In the beginning was the voice.
The voice was that of the characters, and the very world in which animated series exist. The creators heard it, and with their pens and paintbrushes, they made the visual aspect of it real. Yet it needed something else. The images alone could convey only so much- they needed to provide the voices that were necessary to make the characters real and not simply static images.
So it was that the creators scoured the land to find the voices they needed, or when necessary or appropriate, they took the roles on for themselves. In both cases, the vessel for the voice was found, and the series was allowed to become whole….
This view of the creation of animation is perhaps a bit simplistic, but it reflects an essential truth in the field of animation that has been present since sound was added to the almost alchemical process by which the art was conceived in the late 1920s. This crucial element allowed for dialogue to become just as crucial to the telling of animated stories as the visual images, although, at times, the marriage has been difficult, and, occasionally, strained. In the digital age, this is no less true.
The greatest irony of this process, however, is that voice actors- the major forces by which the essence of most animated characters’ souls and inner beings are transformed- have often been ignored and criminally neglected, except on the occasions when a celebrity from outside the fold deigns to become involved in the practice. We are only now beginning to understand the importance of voice acting and awarding prizes to those performing it. But, in many respects, given the immense skill which they have always displayed in bringing life to animated characters, we have known and honored their skill in our hearts all along.
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The holder of an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and a lifelong animation fan, he has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers. He is the author of the upcoming book America Toons In: A History of Television Animation.