.

    Great stuff here, though.

  2. Jeremiah Jones Says:
    July 3rd, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to do this. I found out about you on Voices.com’s “Voice Over Experts” podcast. I hope you are able to do more of those because they are not only very informative, and have oddly enough, helped me out in non-voice over business situations, but they are really enjoyable to listen to.

    Thank you for being awesome,

    Jeremiah Jones

  3. Roger King Says:
    February 26th, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Jeremiah. Only saw this comment recently. Apologies for responding so late.

  4. Gil Says:
    December 6th, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    How do you know if you have it …in relation to your ability to do professional voice over work?

    Its very competitive and I have friends who professional earn livings from Voice Overs….

    I have been told I have the ability being very fluent in my diction focusing on appropriate tonality…

    How does one know ?

    Everyone is a star however not everyone is a star….


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